I recently got the chance to go on a trip to South Korea with the Korea Tourism Organisation (KTO) and had the most amazing time ever! :D
Over the course of a week, we went all around South Korea, visiting a different city every day. What made the trip extra special was that it was hallyu themed, which had me super excited as a longtime fan of everything K-related.
From stepping into the world of K-dramas at filming locations to having the time of my life at one-of-a-kind K-pop experiences, the trip was every K-fan's dream come true!
So if any crazy K-fans out there are planning a trip to South Korea, check out these places for the ultimate hallyu experience:
1. The K-live Hologram Theater is a great way to get your K-pop fix without having to break your budget on expensive concert tix
Having gone to my fair share of live K-pop concerts, I was intrigued to see how this experience would live up to the real deal and I'm happy to report that it totally did! The holographic concerts we watched were every bit as exciting as watching the real thing, perhaps even more, thanks to the interactive elements.
Before the show, you're asked to snap a photo of yourself and this will be used to include you as part of the concert. We swooned like crazy when G-Dragon browsed through our photos before choosing one of us to serenade, and died laughing when we ended up being superimposed onto PSY's backup dancers.
Location: Floor 6, Building D, Triple Street, 1-33, Songdogwahak-ro 16beon-gil, Yeonsu-gu, Incheon
How to get there: Take Line 1 of the Incheon Subway, get off at Technopark Station Exit 2 and walk for 150m.
2. Stay at the Gyeongwonjae Ambassador Incheon to experience a day in the lives of characters from popular K-dramas like 'Goblin' and 'The Great Seducer'
Combining Korean traditions with modern-day luxuries, the Gyeongwonjae Ambassador Incheon truly combines the best of both worlds and lives up to its 5-star rating. From the moment we walked in, we were completely blown away by how seamlessly the two vastly different elements were combined.
We weren't lucky enough to get one of the rooms that has traditional Korean bedding, but our room was still amazingly comfortable and featured other traditional elements like a wooden bathtub, sitting room, and courtyard.
It's no surprise to us that this stunning hotel has been used as a filming location for many popular K-dramas. Look out for the screen in the lobby that plays the scenes in question. A particularly memorable one is from Episode 13 of hit drama 'Goblin', when Eun-tak and Kim Shin go on a short trip together. Maybe you'll even get lucky enough to stay in the same room ;)
Other dramas filmed here include 'My ID is Gangnam Beauty', 'Time', 'About Time', 'The Great Seducer', 'Money Flower', 'Avengers Social Club', 'Mad Dog', 'Lookout', 'The K2', and 'Come Back Mister'.
Location: 200, Techno park-ro, Yeonsu-gu, Incheon
How to get there: Taken the Incheon Subway Line No.1 and get off at Central Park Exit 3. It's a short 3-minute walk away.
3. Dive into the romance of 'The Legend of the Blue Sea' at Hanhwa Aqua Planet Yeosu
Fans of 'The Legend of the Blue Sea' will definitely remember all the iconic scenes that took place between the lead characters Heo Joon-jae and Shim Chung. One such scene from Episode 4 in which Joon-jae confronts Chung and tries to figure out how they know each other was filmed right here at the Hanhwa Aqua Planet Yeosu.
There are even footprints marking where the characters stood and a screenshot of the scene on the floor. We tried our best to recreate it, what do y'all think of our attempt? The hardest part was actually waiting for those gorgeous beluga whales to swim by at just the right moment to get the shot lololol.
Besides being a filming location, Hanhwa Aqua Planet Yeosu is also home to 34,000 marine animals of about 280 species and is the second largest aquarium in Korea. Don't miss out on the Aqua Fantasy Show that features mermaids for more 'The Legend of the Blue Sea' feels!
Location: 61-11, Odongdo-ro, Yeosu-si, Jeollanam-do
How to get there: Take a train from Yongsan Station to Yeosu-Expo Station. Walk for about 10-15 minutes to arrive at Hanhwa Aqua Planet Yeosu.
4. Live out all your saeguk fantasies with a hanbok experience, followed by an epic photo-taking session at the Jeonju Hanok Village
One of the best elements of any good saeguk drama is undoubtedly all the gorgeous costumes, especially the traditional hanboks. Now's your chance to wear one yourself and feel like royalty for a day! Take your pick from the many hanbok rental places located around the Jeonju Hanok Village.
We got to choose from an incredible selection of elaborately designed hanboks (don't worry they have great selections for guys too) then were hooked up with matching accessories, and they even did our hair!
A quick walk just around the corner and we found ourselves in the Jeonju Hanok Village, which gave us the perfect backdrop to take all kinds of incredible saeguk-worthy photos. We legit didn't want to change back into our normal clothes and felt like total peasants the rest of the day lol.
Location: 29, Eojin-gil, Wansan-gu, Jeonju-si, Jeollabuk-do
How to get there: From Jeonju Intercity/Express Bus Terminal, take Bus No. 5-1 or 79. Get off at Jeondong Cathedral (Hanok Village) Bus Stop.
5. SM stans absolutely cannot miss out checking out the SMTOWN Coex Artium for all kinds of exclusive content on your favourite idols
Each floor has something different to explore, such as the SMTOWN Cafe on the 4th floor, SMTOWN Gift Shop on the 2nd floor, and SMTOWN Theatre on the 5th floor. We only went to the SMTOWN Museum on the 3rd floor and OMG guys, not even kidding I totally could have spent all day here!
I first got into K-pop thanks to legendary SM artists like Super Junior, SHINee, TVXQ, and BoA, so it was absolutely incredible being able to see their entire history. Each SM artist has their own dedicated display detailing everything about them and including so much amazing content like their albums in chronological order, exclusive stage and behind-the-scenes photos, as well as their iconic stage outfits and accessories.
The best part is you're allowed to take pictures of everything! The fangirl in me went absolutely crazy and probably ended up spending a little too much on merch at the end of it all hehe. There are also loads of interactive experiences like taking AR photos with the idols or trying your hand at being an idol yourself in the recording room, dance practice room, and backstage area.
Location: 513, Yeongdong-daero, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
How to get there: Take the Seoul Subway Line 2 and get off at Samseong Station (Exit 6).
6. Consisting of a Military Experience, a 1950s steet, and the drama filming site itself, Nonsan Sunshine Land will transport you directly into the world of 'Mr. Sunshine'
This place is definitely a must-visit for fans of the drama! It was specially constructed for the drama and is now open to the public after filming wrapped earlier this year. Surrounded by the familiar sights of iconic locations that'll re-trigger all of your feels (the Glory Hotel is so incredible IRL you guys!), it's legit like you're part of the 'Mr. Sunshine' world. Grab yourself a park map to make sure you don't miss out on anything, it breaks down exactly which scene was filmed where.
You can even rent various themed costumes to complete the experience. I'd suggest only visiting here after you've finished watching the whole drama though, 'cause there are spoilers everywhere, especially at the graveyard section. Is anyone else still not over the emotional rollercoaster that was 'Mr. Sunshine' btw or is it just me? T__T
Location: 102, Bonghwang-ro, Nonsan-si, Chungcheongnam-do
How to get there: From Yeonmudae Express Bus Terminal Bus Stop take Bus No. 201 or 216 to Hwanghwa 4-ri Bus Stop. Walk approx. 5 min. to Nonsan Sunshine Land.
7. Spending some time at the Running Man Thematic Experience Center is probably the closest we'll ever come to actually being on the show
Just like any other 'Running Man' fan, I've always wanted to not only meet the cast but actually take part in the show. They somehow manage to make the simplest of games look super fun, and that's the exact vibe that this Thematic Experience Center brings to life. It was go, go, go from the moment we stepped in, as we set out on a mad dash to play all of the games and rack up as many R-points as possible on our electronic wristbands before our time ran out.
From attempting to navigate my way through the stunning but confusing AF Mirror Maze, to trying to jump over 200 times within 30 seconds, and even just plain screaming as loud as I can, I totally had a blast playing all the different games. I'm pretty proud of my final score of 51 R-points out of a maximum of 83 R-points, and that's mostly because I was too chicken to properly function in the Dark Maze and ended up not getting any R-points at all hahahaha fail.
Location: B1, Hana Building, 41, Insadong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
How to get there: From Jonggak Station (Line 1) Exit 3, turn left at the first corner and walk for about 3 minutes.
8. The Suncheon Bay Wetland Reserve will having you feeling the 'Temperature of Love' and filling up your memory card with tons of gorgeous photos
If watching Jung-sun and Hyun-soo's lovey dovey day trip in Episode 4 of 'Temperature of Love' made you want to do the same, head on over to the Suncheon Bay Wetland Reserve to follow along their date course. While we didn't take the Cruise Tour like they did, we did walk along the same 1.2km Reed Deck and tried our best to take the same kind of couple photos.
With fields of towering reeds sprawled out as far as the eye can see, the whole place was utterly breathtaking and it was just so easy to get all kinds of gorgeous shots. It would actually be a great location for couples looking to take engagement or pre-wedding photos.
Location: 513-25, Suncheonman-gil, Suncheon-si, Jeollanam-do
How to get there: From Suncheon Train Station, walk to the right along Palmaro st. about 100m and cross the street. Take Bus No. 67 and get off at Suncheonman (순천만).
9. Step into the world of period dramas and films at the Suncheon Open Film Set where time stands still
Love watching period dramas and films? Then everything from this highly popular filming location will be incredibly familiar to you. Consisting of three villages that each represent a different era from the 1950s to the 1970s, the realistic set perfectly recreates what life was like back then.
I loved taking my time to explore the set, discovering traces of my favourite shows down every street and around every corner - from dramas like 'Love Rain', 'Baker King Kim Tak-gu', and 'East of Eden', to movies like 'Gangnam Blues', 'A Werewolf Boy', and 'Sunny'. Popular variety show 'Running Man' also filmed Episode 116 here and my fellow Monbebe's will definitely recognize it from MONSTA X's music video for 'All In'.
Location: 24, Biryegol-gil, Suncheon-si, Jeollanam-do
How to get there: Take an intercity bus from Seoul Central City Bus Terminal to Suncheon. From Suncheon Intercity Bus Terminal, take Bus No. 77, 99 or 777. Get off at Suncheon Open Film Set.
A huge thanks to KTO for taking us on this ultimate hallyu tour around South Korea! We had so much fun and definitely left a piece of our Seoul behind ;)