Overview : Seoul is a city of contrasts. Deeply traditional, the bustling metropolis has yet somehow managed to wholly embrace a modern outlook... more »
Seoul is a city of contrasts. Deeply traditional, the bustling metropolis has yet somehow managed to wholly embrace a modern outlook... more » on progress in its enthusiastic drive to become an economic world leader. Centuries-old palaces shoulder neon neighborhoods where you can shop into the early morning hours.
Thanks to one of the world’s biggest and most thorough subway systems, getting around Seoul is easy. Subway stations and signs are almost all marked in both Korean and English and lines are easy to follow. Fares are cheap (starting at 1000 Won) but if you plan to use the subway a lot consider getting a “T-money” pass (available from kiosks at some subway stations and convenience stores) which can be loaded with as much as 50 000 Won and gives you 10 per cent off every subway ride. Unused amounts can be refunded at many subway stations. less «
Tips: Koreans will commonly translate words into English phonetically and often there is no standard English spelling, so on maps a building... more » or street name can be spelled more than one way depending on who translated it. There are also many street names that have not been translated so tourists (and even Koreans) generally do better to depend on landmarks such as banks, museums and hotels to direct them. But don’t be afraid to ask for help. Despite their nose-to-the-grindstone demeanor and purposeful speed-walking, Koreans are friendly and especially love to help foreigners as it gives them a chance to practice their English. less «
Take subway line 3 to Gyeongbokgun station and exit Gate 5. The palace gates should be directly in front of you.
This is Seoul's architectural jewel. First built in 1395 (reconstruction, which began in 1867, is still ongoing), it is the largest and most beautiful of the five palaces built by Korea's powerful Joseon dynasty. The palace's name... More means "Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven" and it is considered to be one of the best remaining examples of traditional Korean architecture. Expect to spend about two hours wandering around the large complex.
Be sure not to miss the changing of the guard ceremony which takes place on the hour between 10am and 3pm March through November at Heungnemun Gate, just inside the palace’s main gate (Gwanghwamun) near the ticket booth.
In the same complex are the National Folk Museum and the National Palace Museum, which are both worth a look though the Folk Museum offers more interactive displays and information about South Korean traditional life.
March-October: Open Wed-Mon 9am-5pm
November-February: Open Wed-Mon 9am-6pm
Free English guided tours are offered daily at 11am, 1:30 & 3:30pm
10,000 Won for an Integrated Ticket of Palaces. Buy this if you plan to visit any of the other main palaces (Changdeokgung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace, Deoksugung Palace and Jongmyo Shrine. The ticket is valid for a month.
Go back to the subway and take line 3 two stops south to transfer station Jungno 3. Change to line 1 where you will only go one stop to Jonggak station. Take exit 3 and in front of you will be the striking Jongno Tower.
This 33-story tower is at the heart of both Seoul's business and historic district and provides one of the best views of... More downtown Seoul. It’s a great place to take a break before continuing on your journey through the city. The top floor is home to the expensive Top Cloud Restaurant; don't eat here. Instead, for the cheapest way to enjoy the panorama, grab a drink at the restaurant's bar and sit back and soak in Seoul's bustling epicenter.
Restaurant open daily: Noon-midnight.
When you exit Jongno Tower start heading east along the main street (Jongno 2-ga street) for approximately a quarter of a mile. You will pass the Seoul YMCA building, 7 Eleven and the Kumkang shoe store. At the end of the street, across the road directly in front of you, will be a small green space known as Pagoda park. Established in 1897, this... More is the city's first park. Its showpiece, which is worth a quick look, is a 12-meter stone pagoda carved with depictions of Buddhist life.
Jongno 2-ga 38-1Less
Exit Pagoda park via the same way you came in and turn to your right. Soon you will come to a fork in the road, take the street to your left and enter Insadong, Seoul’s arts and crafts district and one of its most animated streets. This is the place to pick up Korean souvenirs; handmade paper and fans, traditional Korean ceramics and clothing,... More antiques, calligraphy items, and a myriad other cultural artifacts are for sale.
This is also the perfect place to stop for lunch. For a light meal, visit one of the ubiquitous tea shops or try delicious street-stall fare to sample traditional Korean staples like rice cakes, noodles, dumplings and dried squid. If you feel more like a sit-down meal there are also plenty of options but one of the best in the area is Sanchon, a vegetarian Buddhist restaurant run by a former monk. Difficult to find, it’s hidden in a little alleyway to your right about half-way up Insadong (14 Gwanhun-dong; 02-735-0312).
The best time to visit the neighborhood is on weekends when the street is closed to traffic, but the trade-off is bigger crowds.Less
At the end of Insadong street, turn to your right and head about 75 metres to Anguk subway station. Take the subway south three stops to the transfer station Chungmuro to get onto line 4. Take line 4 five stops and get off at Samgakji station and take exit 12.
Few sites offer visitors a better understanding of Seoul’s history than the fascinating... More and poignant War Memorial of Korea. Even if you are not generally a museum-goer or a war-buff, this huge museum’s displays, photos and films are both gripping and enlightening, especially as South Korea is still officially at war with its Northern brethren. Children will enjoy the life-size missile, tank and B52 Bomber on display.
Closed Monday. If Monday is a holiday, the museum is closed Tuesday.
8 Yongsan-dong, Yongsan-gu
Go back to subway line 4 and take the subway north for three stops to Hoehyeon station. Take exit 5 and walk straight ahead into the market.
What better way to end the day touring the highlights of Seoul than at one of the city’s oldest and largest markets. This 600-year-old market is an ode to consumerism and it has an unbelievable mixture of ... Morestalls and shops selling everything imaginable including exotic food, electronics, toys, purses, clothing and jewelry; you name it, Namdaemun has it at bargain prices.
Despite the great prices, haggling is still welcomed by most vendors. There are plenty of affordable restaurants and street food sellers as well, so it is a great place to enjoy an affordable dinner. Many of the restaurants don't have names but rather have signs or plastic models of food depicting what they are best known for, so be adventurous and enjoy!
Most stores are open from 9 am to 9 pm but not to worry if you arrive late, for serious shoppers and night owls there is the night market which runs from midnight to 4 am. Open daily, though some vendors close on Sunday.
49 Namchang-dong, Jung-gu.Less