Seoul is the business and social center point of South Korea, where highrise modern buildings tower over Buddhist sanctuaries. Take everything in from the N Seoul Tower that is nestled on a crest in Namsan Park. The row of teahouses and local food shops of Insadong will provide for you a taste of Korean flavor, which you can further encounter with a visit to the sacred grounds and historical galleries of Gyeongbokgung. The UNESCO World Heritage Site Changdeokgung Palace is an ideal example of successful early structural engineering.
Seoul is a city saturated with the past yet restless to grasp the latest in technological innovation, and this makes it one of Asia’s most intriguing and socially vibrant travel objectives. With its oriental cuisine, exhibits, old royal residences and huge palaces, educational museum, and shopping ideas, this city has everything to make visitors excited and keep them intrigued.
When To Go:
Korea has four seasons that are composed of a wet and stormy summer in mid-year, and an icy winter climate from November to March. Winters are however dry and there are various ski resorts to enjoy a cold holiday.
The perfect time to visit the capital city is throughout the autumn/fall months (September-November). During this time, the nation enjoys a warm, sunny climate, blue skies and the lush vegetation that is maybe one of its greatest draws.
Spring (April-May) is additionally lovely with all the cherry blooms in bloom. However, it is extremely crowded and one needs to book well ahead of time to guarantee proper accommodation and a wonderful stay. The June through August summer months are a little damp and humid, but rather a peak season for tourism.
Here are the
things to do
in the city of Seoul:
The War Memorial of Korea
First of all, do not go there on a Monday when it is closed — although there are some things to see on the outside. If you find a side entrance (to the left of the main one) you have there a statue of two clocks: one works and the other does not. You will find some inscriptions that are intended to set the mood for the visit. Also on the outside, but now on the right side, there is a large collection of tanks, planes and all kinds of military vehicles (South Korea, United States and North Korea). The War Memorial of Korea is located near the U.S. Military Base.
From the outside it looks like a big block with all kinds of weapons around it, and feels a bit as if you are walking through a flea market used for war equipment. But historically the Memorial has a lot to offer. Inside you can witness interesting exhibitions about the Korean War and the Japanese occupation. It is a very informative place where you can spend almost 3 hours and learn more than you ever did in school.
Bukhansan National Park
Bukhansan National Park
is within easy reach from Seoul City area and one of the most popular attractions in the area. It has several granite peaks, dozens of beautiful valleys, and historic sites such as the Temple Doseonsa that never fails to delight visitors. The park is located in the north of the city and occupies 50 square miles. The easiest way to get there is by a taxi that goes directly to the main entrance. If you climb from the entrance up the left hill you will reach a large sitting Budha, via many stone steps.
One is near the top at about 2000 feet; there will be a beautiful view of at least part of the city. Up there is a monastic settlement that is completely vegetarian. In the second part of the tour you climb up further to see the 2 small temples where the monks give away fruits to every guest. After a steady climb up a rocky hill, you will finally come upon a wall with an old gate. This is vaguely reminiscent of the Great Wall of China in a smaller version, which served as a protection wall during the Middle Ages. You can hike along it; however, it is extremely rocky. You will quickly have a beautiful view of the city with the forests in the foreground.
MyeongDong NANTA Theater
For this show you do not have to speak the Korean language. The Myeong Dong NANTA Theater offers a great performance, with good timing and a lot of rhythm that will put a smile on your face. It is very entertaining and a must for any visitor to Seoul. Nanta is a non-verbal performance, which makes it perfect for tourists. Often, you want to see a play or a performance in another country, but language problems inhibit you.
This show is about a couple of chefs who have to get a huge banquet ready before a deadline. But it is already too late so they hire an incompetent temp hanging out on the stage. In the whole chaos that ensues, there is a lot of noise and banging on pots. The entire “plot” is very obvious. There is always a moment during the show where a spectator is fetched and included on the stage. Actually, almost always this is a tourist with a western look. As for Korean non-verbal performances, Nanta is indeed the oldest and best known, and is very entertaining.
This “Prospering Virtue Palace” is one of the two large palaces in Seoul that are correspondingly impressive, and one of the Five Grand Palaces built by Kings of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897.) At first it appears to be only a gatehouse and a few buildings, but then you realize it hardly comes to an end. Most beautiful is the part of the palace that was built for the concubine –because here you can see a distinct difference in style. Behind the palace there is a beautiful park where everyone can walk and relax after the hustle and bustle of city life. However, one should not underestimate the size because it is really large.
UNESCO has named the
as a World Heritage Site, and you quickly realize why: everything is still in its original condition, so that one has the feeling that the Emperor was just there yesterday. The area is very extensive and sometimes very hilly. Good shoes are required when exploring this historical palace.
is in very nice condition and gives a good impression of Korean culture. The main and largest of the Five Grand Joseon Palaces, it contains many buildings. Some still have the original furnishings and are easily accessible, offering an exceptional insight into that time. Admission is very cheap at the equivalent of $2.50. A museum about the culture of Korea is included in the admission. The best highlight of being there occurs at 12 noon when there is a show featuring the changing of the palace guard — with “ancient” soldiers, many flags and a special band. Even if you have limited time, you should stop by here.
In an hour you can get a good impression of the complex. In particular, the Royal Banquet Hall, surrounded by water, looks very nice and is definitely worth a photo. The warriors dressed in traditional uniforms with their colorful flags look simply fantastic.
The Gyeongbokgung Palace is an open door to the past. Almost completely destroyed and burned during the Japanese invasions, it was rebuilt using the original plans and traditional techniques of the time. The site is permanent and opens new sections every year. In recent years, the ceremony of the changing of the guard has been faithfully restored to historical correctness. If you want to take good pictures of the place, you should wait until the last moment before closing.
N Seoul Tower
The 360° Seoul Tower Namsan Tower or
N Seoul Tower
is located in a park with the same name in the city center. It is on a hill and can be seen from all sides — its height is 775 feet from the base. The elevator here is among the fastest in the world and everything has a very futuristic design. On the observation deck there are gift shops with souvenirs, and also at the top of the tower there is a revolving restaurant. In the bottom part you can see trees full of padlocks placed by lovers.
The place is very nice and well maintained; it quite expensive but it is well worth going to this icon of the city. It is more beautiful to see at night than during the day. You can admire Seoul while riding the Namsan cable car and see the wonderful show in the Seoul N Tower — and you can also visit the Teddy Bear Museum that is situated here, it’s a charming place.
Trick Eye Museum
One of the things you can do in Seoul is to visit this fun-filled gallery called the
Trick Eye Museum
. You need to get “in the mood” when visiting this interesting place where you can create lots of funny pictures. It has lots of amusing scenes on the walls to help you come up with different kinds of poses. The 2D pictures, viewed from certain angles, appear as 3D — and, again from certain angles, it is possible to put a person into the picture with entertaining results. Some pictures are really fascinating places and their uniqueness can be appreciated from a certain angle. Follow the instructions on where to get the pictures to come out with the proper perspective.
Overall, the site is very nice and highly recommended for the whole family. This museum can be reached by taking a short walk from the Hongik University subway station.
National Museum of Korea
National Museum of Korea
is a modern building surrounded by gardens and a lake. The entry is spectacular, and the museum collections cover three floors. The best part of it all is the collection of Buddhas on the third floor. Just opposite, there is a huge collection of artifacts from Asian countries and India highlighting the Khmer. Please stop and visit on a Sunday, if you do you will see a lot of Korean families enjoying a picnic in the gardens.
Admission to the National Museum is totally free. On a tour you can learn about the culture, customs and history of this country. It covers all periods of Korean art and has been financed to a large extent by significant donations from patrons. Despite being very new it is very complete. Almost all explanations are written in Korean and you cannot begin to understand anything unless you hire a local guide who can explain everything to you in English.
is a street in downtown Seoul that is very much alive in terms of amusement and cultural historical features. It is the street of art galleries and craft shops, with plenty of cafes to stop for a tea or the coffee that Koreans are well known for. Walk along this street and cross it slowly and see how life passes by. In the middle of the street is a three-story gallery filled with amazing shops that are highly recommended to everyone visiting Seoul.
It is a truly charming street; it is full of places where you can buy typical souvenirs and where the Koreans’ typical sweet called “Cookies King” is prepared with humor and grace. The area is authentic and yet well maintained and secure. The extended walk leads to the beautifully landscaped Cheonggycheon Creek that is near the downtown portion of the city.
is considered the joggers’ park in Seoul. If you would like to explore Seoul while staying fit and active this is the best place to visit. Of course there are other places where you can jog, but along the river the road is flat and there are separate paths for pedestrians, joggers and cyclists. There are also, every 300 yards or so, “rest stops” with toilets, benches and sports equipment facilities all free to the public.
Especially at night it is a very nice area because you can see the illuminated bridges and the city lights. But no matter what time you go to the Hangang, you are never alone, not even in storms and rain. From the Metro, there are many stops along the Hangang Park both on the north and on the south shore. As you walk down only on the north shore, you can pass by the stations Eumbong or Oksu on the Jungang (turquoise) line; they are both located right next to the Han River.