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The Ultimate Guide To Seoul For Muslim Travellers

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Faruq Senin  •  Jul 30, 2019

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So, you've made up your mind to visit South Korea. Whether you've been enamoured by K-pop, that latest Korean Drama everyone's been talking about or simply just attracted to Korean culture, there's no better place to start exploring Korea than its capital and biggest city, Seoul! This bustling metropolis is home to ancient palaces, exciting attractions, the latest shopping and beauty trends and more 🤗 There's just an endless list of things to do in Seoul. In recent years, it's also attracting a lot of Muslim travellers due to the increasing number of Muslim-friendly restaurants and prayer spaces around the city. Credit: Giphy If it's your first time planning a trip to Seoul but don't know where to start, don't worry! We've curated this all-in-one travel guide just for you, the Muslim traveller ☺️ From where to stay to top attractions and savouring the yummiest halal food, you'll be all set for your Seoul vacay!
How to get to Seoul: via Incheon International Airport
Before anything else, you'll need to book your flights to Seoul. If you're from Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, the good thing is that there are many airlines which fly (both direct and non-direct) to Seoul's Incheon International Airport and with many flight options perday too.From Singapore: If you're flying from Singapore, the only direct flights are on Singapore Airlines, Korean Air and Asiana Airlines. The flight time will take around 6h 30min and prices for direct flights usually start from around SGD650+ and can go as high as SGD800-900 depending on the season. Prices rarely go below SGD600 but if you book your tickets during a sale, you might snag a deal for about SGD570-600! So, do keep a close lookout for airline deals if you want a direct flight to Seoul.
Credit: @jaystory00 on Instagram For those of you who want to go even cheaper and don't mind a transit, then airlines like AirAsia, Malaysia Airlines, Thai Airways can be as cheap as SGD360-500 and transits on these flights are usually from 1-3 hours which won't affect your itinerary that much especially if you're taking a red-eye flight. From Kuala Lumpur:If you're flying from Kuala Lumpur, AirAsia, Malaysia Airlines and Korean Air fly direct to Incheon with flight times taking around 6h 30min too. Prices can be as low as RM720+ with budget carrier AirAsia but you can expect to pay from around RM1200+ for direct flights on Malaysia Airlinesor Korean Air. Do keep a lookout on flight promos on these 2 airlines if you're planning to book a direct flight!
Credit: @rapheal.aviation on Instagram For those of you considering a transit flight on a full-service carrier, you can also consider Vietnam Airlines as prices tend to be cheaper than Malaysia Airlines or Korean Air. But do note that the layover in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City might be overnight. P.S. Travelling on a budget to Seoul? Check out our 5D4N Muslim-friendly itinerary of Seoul (under RM1800) inclusive of flights!
Getting from Incheon Airport to downtown Seoul:
Located about 60km away from downtown Seoul, the time taken to travel from Incheon Airport to the city can take you around 45 minutes to more than 1 hour depending on the mode of transportation you choose. Too many options and not sure which one is more suitable for you? We help you break it down: AREX The Airport Express (or AREX)is no doubt, the fastest way to get from the airport to Seoul Station, without making any stops in between. It takes 43 minutes from Terminal 1 and 51 minutes from Terminal 2. Fares are also inexpensive - KRW9000 (Adult), KRW7000 (Child). Plus, there's free WiFi onthe train too - perfect for those of you who are not planning to rent any pocket WiFi device. But perhaps, one downside of taking the AREX is that it only stops at Seoul Station so unless your accommodation is around the station, you'd still need to transfer to local subway lines to get to your accommodation and that might be troublesome too. The express train timings are also not that frequent - there's only about 1-2 trains per hour.
Credit: @charsiewbaoben on Instagram AREX All-stop train Operated by the same company as the AREX, the all-stop train stops at 11 stations before reaching Seoul Station. The journey from Terminal 1 takes 59 minutes while the journey from Terminal 2 takes 66 minutes. This option is great if you're looking to stop at anywhere along the Airport Railroad Line and transfer to a local subway line, so your travelling route is not bounded by going to Seoul Station. Plus, the fare on the all-stop train is cheaper too - ranging from KRW1250-4750 depending on where you alight. Trains are also more frequent for the all-stop train. Airport limousine buses
Credit: Anh Huan on FacebookFor those who prefer a morecomfortable way to travel, then we recommend taking the airport limousine buses. What's great about this service is that you can store your luggage in the bus' luggage compartment and sit comfortably on the bus. There are many different routes to choose from too but do note that bus fares are more expensive than taking the train, ranging from KRW10000-15000. Different buses will go different routes but rest assured, there are stops at popular areas like Dongdaemun, Insadong, Myeongdong and more. This option is great if the bus stop is near your accommodation and while the frequency of buses are only around 2-3 per hour, they usually start earlier and end later than trains. The only downside of taking limousine buses is that it will usually take more than an hour, especially if your accommodation is towards the east of Seoul. Check their website for the different routes, timetables and prices. TaxiTaking a taxi is of course, the most expensive way of getting to downtown Seoul but it's also the most comfortable and brings you right to your doorstep. This option is also great if you're travelling in groups of maybe 3 or 4 people as youcan split the cost. The time taken to travel via taxi is around 60-70 minutes depending on the traffic situation in Incheon or downtown Seoul which can be pretty busy during peak hours. There are 2 types of taxis - standard and international. Non-Koreans are encouraged to take the international taxis as drivers are English speakers and you can enjoy flat fares of KRW55000-75000 depending on where you alight in Seoul. What this means is that your fare won't be affected by tolls, midnight surcharges or luggage fees.
How to get to Seoul: via Gimpo International Airport
If your first entry in South Korea isn't via Seoul (but through Busan or Jeju instead), then you'd most probably land in Gimpo International Airport. While Gimpo is mainly for domestic flights, there are also regional connecting flights from some parts of China, Japan and Taiwan like Shanghai, Osaka-Kansai, Tokyo-Haneda, Beijing and Taipei. The good thing about arriving in Gimpo is that it's nearer to downtown Seoul. Getting from Gimpo Airport to downtown Seoul:
  • By Train: The AREX All-stop Train makes a stop at Gimpo Airport; Subway lines 5 and 9 also stops at Gimpo.
  • By Bus: There are various limousine buses, town buses and city buses which service Gimpo Airport. Check themout here.
  • By Taxi: The taxi fare from Gimpo to various areas in downtown Seoul ranges from KRW16000-30000. Find out more information here.
When to visit Seoul: year-round weather and things to do
With 4 distinct seasons, there's never a bad time to visit Seoul as there are plenty of activities you can do for each season. It all depends on what you're looking for as a traveller. Typically spring and autumn are peak travel periods as the weather is milder and there are sunny, clear days without the heat! Here's a round-up of each season and what you should look out for. Spring (Mar-May)
Credit: Republic of Korea on Flickr Spring is when you'll be able to witness gorgeous cherry blossoms all around Seoul🌸 Average temperatures are around 1-11 deg for March, 7-18 deg for April and 13-23 deg for May. In March, it can still be really cold due to final cold snaps before spring and while it starts warming up at the end of March, do note that cherry blossoms will only start to bloom in the first or second week of April. This is also the time when you'll see many locals take advantage of the outdoors as winter goes away. One of thebiggest festivals that take place in Seoul during this time is the Yeongdeungpo Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival where Yeouiseo Road and the area around Han River will be graced by more than 1800 cherry trees. Other places to view cherry blossoms are Gyeongbokgung, Seoul Grand Park, Seokchon Lake, Kyunghee University and Seoul Forest.#HHWT Tip: Do bring sufficient warm clothing to layer up when you're out and about. On some days, the sun might be out but the cold wind can still be really strong. When night falls, it tends to get cooler too so it's better to bring a jacket or two just in case! Summer (Jun-Aug)
Credit: @frommyseoul on InstagramSummer in Seoul is hot, humid and wet. If you're from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, you're most probably used to this weather. Average temperatures range from 20+ to 30+ deg. From mid-June to the end of July, you might also encounter the rainy season or "jangma" so if you're planning to visit during this time, you'd definitely have to bring an umbrella or raincoat. Then in August, the weather will usually be the warmest, sometimes with temperatures soaring higher than 35 deg. During this time, you'd have towear lighter fabric and shield yourself from the sun with a cap or sunglasses. Don't forget your sunscreen too! Some of the festivals that you can join in summer is the Boryeong Mud Festival, located 2 hours away from Seoul. Other things you can do in summer is to try cooling dishes like bingsu and naengmyeon (cold buckwheat noodles). In fact, many locals also cool down by taking their shoes off and dipping their feet at Cheonggyecheon Stream.Autumn (Sep-Nov)
Another season that many travellers look forward to other than spring is autumn. When the city's lush green foliage turns to various shades of brown, red and yellow, it's the prettiest sight ever 😍 Some of the best places to soak in the beauty of autumn foliage are Namsan Park, Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Haneul Sky Park, Seoul Forest and Nami Island (located about 1.5h away from Seoul). Check out more autumn foliage spots here! Average temperatures during this season are around 16-26 deg in September, 9-20 deg in October and 2-12 deg in November. Besides soaking in the atmosphere of autumn, you can also enjoy several festivals in Seoul like the Seoul International Fireworks Festival which will take place in early Octoberalong the Han River and feature works from world-famous fireworks teams. Another event that you can expect is the Seoul Lantern Festival (first week of November) where hundreds of lanterns will light up along Cheonggyecheon Stream - definitely a spectacular sight you won't want to miss!Winter (Dec-Feb)
Credit: @yulia_nazipova_ on Instagram After autumn comes winter, the coldest season. As Seoul is located in the northern part of South Korea, it is generally colder than the southern cities of Busan and Jeju. Average temperatures are around -5 to 4 deg in December, -7 to 2 deg in January and -5 to 5 deg in February which means that you really need to layer up! To brave the cold, do wear thermals and thick coats and arm yourself with heat pads. The winds can be really harsh so you'll also need to protect your neck, ears and fingers by using scarves, beanies and gloves. But even though it's really cold in winter, you can still have some fun with winter activities like ice-skating at the Seoul Plaza Skating Rink or Yeoui Ice Park, sledding at Everland Theme Park(located 1 hour away from Seoul) or get your ski on at oneof the skiing resorts near Seoul. Jisan Forest Resort and Vivaldi Park are around 1-1.5h away from Seoul so it's really convenient to do a day trip. Furthermore, you can also bask in the atmosphere of Christmas Lights at the Myeongdong Light Festival, Lotte World Christmas Miracle and Everland Christmas Fantasy.
Things to do in Seoul: 5 iconic attractions and activities you can’t miss
Gyeongbokgung You simply do not say that you’ve been to South Korea without visiting their majestic palaces and Gyeongbokgung is the most majestic! This is the largest of the Five Grand Palaces in Seoul and definitely a must-visit. The sprawling grounds and spacious buildings in this palace have been preserved for centuries from 1395 till today!
You can easily spend an hour or more exploring the grounds of the palace. Don’t worry if you can’t see everything in one shot – it’s a huge place! We recommend visiting the Throne Hall Compound to get a glimpse of the grand complex where King Sejong held sessions with his ministers, and the Gyeonghoeru Pavillion that’s situated on a pond.
Credit: Victor Chan on Facebook While you’re visiting the palace, do catch the royal guard-changing ceremony for FREE! It happens at 10am and 2pm daily except for Tuesdays. Do remember toarrive early to get a good spot! #HHWT Tip: There are English tours scheduled at 11am, 1.30pm and 3.30pm. Tours depart from in front of the information centre at Heungnyemun Gate Address: 161, Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul Opening hours: January-February: 9am-5pm (last admission 4pm) March-May: 9am-6pm (last admission 5pm) June-August: 9am-6.30pm (last admission 5.30pm) September-October: 9am-6pm (last admission 5pm) November-December: 9am-5pm (last admission 2pm) Closed on Tuesdays Admission fee: KRW3000 (aged 19 – 64), KRW1500 (aged 7 – 18), Free (6 and below, seniors above 65), entry is free on Wednesdays or if you're wearing a hanbok *If you’re planning to visit other palaces in Seoul within 3 months, you can even purchase the Combination Ticket for KRW10,000 that will allow 1 pax admission to each of the 5 palaces. Nearest subway station: Gyeongbokgung Station (Seoul Subway Line 3) - Exit 5. Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3) - Exit 1. N Seoul Tower
One of the most iconic landmarks in Seoul, the N Seoul Tower is the perfect place if you want to get a bird’s eye view of Seoul! And of course, while you’re there, don’t forget to snap a shot of the thousands of love locks below the tower. Perhaps even leave your mark there?😉
Credit: @graceterrenal on Instagram The top of the tower is around 480 metres above sea level and tower itself (at 236.7 metres) is one of the tallest towers in Asia! So, make sure you spend some time admiring the view here 😍 There are a few ways to get to the tower - you can take a cable car from Myeongdong, catch a circular bus or hike up Namsan Hill. Check out the various methods to get here. Address: 105, Namsangongwon-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul Opening hours: 10am-11pm (Mon-Fri, Sun), 10am-12am (Sat) Admission fees: Observatory: KRW10,000 won (Adult), KRW8,000 (Child) Hello Kitty Island: KRW8000 (Adult), KRW7000 (Child) Find out more information on their website! Bukchon Hanok Village
Located near Gyeongbokgung, the Bukchon Hanok Village is a traditional residential area of nobility during the Joseon period. Today, the area is a tourist attraction due to its traditional architecture. Part of the fun is getting lost in the tiny alleys as you admire the hanoks (traditional Korean houses) and their intricate tiled roofs ☺️ Better still, if you're wearing a hanbok, it's time to snap some photos worthy for the 'gram! P.S. As much as the village is a tourist attraction, this is a residential area sodo try to keep your voice down!Address: 37, Gyedong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul Opening hours: 10am-5pm (Mon-Sat), closed on Sundays Admission fee: Free P.S. Planning to visit outside of Seoul instead? Check out these 12 scenic day trips you can take from Seoul! Lotte World
Credit: @tsp._.1516 on Instagram One of the most popular theme parks in Korea, Lotte World is well-loved by both locals and tourists, as evident in all the Korean dramas 😛 There are a number of different rides in this theme park, ranging from kid-friendly rides to more thrilling ones like a free-fall drop ride, Gyro Drop! #HHWT Tip: There’s a prayer room facility on the first floor of Lotte World's Adventure 1F (beside Folk Museum elevator) Address: 240, Olympic-ro, Songpa-gu, Seoul Opening hours: 9.30am - 10pm daily (nighttime admission is from 4pm) Admission fee: Check out the various ticket prices on their website. Nearest subway station: Jamsil Station (Line 2, 8) Exit 4. #HHWT Tip: If you don't mind making a trip out of Seoul, then head over to South Korea's largest theme park, Everland! Check out our complete Muslim-friendly guide to Everland here! Nami IslandLocated around 1.5h away from Seoul, Nami Island makes for a great day tripand perfect respite from the busy city! There are many tours that bring you from Seoul to Nami Island or you can even take public transport to get here. Here are the directions if you plan to visit by yourself:
  • Take the subway to Gapyeong on the Gyeongchun line. The fare should cost you around KRW2450. Then from Gapyeong, take a taxi to Gapyeong Wharf (KRW5000) then pay for the entrance fee to Nami Island and round-trip ferry (KRW13000).
Here's where you can immerse in nature while strolling around the island, which is beautiful in all seasons. If you’re here during the peak of autumn, make sure you check out the gingko tree lane! Besides walking and soaking in the beauty, there are bicycles for rent too!
Remember Winter Sonata, the hit drama back in 2002? Drop by Gongsaengwon Garden for the famous Winter Sonata statue! #HHWT Tip: There's a halal restaurant on Nami Island called Dongmoon and a prayer room with ablution facilities located on the 2nd floor of Baplex. P.S. Check out this itinerary to find out how we covered Nami Island and other exciting attractions around it with a tour!
Halal restaurants in Seoul: Our top recommendations you have to try
Makan Halal Korean RestaurantThis humbleeatery has been around since 2015 and it serves a good range of Korean cuisine – including familiar favourites like bibimbap, bulgogi and jjajangmyeon! One dish that we really love here is theirDakdoritang (10,000 KRW) – Korean-style braised chicken stew. The mix of sweet and spicy flavours was perfect and the chicken meat is so soft, making it such a delight to eat 🤤
The Dalkganjeong (sweet and spicy chicken) is a crowd pleaser too. For just 20,000 KRW for two portions, every bite into this sweet and succulent chicken is a delightful treat as the chicken perfectly soaks up every bit of the sauce. Halal Status: Halal Certified (by Korea Muslim Federation), Mosque nearby Opening Hours: Monday, Wednesday to Sunday – 10.30am to 10pm (Closed on Tuesday) Address: 52, Usadan-ro 10 gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea 140-911 Contact No: +82 2-6012-2231 Facebook | Instagram Eid Halal Korean Food  Run by a Korean-Muslim family, Eid is one of the top favourites when it comes to finding authentic local cuisine in Seoul.
Credit: @zaini_dhazam on InstagramWith hearty dishes like beef bulgogi, samgyetang (Korean ginseng chicken soup), bibimbap and more, you’re in for a satisfying meal 🤤 Their jjim dak (Korean braised chicken) is a must-try! For a relatively affordableprice, their servings are pretty generous.Halal Status: Halal Certified (by Korea Muslim Federation), Mosque nearby Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday – 11.30am to 9.00pm. Closed on Monday Address: 67, Usadan-ro 10-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul Contact No: +82 70-8899-8210 Facebook | Instagram Yang Good Korean BBQ If you're in the Gangnam area, make sure you drop by the famous Yang Good Halal Restaurant! Being the only Halal Korean BBQ in Seoul, this place is a must-visit for Muslim travellers to get a taste of authentic Korean BBQ.
Credit: @zar_zailan on Instagram Choose from either un-marinated lamb to enjoy the tender lamb meat in its full glory, or opt for the marinated lamb to savour juicy lamb rack coated with Korean sweet sauce! If you’re not a meat person, fret not as the restaurant also serves other dishes such as Kimchi Jjigae and Deonjang Jjigae. Halal Status: Only Halal meat used, Alcohol is served in establishment Opening Hours: 4pm to 11.30pm, closed on Sunday Address: 15 Nonhyeon-ro 95-gil, Yeoksam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea Contact No: +82 2-567-7060 Busan Jib  If you’re wondering where the nearest places to eat are at, Busan-jibis just around the corner! Busan-jib is a halal eatery that’s popular among Muslim travellers. Theyserve a wide variety of Korean dishes!
Credit: @aisyahnurhani on Instagram Must try dishes include their Korean spicy chicken stew and ginseng chicken 😋 You can also make your very own Bulgogi lettuce wraps here! Even if you’re not a meat person, this is still the restaurant for you as they serve similarly yummy seafood dishes. Be sure to try their spicy seafood stew and chilli squid. Halal status: Uses only halal-certified meat and ingredients. Alcohol is sold separately in the establishment but is not used in food preparation. As this restaurant is not halal-certified, we advise that you dine at your own discretion. Address: 11-4 Myeongdong 8-gil, Myeongdong 2(i)-ga, Jung-gu, 서울특별시 South Korea Opening hours: 11am to 10pm daily Instagram Kampungku Restaurant Kampungku serves authentic Korean and Malaysian food. The menu options are mouthwatering and include some of the best both countries have to offer 😍
Credit: @muna_miny on Instagram From local dishes like Bulgogi, Sweet Crispy Chicken, Korean Fried Chicken, and Kimchi Fried Rice to Asian favourites like nasi lemak, fried rice, tom yam and chicken satay – they definitely have something for everyone! Not to mention that they also have a mart where you can get halal-certified meat and Korean products like seaweed, honey tea, red ginseng and more ☺️ P.S. If you’relooking for more places to shop for halal groceries, our round-up of halal food marts in Korea will help you out! Halal status: Muslim-owned Address: Jong-ro 20-gil, Namsandong 2(i)-ga, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea Opening hours: 11am – 10pm daily Contact: (+82) 02-310-9249 Facebook | Instagram #HHWT Tip: If you need more halal eateries in the South Korean capital, check out our complete round-up of these 9 halal eateries in Seoul!
Prayer spaces in Seoul
If you’re in the Itaewon district which is where a lot of the halal eateries are at, you don’t have to worry about finding a place to pray, as the Seoul Central Mosque will be just round the corner. Some eateries like Kampungku in Myeongdong also have prayer spaces which you can use.
Outside of Itaewon, there are plenty of prayer spaces too such as the K Style Hub at Cheonggye Stream and COEX Mall in Gangnam. Some hotels like Lotte Hotel in Myeongdong and Four Seasons Hotel near Seoul Station also have prayer spaces. Amusement parks such as Lotte World have prayer rooms too! #HHWT Tip: Find more prayer spaces in KTO's directory here.
Where to stay in Seoul: the best neighbourhoods for every traveller
With a well-connected public transport system, anywhere you stay in Seoul shouldn't bemuch of a problem if it's near to a subway station. But of course, you'd want to get as much as you can from your vacay so choosing a good neighbourhood to stay in might be of interest to you. Here are our top picks!Myeongdong: For shopaholics and first-timers If everything about Seoul screams shopping to you or if it's your first time and you want the best of everything, then stay in Myeongdong! With shops selling the latest fashion trends and hundreds of cosmetic and skincare brands at reasonable prices, this is where you'd want to be if you want shopping at your doorstep. Plus, the area is bustling till late at night and there are many stalls selling Korean street food (do check for their Muslim-friendly status though). There are also halal eateries in Myeongdong and the area is well-connected to Seoul station too, so it's perfect access to the airport. Check out our guide on where to stay in Myeongdong here. Check out our insider tips on shopping in Myeongdong here.  Hongdae: For hipsters and budget travellersHongdae is where the centre of Korean youth culture is. There are dozens of performers here every night andthe area is alive with flea markets and affordable shopping. Not to mention that there are many hostels here too, catering not just to solo travellers but also to couples and larger groups of friends, so there's something for everyone!Check out our all-in-one guide to Hongdae here. Itaewon: For ease of halal food While Itaewon is not the most accessible area to stay for many travellers, it's heaven for Muslim travellers because of the many halal food options here! The area outside the Seoul Central Mosque is full of halal eateries - from authentic Korean food to Turkish and even Malay food, so you never have to worry about your meals. There aren't many major hotels here except the Hamilton Hotel (located in front of Itaewon station) but there are many hostels, guesthouses and boutique hotels around the area. Other than being connected to subway line 6, there are many buses servicing the area which connects you to Gangnam, Myeongdong and other areas. #HHWT Tip: For a list of affordable accommodations in Seoul near halal food, check out this list!With this ultimate Muslim-friendly guide, we hope you're now more than ready to conquer the sprawling metropolis of Seoul!Call your travel buddies and start planning your trip now 😊