Seoul is one of the most densely populated places on the planet, with more than 20 million people living in a metropolitan area the size of Luxembourg! Situated in South Korea’s north west, a short distance from the North Korean border, it offers an intoxicating introduction to the country with an exciting mix of bustling streets, high rise towers, bright lights, festivals and performances, all with 24/7 energy. Yet the capital also feels welcoming and - in places - even serene, with a treasure trove of historic sights and palaces, contemplative galleries and a delightful National Park within easy reach.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
Seoul has a much longer history than most visitors expect. It first rose to prominence over 2,000 years ago, but really came into its own during the 14th century, at the beginning of the Joseon Dynasty. The Joseon kingdom established the imposing gates and five royal palaces that can still be visited today, including the stunning Changdeokgung and Gyeongbokgung that nestle like jewels in the centre of the city. The traditional wooden hanok buildings that characterise Bukchon Hanok Village also date back to Seoul’s time as the capital of the Joseon dynasty, and offer a deeper insight into how ordinary people lived during that period.
Take to the streets to appreciate Seoul’s urban art scene and explore some of the city’s (extra) ordinary daily culture. Seoul’s dynamic street art can be appreciated on many levels, from gazing at giant sculptures, such as the kinetic Hammering Man opposite the Seoul Museum of History, to strolling past Hongdae’s backstreet walls enlivened by creative graffiti. Lose yourself in Insadong’s lattice of streets, packed with art galleries, quirky shops, tearooms and restaurants, and learn about one of the staples of Korean cuisine at Museum Kimchikan, the kimchi museum.The atmosphere in Seoul’s massive markets is always worth experiencing, and true foodies head for Gwangjang to sample some of the best street eats in South Korea.
See the city from a different perspective by taking in the sunset from the top of Mt. Namsan, the mini-mountain that lies at the heart of Seoul, watching as the city transforms from shades of grey to glorious neon. Those chasing full-on panoramic views head to the top of the lofty N Tower, but picnicing on the grass in the peaceful park at its base is, perhaps, a more relaxed experience. Few major cities can offer you the pleasures of a National Park right on the doorstep, but Seoul can. Bukhansan National Park is undeniably beautiful, with dramatic granite crags and pine forests to discover, so it’s no surprise that it is one of the region’s most visited national parks.