Seoul is the capital of the southern part of the Korean peninsula and is located in the northwest of the country. Approximately 10 million people live here and the region thus forms a strong conurbation in relation to the size of the city. Thus, Seoul is not only considered the capital of South Korea, but also the financial, cultural and educational center of the country.
In Seoul, tradition and modernity meet in a way that harmonizes perfectly. In no other Asian metropolis with millions of inhabitants are the historic city center and the classic artists’ quarters as well preserved as here. But nevertheless, there are also huge quarters with modern skyscrapers covered in glass – both belong equally to Seoul and make up the unique character of this city.
Tip 1: Gyeongbokgung
Gyeongbokgung means “Palace of Radiant Bliss”. It is the largest and oldest of the five surviving royal palaces of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and was commissioned by the first King Taejo in 1394. Its foundation was accompanied by the relocation of the imperial capital to Seoul. It served as the residence of Korean kings until its destruction during the Imjin War in 1592. The Gyeongbokgung Palace is still one of the most dazzling buildings from the Joseon period.
The overall design of the palace reflects the Eastern philosophy based on yin and yang and the five elements that together form the universe. Geographically, the positive force of yang corresponds to the south and east, while north and west correspond to the passive force of yin.
In accordance with the strict principles for palace construction resulting from these ideas, the buildings of the queen and concubines were located north of Kunjong-jon Hall (Throne Hall) and Kangnyong-jon, the king’s official bedchamber. The residences of the crown princes and other royal descendants, called “Tonggung” (eastern palace), were located to the east, and those of the queen dowagers to the west.
It is worth mentioning the linear orientation of the official residences of the king and queen towards the south, more precisely, facing Mount Kwanak, which according to geomantic principles was the point in Seoul from which the greatest yang force emanated.
Tip 2: N Seoul Tower
The N Seoul Tower, also known as Namsan Tower, is a 236 m high television and observation tower in the South Korean capital Seoul. It is centrally located on Namsan Mountain. Originally built for television and telecommunications purposes, its viewing platform now invites visitors from near and far to enjoy a fantastic panorama of the vibrant metropolis of millions.
Completed in 1971, the N Seoul Tower was not opened to the public until 1980 and has since become a landmark of the city of Seoul that can be seen from afar and from whose observation deck one can enjoy a great view of the metropolis. Mount Namsan, on the top of which the N Seoul Tower was built, is 243 meters high, the tower itself measures 236 meters to its top. After nightfall, it is illuminated in different colors.
The romantic view is also popular with couples to leave inscribed padlocks on the railings of the terraces, which has found thousands of imitators to date.
Tip 3: Bukchon Hanok Village
Bukchon Hanok Village is located in the hills, between the 2 great palaces. In the 2000s, they began to completely restore this neighborhood. In a free museum, at the foot of the quarter, you get the most important information about this.
In many places in the quarter you will be told to be quiet. No wonder, because most of the houses are still actively inhabited. Many residents of the neighborhood have also adapted to the tourists and have a small store for souvenirs or cafes here. Others will show you how they used to make handicraft products.
It is also very popular to walk through this quarter dressed up in traditional costumes and have your picture taken. Many stores where you can rent such costumes are located on the edges of the neighborhood.
Tip 4: Changdeokgung
Changdeokgung Palace is one of the five preserved royal palaces in Seoul. The “Palace of Shining Virtue” was built between 1405 and 1412 and served as the interim headquarters of King Taejong, who commissioned the residence as the new royal seat. Due to its eastern location, the palace is also called Donggwol, which means “East Palace.” During the Japanese invasion, the complex burned down and was rebuilt at the beginning of the 17th century. Until 1989, some members of the old royal family lived in parts of the palace.
The layout of the royal palace is considered a Korean peculiarity of East Asian palace architecture. Especially the unique “Secret Garden” in the rear part of the palace prompted UNESCO to include Changdeokgung in the World Heritage List in December 1997. Today, the garden is considered a highlight of Korean horticultural art.
Tip 5: Gwangjang Market
The Gwangjang Market (also Kwang Jang Market) used to be only a 10.000 m² shopping center and belonged to the Dongdaemun Market. Gwangjang Market is located southeast of Jongmyo Shrine. It is one of the larger markets in Seoul and is open until late at night. Meanwhile, in the area around the shopping center, there are about 5,000 stores and stalls for everything. If you want to taste the culinary cuisine of Korea, this market is the right place for you.
You will find a lot of street food, but also small restaurants where you can find typical Korean products. You can also take a look at how kimchi is made. Especially the Gwangjang market is known for fish, seafood and the large street food offer. The mung bean pancakes (bindae-tteok) are famous. These are boiled, ground mung beans mixed with potatoes and sometimes other things like vegetables, fish or meat and deep fried.