Seoul, capital of South Korea, is a huge metropolis where Buddhist Temples and Palaces meet with modern skyscrapers, high-tech subways, street markets and pop culture. This lively city revolves around the Han River with a skyline surrounded by mountains.
Gyeongbokgung Palace, built in 1395 was the first and is also the largest of the Royal Palaces built during the Joseon Dynasty in the centre of Seoul formerly known as Hanyang. The other Palaces being the Gyeonghuigung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace. Close to Gyeongbokgung Palace sits the Jogyesa Temple, founded at the end of the 14th Century. It is an emblem and main Temple for Korean Buddhism and for the Jogye Order. Here you will come across a hundred galleries, cafés, traditional Korean restaurants and teahouses.
For a picturesque look back in time, a visit to the Bukchon Hanok Village is a neighbourhood of tight alleys lined with traditional wooden houses or hanok’s. The village is one of the last districts of this building style in Korea. For anyone enchanted by the Bukchon Hanok Village there is another beautiful ensemble of traditional buildings on the north slope of Namsan Mountain. The Namsangol Hanok Village is smaller, with five Joseon Dynasty hanok’s relocated from other parts of the city.
In Namsan Park you will find the N Seoul Tower, South Korea’s first general broadcast tower. This Space Age building is at the top of the Namsan Mountain and stands more than 236 metres with the very top of the tower at 480 metres above sea level. The views from here over Seoul are unbelievable. The Yeouido Hangang Park or Seoul Colour Park sits along the south bank of the Han River, passing under the Mapo Bridge in Yeouido. It is has grassy banks, public art displays and water features like the Water Light Square and Waterfalls of Light and even hosts the Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival each spring. The Seoul Grand Park is located around the Cheonggyesan Mountain and houses a large park including the biggest zoo and botanical gardens in Korea. It also has an amusement park call Seoul Land.
There are many markets worth visiting while in Seoul including the Dongdaemun Market, with 26 malls and more than 30,000 speciality shops and 50,000 manufacturers. The Meokja Golmok, Dongdaemun Market’s food alley, is the real deal for food lovers and a crash course in Korean cuisine. Gwangjang Market has a high reputation for its fabrics, including silk, satin and linen. Gwangjang Market’s food alley is a big part of the appeal, with rows upon rows of vendors hawking delicious authentic street food treats. One of Seoul’s most loved shopping areas is Myeongdong, with this densely populated streets and alleyways all illuminated at night by a panoply of neon signs. This area has many midmarket and upscale stores with many international brands.
There are plenty of other interesting areas in Seoul including The National Folk Museum of Korea, The War Memorial of Korea commemorating the Korean War (1950-1953), Lotte World a huge complex with the largest amusement park in the world, the Namdaemun Gate (south gate) of the Fortress Wall of Seoul, erected at the dawn of the Joseon Dynasty in the 14th Century and is designated a national treasure. The Jongmyo Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is devoted to the performance of ancestral rites for the deceased Kings and Queens of the Joseon Dynasty. The Trickeye Museum in Hongdae is a tourist favourite and features works that mostly use an augmented reality, some with more conventional 3D illusions and lastly the 8th Century Buddhist Temple of Bongeunsa, which sits on the side of Mount Sudo and holds thousands of Buddhist scriptures.
The famous DMZ is a no man’s land between the two Koreas and an experience not to miss. It is two and a half miles wide (1.25 on each side of the border) the Demilitarised Zone continues for 155 miles along the 38th Parallel across the Korean. While here why not visit to the mile long Third Tunnel, excavated in secret by the north to prepare for a possible invasion, the DMZ Theatre and Exhibition Hall and view through your binoculars from the top of Mount Dora the 38th Parallel to the north from the Dora Observatory.