Seoul is a vast metropolis where modern skyscrapers and high-tech pop culture clash with traditional street markets and ancient Buddhist temples to create one of the world’s most vibrant and exciting cities.
If you’ve lined up a trip to the South Korean capital, check out these top 10 things to see, eat and do in Seoul…
Things to See in Seoul…
A traditional Hanok village
If you want to immerse yourself in Korean culture, a trip to Bukchon Hanok is a must – this 600-year-old settlement is home to the Bukchon Traditional Culture Centre and rows of dwellings that show the very best that traditional Korean architecture has to offer.
The view from N Seoul Tower
The N Seoul Tower is a 236-metre high communication and observation post located on Namsan Mountain in central Seoul, and is the only place in the city where you can take in Seoul’s scenic skyline, amazing views of the Hangang River, and the area’s stunning night time light shows.
If you’re looking for a romantic getaway while in Seoul, the N Grill is situated at the highest point of the tower, the ideal way to take in the spectacular views while enjoying some of the city’s finest cuisine – Korean BBQ, of course!
The main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty, Gyeongbokgung Palace is located in northern Seoul and is one of the city’s most striking structures. An exquisite representation of Korean architecture, the site incorporates a pavilion set on an artificial island in the middle of a beautiful lake, with three stone bridges spread across the palace grounds.
It’s well worth visiting at dusk so that you get to see it by day and by night.
Things to Eat in Seoul…
One of the nation’s most culturally-valued dishes, many Koreans consider dinner to be incomplete without it. Made from fermented vegetables, usually napa cabbage and Korean radish, and seasoned using a variety of flavourings including chili powder, scallions, garlic, and ginger, kimchi is a spicy, bitter dish that is one of the oldest in Korean cuisine.
Seolleongtang is a Korean broth made from ox bones, brisket and other cuts, and is usually served with rice. The broth is a milky white, cloudy colour, and the meat has a soft but chewy texture. The dish is usually seasoned at the table according to personal taste, by adding salt, ground black pepper, minced garlic, or chopped spring onions. This is a local Seoul dish that can be found in most Korean restaurants.
Hotteok is a filled, sweet pancake, popular among street food vendors, particularly in the winter months. The flat, circular dough is usually stuffed with a combination cinnamon, honey, brown sugar and chopped peanuts before being cooked on a griddle.
When served, the crunchy outside gives way to a gooey inside – hotteok is the perfect snack while out and about on the streets of Seoul.
Things to Do in Seoul…
Take a trip to Lotte World
Lotte World is a huge amusement and shopping complex. It’s home to the world’s largest indoor theme park and is also connected by a monorail to an outdoor theme park called Magic Island. There’s more than a hint of Disney about the place, and if white knuckle rides aren’t your thing, you can visit the shopping malls, department stores, ice skating rink, bowling alley, or cinema, or take in some culture at the Korean Folk Museum, all of which are part of the complex!
And if one day isn’t enough, the complex also has a luxury hotel where you can kick back and relax.
Shop at the Namdaemun Market
With over 10,000 stores and stalls, Namdaemun Market is the largest traditional and oldest market in Korea. Situated alongside Namdaemun, the ‘Great South Gate’ that served as the main southern gate to the old city, the market is bristles with life from dawn until dusk and beyond, with many stalls staying open overnight. Yes – you can go shopping at 4am if you want!
You can pick up all kinds of locally crafted goods, including clothes, glasses, kitchenware, toys, fine arts, carpets, flowers, and anything in between.
Have tea at Suyeonsanbang
Originally the base from where the late Korean author Lee Tae-Jun wrote many of his books, Suyeonsanbang is now a traditional Korean tea house located in Seongbuk-dong. Take a break from the summer heat and pop in to try famous patbingsu (shaved ice with red beans), or any of its many teas, including naengnokcha (cold green tea), ssukmal cha (mugwort tea), and saenggang cha (ginger tea) while sat among beautiful natural surroundings, in a setting steeped in rich history.
Check out the border patrol
The differences between South and North Korea are well known, but if you want to get a view of just how divided Korea is, a trip to the four-kilometre-wide strip of land that runs across the Korean peninsula, separating the two nations, is a must.
Although known as the Demilitarised Zone, it’s anything but, and is easily the most heavily fortified border on earth. Although not actually in Seoul, you can get there and back in a day, and the best way to visit is via an organised, guided tour, booked well in advance.
Have we missed anything? Have you a favourite restaurant in Seoul? Or something you’re planning to do that’s not made our top 10? Let us know…