Seoul, the capital of South Korea kept its tradition despite embracing the modern way of life. This huge metropolis is filled with modern skyscrapers, high-tech subways and pop culture along with its Buddhist temples, palaces and street markets. Tourists can be rewarded by its notable attractions that include the modern and traditional.
1. Gyeongbokgung Palace
Gyeongbokgung Palace which once had more than 7,000 rooms is Korea’s most well-known and primer royal palace. Originally built in the late 14th century, the palace burned down and was left empty for nearly 3 centuries until it was reconstructed in 1867. The palace is enormous and there is lot of interesting things to check out.
Tourists can time their visit to witness the Royal Guard Changing Ceremony or the Gwanghwamun Gate Guard-on-Duty Performance. Either one happens every hour between 10:00 am to 4:00 pm every day except Tuesdays. Right before these ceremonies, you can get into a Sumungun (gatekeeper) costume at the Sumunjangcheong Building located behind the Gwanghwamun Gate. Don’t miss out on this experience which is free!
2. Changdeokgung Palace
Changdeokgung Palace is one of the “Five Grand Palaces” built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty. This large palace is set within a large park in Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea. Tours are offered inside this palace and its surrounding gardens. It is located at 99 Yulgok-ro, Waryong-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea.
3. Bukchon Hanok Village
This picturesque residential area is situated between the Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung Palaces. From the top of the hill within the village, the modern buildings can be seen in the distance. The traditional hanok houses where people actually live date all the way back to the Joseon Dynasty. Visitors can get there through the Anguk Station (Subway Line 3) Exit 2.
4. Myeongdong District
If you are crazy about cosmetics, Myeongdong is the place for you. The place is filled with stores selling all popular Korean cosmetic brands, from Innisfree and Etude House to Tony Moly and MISSHA. Always look out for special ‘buy one get one free’ offers. Stores are also giving out free samples so take advantage and collect as many as you can. Get there through Myeong-dong Stations (Subway Line 4), Exit 5,6,7 or 8 or through Euljiro Il-ga Station (Subway Line 2), Exit 5.
5. Itaewon Street
Itaewon is known as the foreigner district of Seoul. Aside from the fun atmosphere, you can find delicious food from all over the world in this area. Aside from home cafés and shops that sell everything from locally hand-made goods to tailored suits, you can find jewelry and Korean pottery in this district. Street vendors sell all kinds of Korean souvenirs for your family and friends. However, at nigh this area comes alive with its variety of bars and clubs frequented by tourists from all over the world.
6. Insadong District
Insadong, at one time was the largest markets for antiques and artwork in Korea. It is a popular place for both locals and tourists where Korean traditional performances, festivals or street shows are held on the main street. You will find everything along the alleys from art galleries, traditional restaurants, coffee shops, arts and crafts booths, Korean sculptures, souvenir shops, museums, teahouses and more.
7. View from the Seoul Tower at Mt. Namsan
Home to the N Seoul Tower, Mt. Namsan is a must-visit attraction for any tourist in Seoul. Those who are athletically fit can climb the mountain which is only 237 meters at its peak, or you can go even higher up the tower’s observatory, the highest point in the entire city.
To get to the top of the tower, there is a cable car that leads up the mountain and then you can walk to the base of the tower. Inside the tower is a gift shop, two restaurants, and four observation decks. Admission tickets are 12,000 won (US$12). From the deck, you will get a breathtaking 360° of the entire city. The views during daytime and at night are both amazing.
8. Dongdaemun Design Plaza
A new attraction in Seoul, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) is a venue for events, exhibitions and shows related to the design industry among which is Andy Warhol. Be sure to check whether there is any event that suits your interest during your visit.
9. Walk Along the Cheonggyecheon Stream
If you need an accessible retreat from the surrounding city, a stroll down the Cheonggyecheon Stream which is just a short walk from DDP is recommended. On hot summer days, locals gather along the shade and dip their feet in the cool water. Running through downtown Seoul, this man-made stream was opened in 2005 at the cost of US$1Billionand is over 8 kilometers (5 miles) long. There are several waterfall art galleries and many overhead bridges where tourists can hang out. People can walk along and enjoy the remarkably quiet atmosphere because the stream is located more than 15 feet below the street level.
10. Ewha Women’s University Area
The area near Ewha Women’s University is a ‘must-see’ for all ladies. Also known as Edae, this area is full of shops selling clothing, cosmetics and shoes where you can shop alongside fashionable Korean women. You can also visit one of the salons for a quick makeover. After all these activities, you can relax in one of the many cafés around the area.