When you hear someone talking about cafe and coffee culture (in other words, a group of people with a mild obsession with drinking coffee and going to inevitably overpriced cafes), what comes to mind? Probably somewhere in Europe sipping an espresso on the patio of a quaint cafe overlooking a busy side street. I bet you probably wouldn’t have thought that there is a massive cafe and coffee culture in South Korea! In Seoul and other cities alike, you will find cafes of all sorts: small to big, chain to independent, unique to mainstream.
The Korean Demilitarized Zone (otherwise known as the DMZ) marks the division between North and South Korea; a 250 km long and 4 km wide buffer zone. This zone was created as part of the Korean Armistice Agreement between North Korea, the People’s Republic of China, and the United Nations Command forces in 1953 (thanks, Wikipedia). Though this area claims to be a Demilitarized Zone, it is ironically one of the most heavily militarized borders in the world. You wouldn’t want to pass up the opportunity to go on a DMZ Tour, as this will probably be the closest you’ll ever get to North Korea.
If you live in Hong Kong, or have been there on business or pleasure, you probably know two things: 1) buying drinks at a bar is damn expensive and 2) happy hour is a pretty big deal. Clearly, there is a correlation between the two.. So, while most people are happy with 2 for 1 drinks on selected drinks, I’m always out looking for just how far my hard earned HK dollars will take me. I’ve struck gold recently and wanted to introduce you to my new-found happy hour haven at Linguini Fini.
Observation towers are a pretty big tourist attraction in any large city around the world, so you might as well get with it (in case you haven’t already) and check out the Seoul Tower perched up on Namsan Mountain, the highest point in Seoul, for some 360° views of the city. Though Seoul doesn’t have as large and recognizable of a cityscape as some other cities (think London, Hong Kong, Toronto..), it is still neat to see the city from 236m up!
After taking a tour around the beautiful Changdeokgung Palace in Seoul, be sure to head to the back to see the Huwon, or “Rear Garden”. Today, it’s widely known as the Secret Garden and secret it is! You can only enter the Secret Garden on a guided tour, so be sure to time your visit wisely. During the Joseon Dynasty, this garden was built for the sole use of the royal family and the women of the palace. The Secret Garden at Changdeokgung Palace is an extremely green, peaceful, and charming place to explore for a few hours.
After you’ve finished walking around Bukchon Hanok Village, you can take a short walk over to one of the “Five Grand Palaces” – Changdeokgung Palace. This Palace was built during the Joseon Dynasty and is rumored to have been the favourite amongst many Joseon Princes. Unfortunately, like the other Palaces, Changdeokgung Palace suffered heavy damage during Japan’s occupation in the early-to-mid 1900s. As a result, only about 50% of the structures you will see at the Palace are from before the occupation.
Wanting to see another side of Seoul? Bukchon Hanok Village is a traditional Korean village in the Gye-Dong neighbourhood. This 600-year old village from the Joseon Dynasty has been preserved and though it is now a destination for tourists, many locals still live in the historic houses along the various narrow alleyways. This was one of my favourite sights in Seoul – the village has history, cute houses, intriguing alleyways, and is just all-around really interesting.
With only four days in Paris, I tried to cram everything I wanted to see in a short time frame and I surprisingly was able to do it all, though perhaps not as well as I would have liked. Since I had such a difficult time narrowing down a list of things to do in Paris for this blog post, I decided to just give up and include all of my favourite spots and places I went to while in the city. There’s a whole lot to see and do, so whether you’re there for a weekend or an entire week, this list is sure to keep your feet moving throughout the city streets of Paris.
If you’re in need of a change from the typical city scenery while travelling through Paris, then you should definitely head on over to Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. Not only does this public park offer its visitors ample greenery to walk through, sit down, and enjoy, but it also has a temple perched on the top of a cliff where you can gaze down on the park and look out onto some of Paris’s beautiful buildings.
Paris has many tourist hot-spots to visit throughout the city, and without a doubt, the Notre Dame is high up on that list as one of the most well-known cathedrals in France (we’ve all seen The Hunchback of Notre Dame..). This cathedral is an example of the historic French Gothic architecture with a beautiful exterior and an equally mesmerizing interior adorned with intricate stained glass windows throughout.