Perhaps one of the biggest perks about living in Seoul is the fact that Korea itself is such a small country and is, therefore, easily accessible. You can go almost anywhere and make a great weekend out of it. If you have your own vehicle, it’s a mere four hour drive to the most Southerly part of the country and about an hour to the most Northerly (that area, however, is best avoided). With great airline services throughout the country you can cut travel time drastically and it won’t break the bank, either, if you don’t feel like driving.
In Korea, there are so many places to see and so many things to do. Within Seoul there is a wealth of museums, art galleries, concerts and shows – and enough shopping and eating facilities to make a busy weekend for anyone. Most expats agree, though, that there is nothing better than getting out of the city for a weekend and discovering the gorgeous countryside, the great beaches and hiking, and the wonderful people outside Seoul.
Our Favourite Places to go on the Weekend:
1. Muuido: This is a great place to take your kids for the weekend. Muuido is a tiny island just off the city of Incheon, and very close (but not too close) to the island where you can find Incheon International Airport. At the main beach, you can find affordable huts with bedding and electric heat (about 30,000 won for the night), beach side dining (fresh seafood and samgyupsal!), firecrackers and bonfires at night, and gorgeous countryside covered with pine trees and small farms. Perhaps the most fun aspect of the beach in Muuido is the tide. When the tide goes out, all you can see is mud. Mud flats! Every weekend, Korean parents pack up their kids and take them here to dig for clams and observe the sea life that remains when the tide is out. Kids (and grown ups) have a great time hunting for small crabs and finding starfish. Most Koreans bring along a grill and BBQ their meals, which is great fun, and building a campfire is entirely possible as long as you maintain it.
How to get there: By car, take the highway towards Incheon International Airport. The island (Yeongjeong-do) that the airport is on is connected to the mainland by a causeway. When you reach the island, drive South towards Jamjimdo. Jamjimdo is connected to Yeongjeong-do by a causeway. Once you get to Jamjimdo there will be a ferry to Muuido (costing about 2,000 won a ticket). When you arrive on Muuido, you should follow the (only) road for about fifteen minutes until you come to a park area. You can’t see the beach from here, but this is where you pay your park fees (another 2,000 won) and proceed to the beach on foot.
By subway take line number one to Dongincheon Station. Hail a taxi and take it to Wolmido Ferry Terminal (about 4,000 won by taxi). At the waterfront there will be a small ferry terminal. Buy a ticket to Yeongjeong-do (about 2,000 won) and board the ferry. Once on Yeongjeong-do, take bus number 306 to Jamjimdo and then walk across the causeway to Jamjimdo Ferry Terminal. Board the ferry to Muuido. Once on Muuido, take the (only) bus to the beach area.
2. Haeundae, Busan: Although you’re leaving the biggest city in Korea for the second biggest city in Korea, Busan is gorgeous and the area around Haeundae Beach is a favourite among expats! A gorgeous beach, clear water, on duty life guards and a happening spot in the city makes Haeundae a perfect, seemingly exotic, family getaway. On the beach is Korea’s largest aquarium (underground) where you can watch divers swim with sharks and see plenty of exotic sea creatures. Around the beach are some excellent restaurants and gorgeous hotels. If you’re strapped for cash, stay at a “love motel” (don’t worry; they’re clean and safe) for about 30,000 won per night. If you’re not strapped for cash, splurge and go for one of the many beach side hotels that have lovely views of the ocean.
How to get there: By car, take the highway South from Seoul. Drive south for about four hours, following the roadsigns (which are in Korean and English) to Busan. Once in Busan, take the expressway to the Haeundae area, which is located in the city’s West side. To get to the beach, just follow the crowds…
You can also get an inexpensive flight with Asiana or Korean Air from Gimpo International Airport in Seoul. The flight takes about 30 minutes and usually costs around 80,000 won. You can take the train from any major station in Seoul, which will take anywhere from 3.5 to 6 hours. Upon arriving in Busan, you can take a taxi (about 12-15,000 won) to Haeundae or take an extremely long subway ride from the train station to Haeundae Station – the taxi is recommended!
3. Sokcho: Located about two hours East of Seoul in Gangwon Province, Sokcho is a small city on the East Sea. It has a nice beach and is full of character, but the main reason people flock to Sokcho on weekends is because of its location. Sokcho is the closest city and place to stay to (South) Korea’s most popular mountain – Suraksan. There are numerous hiking trails ranging from extremely easy to extremely difficult. It can take anywhere from three to twelve hours to hike, depending on the route you choose (if you go with your kids, you will want to take shorter routes – some hikes can be extremely difficult). It should be noted that all the best downhill skiing in Korea is also found close to Sokcho in Gangwon Province. Try Yongpyeong Ski Resort for some of the best skiing in Korea.
How to get there: Take the highway East from Seoul and follow the (English) roadsigns. You should get there in about 2.5 hours.
You can get express buses to Sokcho from Gangnam’s Express Bus Terminal or Dong Seoul Bus Terminal. From Sokcho it is easy to drive or get a bus to Suraksan National Park.
4. Everland: Whether you have kids or not, you won’t want to miss a trip to Everland, jokingly known among expats as the (second) happiest place on earth. Yes, Everland is to Korea what Disneyworld is to the United States. A day trip to Everland is the ultimate treat for Korean children, where they can frolic to the theme music, watch the amazing evening parades and fireworks, eat junk food and ride some excellent roller coasters. Big kids like Everland, too – particularly big kid expats. From Seoul you can go for a day trip or stay for the weekend at the Everland Resort. The T Express is their most popular roller coaster – it is entirely made of wood and at one point has a seventy seven degree drop (scary!). For more information, you can visit their website (http://www.everland.com/MultiLanguage/english/everland/main.html).
How to get there: A forty minute drive from Seoul, you’ll find Everland on the outskirts of Yongin City. There are also express buses from all over Seoul (see the website for exact locations).