Fiona Travels from Asia

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert

SEOUL FREE WALKING TOUR: 7 Reasons to Book With SeoulMate

If you’re looking for a Seoul Free Walking Tour with enthusiastic local guides who take you out for lunch, chat with you excitingly like a long-lost friend and eagerly help you take photos while ensuring you’ve got the best pose, READ ON! πŸ˜‹

What is SeoulMate?

SeoulMate is a group of volunteer college students in Seoul who take visitors on well-designed tours for free. “We offer international tourists the opportunities to not only experience Seoul and its culture but also befriend Korean youngsters”, written SeoulMate on their website.

Before my solo trip to Seoul last year, I found SeoulMate by chance and booked a tour with them to explore the lesser-known Jongno area of Seoul. The tour went so well that I felt determined to recommend them to anyone looking for authentic experiences in Seoul.

Below are 7 reasons why you should book a Seoul Free Walking Tour with SeoulMate next time you visit this bustling city πŸ˜€.

7 reasons to book a Seoul Free Walking Tour with SeoulMate

If you google “Seoul free walking tour”, there will be dozens of results ranging from established tour companies to volunteer local groups.

While I’m sure many of them provide great tours, there are 7 reasons why a Seoul free walking tour with SeoulMate is your perfect choice.

1. SeoulMate offers cool & offbeat tours you can find nowhere else

Most Seoul free walking tours take you to as many major attractions as possible with little time spent at each place. There can be 15+ attractions squeezed into a 3-hour walking tour, in which you simply walk by some and then hurry to catch the group before you even remember what they are about, not to mention failed chances to take photos.

Unlike most free tours out there, SeoulMate tours allow you to explore fewer attractions so that you get to know more deeply about each place. In addition, SeoulMate designs each tour with a specific theme, making it easy for people with different interests to select the most suitable tour to book.

Take a look at some of their offbeat Seoul tours below. Aren’t you thrilled to book immediately?

Old Memories in Seoul – Jeong-dong Tour

Date at Seoul, Now and Then -Jamsil Tour

Sacrifice For the Independence – Seodaemun Prison Tour

Modern alley, where souls of old artists remain – Seochon Tour

2. If you want to know the best local places to eat, ask SeoulMate

Lunch with Seoul-Mate tour guides | Seoul Free Walking Tour
Lunch with Seoul-Mate tour guides | Seoul Free Walking Tour

There’s no better way to discover culinary hidden gems in a foreign city than asking a local.

During my Seoul free walking tour with SeoulMate, the guides took us to the Gwangjang market in Jongno – one of the best alternative Seoul attractions for curious travellers. We then had lunch at an eatery right inside the market as the guides recommended.

Restaurant at Gwangjang market in Seoul
The eatery at Gwangjang market in Seoul

From the outside, the place looked like any other eatery you might find anywhere else in Seoul. When we came inside, I realized the place was nowhere near as touristy as those I had found on the main streets. That wasn’t surprising to me, because had it not been for the tour guides’ recommendation, a foreign solo traveler like me would never have checked out such a hidden eatery.

As the tour guides gestured, we then sat down at an empty long table in the corner. When it came to ordering food, the menu was in English but the staff mostly spoke Korean. For amusement, the tour guides taught us how to call for attention from the waiters in Korean and how to properly pronounce the names of Korean food. So interesting!

Inside the local eatery at Gwangjang Market
Inside the local eatery at Gwangjang Market
Dishes here are not at all expensive
Dishes here are not at all expensive

We ordered a bottle of rice wine and some other traditional Korean dishes such as kimbap (one of the best I’d ever had), kimchi, raw beef with egg yolk and Korean pancakes with half seafood and half beef toppings. A good meal does not necessarily cost an arm and a leg, as each person only paid 8000 won (around US$ 6.5) for all of this.

Our delicious lunch with the tour guides from Seoul-Mate
Our delicious lunch with the tour guides from SeoulMate
Best kimbap I'd ever had
Best kimbap I’d ever had

3. SeoulMate guides love taking photos for and with you!

Much as I love solo traveling, I often end up with very few photos of myself during the trip. Of course, I can always ask passers-by for help, but not all of those photos look the way I want them to be.

SeoulMate eliminates this drawback for me as their guides all LOVE taking photos. During my tour with them, the tour guides helped me take photos anywhere I wanted to. We also took a lot of group photos, as the guides wanted us to preserve good memories of Seoul even after we’d left.

Group photo with Seoul-Mate | Free Seoul Walking Tour
Group photo with Seoul-Mate | Free Seoul Walking Tour

4. More tour guides for fewer tourists

How other free walking tours are like

I used to take free tours in popular cities in which there was only one tour guide for up to 20 tourists. While the guide was knowledgeable, it was difficult for her to personalize the tour or answer more particular questions about a certain attraction. Moreover, since each tourist had their own plan for the day, it was important for the tour guide to follow the schedule and ensure the tour end on time.

In one such free tour that I took in Europe, the tour guide talked and talked non-stop while hurrying the group to a bunch of attractions. At each attraction, he briefly introduced some general information before ending the tour with a polite “Does anyone want to ask anything?” question, which left an awkward silence because the group only remembered 50% of what he’d said πŸ™

What was worse, many people including myself still left a 5-star review on TripAdvisor for the tour, just because we thought it was fair to reciprocate after being able to take a 3-hour tour for less than 10 euros. (The tour was free but we tipped the tour guide in the end).

How a Seoul free walking tour with SeoulMate is different

That was a long story, but it made my point about how great a Seoul free walking tour with Seoul-Mate was. On my tour with them, there were 5 guides and 3 tourists! Needless to say, we all had plenty of chances to talk about lots of things. I believe not only the tourists learned from the tour guides but the opposite was also true. It was mutual communication at its best, rather than us tourists passively listening and following suit.

Our group photo at Jongmyo Shrine
Our group photo at Jongmyo Shrine

In addition, we could stop the guides at any time while they were speaking to ask a question. If one guide was busy explaining something to another tourist, I could always turn to another to raise my own question.

5. No pushing to book paid tours afterward

In reality, some free tours are organized by travel companies with the aim of inducing tourists to book their paid tours afterward.

I have been on one such tour in which the tour guide constantly advertised how great their pub crawl tour was and persuaded people to sign up. While it was not mandatory to book a paid tour after taking a free tour, such irrelevant and repetitive advertising could be quite annoying.

Since all of SeoulMate’s tours are free of charge, there is zero pressure to proceed with booking a paid tour afterward.

6. Discover fascinating local insights you won’t find in typical guidebooks

Depending on what interests you the most, you can always discover fascinating local insights by talking to the tour guides at SeoulMate.

During our tour, we visited the Jongmyo Shrine – a UNESCO World Heritage – and learned about Korean history and rituals at that time. The tour guides not only told us the stories behind these sacred rituals but also discussed matters such as how young people nowadays perceived history and why traditional customs had gradually disappeared in modern Korean society.

Jongmyo Shrine - Seoul free walking tour with Seoul-Mate
Jongmyo Shrine – Seoul free walking tour with SeoulMate

Jongmyo is the oldest and most authentic of the Confucian royal shrines to have been preserved… Ritual ceremonies linking music, song and dance still take place there, perpetuating a tradition that goes back to the 14th century.

According to UNESCO

To be honest, I would never find such stimulating insights like these in typical travel guidebooks. Even if I did, I still would not have the chance to ask questions, discuss further or put forward counterargument as when I joined a Seoul free walking tour with SeoulMate.

7. SeoulMate’s tour guides are young, passionate, energetic & super FUN

If you like fun (who doesn’t?!), free walking tours with SeoulMate are perfect for you.

Since the tour guides at SeoulMate were all good-natured and open-minded college students, it was easy for me to chat with them about my and their personal life as well. They happily told me stories of themselves, such as what major they were taking at university, what they wanted to do after graduation and why they wanted to work in that field. One guide told me how she’d met her boyfriend and explained to me the dating culture in Korea. We also laughed our heads off as another guide told us about his funny incidents when he first came to Seoul. It was lots of FUN!

Seoul Free Walking tour with Seoul-Mate
Seoul Free Walking tour with Seoul-Mate

Seoul Free Walking Tour with SeoulMate

Are you persuaded to book a Seoul free walking tour with SeoulMate right now?

Next time you visit Seoul, don’t forget to check out the tour schedule from SeoulMate’s website. Taking a Seoul free walking tour with them is a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture, discover hidden gems not found in travel guidebooks as well as enjoy mouth-watering Korean food the way locals do.

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