What to do in Seoul? My top 10 highlights

 

Greetings from Seoul, the soul of Asia, as the locals say. I visited Seoul in May and I liked the city’s modern and lively atmosphere flavoured with historical palaces and spacious parks. Seoul is one of those cities which never sleep and where there are probably more to see than time permits. Everyone says the spring is the best time to be there, and I must agree. While the weather was turning warm and sunny, the pleasant wind made it absolutely perfect to discover the city. Here are the top 10 highlights of my visit.  

walking around Seoul

1. Walking around the city
Seoul is an amazing place and there are many different areas to visit. The best way to discover the city is to take an underground to the place you would like to see and walk from there. The underground is very clean, easy to use and you can buy the tickets from the self-service machines (in English) at every station.  With a population of 10 million, the city is very clean, relatively safe and beautiful to walk around. Of course you need a good map and comfortable shoes too.  

Gyeongbok Royal palace

2. Gyeongbok, Korea’s most famous royal palace
Any kind of palace could be probably included in my list, as I like castles and palaces. However, Gyeongbok palace is really gorgeous with its numerous pavilions, little ponds and lots of green around. This is a place I spent at least a half a day just walking around the area admiring the beautiful old buildings and everything in between. Originally built in the late 1300s, the palace has been destroyed and reconstructed numerous times to what is today one of the charming palaces in Asia, and just in the heart of the city at the northern end of Seoul’s main boulevard.

Korean Barbeque in Seoul

3. Korean barbecue
If you fancy good food, Korean barbecue is definitively worth trying. The barbecue is cooked in front of you at the restaurant. There is a small round hole in your table for the fire on top of which the meat, fish and vegetables are cooked.  The meal is healthy and so delicious – I think this was the best dinner we had during our visit in Seoul.  

Cheonggyecheon Stream Seoul

4. Cheonggyecheon Stream
This is a very nice part of soul with many waterfalls and bridges crossing over. Being in the middle of the busy city, this is still a nice and rather quiet place to relax. You can walk up to 5.8 km along the stream and enjoy a different flavour of the city.

Rodeo Drive Seoul

5. Rodeo drive
This area is the home to many trendy restaurants, bars and high-end designer boutiques. I probably liked this area most because of all the fancy restaurants and funky stores…

Seoul by night

6. Seoul by night
The city is the most beautiful at nights with all its dazzling lights and numerous tall buildings. The best place to take pictures is probably in one of the restaurants located in any tall building. I would assume anyone of them can do. I took my pictures in our hotel Park Hayatt and the view was stunning.

Gucci flag ship store Seoul

7. Shopping luxury
Cheongdam-dong is the area to visit all the flag-ship stores of big designer names. They all have their four or five floor stand-alone stores in this area. Even if you are not for luxury shopping, these buildings are just worth of seeing.

Eating out in Seoul

8. Eating out
Like in any big city, eating out is great in Seoul and I would definitively recommend trying local specialities. Rodeo drive has many interesting restaurants, and if you walk around you can find all kind of innovative settings, or what do you think about the picture above…

Artbox stationary paradise

9. Artbox, the stationery paradise
Artbox is a lovely stationery shop with little, cute accessories, fashion items and interior stuff. They have very nice cards, papers, envelopes, pens and other little things that make nice souvenirs…

Taxi driver in Seoul

10. Taxi drive
I must include this as my last picture. Where else a taxi driver manages to do this? This was a taxi stop next to the main railway station in the area where you can’t even drive fast.  Well, despite this first impression, all our taxis were safe and comfortable.

PS. I hope you like my refreshed blog design. It is a bit of a while since I have been writing last time as I have been updating my blog behind the scenes.

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Where to travel in Easter: My top 5 destinations

Easter holiday ideas

Where to go on Easter? I start planning my Easter every year very early and then end up making the decision last-minute.  Spring is the best time to travel in many locations and there are so many places I would like to travel. Easter is great time for a healthy holiday, visiting Europe, Asia and Middle East. Here are my top 5 Easter holiday destinations:

Chiva Som - Thailand health reatreat

1. Healthy holiday in Chiva Som, my favourite retreat
Chiva Som is my favourite destination Spa.  One week of healthy food, lots of exercises and spa treatments in beautiful surroundings will make a difference. No fuss about Easter egg hunting, but if you are lucky, it is time for Songkran water festival, and you will get your share of sparkling water as a symbol of washing bad away and giving good fortune for your future…

Venice, Italy

2. City break in Milan and Venice
Good Friday is not a public holiday in Milan, so what would be better way of spend a day for shopping, while the city is once a bit less crowded.  Most of the local people head to East on Friday, so leave your travel for Saturday morning and drive towards Venice.  Spring is one of the most beautiful time to visit the city and less touristic than summer.

Banyan Tree Bintan resort

3. Shopping in Singapore, relaxing in Bintan Island (in Indonesia)
Singapore is a good, but maybe not so obvious destination for Easter.  It is a great way of combining a city holiday in Singapore with few days in Bintan holiday island, just about an hour by ferry from Singapore.  We stayed in Banyan Tree Bintan, which is a gorgeous resort with beautiful natural surroundings, delicious food and daily yoga glasses relaxing your mind and body totally.

Easter Break in Miami

4. Miami + Caribbean Escape
Couple of years ago we combined a fitness week in the BodyHoliday resort in St. Lucia with a few extra days in Miami. Beautiful, warm weather, a week of 4-5 hours exercises and a pampering spa treatment every day in the BodyHoliday resort renewed my body and mind. After a week of fitness it was quite rewarding enjoy few days in Miami just by walking around, running in the beach, eating well and do a bit of shopping before flying back home. 

Easter in Switzerland - Park Hotel Weggis

5. Switzerland
Switzerland is a nice destination for Easter.  Depending on the weather you can make day trips to France, Italy, Germany or Austria. If Easter is early in the year you can still go skiing and later in spring enjoy the beautiful spring weather. One year I stayed in Park Hotel Weggis near Luzern. The hotel has a picturesque view over the Lake Vierwaldstattersee  and they Easter Bruch is really great!  

And what I was looking for this year?
I have been looking for plenty of last minutes options:

  1. Long weekend in Istanbul
  2. Culture break in Marrakesh
  3. Relaxing holiday in Abu-Dhabi, combining city and the new Anantara desert resort Qasr al Sarab
  4. Healthy holiday in Verdura resort in Sicily or Sha Wellness Clinic in Spain
  5. Shopping in New York

Engelberg Faschnacht – Carnival of Engelberg

Engelberg, Switzerland: This is the time of Faschnacht, carnivals in Switzerland, and it seems to me that the whole country is celebrating before the Lent begins. While the biggest and most famous carnival in Switzerland is maybe the one in Basel, many local villages have their own celebrations with fabulous costumes and lively music, definitively worth of seeing.   

We visited this weekend Engelberg, the biggest mountain resort of Central Switzerland, and on Saturday the whole village of Engelberg was celebrating their local Faschnacht.  The highlight of the day was the Faschnacht parade on Saturday evening. The people with wonderful costumes and the most amazing “vehicles” greeted the curious audience gathered on both side of the streets to see the best outfits and themes of the year.  Here are some pictures of the celebrations…


Theme Saluna with live music


Celebrating the Faschnacht


Indian climbing…


…serving tea


Maybe the longest vehicle I have ever seen…


…with a special cabin in the middle…


…and mobile bath in the end.


And someone was even able to sleep…

Travel year 2011: My top 10 destinations

St. Moritz - skiing in the Swiss Alps

Happy New Year 2012!! For me the year 2011 was a great year of travel. I visited over 20 different destinations, discovered new places and returned to many of my favourite ones. This post is a collection of my top 10 travel destinations in 2011.

1. Travelling around Yunnan province and Tibetan plateau in China
Ringha, China

related blog post

2. First time in Hong Kong
Hong Kong by night
related the blog post

3. A day trip to Macau
Macau

related blog post

4. My friends’ wedding in Athens, and first time in Acropolis
Acropolis, Athens

related blog post

5. Discovering the Austrian Alps in Lech and St. Anton
Austrian Alps St. Anton, Austria

related blog post

6. Wellness holiday in Kamalaya, Koh Samui (despite of eight rainy days)
Kamalay resort, Koh Samui, Thailand

related blog post

7. Culinary trip to Paris
L'Ami Louis, Paris

related blog post

8. Mini holiday in Palma de Mallorca
Palma de Mallorca - Weekend destination

9. Hiking in the Swiss Alps in autumn: Murgtal
Murgsee - walks in Switzerland

related blog post

10. Mysterious Grand Hotel Orologio and why it was closed?
Grand hotel Orologio, Abano Terme, Italy

related blog post

Where to travel in 2012?
I also started collecting some travel ideas for 2012. There are so many interesting places I would like to visit, but I think these are quite on the top of my list:

Discovering the Swiss Alps: Davos Jakobshorn – ski season opened

Davos Jakobshorn snowboard paradise

Finally, 23rd of December was my first ski day for this season. The snow arrived late this year in the Swiss Alps and many of the ski resorts only opened their winter season close to the Christmas holidays. Our ski season started from Davos Jakobshorn, as this part was already open, while my favourite area Parsenn / Gotschna was still closed on a day before Christmas Eve.

The first ski day was sunny in the Alps – blue sky, white powders and almost no people. What could be a better way to start Christmas holidays? No stress, just white snow and lots of sunshine…

Davos Jakobshorn skiing in the Swiss Alps

Skiing in Davos Jakobshorn

Davos Jakobshorn ski resort in Switzerland

Davos Jakobshorn Skiing in the Alps

See also my previous post: White powder in Davos-Klosters mountains and a list of my favourite ski resorts.

Long weekend in Athens

Discovering Acropolis, in Athens, Greece

My first visit to Acropolis

Greek Flag on top of AcropolisAthens has been in my travel list for long. As long as I can remember, I wanted to visit Acropolis, the home for the Goddess of Greek mythology, and last May I finally got there. I was invited in my friends’ wedding in Athens, which was a perfect reason to extend my stay for a couple of days to discover this city with over 7000 years of history.

The wedding was in Sunday, so I had a full Saturday to explore the city and Acropolis, my main destination. It was a bit of climbing to get on top of Acropolis, but as I am used to Swiss mountains this little hill was an easy task despite the warm spring weather. The ruins were very impressive, though somewhat smaller than I would have thought based on what I was told in my history class.

Acropolis, Athens

Acropolis

The old temple of Parthenon, dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena was clearly the most stunning building on the hill. It was built over 2000 years ago, when the Athenian Empire was at the height of its power. Since then it has maybe lost a bit of its shape, but not at all its character. It is still the most amazing building in Athens and definitively worth visiting!

Visiting Acropolis, Greece

Little details

More ruins in acropolis

Acropolis

Acropolis

The view from the top of Acropolis
This is the view from the Top!

Acropolis Museum - the modern gateway to history of Athens
The Acropolis Museum – This is the place to visit if you would like to refresh your memory on Greek mythology and history before climbing to Acropolis or on your way back…

Autumn hiking in Niederurnen

Hikes in Switzerland - Niederurner Tali

The best mountain view over Walensee

Little Gondola on to the bergstationNiederurnen, Switzerland: Today was a beautiful Sunday, sun was shining from the blue sky and the weather was perfect for hiking; not too warm and not too cold. We decided to explore the Walensee area a bit more and climbed up from 980m to Hirzli berg which is 1’640m above sea level. The climbing was maybe a bit exhausting and took some good 1,5 hours, but the view from the top was worth it. This is probably the best view over the Walensee you could imagine – and you don’t really have to share this experience with many other tourists.

Autumn colours in the Swiss Alps

The view from the top is amazing – you can see the autumn colours around Walensee. And as you can see, we climbed to reach the snow…

The best hiking view over Walensee

Swiss alps in autumn costume

Swiss hiking in Niederurnen in autumn

The autumn colours were at their bests under the alpine sun.

Swiss walks - discovering Niederurnen

After about three hours hiking, we were finally back to the valley. There was a bit of snow on the shadow side of the mountains, and it looked very pretty.