Day 4: N Seoul Tower and more

I hope everyone had a good holiday! I ate way too much and my pants are really mad at me right now. However, I've successfully recovered from my multiple food comas, so I can now return to posting with some regularity.

Day 4 Activities:
  1. N Seoul Tower 엔 서울타워
  2. Namsan Mountain 남산 (南山)
  3. Lunch at Myeongdong 명동 (明洞)
  4. Dinner with a Korean family (at their house)
My fourth day in Seoul was much more laid-back compared to the previous days, mostly in preparation for my upcoming hiking trip to Seoraksan 설악산 (雪嶽山). I kicked off the day with some breakfast at a nearby bakery (I think it was called Tres something...) before taking the free hotel shuttle to the Namsan Cable Car station.

Ibis Hotel's free shuttle service actually goes to lots of tourist hot spots. For example, we passed Gyeongbokgung 경복궁 (景福宮) on our way to N Seoul Tower. Definitely take advantage of this free transportation to save on taxi and subway fare. The only thing you have to do is to reserve a spot on the shuttle, which is actually just a van, the day before.

Driving by Gwanghwamun at Gyeongbokgung


Some sort of performance at Gyeongbokgung

We made several stops and I wasn't really sure where I was supposed to get off, but as long as you tell the hotel where you want to go (and double check with the driver), you will be fine. After approximately 20 minutes, we arrived at the Namsam Cable Car station.

 * * *

Namsan Cable Car station

Namsan Cable Car station entrance

There are two ways to get to N Seoul Tower: 1) go by cable car and 2) walk up Namsan mountain on your own. However, to get to N Seoul Tower, you first have to arrive at Namsan mountain. You can take a free hotel shuttle, like I did, hail a cab, or if you're up for it, walk all the way to the base of the mountain from Myeongdong.

At Namsan, I opted to ride the cable car to the top. A lot of people I talked to beforehand advised hiking up the mountain to avoid feeling like a caged animal in the cable cars, but since I got there early in the morning, I figured the crowds wouldn't be so bad. I also wanted to save my feet for my upcoming two days in Seoraksan.

Round trip tickets cost 7500 won per adult and are good for the entire day. Alternatively, you can purchase a single trip ticket and hike your way back down.

Namsan Cable Car ticket

The ticket booth workers speak English and I only waited around 5 minutes for the cable car to arrive. Even though there weren't any long lines, there was some slight pushing and shoving as people tried to make their way to the best spots in the car. I don't think it mattered that much though because there were full pane glass windows on all sides of the cable car.

Going up to N Seoul Tower on the cable car

Passing by another cable car on its way down

View of Seoul from the cable car

The cable car ride itself took a short 3 minutes. After you get off the cable car, you still have to walk up a flight of wooden stairs to get to the base of N Seoul Tower.

Walking up the steps to N Seoul Tower

You can actually just hang out there at the top if you want, without even going up to the tower, because the view is just as good. There are also several things to see there, such as aerial sculptures and the infamous "locks of love" fence.

N Seoul Tower

N Seoul Tower

Here's probably where you will get the best view if you don't want to pay to go inside N Seoul Tower.

Smoke signal stacks (I think?) at the base of N Seoul Tower

Top of Namsan Mountain

View from the top of Namsan mountain

Pavilion at the base of N Seoul Tower

If you look up, you can also see these aerial sculptures. They freaked me out at first because I wasn't expecting to see dangling, dismembered human body shapes floating in the air. But upon closer observation, they actually looked pretty cool.

Aerial sculpture and N Seoul Tower

Aerial sculptures at N Seoul Tower

You get the feeling that this place is frequented by couples in love because there are tons of I-heart-so-and-so inscriptions everywhere you look.

Love notes at Namsan

And now, prepare to be overwhelmed by all the locks of love. Couples come here and put a lock on the fence to symbolize the eternity of their love. It's kind of funny because there's also a big sign that reminds you to keep your key, you know, just in case you guys break up. If you didn't bring a lock, you can always buy one on site, although for a very large and unreasonable markup.

Locks of Love at N Seoul Tower

Dizzying array of love locks

Wouldn't it be cool if this lock belonged to you?

But, do not throw your key away!

The love fence actually stretched a long way around

Before you buy your ticket to N Seoul Tower, make sure you take advantage of any discount coupons. I found one on Visit Korea (you just have to register for free) for 10% off. There is also a Teddy Bear Museum, but I chose to not see it.

N Seoul Tower ticket

N Seoul Tower entrance

N Seoul Tower was actually much smaller than I expected it to be. You go down a flight of stairs through the entrance, walk through a short green hallway, and take the elevator all the way up to the observatory. Here is a scanned copy of the N Seoul Tower brochure that explains all the different levels.

N Seoul Tower observatory

N Seoul Tower observatory

N Seoul Tower observatory view of Seoul

It was kind of cloudy when I went, but the skies cleared up a little more towards noon.

View of the Han River from the N Seoul Tower observatory

View of Seoul from N Seoul Tower Observatory

And even though people said the Sky Restroom was a must-see, it was rather small and disappointing.

N Seoul Tower Sky Restroom

N Seoul Tower Sky Restroom

There are also little cafe stands and souvenir shops inside N Seoul Tower. If you missed out on the locks of love fence, you can make love tiles for the love tile wall.

Love Message Tile Board at N Seoul Tower

Wall of love tiles at N Seoul Tower

This place really rubs it in your face if you happen to be single!

After walking out of N Seoul Tower, there was a performance at the smoke signal stack area. I only caught the end of it, but you can take free pictures with the performers after they finish.

Performance at N Seoul Tower

Performance at N Seoul Tower

Taking pictures with the performers

You can also buy some cotton candy or try on a hanbok (unfortunately, not for free).

Cotton candy at N Seoul Tower

Trying on hanboks at N Seoul Tower

I returned to the cable car station and decided to walk back to my hotel (the hotel shuttle only takes you there but doesn't bring you back). At first, I was a little confused as to how to get further down the mountain after you get to the station, but there is a set of stairs and an elevator for you to take. If you didn't ride the cable car to N Seoul Tower, the cable car elevator is almost just as cool.

Stairs down from the cable car station

Elevator from cable car station

To get to Myeongdong from the cable car station, walk straight towards the right (your right if you stand facing the street). You don't have to cross any intersections, just keep walking and pretty soon you'll see this:

Shinsegae Department store from Namsan to Myeongdong

And then you'll pass this fountain and the oldest bank in Seoul:

Fountain near Myeongdong

Oldest bank in Seoul

Soon enough, you'll see Ibis Hotel in the distance:

Walking back to Ibis Hotel from N Seoul Tower

I stopped at a little shop along the way to buy some hodu 호두 snacks. These are tiny walnut shaped pancake batter treats with a red bean paste and walnut center. They're served warm, but taste good hot or cold. Relatively inexpensive (5000 won for a box) I would recommend trying some hodu if you've never had it before.

Hodu snacks in Myeongdong

Another popular street snack is hotteok 호떡. It looks like a small pancake, only filled with sugar and peanuts. I didn't really like this because it was way too sweet.

Hotteok street stand in Myeongdong

Eating hotteok

Some other kind of street snack in Myeongdong

Street food in Myeongdong

I then ate lunch at Myeongdong Gogung 고궁 (古宮). This restaurant is famous for its bibimbap, but I actually thought their pajeon tasted better. More on Gogung here.

Myeongdong Gogung Restaurant

In hindsight, I probably should have eaten at Bulgogi Brothers instead. The menu looked pretty good and price was reasonable, but on the high side, for bulgogi.

Bulgogi Brothers Restaurant in Myeongdong

Bulgogi Brothers Restaurant in Myeongdong

Bulgogi Brothers Restaurant menu in Myeongdong

After lunch, I wandered around Myeongdong for a bit and passed by the famous cathedral.

Cathedral in Myeongdong

Walking around Myeongdong

More walking around Myeongdong

Who knew Spider Man also moonlighted as an advertising board?

Then I bought a bouquet of flowers (for only $12!) to bring to my friend's house for dinner later that night. I was told that if you are invited to dine with a Korean family, it is polite to bring either a box of fruit, some nice chocolates, or a bouquet of flowers. I went with the flowers and chocolate.

Roses from a street vendor

In double hindsight, it's good I didn't go to Bulgogi Brothers for lunch because my friend's mom made the best bulgogi and kimchi I've ever eaten! If you get a chance, it's a really great experience to eat true homemade cooking not from a restaurant.

That pretty much sums up my fourth day in Seoul. Sorry these posts are so long, but I thought it would be annoying to break up each day into several parts. I went to sleep really early that night because I had to wake up at 5:00am to catch a 6:30am bus to Sokcho the next day. More on my hiking adventures in Seoraksan, the most fun I had in Seoul, in the next few posts.

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