Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Things You Gotta Do: Seoul in Winter Part II

It's starting to get cold, and that makes me... well...

I live my life by a few important principles, among the top of my list of principles is that CHRISTMAS DOES NOT BEGIN UNTIL AFTER THANKSGIVING. Seriously, not until Santa rolls his fat ass down the green square of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade do I start exploding with such holiday cheer that I'm surprised it doesn't register of the Richter Scale.

When filled with the Christmas Spirit (I call mine Tinsel), I don't care about the cold. I embrace it, and the sight of snow can make me practically crap myself in excitement. Before and after Christmas, however... no... just no... hate... such... f-f-flames FLAMES
My Uncle was visiting Seoul this weekend when the bottom dropped out of the temperature and I remembered just how many of the best and most interesting things in Korea must be conducted outside in the bitter, bitter cold. I've also been getting a lot of hits on my first "Things You Gotta Do: Seoul in Winter" post during the past month, so I decided to expand my list! Here goes!

3 More Awesome Seoul Winter Activities

1) Indoor Shopping

You don't need to play the outside-inside-jacket off-scarf off-sweater off-everything back on-outside-repeat game that comes with shopping every time! There are plenty of indoor shopping options for those of us wishing to not to switch between freezing and sweating every 10 minutes.The long time favorite for this, COEX Mall is currently under MASSIVE renovation to try and completely redesign the massive complex and while being under renovation it is basically... a hallway... a biiiiggg hallway with a movie theater and an aquarium... avoid it for a while.

Dongdaemun is a good option for indoor shopping. It's all shopping complexes with multiple sellers and designers. For the nicer, but more expensive options, I highly recommend Doota. It's the more expensive of the malls, but it's expensive because the clothes are awesome and it has an incredible variety. APM and Miglione are also nice, less expensive options, and the new Lotte FITIN. The discount warehouse shopping centers are also an awesome option for you and your friends to wander around and get a good laugh at some strange clothes with some remarkably terrible English.

Yeouido's IFC Mall is also pretty great. It's the closest thing to an American-style mall in America and they have some really nice stores and great restaurants. There's a good size H&M, ZARA, Holister, Banana Republic, Guess, and UNIQLO as well as a Fossil store (my favorite!). It's a fun place to just kind of wander around or grab a drink. Other than cafes, I really recommend M-Pub. It has an extensive beer menu and a really chill vibe full to the brim with Korean business professionals.

Times Square mall has been among the top shopping malls in Korea for a while. Located in Yeongdeungpo, this place is MASSIVE. It contains an entire Shinsegae Department Store, a Marriott, an events hall, an EMart, as well as many retail stores. There's even a much sought-after Gap! You could easily waste an entire day deep in retail therapy in this place.

2) Even MORE Museums!

This part of the post is mostly to celebrate the re-opening of the newly remodeled National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul Branch. I haven't been yet, but a lot of my friends have been posting pictures on their Facebooks and I'm planning an outing ASAP. Their exhibits are rapidly changing and feature large and incredible installations. Check out their website for info on current exhibits.

If you're willing to make the trek, the Gwacheon Branch of the Seoul National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is also highly recommended. It's also part of the truly massive Seoul Grand Park complex, which features a zoo, theme park, and botanical gardens. So if you're roaming around the area, this will be your best place to warm up.

For something a little less arty, but no less contemporary, head to T.um, the SK Telecom technologies museum. This place is a high-tech wonderland, showcasing developing technologies from the always light-years ahead Korean tech industry. When you visit you will be freaked out by exactly where Korean tech is headed!

If the future isn't really your thing and you'd rather get a blast from the past, head over to the National Palace Museum of Korea. It offers a much more manageable collection of Korean historical artifact that the National Museum, and features breathtaking Korean art and textiles from the Joseon Dynasty (the one all the KDramas are obsessed with).

3) Outdoor Fun!

Some people don't absolutely HATE being outside in the winter! For those lovely people Seoul has attempted to be accommodating as well. Of course any time it snows you should run, not walk, to the palaces. There's something super magical about a korean palace covered in snow. It makes the frostbite totally worth it.
Pictured: Magical
On non-snowy days, though, there is still plenty of outside fun to be had!

Thanks to the magical Kim YuNa, Koreans are obsessed with ice skating. The most popular being the Seoul Square Ice Rink. Located directly in front of City Hall and across from Deoksugung palace, this is a PERFECT place to go on a date. There's even a cafe attached for your mandatory after-skating hot cocoa. The Grand Hyatt Hotel also converts their pool into an ice rink in the winter and it's available for both guests and the public. The Hyatt offers inCREDIBLE views of Seoul so, again, perfect date night. There are other ice rinks all around the city as well.

Take a quick trip outside of Seoul to hit some of the surrounding ski resorts in Gyeonggi-do. One nice thing about Korean ski resrts is that many of them also offer night skiing. I've heard that the night skiing at Yangji Pine Resort Ski Valley is very popular, but to avoid accidental run-ins the Bears Town Ski Resort might be a little less crowded and also offers a sledding course! For a romantic weekend away, the  Konjiam Resort also offers a hot spring spa to soothe your worn out skiing muscles! There are many other resorts around Korea, check the comprehensive list out here.

If the thought of cruising down a mountain with two planks of wood strapped to your feet fills you with fear, how about doing it while sitting on a slightly larger plank of wood? There are quite a few sledding parks in and around Seoul but the best are definitely the Everland Snow Buster and  SeoulLand Snow Sled Park. Both have very nice facilities. The SeoulLand park has separate adult and children areas, so you won't have to feel bad about knocking a child on his face as you whizz by. The Everland Snow Buster, however, boasts much more nail-biting slopes and could result in a lot more winter mischief! Also, Everland's sled hill operates at night, so you can enjoy a great view of the park all decked out for the season!

Get your favorite latte (a cafe near my work serve Bailey's Hot Cocoa, WHAAAT?!), bundle up, and get out of your freaking apartment you stupid shut-in!

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