Seoul is the political, cultural, social and economic center of South Korea. The city is divided into 25 city districts. The international airport is located just outside the city, making a visit is not to be missed. Seoul has too many wonderful sights to mention. Besides a large number of cultural activities, you can also easily shop in many shopping malls in the city. The town has many good hotels. Hotels in South Korea usually excel in quality and class and are quite expensive too.
On our first day in Seoul we took the Tour Bus, it was so cold in January that the temperature was negative, walking the whole day outside is impossible. With the Tourist bus we could get on and off, and it took us to all the tourist spots. The next day it was sunny, still cold but at least it was better than the first day. We could explore on foot to the other parts of the city. All museums in Seoul are free and so worthwhile to visit.
Subway in Seoul is the same as in Tokyo: there is a train every 5 minutes, a ticket costs just 1 euro and you can travel as long as you want, as long as you do not go above ground. The problem is that nothing is in english, so the occasional gambling was trying to guess which station to get off. But eventually we found our way around. Seoul has an extensive underground network, with which you can move easily and quickly through the city.
After the Korean War the city had to be rebuilt from scratch. The result is an ultra-modern city of concrete and glass. In addition, Seoul also has many ancient sites. Modern high rise playfully interspersed with ancient history. In the narrow alleys between all the skyscrapers are the markets where food and shopping are limitless.
It is a vibrant metropolis, where life goes on 24 hours a day. The Hangang River, which runs through the heart of the city, separates the cultural and historical northern part of the business southern part (Gangnam) of the city. Shopping and cultural districts are reasonably compact, allowing you to visit the main attractions during a walk.
Seouls is easy to reach from Incheon International airport. Just like Tokyo, Seoul has AREX subway trains connecting Incheon Airport to the other airport in the South Korean capital. We arrived in Seoul at midnight, AREX train stops running at 12am, so, our only option to go to Seoul was to take the bus. We were lucky to catch the last one. Bus cost 9.000 won per person. Taxi from Incheon to Seoul cost 75.000 won. Try to arrive early so you can to catch the train. AREX train from Incheon to Seoul cost 4.550 WON per person. Express train costs 8.000 won.
Here are the best things to do in Seoul:
1. Namsan (South Mountain) and Seoul Tower
Namsan (남산) is a must-see in Seoul because of its convenient location near city center as well as its scenic vistas. At the top of Namsan, Seoul Tower (서울타워) sits perched over Seoul. Take the elevator to the top of the tower for breathtaking views of Seoul and dinner at the revolving restaurant. Also at the base of the tower are a few restaurants, souvenir stands and replicas of the Chosun-era signal fire posts that were used for long-distance signaling (called Bongsoodae). There is also a huge octagonal pavilion called Palgakjeong, built in the traditional style.
Besides the attractions at the peak, several areas around the base of the mountain have other historic sites and entertainment venues. The Hwehyun District of Namsan is near Seoul Station and contains numerous monuments, a library, a small zoo, and an observatory. The Hannam District near Yongsan and the Itaewon Hyatt have some small sports areas and botanical gardens. Namsan’s Yedang District is next to Myeongdong and is the base of the cable car, as well as the village of traditional houses. The Jangchoong District, to the northeast of the peak has the National Theater and numerous large sporting venues.
Namsan’s peak is 262 meters (860 feet) above sea level, and the Seoul Tower stands 237 meters (777 feet) tall from base to tip. Namsan has been a historically significant location in Korea from 1394 when the Korean capital was moved to Seoul. For centuries the mountain had a religious shine, but it was destroyed by the Japanese in 1925. They also built the Namsan road and developed the mountain with various administrative buildings. From 1991 to 1998 the Korean government restored the Namsan by removing these buildings.
For a good view of the city center, take the Namsan Cable Car up or down the mountain. The lower end of the cable car sits near Myeongdong and the entrance to the 3rd Namsan Tunnel.
2. Gyeongbokgung Palace
Gyeongbokgung (Gyeongbok Palace) was originally built in 1395, by the Korean architect Jeong Do-jeon. It is the biggest and most spectacular palace in Korea, and Seoul’s premier tourist attraction. If you only have time to visit one of Seoul’s five palaces, make it this one, as it is a truly magical place.
Gyeongbokgung was built by King Taejo to be the main palace of the Joseon dynasty. It was burnt down during the Japanese invasion of 1592 and left in ruins until it was restored by King Gojong in 1868. At one time there were 330 buildings in the palace complex. Many of these are being reconstructed.
The Korean alphabet, known as Hangeul, was created inside this palace, in the fifteenth century, under the reign of King Sejong.
The National Folk Museum is next door.
Opening hours: March-October 09.00-18.00.
The entrance fee is 3,000 won.
3. DMZ – DeMilitarized Zone – Tours
The United Services Organization, in conjunction with Koridoor Tours, offers numerous DMZ tours each week. For 96,000 Won per person, you will take a bus from downtown Seoul to the DMZ. Stops include the Third Tunnel of Aggression, the Dora Observatory, Dorasan Station, Camp Bonifas, and the Joint Security Area. Some tours also have a stop for dinner at a cafeteria at the Inter-Korean Transit Office next to Dorasan Station.
The highlight of the tours is the visit to the Joint Security Area. The other stops tend to be a bit boring and time consuming, and they may feel like a waste of time if your visit in Korea is short.
The USO is located in Yongsan-gu near the National War Memorial. Located about 5 minutes north of Samgakji Station.
Bridge of No Return
The Bridge of No Return was for many years the only bridge connecting the Joint Security Area at the DMZ with North Korea. The bridge itself straddles the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) which is the actual border between North and South. After the Korean War ended, the bridge was used for prisoner exchanges where the prisoners were free to choose to stay in the north or south, but once the decision was made, it was final. The prisoners could never return to the other side, hence the name of the bridge.
Until the axe murder incident of 1976, the North Korean soldiers used this bridge to man their posts within the JSA, but after the incident the forces in the JSA were ordered to stay on their own side of the border, and North Korea constructed a new bridge to the north.
Site of the Axe Murder Incident
In the Joint Security Area of the DMZ, next to the Bridge of No Return, is the site of the Axe Murder Incident. At this spot in 1976, a US Army Captain and a US Army Lieutenant were killed, and 8 other UN soldiers were wounded while trying to “prune” a tree to improve visibility between checkpoints.
Later, the UN responded with Operation Paul Bunyan on 21 August 1976. This show of overwhelming force including an 83-man tree-cutting crew, backed by a 64-man South Korean special forces unit, 7 cobra attack helicopters, 20 utility helicopters, and B-52 bombers, F-4 Phantoms fighters, South Korean F-5 fighters, and the aircraft carrier USS Midway. Additionally, 12,000 other US troops were deployed to South Korea. The operation went smoothly, with a quiet response by 100-200 North Korean soldiers, as the tree was removed in less than 45 minutes.
Today, this infamous site is marked by a bronze plaque that sits above a circular concrete pad that is said to be the precise size of the tree they were sent to trim. The inscription on the plaque reads:
“On this spot was located the yellow poplar tree which was the focal point of the axe murders of two United Nations Command officers, Captain Arthur Bonifas and First Lieutenant Mark Barret, who were attacked and killed by North Korean guards while supervising a work party trimming the tree on 18 August 1976”.
Camp Bonifas is located just 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) southeast of the Joint Security Area near the DMZ. This is the home of the United Nations Command Security Battalion—Joint Security Area, which is responsible for patrolling the JSA and protecting visitors to the area.
The UNC Security Battalion also provides tours of the JSA. The tours begin with a visit to the new visitors center, where guests must sign a form labelled UNC Reg 551-1, which warns prisoners of the dangers of the DMZ. This form reads in part: “The visit to the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom will entail entry into a hostile area and possibility of injury or death as a direct result of enemy action.” After signing the form, the military personnel at the JSA give a very good and informative briefing about the Korean War, the DMZ, and the JSA. Next guests enter UNC buses for the ride to the JSA.
The visitors center at Camp Bonifas has a large gift shop, selling items to include North Korean goods, and it has a small museum.
The Dora Observatory is located on Mount Dora, just across the border between North and South Korea. This tourist destination has an observation room and an outdoor observation deck that offer great views into North Korea. The area is open for tourists and it has a small gift shop, public restrooms, and a small temple.
From here you can look into North Korea over the DMZ to see propaganda village and the world’s tallest flagpole, as well as Kaesong.
Dora Observatory is next to Dorasan Station, the last South Korean train station before the border, and very close to the third North Korean invasion tunnel.
Dorasan Station, on the on the Gyeongui Line, is the last train station before the North Korean border. For about a year trains were allowed to pass through this station and across the border to Kaesong’s industrial city, but these only ran from 2007-2008.
The station may no longer be an active gateway to the north, but it is the terminus for four trains per day from Seoul. From here, visitors are very close to Dora Observatory and the third North Korean invasion tunnel. You can also buy a souvenir ticket to Pyeongyang, 205 kilometers (127 miles) to the north, for just 500 Won (USD 0.50). The station lies 56 kilometers (35 miles) from Seoul.
Kijong-dong is the official name of a small village located on the North Korean side of the border int he DMZ. It is one of only two villages in the entire DMZ, along with the South Korean village of Daeseong-dong.
Kijong-dong is known outside of North Korea as “Propaganda Village”, mainly because most of the town is fake. The buildings, constructed in the 1950s, appear to be empty concrete shells without rooms or windows, but wired with electricity for the illusion of inhabitants. Also, until 2004, load speakers in the village broadcasted propaganda messages into the south. Finally, Propaganda Village is also home to a 525-foot (160m) tall flagpole, but solely to be taller than the 323-foot (98m) tall flagpole constructed on the South Korean side of the border.
Third Tunnel of Agrression
The Third Tunnel of Northern Aggression is located near Panmunjom at the DMZ. It was the third of four confirmed tunnels dug by North Korea to establish invasion routes into the South. There are believed to be at least 20 tunnels from the north to the south in total, and it is estimated that the tunnels would allow 30,000 soldiers an hour, armed with light weapons, into South Korea. The tunnel was discovered in 1978, when its location was revealed by a North Korean defector.
Today the third tunnel is a popular tourist stop when visiting the DMZ from Seoul. There are two entrances to the Southern side of the tunnel, one via tram and one that must be descended and ascended on foot. The tram is much easier, but not always available. The walk takes 5-10 minutes each way, and does get a bit claustrophobic once you enter the small, wet, dark portion of the caves made by North Korea. Directly under the DMZ, the south built three walls, two of which can be viewed by tour groups. Unfortunately photos are not allowed at the walls under the DMZ, and most tour guides tell visitors not to take photos anywhere in the tunnels.
Military Armistice Commission Buildings
At the center of the Joint Security Area, straddling the Military Demarcation Line, stand a series of silver and baby blue United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission buildings.
All visitors are allowed to enter the center UNCMAC building where peace talks are held. But be wary of the burly South Korean soldiers standing in Tae Kwon Do stances with sunglasses — they guard the door leading to North Korea. They serve a dual purpose — to protect visitors from the North Koreans, but also to prevent people from entering the North. While in this building, you may step across the line into the North, but only for a few minutes until your tour continues.
The most impressive building on the North Korean side of the Joint Security Area is called Panmungak. This gray, three-story structure was completed in August 1969, and it houses the North Korean JSA guards and it serves as a waiting are of North Koreans participating in talks with the South. This facility is occasionally open to the North Korean people who visit the DMZ.
When people visit the south side of the JSA, northern soldiers stand watch with binoculars. Occasionally you will also see a curtain pulled up in Panmungak so a guard can snap pictures of visitors.
Insadonggil is a must to-see for people who want to experience Korea. It’s surrounded by old palaces and many historic and cultural sites, and also modern building.
Many art galleries are situated here, and Wednesday is a popular day for gallery-opening parties. It’s a place where you can experience Korea’s traditional beauty and youthful spirit at the same time. On the streets of Insadong, there are many stores, restaurant and tea houses where you can experience traditional Korean life.
It used to be known among foreign residents by the nickname “Mary’s Alley”, which was lovingly given due to the joke that because there are so many foreign shoppers, one was guaranteed to see their friend “Mary” anytime they visited.
5. Korea House & Namsan Hanok Folk Village
Ever wonder where they get those historical sets for the various Korean Dramas? Maybe not, but here they are. On any given day you’re likely to see actors in costume rehearsing or filming scenes in the Korean Folk Village.
That’s not all, though, there are also gymnastic displays (jumping on a high wire and with see-saws) and there are even people who LIVE here. Yes, they live in the old style homes, wearing old style clothes and doing things the…um, old style. It’s really quite impressive.
If you’re into Bhuddism there is a temple or two here and if you’re hungry there is, you guessed it, old style Korean food too. No McDonald’s at all.
If you drive there be sure you have a local with you. The last few turns don’t have very obvious signs and it seems as if you’re going down a country road rather than into a national park.
Interestingly, although you feel as if you’re in another era the city is relatively close at hand. When they built the Village it was way out in the country, but since the suburbs have grown it is becoming enveloped in ‘civilization’. No matter, the setting is tranquil and you can easily spend 2-4 hours strolling and learning.
Be on the lookout for a wedding, also. Every few days they have a fake or real wedding ceremony. I saw one between a white woman and a korean man. It was for all to see, and gawk and take pictures. Very cool.
6. Itaewon Tourist Zone
Itaewon is a “must-see” place that is popular with travelers from around the world. Here you can encounter a wide variety of products as well as people. Besides the joy of shopping, Itaewon offers diverse kinds of food, from simple takeouts to serious dining. With dusk it turns into a center of entertainment.
Getting to Itaewon by subway is somewhat complicated. Take Subway Line 4 (Blue Line), get off at Samgakji Station, take exit 1, walk for about 50 meters (164 feet), then turn right and continue to walk for another 50 meters (164 feet) up to the front gate of the Ministry of National Defense. Take Bus Nos. 23 or 81 and get off after two bus stops. For two or more travelers, catching a cab might be better.
7. Lotte World
I am an Amusement Park junkie. I love the roller-coasters, cotton candy, and rides that dangle me from altitudes men weren’t supposed to be at without a plane or a mountain under them. Despite the fact that it has the look and feel of Disneyworld, it is actually a really enjoyable park.
The most impressive part of Lotte World for me was the indoor park. But my favorite thing is the Atlantis Adventure Roller Coaster. It is a theme roller coaster (With a bit of water) that actually has some speed and jolts to it, in addition to the incredible scenery. If you want a coaster with more thrill to it though, check out The French Revolution in the indoor part of the park. It is quick and is a nice ride with a loop and some spirals to it. Gyro Drop is another favorite, if for no other reason than the great view of Seoul from atop it.
Kids will not feel left out either. There are plenty of kid friendly activities, and family food places so that the whole family can enjoy it.
8. Everland Resort
I love the Everland. It is just too bad that it is so far out of the way to get to. But nevertheless, I am a total roller coaster junkie, and there are a couple very good ones here. The suspended one is good, but the rolling X train has two loops, and some great twists and turns to it. There is also a water park called Carribian Bay, which is a great place to go and get eye candy from beautiful korean women in bathing suits.
Fun can be had for the entire family, as there are rides for kids, shows for mom, and a golf course for dad. There is a zoo so the entire family unit can be eaten by tigers after falling into the cage. Or you could just look at them too, but where is the fun in that?
9. Deoksugung Palace
Deoksugung (덕수궁) Palace is across the street from Seoul City Hall and the recently reconstructed Seoul Plaza. It is one of the smaller palaces, but popular due to its location next to City Hall Subway Station. The least impressive features of Deoksugung are the two modern museums in the back of the palace, called Seokjojeon, which really take away from its ambiance.
Deoksugung was built in the 1400s for King Seongjong’s brother Prince Wolsandaegun. King Seonjo made this palace his permanent residence in 1592. King Injo later moved his residence to Changdeokgung, leaving Deoksugung vacant for the next 200 years. In 1897, this palace again became the primary royal residence when King Gojong moved in.
You enter the palace through the main gate called Daehanmun, and straight ahead is the Geumcheongyo bridge. Further in from the gate in a straight path is the huge bronze statue of King Sejong, and just beyond him is Junghwajeon the main hall of palace. Behind the palace are the modern museum building of Seoul while to the right of the Sejong statue are several buildings from the King Gojong era in the early 1900s.
Outside of the palace, there is a man who makes signs carved from wood. The signs themselves are impressive, but even more so considering the man has only one hand.
10. War Memorial of Korea
The large museum and monument of the Korean War Memorial (전쟁기념관) are dedicated to those who died in defense of democracy during the 1950-1953 Korean War. There are hundreds of aircraft, vehicles, and guns used by both North and South Korea during and since the War. Inside the museum are exhibits with some 13,000 items covering the history of war in Korea. The large wings of the museum house tablets that list the names of 300,000 allied dead from all 22 nations that participated in the Korean War as part of the United Nations Command.
The facility was completed in December 1993 and opened in June 1994, as the largest war monument in the world.
Also outside are numerous statues and works of art such as the Statue of Brothers symbolizing the divide between the north and the south.
11. Changdeokgung Palace
Changdeokgung is a sprawling palace complex, which has been designated as a UNESCO world heritage site. It is the best preserved of Seoul’s five palaces. One little publicised fact is that descendants of the Korean royal family were still living in the palace until as recently as 1989.
In order to protect the palace, vistors must be part of a guided tour. English guided tours are at 11.30, 13.30 and 15.30. Once inside, you can actually break away from the guided tour group, but you’ll probably find, as I did, that you’ll soon run into the Chinese and Japanese groups just ahead.
It is my second favourite of Seoul’s royal palaces, after Gyeonbokgung, so if you only have time to visit two, these are the two I’d recommend. It will take you about four hours to see them both.
Admission 3,000 won.
12. Han River & Hangang Park
The Hangang, or Han River, divides old Seoul to the north from new Seoul to the south (Gangnam on the south side of the river literally translates to “south river”). Along the Han River rest a series of parks that have running paths, basketball courts, soccer fields, swimming pools, and other recreation areas. These parks are located with easy access to much of the city in the Banpo, Cheonho, Ichon, Jamsil, Jamwon, Mangwon, Ttukseom, Yangwha, and Yeouido areas. The park areas on either side of the river are connected by a paved trail, and many bridges have pedestrian paths so you can cross from one side of the Han to the other. If you are a runner or a cyclist, there is no better place in Seoul to run or ride for miles and miles on flat, paved trails.
13. Coex Mall
Yes, you may get lost in this maze of a shopping centre. But there are so many information booths manned (more like “Womanned”) by the helpful ladies, directing and giving you the information you need. Its best to get a map of all the stores in the shopping centre.
A little warning: the prices here are a bit on the high side. It is not as cheap as Dondaemun and the other places and you definitely cannot bargain.
14. Namdaemun Market
Although an insane man burned the Great Gate to the ground in 2007, it has been rebuilt. The gate was not and is not the main attraction. That is the shopping. There are dozens of small alleyways crowded with shops selling just about anything you want. In the buildings you can find expensive dishes, blackmarket merchandise, chinese herbs, and fancy clothes. On the sidewalks are every kind of food sold in Korea. Be warned, it is never empty and is always crowded and hectic.
Out of the ordinary is the area where the smiling pig heads are sold. Traditionally, when a business first opens, the family wishing the new business people luck will present them with a smiling pig head. There is no bargaining for the pig heads.
Everything else can be bargained for and 25 percent discount is always achievable. Tsa gae chusay yoh is the way to ask for a discount. Most of the vendors speak some English and a few of them are fluent. In the foreign products area there is no discount. These products are from the G.I.s who sell them to the Koreans who sell them to ex-pats who just have to have some Folgers coffee, Colgate or whatever and there is never any bargaining.
15. Biwon – Secret Garden
Biwon, meaning “Secret Garden,” was originally named Huwon, or “Rear Garden” as it sits behind Changdeokgung Palace. My favorite spot in Biwon is the Buyongji, a still pond surrounded by unique buildings including the pavilion Buyongjeong, the Juhamnu library, and the examination hall called Yeonghwadang. There is also a small stream called Ongnyucheon which passes through gardens built in 1636, past several pavilions, and under an arched stone bridge. One of the final stops before exiting the garden is the Kings’ shrine called Seonwonjeon, the last existing shrine of the Joseon dynasty.
To visit Biwon, you must enter during a guided tour time, but you do not have to take the guided tour. In fact, once you pay your fee and enter at the designated time, you can linger as long as you wish. Many people bring books or snack, and just relax for hours. English tours are conducted 3 or 4 times a day, the best time being around 3:30pm. Get there early. Most days there is a changing of the guards ceremony at 3:00pm.
The cost for a guided tour is 5,000 Won, but you also have to buy a 3,000 ticket for entrance to Changdeokgung.
16. The National Folk Museum of Korea
The large National Folk Museum of Korea (국립민속박물관) on the grounds of Gyeongbokgung is a nicely-done museum showing the daily lives of Koreans throughout history. Inside of the building are displays and dioramas while the outside has authentic pagodas, houses, and farming tools. There are three main exhibits in the museum: Korean Culture and History, Korean Lifestyle and Commodities, and Korean Life Cycle.
The museum was established in 1945 at Gyeongbokgung by the US military government, moved to Namsan in 1946, then moved back to Gyeongbokgung into Sujeongjeon Hall in 1975. The current facility was built in 1973 (as the National Museum building), but did not house the Folk Museum until 1993.
Though they claim the building’s design is based on traditional Korean Design, the height, shape, and colors all seem unique to me. I never saw anything similar in the country.
Adult tickets are 3,000 won.
17. Jogyesa – Buddhist Temple
Located just east of Insadong is Jogyeasa (조계사), Seoul’s largest Buddhist Temple and the chief temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. It consists of a main temple and several out-buildings including the bell-tower. Feel free to enter the temple to watch the worshipers and look at the interior. Just remove your shoes and keep quiet!
There are many shops selling Buddhist gifts and supplies on the street in front of Jogyesa. Every May for Buddha’s birthday, the street is closed for a great festival.
The temple was constructed in 1910 during Japanese occupation, and is the only temple within the Chosun Dynasty’s four gates of historic Seoul.
Throughout my time in Korea, the temple was constantly under construction.
18. Namdaemun – Great South Gate
Namdaemun (Sungnyemun) Gate is Korea National Treasure Number 1. In the past, every representative visiting from China and Japan had to pass through the gate in order to enter Seoul. Its construction began in 1396 and was finished in 1398 (it underwent a major restoration in 1448 and again in 1997) and so it has been in existence for more than 500 years. It is the biggest gate ever made in Korea and is the oldest wooden structure left standing in Seoul. The most interesting thing about the gate is the roof. It is even more beautiful at night because lights have been added to the structure. There were once walls surrounding the gate, but the Japanese destroyed them during the colonial era. As such, it is yet another cultural site, among many others in Korea, where bad memories of the past are still kept and can never be forgotten.
Adjacent to the South Gate is the Namdaemun Market, one of the largest traditional markets in Seoul which dates back to 1414. About 10,000 stores sell 17,000 kinds of items including clothes and accessories. Many of the stores have their own factories, and manufacture products at an astounding speed. Retailers from across the nation flock to these stores from midnight up to 4:00am, creating a peculiar night scene.
19. Changgyeonggung Palace
Changgyeonggung (창경궁) was originally built in 1483, destroyed in 1592 during the Japanese occupation, then rebuilt in 1616. It typically housed former kings and princes. Many of the main buildings in the center of the palace were rebuilt as recently as the 1980s.
Honghwamun is the main gate which faces east. Beyond this gate is the Okcheongyo bridge, a second gate called Myeongjeongmun, then the palace’s main hall, Myeongjeongjeon. To the north of the palace is an area I failed to visit: the Chundangji pond with its greenhouse and pavilion. This palace also houses an observatory.
This palace has two features making it unique from the others in Seoul: the main gates face east instead of south, and the palace grounds are very hilly and rocky. This tranquil palace is a long hike from either Anguk Station (Line 3) or Hyehwa Station (Line 4).
Admission is about 1,000 Won for adults. Jongmyo (종묘) is located across a walking bridge from Changgyeongung. Paying the entrance fee to one allows you free access the other if you use this bridge. It is also located right beside an even better palace, Changdeokgung with its Secret Garden.
20. Bukhansan National Park
Bukhansan (북한산) is a National Park on the northern edge of Seoul with miles of hiking trails, dozens of temples, several impressive peaks, and the Bukhansanseong (Bukhan Mountain Fortress) which was constructed in 132 AD. The two largest peaks in Bukhansan Park are Baegundae at 835 meters (2740 feet) and Dobongsan, which is over 700 meters (2300 feet). The park was established in 1983.
I visited Bukhansan twice while visiting Seoul. Once I entered the park from the west and just did some hiking and looking at temples. The second visit, I entered from the east and hiked straight to the top of Dobongsan. It was an awesome hike that took just about 3 hours round trip.
Entry to the park is just 1,600 Won for adults.
To get to Bukhansan and Bukhansanseong, take Subway Line 3 to Gupabal Station, then city bus 156 to Bukhansanseong. To get to Dobongsan, take Line 1 or 7 to Dobongsan Station.
Bukhansanseong was first built by King Kaeru during the Baekje era in 132 AD, but was rebuilt in 1711 by King Sukjong to defend Seoul’s northern approaches from the Chinese invaders. The walls average 7 meters (23 feet) tall and follow along the steep ridge lines of the park, taking advantage of the natural terrain features for defense. The circumference of this huge fortress is about 9 km (5.6 miles), and it has several impressive gates and watchtowers along its length.
21. Myeong Dong Cathedral
Myeongdong Cathedral is the most impressive Christian church in Seoul. It was completed in 1898 and has a 45 meter (148 feet) tall steeple. This Gothic church has a beautiful interior that attracts numerous visitors to see its stained glass, stone pillars, and pipe organ.
Myeongdong Cathedral has a famous Midnight Mass at Christmas.
As the name implies, it is located in the Myeongdong shopping district, north east of the subway station of the same name.
Christianity is the primary religion of about 21% of the South Korean population. Christian churches and cathedrals are common throughout the land. South Korea has the second highest rate of Christianity in eastern Asia, with the Philippines being first. Christianity in Korea is usually associated with modern reformist thinkers.
Buddhism, not surprisingly, comes in a close second in Korean religion with about 20% of the population. Buddhist temples are typically beautiful, secluded compounds high in the mountains, though a few are located within the cities. Buddhism is Korea is typically associated with conservative, old fashioned thinking.
22. Bukchon Hanok Village
Just to the north of Insadong (about 15 minutes walk) is a small hilly section of Seoul. On this hill is the more historic neighborhood of Bukchon.
The architecture and construction in this area is quite nice. Any visit to Seoul should include a couple hours of walking through the narrow streets and alleys of this area. The open court-yard style homes, temple-like roof lines and panoramas of the city below are quite spectacular.
There is a Tourist Information Desk at the top of Insadong-gil (road) by the base of the Jeongdok Public Library. They can give you a walking map and museums informations in the area.
The area has several small, but worthwhile museums, such as the Silk Road Museum, the Tibet Museum, National Folk Museum, etc.
23. 63 Building, Yook-Sam
63 Building is one of the landmarks in Seoul. There are many attractions and restaurants inside, but one of the most interesting one is 63 Sky Art Gallery which claims to be the highest art museum in the world. The gallery is located on 60th level which is 264 meters (866 feet) above. It takes one minute to go up or down. Besides the art gallery, you can take breathtaking pictures of the city. The admission fee is 12000 W per person. You can also have combined tickets for Sea World and Imax Theatre.
This building has despite its name only 60 floors. They just counted the 3 floors in the basement as well.
24. Heunginjimun Dongdaemoon – Great East Gate
Dongdaemun Gate was originally called Heung-injimun (“Gate of Uplifting Mercy”) and was the main gate east of the the wall surrounding Seoul. First built in 1397, the present Dong-daemun Gate was completely rebuilt when Daewongun (father of King Gojong of the Joseon Dynasty) was in power (in 1863). The present gate is slightly larger than the original one. The architectural structure is similar to that of Namdaemun Gate. But Dongdaemun, which was constructed in the late era the Joseon Dynasty, is excessively detailed.
Dongdaemun is distinguished from other gates by a half-moon outer baffle wall, built in a semicircle to entrap enemies who tried to enter the gate. The base is a granite structure with a single arch, above which is wooden superstructure in the form of a two-storied pavilion, five-gan (a measure of the distance between two pillars) wide and two-gan deep, with a hipped roof. There is much ornamentation in the pavilion design, displaying the skill of the Joseon Dynasty-era artisans. The tongue-shaped ornamentation atop the columns is typical of the wooden architecture of the late Joseon period.
25. Cheong Gye Cheon – Man Made Stream
Cheonggyecheon is an 8.4 kilometers (5.2 miles) stream that runs through the middle of downtown Seoul from the area around City Hall east to Dongdaemun and into the Jungnangcheon stream before flowing into the Han River. Cheonggyecheon was dredged and the banks bolstered from the 1300s to the 1800s, including the establishment of numerous bridges connecting the city.
However, after the Korean War, shanties were built on the banks and the river was filled with debris and sewage. Due to the filth and the need for more transportation routes in the city, the stream was buried in the 1950s. In 1968 the former stream bed also became home to an elevated highway.
In 2003 the city of Seoul began to excavate and restore the stream, including some of the historic bridges. The work was completed quickly, in 2005, at a cost of almost one billion U.S. dollars. The removal of the elevated highway resulted in a signifcant decrease in traffic in Seoul, and led to a great open area for the people of Seoul.
- Featured image: Ken Eckert [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 1. Namsan (South Mountain) and Seoul Tower: Carkbs [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 2. Gyeongbokgung Palace: Richard Mortel from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 3. DMZ – DeMilitarized Zone – Tours: Korea.net / Korean Culture and Information Service (Photographer name) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 4. Insa-dong: Mario Sánchez Prada from Staines, United Kingdom [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 5. Korea House & Namsan Hanok Folk Village: Richard Mortel from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 6. Itaewon Tourist Zone: Jongsu Pyeon [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 7. Lotte World: Ha98574 [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 8. Everland Resort: Roller Coaster Philosophy, Jeremy Thompson [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 9. Deoksugung Palace: Richard Mortel from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 10. War Memorial of Korea: Richard Mortel from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 11. Changdeokgung Palace: Richard Mortel from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 12. Han River & Hangang Park: Bohao Zhao [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 13. Coex Mall: Photo by Erik Möller, public domain
- 14. Namdaemun Market: LinasD [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 15. Biwon – Secret Garden: Christian Bolz [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 16. The National Folk Museum of Korea: by Nagyman [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 17. Jogyesa – Buddhist Temple: Francisco Anzola [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 18. Namdaemun – Great South Gate: by m-louis [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 19. Changgyeonggung Palace: Richard Mortel from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 20. Bukhansan National Park: by Nagyman [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 21. Myeong Dong Cathedral: Noulovanarderso [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 22. Bukchon Hanok Village: Richard Mortel from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 23. 63 Building, Yook-Sam: Daugilas [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 24. Heunginjimun Dongdaemoon – Great East Gate: Gaël Chardon [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 25. Cheong Gye Cheon – Man Made Stream: Richard Mortel from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons