Seoul, the capital of South Korea is also the country’s cultural centre. Here the past, present and future are intertwined creating a dynamic atmosphere in which skyscrapers stand cheek by jowl with Buddhist temples whilst the city’s inhabitants are the vanguard of new trends in technology and fashion.
Where to start exploring? Here is a list of 5 things to see in the capital of South Korea.
Was the first and is the largest of the royal palaces that were built during the period of the Joseon dynasty. Dating back to 1395, it has been the subject of major efforts and investment to rebuild, restore and maintain its splendour over the centuries.
These premises also house the National Palace Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum of Korea. Close by, you can see the statue of Sejong the Great which was erected in 2009 in honour of the sovereign who commissioned the creation of the Hangul phonetic alphabet which is still used today.
This is the district of Seoul where, more than in any other, you can breathe in the scent of local tradition, the air that takes you back in time to an age when the ladies wore hanboks (traditional Korean dress) and the men travelled around on horseback.
This is considered to be an unmissable destination for tourists. The best day to visit is on Sundays when access to cars is prohibited and the streets come alive with performances by local artists. Between performances you can stop at a tea-house, buy traditional snacks from street vendors and have a wander around in search of traditional Korean art and other souvenirs.
The Bongeunsa Temple
Recognised as a real oasis of peace and tranquillity in the city’s centre, this is one of the most beautiful temples in the South Korean capital. Between 1551 and 1936, this was the main Zen Buddhist temple in Korea.
Inside the building you will see one of the largest stone statues in the country representing Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future. The temple’s library houses some 3,400 historic Buddhist writings.
Namsan Seoul Tower
Every big city has a communications tower and the capital of South Korea doesn’t diverge from this rule. Built in 1969, the Seoul Tower, (also known as the Namsan Tower or the N Seoul Tower) was the first tower for the integrated transmission of radio and television signals in the country and in 2012, it became the number one tourist attraction in the capital of South Korea.
Equipped with restaurants and a roof terrace, at night it is illuminated like a multi-coloured work of art. But the real spectacle is provided by its observation decks with a 360 degrees panoramic view over the city and its 32 LCD screens that relate the 600 years history of Seoul.
This may have become a little too touristy but this part of the city does help to convey an idea of what the now vanished Seoul was really like. Small streets wind through ancient hanoks (traditional Korean houses), eateries, souvenir shops and guest houses.