Seoul, located on the banks of the Hangang River, is the capital of South Korea. This is a beautiful, dynamically developing city, where medieval palaces and temples harmoniously coexist with modern skyscrapers.
Who comes to Seoul and why
Seoul, founded more than six hundred years ago, carefully preserves its historical heritage. Tourists from all over the world come here to admire the well-preserved royal palaces of the Joseon Dynasty, ancient defensive structures, Buddhist and Christian temples.
The South Korean capital is a recognized center of entertainment and recreation. In search of eccentric hangouts, people head to the Gangnam area, made famous by PSY’s track «Gangnam Style». There are bars, restaurants, clubs everywhere where you can party all night long.
Seoul is a popular destination for gastronomic tourism lovers, because Korean cuisine combines the best traditions of East Asia. Restaurants in the capital serve Korean-style barbecue, spiced tortillas, veal ribs with soy sauce, grilled seafood, soju and rice wine.
No one will be bored in Seoul. Tourists are happy to go to museums, go to the zoo, aquarium. Everland Park in the vicinity of the city is ideal for family holidays — there you can ride rides all day long, attend master classes and have fun.
Shopping in Seoul is a real pleasure. The city has a huge number of shopping centers, markets, shops. The Korean Shopping Festival is held here every year. During the holiday, foreign tourists receive discounts on shopping, restaurant services and sightseeing. Discount coupons are issued at airports, hotels, travel companies.
In the northern part of Seoul is the largest and main palace of the Joseon Dynasty, built in 1394. It was destroyed more than once during the wars, but it was always restored. The complex consists of buildings in the traditional Korean style and a beautiful park.
Several museums are open in the inner chambers. During a sightseeing tour, guests are shown the Throne Room, reception rooms, the Gyeonghweru pavilion with granite columns and an artificial lake.
The Western Palace is the most beautiful architectural ensemble of the South Korean capital, erected 500 years ago by the Joseon Dynasty. At the beginning of the last century, it suffered from a fire and was neglected for a long time. Now the buildings and the courtyard have been restored.
Visitors can view the living quarters of Hosangjeong, Yongbokjeong, Chajeongjeong and Sunjeongjeong meeting rooms. Gyeonghuigung Palace houses the City History Museum and a branch of Donggu University.
The small Deoksugung Palace was built in the middle of the 15th century for Prince Wolsan of the Joseon Dynasty. During the Imjin War, other royal palaces were destroyed, so the ruling family moved Deoksugung and used the complex as their official residence.
To date, the architectural ensemble has 12 buildings and a large park. On its territory there is an art gallery, a museum of palace treasures and a center for contemporary Korean art.
The palace, dating back to the early Joseon period, was erected for the wives and concubines of King Sejong. The complex is famous for its beautiful park: smooth alleys are laid among centuries-old trees, benches and gazebos are installed.
Arched bridges are thrown across numerous ponds. A 150-year-old botanical garden grows within the park. Changgyeonggung Palace regularly hosts festivals, carnival processions, theatrical performances and concerts.
The Changdeokgung palace complex, founded in 1405, rises amidst a large city park. This residence of the Korean monarchs includes 13 buildings and 28 pavilions in the garden.
The main gate, the bedchamber, the queen’s study, the Throne Room, and the archive are available for viewing. In the backyard, you can admire Pivon, a secret garden for women. There is a small waterfall, lotus ponds, elegant gazebos, lawns and flower beds.
Gwanghwamun, the main gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace, is one of the central attractions of Seoul. During the war between North and South Korea, the wooden part of the architectural monument was destroyed, and the stone part was seriously damaged. Restoration work ended only in 2010.
In front of the gate there is a square with a large fountain, a statue of Admiral Yi Sun-sin and a sculpture of King Sejong. In the square near the Gwanghwamun Gate, soldiers dressed in colorful medieval costumes conduct a daily changing of the guard ceremony.
A residential area in the historic part of Seoul during the Joseon period was intended for the nobility. Traditional Korean houses built 600 years ago have been preserved here. During the walking tour, you can immerse yourself in the past of Korea, go to the tea house, the museum of embroidery or Asian art and take beautiful photos.
The old district in the center of Seoul represents the culture of the past and the present. Along the smooth streets are the residences of government officials, the homes of wealthy aristocrats of the Joseon Dynasty. Most of the buildings are now used as shops, restaurants, museums.
Walking around the area, tourists inspect the oldest tea house in the city, Buddhist temples, Gyeonghuigung Palace. Weather permitting, calligraphy displays and dance performances take place in the streets.
Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty
For many centuries, Korea was ruled by the powerful Joseon Dynasty, which left behind magnificent historical monuments. The magnificent tombs of the monarchs are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List and are under state protection.
The most popular burials are located in the vicinity of Seoul. They are built according to Confucian norms strictly according to Feng Shui. Each complex has a place for guards, an area for sacrifices and a crypt with a tomb. The tombs have been preserved in perfect condition and are open to tourists.
Skyscraper Yuksam Building, erected in the middle of the Hangang River on Yeouido Island in 1985, has a height of 249 meters. The building in the form of an irregular parallelepiped is considered the third largest in Korea. It consists of three underground tiers and 60 floors above ground level. They are offices, entertainment centers, shops.
The huge cinema, oceanarium and wax museum are very popular. An observation deck is equipped on top, which is easily accessible by a high-speed elevator.
Cheong Wa Dae Presidential Residence
The official residence of the President of South Korea — Cheongwadae — was built in the traditional national style. The complex of buildings is easy to find in the Jongno-gu area in the northern part of the city. The territory is allowed as part of a group tour.
Tourists are shown a hall for official meetings, press conferences, the main office and pavilions. The garden has marble statues, fountains, gazebos and benches for relaxation.
Namsan Mountain in downtown Seoul is dominated by a narrow white tower that provides television and radio broadcasts to the capital. The height of the attraction is almost 237 meters. For a small fee, you can go inside.
There is a Living Museum, an entertainment center, a gift shop, a cafe. On the second floor there is an Italian restaurant and a terrace with a lattice, on which guests hang «Locks of Love». The Tower has an observatory and an observation deck showing a 360-degree panorama of the city. In the evenings, the building is illuminated with blue lights.
Dongdaemun Design Plaza
The silver building in the shape of a futuristic spaceship is a masterpiece of modern architecture. The multidisciplinary complex, designed by Zaha Hadid, has 7 floors. The interior houses a historical museum, fashion stores, a design laboratory, and exhibitions of Korean artists.
In Seoul, there is a bridge-fountain with a length of 1140 meters. The landmark connecting the banks of the Hangang River is listed in the Guinness Book of Records. Its upper tier is for cars, the lower one is for pedestrians and cyclists. On both sides of the bridge, special devices are installed that shoot jets of water at a distance of up to 43 meters.
Thanks to powerful lighting and computer control, the fountain reproduces a magnificent water and light show.
Temples in Seoul
The Confucian Shrine was erected in 1394 in honor of the deceased monarchs of Joseon. From antiquity to the present day, ancestral worship rituals are regularly held in it.
Jongmyo Shrine has several halls with separate rooms. Each contains memorial tablets of representatives of the royal family. Visitors can see the main hall, central, side gates, a beautiful park with pavilions, ponds and pavilions.
Temple of Chogyesa
The main Korean Buddhist temple was founded in 1395. At the beginning of the last century, on the initiative of the Chogye order, a new, more modern building was built. It attracts attention with its huge size, decorative paintings on the walls and life-size Buddha statues.
In Choges, the birthday of the supreme deity is celebrated annually. Believers from all over the country come to the temple and bring lanterns with the image of a lotus, personifying their wishes.
Within the boundaries of Seoul, a Buddhist temple has been preserved, built back in 794 during the reign of Wonsong Silsky. Coming here, you can learn and study Buddhist culture, admire the numerous sculptures of the Buddha, watch a dance performance.
The Neo-Gothic Catholic Cathedral is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. The red and gray brick building of the late 19th century has no external decorations. A tower 23 meters high with a narrow gabled roof, on which a round clock is installed, is attached to the church. The relics of Korean martyrs are kept inside the cathedral.
Museums in Seoul
Museum of the Korean Nation
In Gyeongbokgung Palace, the Museum of the Korean Nation has hospitably opened its doors, consisting of three exhibition halls, where visitors are shown 98,000 exhibits.
The central place is occupied by prehistoric artifacts, household items from the reign of Joseon, medieval weapons, and national clothes. In front of the entrance to the museum, you can see residential Korean houses, mills and even barns for storing grain, transferred from different parts of the country.
National Palace Museum
To learn in detail about the life of monarchs and admire the national treasures of South Korea, it is worth visiting another museum in Gyeongbokgung Palace. In the spacious halls there are permanent exhibitions that tell about the Korean empire, palace architecture, and state rituals.
Tourists study the symbols of royal power, the ceremonial clothes of monarchs, jewelry, documents, a collection of paintings.
War Memorial of Korea
The memorial complex was created to perpetuate the memory of soldiers who died during the wars. This is a museum that includes 6 exhibition halls and an open-air exposition — it demonstrates the equipment used during the battles. Military helicopters, planes, tanks and infantry fighting vehicles, copies of warships, ancient and modern weapons are saved here.
On the facade of the central building there are plaques with the names of those who died during the Korean and Vietnam wars. On the square in front of the museum stands the Statue of Brothers, symbolizing the national tragedy of the Korean people — the division of the country.
With the support of the Samsung concern, the Lium Museum Complex was opened in Seoul. It includes a children’s educational center and two pavilions with exhibitions. During the tour, you can see old paintings, sculptors, manuscripts, archaeological finds and modern works of art.
In the children’s center, they talk about important historical events in a playful way, organize master classes in calligraphy and drawing.
Museum of Optical Illusions
One of the most popular museums in Seoul presents entertainment in a completely new format. This is a gallery of optical illusions, in which the effect of augmented reality is applied to all objects using computer technology.
The museum has the opportunity to take pictures against the backdrop of stunning natural landscapes, to feel like a commander, pilot or magician. The entertainment complex has an exhibition with exhibits made of ice and a museum of love.
Nature and entertainment
Around the Seoul TV tower, standing on top of a hill, is Namsan Park. You can go upstairs by funicular or on foot. Paths are laid in the cozy park, fountains and pavilions for relaxation are installed. People go here for the whole day to play sports, enjoy nature and chat with friends in cafes.
In the northern part of Seoul, a mountain range rises, the top of which is crowned with smooth rocks. The picturesque place is part of the Bukhansan National Park, considered the “lungs” of the city. At the foot of the mountains lie gorges covered with lush vegetation.
Nearby, a part of the medieval city defensive wall and fragments of the fortress have been preserved. Within the boundaries of the national park, there are hiking trails designed for people with different physical fitness.
One of Seoul’s best attractions is the Cheonggyecheon, a small river that flows through the city center. Until recently, the stream was concreted, and a highway ran in its place.
In 2005, the road was dismantled, and the riverbed became free. The water now flows freely through the deep trench. Fountains, sculptures, benches are installed along the way. You can go from one coast to another along graceful openwork bridges.
The Starfield COEX Mall has an aquarium with 40,000 marine life. In the exhibition halls there are 90 aquariums grouped by zones. Adults and children look at tropical fish, mollusks, predators from different seas, river flora.
A tunnel was laid through a huge reservoir of water. Walking in it, people watch the sharks passing by. Near the aquariums there are places for otters, penguins, turtles, salamanders and snakes living here.
The park, built for the 1988 Olympic Games, is a favorite place for recreation for citizens and guests of the capital. It includes sports grounds, stadiums, a velodrome, a swimming pool, running tracks.
The park contains musical fountains, a sculpture garden, the ancient Moncheon Thoson fortress, an artificial pond, the reinforced concrete Peace Gate, the Olympic and History Museums. The latter contains artifacts from the Baekje era.
Lotte World Amusement Park
The largest indoor amusement park in the world is located in Seoul. The huge complex first received visitors in 1989 and has not lost its popularity since then.
The guys are happy to swim on boats among the scenery of the Jurassic period, ride roller coasters, go into the room of fear. Lotte World Park has an ice skating rink, a cinema, a magician’s theatre, a shopping center and a hotel.
Star Hill Ski Resort
Star Hill ski resort welcomes guests 40 kilometers from Seoul. Among the picturesque mountains of Cheonmasan, trails with different levels of difficulty are laid. Modern hotels, a ski school, equipment rental are open on the territory of the complex. Tourists are offered to ride a cable car, take a walk in the mountains, relax in bars and restaurants.