48 hours barely does South Korea’s vibrant capital justice, but here are the highlights on a time crunch.
Gyeongbokgung: The largest of Seoul’s four main palaces, and the most visited. Get a look at the inner life of the Joseon dynasty and get lost among the buildings in this sprawling complex, where thousands of guards, officials, and royals once lived and worked. Nearby are shops renting traditional Korean hanbok costumes – wearers receive free admission to Seoul’s palaces!
Namdaemun Market: Great for a stroll, a snack, a souvenir. This market brims with life and all manner of Korean street foods are available to sample. Other items locals use in daily life are also on sale.
Sungnyemun: Seoul’s picturesque south gate is a great way to begin a sightseeing excursion in Seoul. There were 7 other gates in the large wall surrounding the city, but this one was used for the king and official envoys. This historical structure is a stark contrast the modern life swirling around it.
Bukchon Hanok Village: A busy labyrinth of well-maintained traditional Korean houses located on a hill next to Gyeongbokgung. Tourists clad in traditional hanbok pose for selfies among the lanes that almost look like a movie set.
Myeong-dong: The perfect evening spot for any shopper or foodie. Streets filled with stalls selling interesting delicious foods are flanked by shops selling everything from tourist souvenirs to brand name items.
Changdeokgung: Hailed as the most beautiful of Seoul’s palaces, this one is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As such, you must join a guided tour, which only happens a few times per day in English. This palace also boasts an incredible huge “secret garden” which was only used by the royal family – also only available to see on scheduled tours twice per day.
War Memorial of Korea: An iconic museum for anyone looking to understand the Korean War and how the peninsula came to be as it is today. Through interesting displays of artifacts, as well as documentary and art installations reflecting on the tragedy of war. Outside on display are also old military planes, tanks, missiles, and helicopters.
N Seoul Tower: A tower with panoramic views built on Namsan hill. A cable car located near Myeongdong subway station is available for the ride up. Around the tower are various restaurants and cafes, as well as a fences where couples attach padlocks as a symbol of their undying love.
Dongdaemun Design Plaza and Park: Step into the future in this curvaceous silver building which houses exhibitions, galleries, and shops dedicated to design. The grounds nearby also have museums, as well as open air food stalls. The surrounding neighborhoods are full of shopping malls and wholesale and retail outlets. This area is great for art buffs, foodies, and shoppers!
Text by: JASON ROLAN
Photos by: JASON ROLAN AND SOULIKONE THONGSAMOUTH