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10 creative date spots in Seoul
Fish markets, horse races, marionettes and fishy footsie: 10 ways to make it look like you put some thought into it
Seoul is a city for couples.
Everyone you turn, there seem to be young pairs with hands locked, oblivious to the bustle around them. And, we’ve all seen the matching couples’ shirts.
Needless to say, it can be hard to stand out.
Here are ten suggestions to make your date count when you finally get that number.
Personalized dinner at Noryangjin Fish Market
The seafood markets of Busan have nothing on Seoul’s massive fresh seafood bazaar, which has vendors that offer seafood from fish to octopus all hours of the day.
Customers can navigate the aisles and check out the sea creatures before picking their meal.
The retailers are all too willing to please and will happily take your picks to a nearby restaurant, where they will be transformed into a mouth-watering dish complete with the requisite soju or makgeolli.
Noryangjin Fish Market, 13-8 Noryangjin-dong, Dongjak-gu (노량진수산시장, 동작구 노량진동 13-8); Subway: Noryangjin (Line 1)
Fishy footsie at Namu Geuneul
At Namu Geuneul (나무그늘) café, you can grab a drink and then get your feet cleaned by a bevy of doctor fish kept in tanks on premises.
The feeling of many small fish gently nibbling the dead skin off your feet is exhilarating, if not a bit bizarre, and definitely worth a try.
After 15-20 minutes, the fish will have had their full and your and your date’s feet will be perfectly smooth.
The Gangnam location is ideal because it gives you plenty of places to stroll around before giving your feet some relief at the cafe and offers a pleasant view of the area from its second-floor windows, near where the fish tanks are located.
Namu Geuneul Cafe Gangnam Branch, 2/F 1305-3 Seocho-dong, Seocho-gu. +82 2 599 1210; www.restree.net; Subway station: Gangnam (Line 2).
Time travel at Namsangol Traditional Folk Village
Namsangol Traditional Folk Village offers an intellectual date for history buffs.
The site is home to fascinating recreations of Joseon Dynasty-era homes, handcrafts and other items like musical instruments that are sure to give you plenty to talk about.
Performances like traditional Korean weddings take place at the village, too, so check ahead if you want to do more than just admire the architecture.
Namsangol Traditional Folk Village, Pildong 2(i)-ga, Jung-gu (중구 필동2가 84-1); hanokmaeul.seoul.go.kr; Subway: Chungmuro (Lines 3 and 4)
Adding a third wheel to a date is not usually a good idea, but make an exception for a visit to the Bau House Café, where playful dogs of all shapes, sizes and smells keep you company.
The café's dogs love to make new friends and will probably crowd around you when you first find your table, but they’ll quickly calm down, leaving you and your date to seek out your favorites.
Coming here on a first date is an especially good idea because you won’t have to break the ice –- the dogs will do it for you.
Bau House Café, 3/F 405-13 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu (마포구 서교동 105-13); Subway: Hapjeong (Lines 2 and 6)
Marionettes and b-boys at 63 ArtHall
The Marionette performance at 63 ArtHall is much more than a puppet show.
It certainly lives up to its name and begins with charming marionette acts, including a love story between one of the puppets and a very human young lady with whom the puppet falls in love.
But, just as you might begin to worry that the show is a bit too sentimental, it switches gears to showcase a set of impressive b-boy dancers who perform to catchy modern music.
Just the sheer contrast between the show’s segments will give you plenty to talk about after the curtain falls.
Korealife 63 ArtHall, 60 Yeouido-dong, Yeongdeungpo-gu (영등포구 여의동 60); www.bboymaster.com, +82 2 789 5666; Subway: Saetgang (Line 9) or Yeouinaru (Line 5)
Drinks to go from Vinyl bar
This trendy Hongdae establishment specializes in portable pick-me-ups.
For around ₩5,000, customers can get tasty drinks like a gin lime or a Malibu pineapple in convenient "blood bags," then roam the streets of this college neighborhood, drinks in hand, while being serenaded by student musicians.
411-1, Seokyo-dong, Mapo-gu. (마포구 서교동 411-1); Subway: Sangsu (Line 6)
Bike near World Cup Stadium
Many parks and paths in the area offer outdoor enthusiasts welcome respite from the rushed pace of city life.
You can rent a bike with your date from the station outside World Cup Stadium and take in the romantic scenery.
A picnic lunch adds an added punch.
Hiking is a good alternative for those who would prefer not to bike or want more chance for conversation.
World Cup Stadium, 515 Seongsan-dong, Mapo-gu (마포구 성산동 515); Subway: World Cup Stadium (Line 6)
A stroll near Banpo Bridge
A walk along the Han River gives you a view of the world’s longest bridge fountain.
The bridge’s Rainbow Fountain runs along each side of the 570-meter bridge, and, in action, the nozzles spray an impressive 190 tons of water per minute.
During daytime shows, the fountain forms various figures, while at night, rainbow-colored lights illuminate the water.
Banpo Hangang Park,115-5 Banpo-dong, Seocho-gu (반포한강공원, 서초구 반포2동 115-5); Subway: Express Bus Terminal (Lines 3, 7, 9) or Dongjak (Line 4). There are three fountain shows per day September-October and April-June (12 p.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m.). In July and August, there are four shows per day on weekdays (12 p.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m., 7 p.m.) and six on weekends (12 p.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m., 7 p.m., 8 p.m., 9 p.m.). All shows last about 20 minutes.
Horse racing at Seoul Race Park
If you’re in the mood for a little risk taking, but still want to show your date that you’re sophisticated, there’s nothing quite like watching a professional thoroughbred horse race.
Seoul’s track is actually outside the city limits but still conveniently located on a subway line.
The venue holds races on most weekends and is one of the few opportunities for legalized gambling in Korea. The last race of this year's season will be on December 18 and will start up again in January.
Getting in won’t break the bank, but don’t get too carried away when the racing starts.
Seoul Race Park, 685 Gwacheon, Gyeonggi (경기도 과천시 주암동 685); park.kra.co.kr; Subway: Seoul Racetrack (Line 4)
Baseball at Jamsil Stadium
Nothing’s worse than a date when neither side knows what to say.
Hit Jamsil Stadium for a Doosan Bears or LG Twins game during baseball season (April to November) and at least you’ll be assured of plenty of noise to cover up the awkward silences.
And if you happen to hit it off -- beer and fast food from vendors outside the stadium help loosen things up -- there are few better bonding experiences than whapping thunder sticks together with your new love.
If you’re lucky, you’ll end up on the megatron during “kiss time,” giving you a great excuse to lean in for a kiss. You wouldn’t want to disappoint 70,000 fans, would you?
Jamsil Baseball Stadium, 10 Jamsil-dong, Songpa-gu (서울 송파구 잠실동 10); Subway: Sports Complex (Line 2)
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