Seoul is a city filled with excitement. The cutting edge metropolis possesses a modern, trend setting ambiance that somehow contrasts seamlessly with centuries old temples and traditional customs. Even in high tech, 21st century Seoul there can still be found an air of mystery, with ancient wonders to be revealed. From the modern to the historic, this is a city with many surprises.
Unquestionably one of the most economically and socially important cities in Asia and the world, a walk along its bustling streets reveals a place unlike any other. Seoul’s skyline is nothing short of a monument to progress and economic success. Glittering structures like the N Seoul Tower and World Trade Centre rise high above a diverse landscape filled with lush parks like Namsan and trendy shopping and entertainment districts such as Myeongdong and Sinchon. Seoul markets like the one found at Namdaemun are filled with food vendors and local souvenirs and nearby Korean restaurants serve up delicious cuisine from fresh seafood to local versions of Chinese and Japanese Shabu-shabu. The central city is a shopping paradise and food lovers dream all rolled into one.
Seoul is packed with interesting things to see and do and even if its brash, ultra-modern exterior overshadows it, the city’s ancient past can still be experienced today. Visit the grand palaces of the Jongno District and marvel at the intricate Asian architecture and beautiful garden design. The city also features many temples and shrines both historic and modern, offering a rare yet peaceful glimpse into ancient religious practices and places of worship. For a fascinating overview of Seoul’s rich history and culture, visit the National Museum of Korea which displays century’s old artefacts from many ancient Korean dynasties and through the country’s most prominent historic periods.
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Seoul is divided in two by the Han River, creating a northern and southern half. The northern section called Gangbuk is the more historic and collegiate while Gangnam on the river’s south is considered more modern and upscale. Seoul is really a collection of 25 different cities or districts, each with their own personality and flavour.
Jongno and Jung districts in the northern half of Seoul make up one of the city’s main areas. These centrally located districts boast ancient palaces and shrines as well as many government offices and buildings. World Heritage Sites can also be found in these areas including Jongmyo, one of the world’s most significant Confucian shrines. Historic houses from the dynastic area can be seen in nearby Bukchon and offer a traditional and captivating look at Korean life centuries ago.
Mapo and Seodaemun districts along the north-western banks of the Han River are the main university and college areas of the city. As such, these areas are quite youth oriented and where much of the music and nightlife scene can be found. These areas offer a unique alternative scene as opposed to the often commercial and business oriented atmosphere of other parts of the city.
The popular dance hit Gangnam Style made this southern Seoul district practically a household name around the world. Gangnam is situated on the southern end of the Han River and where some of Korea’s wealthiest neighbourhoods can be found. Trendy cafes, luxury goods and the finest shopping can all be found here. The nightlife scene is somewhat more laid back than the university districts to the north but there are a great array of clubs and lounges in which to enjoy. The area around Gangnam Station is home to glittering skyscrapers as well as a bustling entertainment district with bars, restaurants and high-end shopping.
The largest of the five Grand Joseon Palaces, Gyeongbokgung is located in central Seoul and surrounded by beautiful parkland and grand plazas. Built in the 14th century, Gyeongbokgung has undergone continuous renovations since World War II. The palace features intricate gates, quaint bridges and royal courts.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Royal Tombs of the Josean Dynasty contain the tombs of kings and queens and past royalty. The grounds also contain shrines, religiously significant gates and ancient stone structures.
Korean history and art blend together, offering a fascinating look at the country’s rich history, from pre-historic times to the modern era. Containing ancient artefacts, royal treasures and significant pieces of art both traditional and modern, the museum is a treasure trove of rare objects.
Featuring the highest point in the city, the observation deck at N Seoul Tower is the perfect place to get a bird’s-eye-view of a city on the move. Located on Namsan Mountain, an enjoyable cable car ride will whisk you up the steep slope and near the base of the tower. The tower features a gift shop, restaurant and several observation decks to enjoy the spectacular view. The park itself offers lovely walking and hiking trails.
Seoul boasts many hotel and guest accommodation options; from five star luxury and boutique resorts to budget and backpacker style rooms. A unique feature in some Korean hotels is oxygen generator facilities, used to purify and relax. The trend got its start in Japan and Korea but never caught on globally.
The city is filled with conveniently located places to stay right in central Seoul. If you’re on a budget, consider a guest house or backpacker in Jung-gu or the Sinchon area of Mapo District. There are many local sites and entertainment districts nearby as well as public transport options.
As an international capital and global city, Seoul has many options when it comes to high-end accommodation. A long list of internationally branded hotels can be found in central Seoul, both in the northern districts as well as the south, located mostly near the river in Seocho-gu and Yongsan-gu. Many of these fine hotels and resorts offer complimentary transport to and from the international airport. Luxury hotels in Seoul offer stylish accommodation with a long list of amenities such as gyms, saunas and swimming pools as well as well known bars, lounges and fine dining.
Average: -6°C - 4°C
Remember to bring your winter coat, it’s freezing cold with showers of snow.
Average: 7°C - 23°C
Wear sunglasses and mask to avoid inhaling the yellow dust. Drink more water since the weather is extremely dry.
Average: 18°C - 30°C
Expect plenty of rain so bring an umbrella or a raincoat.
Average: 3°C - 26°C
Enjoy the autumnal colours with a light jacket on.
South Korean Won (KRW)
The average flight time between Hong Kong and Seoul is 3 hours and 40 minutes.
Autumn (September – November) is a great season for sightseeing in Seoul, and there is a chance to see autumn foliage.
You can take Incheon Airport Express (AREX), train, bus or taxi for travelling between Seoul Incheon Airport and the city center.