An Introvert's Guide to Seoul

Exploring Seoul solo | © Danielle Potgieter
Exploring Seoul solo | © Danielle Potgieter
Photo of Mimsie Ladner
6 July 2017

No matter how much you adore your friends, travel mates or locals you meet on your journey, just about everyone experiences moments that they simply need to be alone. For the introvert, these moments might occur a bit more frequently (read: all day, every day). So, should you happen to find yourself in Seoul and in need of some quality ‘me’ time, let The Culture Trip tell you where to go.

For the culture vulture

From ancient artefacts and traditional handicrafts to modern history and cutting-edge technologies, Seoul has a museum for just about every area of interest.

The National Museum of Korea is perhaps one of the city’s most expansive and impressive museums. With exhibitions centered on areas such as calligraphy, painting, sculpture and crafts, the cultural complex beautifully illustrates the country’s advancement in the arts, religion, and culture. Furthermore, visitors can listen to detailed descriptions of the exhibitions in English via the National Museum of Korea Exhibition Audio Guide app on their phone, meaning they don’t even need to interact with a human guide.

Likewise, art lovers will appreciate the audio guided tours of Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul’s most prestigious art gallery that exhibits traditional Korean and contemporary art.

For the foodie

Although eating alone has always been frowned upon in South Korea, a country defined by Confucian ideals, a new trend is emerging. Honbap, a combination of the Korean words for “alone” and “meal,” involves the practice of eating alone and is becoming more common in today’s fast-paced society.

While it was previously impossible to walk into a Korean BBQ restaurant and order a meal for one, many restaurants are beginning to cater to solo diners. Baetjang, for example, boasts a long bar perfectly suited for introverts, who are able to cook their own meat on miniature grills.

Nearby in the university neighborhood of Sinchon, Ichi-men is equipped with one-person tables that are partitioned from the others to ensure ultimate privacy. Upon entering the Japanese ramen joint, simply order your meal via the vending machine, take a seat, pass your ticket to the nearly invisible employee behind the bar and quickly receive your order. Finally, enjoy in peace!

For the nature lover

For a quieter way to enjoy Seoul, soak up the views of the city’s unique skyline while biking along the Han River. Hop on the Han River bicycle path at Yeouido Hangang Park, a green space most known for its iconic cherry blossom trees. Here, you have the option of renting a bike by the hour, which you can take all the way out of the city.

Or, consider hiking – a favorite Korean pastime – one of the city’s mountains. While Bukhansan National Park offers some spectacular views, Inwangsan Mountain is considerably less crowded. In fact, if you go early enough in the morning, you might not see anyone except a shaman or two, practicing traditional rituals on the mountain.

For the music lover

Noraebang, or Korean-style karaoke, is a way of life in Seoul, but can be quite intimidating for the introverted traveler. But for those still eager to belt out a few crowd favorites (sans the crowd), SU Noraebang in Hongdae provides the perfect solution.

The popular noraebang franchise, which is known for its luxurious singing rooms, operates this particular location a bit differently. In fact, it’s for solo customers only. Visitors can sing out as loud as they want, and can even record their song and email it to themselves.

For a more relaxing music experience, head to Stradeum in Hannam-dong. Created by iRiver’s high-end sound system brand, Astell & Kern, this sophisticated space was designed purely for music. While the complex hosts various lectures and concerts, it’s advised that you make your way directly to the basement. Here, the entire floor is decorated with small enclaves equipped with high-quality headphones – some of which are valued at up to 1.6 million won, or $1,500 USD! Seemingly designed for introverts, these little nooks are the perfect place to waste away an afternoon in peace.

For the film buff

While most of the world fears nothing more than going to the cinema alone, introverts tend to revel in the experience. The Megabox movie theater located at Starfield COEX Mall in Gangnam has equipped six of its 16 theaters with five columns of single seats.

These seats are separated by a wide armrest table, so movie-goers don’t actually have to sit directly next to another human being. Therefore, they can focus solely on the big screen, without having to wrestle for armrest real estate or being distracted by a popcorn-crunching neighbor.

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