Capital of South Korea, Seoul is a dazzling Asian metropolis of 12,000,000 residents. Combining ancient palaces with futurist architecture and picturesque temples with chaotic malls, the city has a little something for any traveller. Don’t miss the lovely traditional wooden houses around Bukchon area.
Apart from the world famous sights, the visitors of Seoul have a chance to try Korean cuisine in some of the country’s finest restaurants and meet with lively K-Pop culture which rapidly spreads all over Far East. Shopping becomes a whole new experience in Seoul’s popular malls and traditional markets alike.
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Seoul’s subway is the fastest and easiest way to move around the city. However, wagons may be packed during rush hours. An efficient bus network is also available, but some tourists find it confusing as not all bus stops offer English route maps. Taxis are widely available and quite inexpensive, with a short ride for more than one people sometimes being cheaper than the price of metro tickets.
Seoul’s historic sights
Head to Jongno and Jund districts, to visit Seoul’s Five Grand Palaces. All palaces were built during the reign of Joseon Dynasty, from 14th to 19th century. Changdeokgung Palace is included in Unesco’s World Heritage Sites, but the palaces of Gyeongbokgung, Changgyeonggung, Deoksugung and Gyeonghuigung are no less impressive.
In the wider area of Seoul you will find Hwaseong Fortress, another of the city’s World Heritage Sites. Dating back to 18th century, the fortress’ history is related to stories of royal drama. Built by King Jeongjo to honour his father, who was killed by his own father, Hwaseong features four main gates and a total of 48 different structures.
Initially established in 15th century, Jongmyo Shrine is the oldest Confucian shrine in Seoul. Meant to be used for royal memorial services, the shrine kept expanding as more kings and queens passed away, reaching a total of 19 rooms. Ancient rituals are still performed here 5 times a year.
Seoul’s modern attractions
N Seoul Tower is one of the city’s most recognisable modern landmarks. Built in 1969, the tower mainly houses Korean television channels and other telecommunication facilities. However, tourists flock here to enjoy some fascinating panoramic views of Seoul from the tower’s four observation decks. Some restaurants and gift shops are also available within the structure.
COEX is a modern complex which houses business offices, hotels, as well as shopping and entertainment facilities. Visitors are mostly interested in the underground level, which features thousands of retail stores, COEX Aquarium, Kimchi Field Museum, Megabox Cinemas and two food courts.
Shopping in Seoul
Seoul could be easily described as shoppers’ heaven. If you are interested in traditional Asian markets start with Gyeodong. The country’s largest herb and traditional medicine market, it features hundreds of stalls selling local herbs, roots, dried flower and mushrooms, each specialized in curing a different irritation, from excessive sweating to high blood pressure.
Noryangjin is a covered market where locals come to buy fish and other seafood. Huge tanks feature anything from tuna to crabs to sea cucumber. As most Asian markets, Noryangjin houses a vibrant food court where you can enjoy delicious local seafood. You can also buy your own fresh seafood from the market and ask one of the on-site restaurants to cook it for you!
High-tech geeks don’t need to fly to neighbouring Japan anymore. Techno Mart features 7 floors of computer and IT equipment, while Yongsan Electronic Market houses hundreds of electronic stores and services. For large department stores, head to D Cube City and luxurious Galleria, where you can shop until you drop.