We quizzed recent visitors to South Korea about their favourite discoveries for shopping, eating and beauty treatments. Add them to your must-hit list.
“We drank at an Alice in Wonderland-themed bar and visited some of the city’s best restaurants.”
Anthony Durning, Bronze Frequent Flyer
My wife made an epic to-do list for our week-long getaway to Seoul, where we used our Qantas Points to fly Business.
We stayed at Four Points by Sheraton in Myeongdong, which is right in the middle of the hustle and bustle. There’s lots of retail shopping there and you’re close to the subway, too. The city has really cool suburbs – we explored Ihwa-dong, a neighbourhood that’s covered with murals and overlooks the city, and Bukchon Hanok Village, where you’ll find traditional houses.
Gwangjang Market has delicious tteokbokki [rice cakes] and Namdaemun Market is dedicated to hand-cut noodles. Michelin-starred Mingles serves refined Korean food such as Hanwoo beef and bibimbap. Be sure to book two weeks ahead – it’s worth it. You should also visit Alice Cheongdam – it’s a secret whiskey bar themed around Alice in Wonderland.
On a rainy day we visited Starfield Library, an Insta-famous Gangnam public library, and the Laneige store in Myeongdong, where a robot made my wife’s foundation. She also loved Olive Young, which is South Korea’s version of Sephora. She came back with 50 sheet masks! She jokes that she now has a nine-step skincare regimen after our trip.
Anthony used Qantas Points to fly from Sydney to Seoul.
"We found a hole-in-the-wall noodle shop in Myeongdong with only four things on the menu."
- Alex Choros, Platinum Frequent Flyer
“It was my partner’s birthday and there were seats available on the inaugural Qantas flight to Seoul. I said, ‘Happy birthday, want to go to Seoul?’ and she said, ‘Yeah, let’s go!’
“I’ve been a Qantas Frequent Flyer since I was a teenager and it’s always a great experience. We went to Seoul on Points alone so it cost us nothing.
“We love experiencing new cultures; a driving force is to eat as many interesting things as possible. It was just three days – a 72-hour food bender.
“We arrived late, but went down to the Myeongdong Night Market and had a ‘street toast’ – a sandwich that has a cabbage omelette, a meat of your choice, a couple of sauces, and a lot of cheese! The perfect snack after an 11-hour flight!
“Next day, we went to the War Memorial of Korea in Yongsan-gu. After, we did a food tour with an expat American guide. He took us to places without English menus for spicy pork feet, fried chicken and kimchi pancakes.
“The following day was about fried chicken brought by a robot waiter at BBQ Chicken and Beer and an automated pub called MYBL Homebrew Haus where you pour your own beer. We found a hole-in-the-wall noodle shop in Myeongdong with only four things on the menu. It was incredible.
“Last stop was a Michelin-starred fine-diner called Jungsik for interesting, elevated versions of street food that we’d tried.
“Here’s my advice for people going to Seoul: pack stretchy pants.”
“When I wasn’t eating or having beauty treatments, I was shopping.”
– Wendy Nguyen, Bronze Frequent Flyer
“My husband and I travelled to South Korea for two weeks in September for our belated honeymoon. I think there are three main things to do in Seoul: eat a lot, do beauty treatments and go shopping.
“I had the best fried chicken of my life at Hyodo Chicken in Gangnam-gu. It’s run by two chefs who both worked at Michelin-starred restaurants. We also ate at an incredible noodle place called Myeongdong Kyoja in Myeongdong which is in the Michelin Guide. You must order the kalguksu (a noodle soup) when you’re there.
“After some rigorous TikTok research, I knew where to go for beauty treatments. I had some amazing facials at Muse Clinic and Toxnfill and you pay about half the price of what you do in Australia. They also have these scalp-care clinics where they examine and exfoliate your scalp – it’s really high-tech!
“When I wasn’t eating or having beauty treatments I was shopping. We stayed in Hongdae, a university area with lots of cool vintage stores and street markets. It was interesting to see what was trending there. The beauty products are next-level. Tamburins is a fragrance brand only in South Korea – it was a real highlight. And of course, Olive Young – it’s like Korean Priceline.
“There’s something so nice about coming home with Qantas. Hearing the accents from the staff who are so lovely just leaves you with a nice feeling.”
“My favourite dish is san-nakji, still-moving octopus tentacles…”
- Ada May, Bronze Frequent Flyer
“This was my third holiday to Seoul; I’m half-Korean and so is my partner so it was a homecoming of sorts. Flying Qantas, there’s a certain level of comfort and service that you just don’t quite get from other airlines. Plus, the food is so good it doesn’t feel like you’re eating in the air!
“We landed late and went straight to the convenience store – they’re open 24 hours and it sounds funny, but the food is amazing. We got instant cup noodles and triangle kimbap. Our hotel was in Myeongdong, which is central to everything.
“Mornings in Seoul start with coffee, usually pour-over or iced long blacks that they call Iced Americano. The aesthetics at Seoul cafés are amazing. My favourite café was called Slit; the first time I went I couldn’t figure out how to get in – it was too cool!
“After coffee, it was time to shop. Top of my list was Ader Error, a fashion label. The store exhibits past and current collections with unique changing rooms, displaying an array of fashion accessories and ADER ERROR branded stationery. Gentle Monster Haus Dosan is a six-floor sunglasses flagship with an underground dessert café and Worksout is a department store for streetwear.
“When you’re in Seoul, you must try seafood. My favourite dish is san-nakji, still-moving octopus tentacles drizzled with sesame oil so the suckers don’t stick to your mouth. Tents out on the streets called pojangmacha are all over the city. You go and order seafood fresh from the ocean and an icy-cold bottle of soju and just sit there for hours.”
“Don’t pack much and bring back a suitcase of new gear.”
-Chloe Morris, Bronze Frequent Flyer
“I was born in Seoul and moved to Australia when I was six months old because I was adopted. This was my first visit as an adult and it was spontaneous. I had a friend who was visiting and he said, ‘You should come!’
“Flying with Qantas was so comfortable. The cabin crew are always lovely, you know the food will be great (it doesn’t taste like ‘plane food’) and that you’re in safe hands.
“I stayed with my friend in Dongdaemun, which is quite central and we did lots of touristy stuff – N Seoul Tower, Lotte World Tower and eating street food around Han River. But my favourite times were when we ventured out to smaller, less famous areas. One bar-restaurant called Hills & Europa on the outskirts of Itaewon was super-cool. I also loved the Yeongdo district for street food. I became obsessed with fried mandu (dumplings) and gimbap, which is like Korean sushi.
“Seoul is all about the hustle and bustle. I love that everything’s happening at nighttime. Shops are open until at least 10pm, people are sitting drinking coffee and soju into the night and there’s a great energy.
“One thing people heading to Seoul should know is that the shopping is incredible. Don’t pack much and bring back a suitcase of new gear. My favourite store was called Aland in Myeongdong, a super-vibey streetwear complex that’s known for indie designers and vintage.”