Seoul Street Photography vol.1

Taichi August
11 min readMay 25, 2023

For four days and three nights, I traveled alone to Seoul, South Korea.

This was my first trip abroad since Morocco, which I visited in December 2019, so it had actually been three and a half years since my last trip. Since it was my first trip abroad in a long time, the trip was not very smooth, as I forgot some things, forgot to fill out some forms and had to go through immigration. Moreover, the sim card I bought at the airport did not work throughout the trip. However, it was an enjoyable trip with a lot of learning. I was not as nervous during the trip as I used to be, probably because it was a safe country, and I often felt like I was in a daze.

During this trip, I met up with a friend from Korea for the first time in a long time, went to an exhibition that I was interested in, visited good coffee shops instead of visiting many famous tourist spots. Personally, I am not very good at doing detailed research for my trips, and I like to enjoy the happening things I happen to encounter in the area. Due to the fact that my phone was not always connected and there were only a few places I wanted to visit, I spent most of this trip wandering around the city aimlessly and enjoying taking street photography.

In this article, I will try to document the trip in writing, along with the photos I took in the area. By the way, since the photos are too huge to put in this article, I’m posting many of them on my Instagram. If you are interested, check it out.

Day1

Departure from Japan — Check in at accommodation

Incheon International Airport sim card counter

I booked my air ticket about three weeks before my trip. Due to the depreciation of the yen, I could not get a flight ticket as cheaply as before, but I still managed to get a round-trip ticket on JEJU AIR for about 24,000 yen. I think I got the ticket relatively cheaply because I avoided consecutive holidays and had a four-day itinerary (two weekdays plus Saturday and Sunday).

Although Korea is an overseas country, it is surprisingly close and very comfortable to travel there. I took off from Kansai International Airport in the early afternoon and arrived in Seoul in no time while enjoying the Korean drama “The world of the Married” on my iPad, which I had downloaded in advance from Netflix. Since I had applied for Q-Code in advance, I was able to pass through Incheon International Airport just by showing the QR code, without having to go through customs inspection. After that, I went through immigration, but because it was my first trip in a long time and I was in a daze, I forgot to enter my arrival card and had to wait in a long line twice. In the end, it took more than an hour to enter the country, and I had to pick up my suitcase, which was left behind.

I bought a sim card at the airport, but I could not get a signal at all, probably due to APN interference. I somehow didn’t want to delete the existing APN profile, so I thought, well, traveling without a smartphone is fine, and moved on to the city (although, in Seoul, Wi-Fi is quite strong at subway stations and on trains, so I had no trouble getting around).

Like Japan, I got the impression that the number of travelers in Korea has returned to normal. There were quite a few Japanese tourists. The rate of mask wearing was almost the same as in Japan. Even though Seoul is located at a high latitude, it is quite hot outside in the latter half of May. That’s why I did not wear a mask on this trip.

I prefer Burger King among burger shops.

It took about an hour from the airport to Seoul Station by train. I had dinner at Burger King. I usually don’t drink Coke, but for some reason, it tastes criminally good when I drink it abroad. I like eating French fries with just only salt, not ketchup.

Because of the delay at the airport, it was already night when I finished eating Whopper. I was tired and did not enjoy the nightlife as I do not drink alcohol. So I went to sleep early.

Day2

Bukchon Hanok Village

Morning scenery of the city

I have been sleeping poorly lately, probably due to stress. In Korea, I woke up early the next morning, so I took a walk to Bukchon Hanok Village, which is relatively close to the city before more tourists arrive. The weather was beautiful and the morning light was very pleasant.

I saw quite a few people going into their offices on the way, but it was only a little past 7:00 in the morning. I was surprised to see that people in Korea work from such an early hour.

Nice morning sun shining in.
Even in the city center, there are many beautiful alleys.

Walking through the hilly streets while taking street photography. More than 90% of this trip was taken with a 55mm single focal length lens; I had used 55mm lenses in the past, but this was the first time I had used them all the day in all kinds of situations. I actually thought it was a pretty difficult angle of view to take good pictures. Even so, I enjoyed the process of trial and error in order to take photos that I was satisfied with.

Wonderful atmosphere

After a long and winding walk up the hill, I arrived at Bukchon Hanok Village, a famous tourist attraction.

It was so beautiful with the morning sun shining through and lighting the vivid walls. The sky is beautiful.

Since I visited early in the morning on a weekday, there were no tourists at all except a few locals passing by, and I enjoyed the original beautiful townscape and atmosphere. As I recall, the last time I was here, the walls of the private houses were under renovation, which was disappointing, so I was happy to see them in perfect shape on this visit.

Enjoying the luxury of time

I have been to Seoul several times, but I have never really understood the geography of the city. However, I recognized where various places are located in this trip.

Cafe Onion

The huge entrance

After walking down the hill to have breakfast, I went to Cafe Onion on the way. It seems to be a very famous cafe and popular on social media.

I actually forgot something at the hotel, so I stopped by on my way back to pick it up.

Sweet and savory breakfast

I ordered an almond milk latte and a white chocolate cake with green tea. I like sweets, but the cake was too sweet for me to eat all of it. The almond milk latte was also rather sweet. My reward system was in full effect.

There was quite a line when I left the restaurant around 8:00. I recommend going early in the morning on a weekday.

Gyeongbok Palace

Since I couldn’t get a signal on my phone and couldn’t see the map, I walked around randomly.

Taking photography of the casual scenery of a travel destination is most enjoyable. If you make a hobby of street photography, you can find the charm of a city more actively and enjoy your trip deeply without going to special places.

I like the contrast between the red of the architecture and the blue sky.

I arrived at Gyeongbokgung Palace while walking around, feeling the atmosphere of the city. Although I only saw it from the outside, it was beautiful, matching the blue sky. There were quite a few tourists in the morning, and many young people wearing chimachogori.

Seoul is the big city.
The weather was really nice.

piknic

Many fashionable stores in the back alleys of Hoehyeon

After seeing Gyeongbokgung, I wandered around the city and took the metro to Hoehyeon.

The back entrance of piknic

I went to a gallery called piknic, which I wanted to visit on this trip. I was not sure where I should enter, so I went in through the back entrance.

Posters in the store

An exhibition by French photographer François Halard was being held at the gallery. I personally like his architectural photography and find his classic sensibility and time-traveling expressions that are not found in oriental people very inspiring.

I was only allowed to take pictures inside the exhibition with my phone and mostly took videos, so I don’t have many photos, but I was very satisfied with the quality and volume of the artwork. At the store, I unintentionally bought his art book.

Above all, the piknic space itself was wonderful, and I would like to visit again if there is another interesting exhibition.

Café Comfort

I like the view from a high place.

After being satisfied with the exhibition, I walked up the hill behind piknic, overlooking the city, to the top of a hill called Namsan.

Stairs and up the hill
Some people sunbathing

Namsan is a well-known tourist spot. The lawn was well maintained and looked like a nice place for a picnic.

This is the amazing view. An open space with a panoramic view of Seoul.

After walking over the hill for a while, I found a space with a very nice view, so I stopped by without thinking.

It has direct access to the roof of the building, and there was a nice bench space on the roof, so I couldn’t help but want to relax. The lower floor seems to be a café and store, and since I was there, I took out a coffee from the café and sat on the bench to relax while looking down on the city of Seoul.

There was no one else around, and as the name suggests, it was a comfortable space.

When I unexpectedly discover such a (probably) little-known place, I want to designate it as my own favorite place. I’m going to come back next time.

Since there was nothing for lunch at the café, I decided to walk to the metro station to go to Hongdae, even though I was hungry.

Hongdae

View of Hongdae from Musinsa Terrace

After a short walk in Hongdae, I went to Musinsa Terrace, a café and relaxation space on the top floor of a shopping mall next to the station. The view of the city from the terrace was very dynamic and nice. The night view probably looks beautiful, but I like this sense of light in the afternoon.

Also, although I have little interest in shopping, I like to take care of my eyes, and I like to buy sunglasses of the country’s brand when I travel, because it’s cool. There was a Gentle Monster flagship store in Hongdae, so I stopped by and bought a pair of sunglasses before heading to Musinsa Terrace. I didn’t take many pictures of the store, but it was quite a nice gallery-like space.

I took a break in front of a nice flower shop.

Musinsa Terrace was a bit cold, so I moved outside and sat in the park for an hour or so to rest, as I was hungry and tired from walking.

It was interesting to watch the diversity of fashions and styles of people passing by.

South African Cuisine in Korea
Lamb chops were delicious.

After killing time doing nothing, it was already evening. I have yet to eat Korean food, but since I missed the timing of lunch and had no particular preference, I went to Pie Republic, a South African restaurant near the park.

Is South Africa famous for meat pies? I ordered a plate of meat pie, lamb chops, and French fries. It was a large portion, and the oil and salt content was so high that I felt a little sick after eating it, but the taste was excellent. The lamb chops and French fries in particular were quite high (The pie was also nice).

Catchy signage
Original mug
The dimness and oldness of the cafe was very nice.

After dinner, I went to Coffee Libre, a coffee shop parodying Nacho Libre, and thought it would be a B-movie kind of place, but the coffee was of such a high quality that I bought some coffee beans. The dark and cool space was also very comfortable.

As a result, I did not get to visit many coffee shops on this trip, but it was a nice experience to visit a few cafes because I was interested in Seoul’s coffee culture.

Wandering through the dark alleys.

After leaving the café, the first day of sightseeing ended early because I was tired. The metro from Hongdae back to Anguk was crowded with people rushing home. While regaining the feeling of traveling alone for the first time in a long time, the first day of sightseeing left me feeling a decline in physical strength.

I wrote about Vol. 2 (Part 2). So check it out if you’re interested.

--

--