Our group of 6 adults took this tour during the winter February 2018 and had a fantastic time! If I could give this one 6 out of 5 stars, I certainly would!
To begin, our guide picked us up at our hotel on time. Being a private tour, we had the tour to ourselves, were comfortable throughout the day aboard a large minivan not having to worry about the preferences or concerns of other travelers, and were able to avoid the many tourist traps the bigger tours usually go through. Due to the cold weather, we were provided hand warmers for use during the entire tour. A set itinerary was provided, but we were given the option to change some items if we wanted to.
We first toured the National Palace Musuem of Korea and Gyongbokgung, where we saw the Changing of the Guard. This was followed by a drive-up to the Bugak Skyway and Palgakjeong, which offered great views of the Seoul cityscape though not part of the original itinerary. We then had a most amazing lunch in a local restaurant which in my opinion had the best-tasting Kalbi or BBQ beef short ribs I've ever had, and got to enjoy an excellent and authentic Korean dining experience we were the only foreigners/tour group there at the time, with the rest of the many diners being locals this made me feel that we were not taken to a tourist trap and instead to a place patronized by locals themselves. We then took a brief stroll at Bukchon Hanok Village.
When the guide found out that some of us had already seen Insadong in prior trips, he made it a point for us to visit nearby Ikseon-dong and Jungsegwon - budding communities composed of traditional houses repurposed into shops, restaurants and cafes frequented by locals - which were also not part of the original itinerary. We then proceeded to Insadong, where we visited several art exhibits and shops selling traditional crafts. From there we visited Namsangol Traditional Village.
The highlight of the trip for me was the visit to Gwangjang Market, where we got to see a real Korean marketplace, try authentic Korean street food tteokbokki, sundae, and odeng alongside locals and tour a hanbok and fabric market. It was a place which would have been challenging to go to without a Korean-speaking guide such as ours who knew its ins and outs.
Our last stop was Namsan Mountain Park, where we had a great Hanbok-wearing experience. The well-appointed studio featured a great selection of traditional garb from which we were allowed to choose what we wanted to wear, plus different traditional settings a throne room, a living room, a study and feast to pose in for photos. Our guide then had this crazy idea of having us go to the foot of the NSeoul Tower wearing Hanboks in the freezing cold and have pictures taken with the Seoul city lights in the background. Admission to the NSeoul Tower itself was optional and not included in the tour price, but we chose not to go anymore considering that we got to see the same view from the foot of the tower for free. Finally, we were taken to our hotel and called it a day.
Our tour would not have been as great as it was had it not been for our guide, Juno. He was able to present the tales and stories behind the destinations in a fresh, compelling and interesting manner, inserting his humor here and there - none of what one would expect from a typical guide. Having been on a different tour the previous day, I often thought to myself that, oh, so that's what yesterday's tour guide was trying to say. He was also very accommodating, taking the extra effort of learning each of our names and who we were early on, and made us feel like he was an old friend guiding us through his city. Oftentimes he'd be the one to point out the best spot for photos, and eagerly doubled as a cameraman who already knew whose phones and cameras to get and who usually appeared in photos together. Finally, he made adjustments to the itinerary as we went along, adding unplanned stops to make sure that there was something new for everyone. I say without exaggeration that he's one of the best tour guides I've had the privilege of being under.