A vibrant, bustling atmosphere pervades every aspect of life in Seoul. Whether an experienced employee in one of the city's embassies or a young teacher in search of new experiences, the Korean capital accommodates almost anybody regardless of their taste in music, shopping or sport.
Shopping in Seoul
Whether on the lookout for budget buys or designer labels, there are many shopping districts in Seoul. Areas such as Myeong-dong and Dongdaemun house large assortments of international brands and reasonably priced boutiques. The more upmarket Gangnam District and Apgujeong have huge department stores and a number of restaurants.
Another area with notable shopping options is Itaewon. Popular with US servicemen stationed in South Korea, the area boasts a variety of shops, restaurants, tailors and designer products largely aimed at a Western market.
Technophiles will be in their element in Seoul, as it has some of the largest electronics markets in Asia.
For general grocery shopping, there are a few stores such as Costco which provide Western goods. The area of Itaewon is home to other stores that provide Western favourites, as well as some English bookstores.
Nightlife and entertainment in Seoul
Itaewon is a popular area for restaurants, bars and nightclubs and the areas around Hongik University in Sinchon, as well as the Gangnam District, are other fun locales to spend an evening in.
Korean restaurants are found on every city block but anyone looking for a traditional Korean dining experience should head to Insadong. Even expats with unadventurous palates, but who are willing to experiment, will find something to enjoy.
Street performers and independent theatres can be found in the areas around Hyehwa and the Hansung University. There are also numerous annual festivals happening in Seoul, as well as the international film festivals held in both Busan and Jeonju.
Outdoor activities and sports in Seoul
Expats will find a fair amount of outdoor activities in Seoul. Many residents choose to get their fresh air along the Han River, which cuts through the middle of the city. At various spots along the river, expats will be able to find picnic spots, basketball courts and bicycle hire stations, which also offer tandem bikes for couples.
The Seoul Grand Park and Zoo are easily accessed by subway and make for a great day out for the family, offering a combination of exotic animals, plants, an amusement park and cable car.
The Seoul Forest is also a major attraction, occupying a massive tract of land in the middle of the city. The area has developed from being royal hunting grounds, a military inspection facility and golf course, to housing several naturally themed parks in one area. Visitors have the opportunity to see local fauna and flora, go bird watching or enjoy themselves at the Hangang River Waterside Park.
The mountains that surround Seoul are some of the most beautiful in the country, and hiking is a popular Korean pastime. The Gwanaksan, Achasan and Bukhansan Mountains are all a convenient subway ride away and offer spectacular views of the city.
Active expats can also enjoy a variety of social clubs and facilities all over the city. Prominent among these is the Korea Social Sports, which facilitates unisex football (soccer) and kickball leagues at different experience levels.
►Weekend Breaks in Seoul gives an overview of weekend destinations outside the city.
►Culture Shock in South Korea gives information on adjustments expats may need to make when moving to the city.
"Public transportation, food, activities, and incredible public places are a few things that Seoul offers and does exceptionally well. I'm from a small town in South Africa, so Seoul offers a bit more to do and see than what I was used to." Read more about Malcolm's experience of expat life in Seoul.
Are you an expat living in Seoul?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Seoul. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
With 86 million customer relationships in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.
Aetna International, offering comprehensive global medical coverage, has a network of 1.3 million medical providers worldwide. You will have the flexibility to choose from six areas of coverage, including worldwide, multiple levels of benefits to choose from, plus various optional benefits to meet your needs.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.