After the end of World War II, Korea was divided between the North and the South. Since then, South Korea—unlike its sister up north—has become a superpower, both culturally and economically. And its capital, Seoul, is where you can see and experience high-tech and pop culture mixed in-between Buddhist temples, palaces and street markets.
From futuristic art museums and galleries, elaborate shopping and some of the most delicious food in Asia, Seoul has become a popular destination for travelers all over the world. But to really get a feel for the true Seoul, we’ve created this guide that will have you wanting more from this megalopolis.
One of the best parts about going to Asia is trying out street food, however, sometimes our stomachs don’t always agree afterward. Luckily, the street food in Seoul is safe to eat, and the best place is at Gwangjang Market. Once you make your way here, make sure you don’t miss mouthwatering dishes such as gimbap (Korean-style sushi), haemul pajeon (seafood pancake, twigim (fried prawns, eggs and vegetables), and japchae (sweet potato noodles).
This place not only sells food but also clothes. There’s a hidden market here with over 500 stalls that sell second-hand clothes, located on the second floor—from vintage 1950s outfits to high-end clothes like Chanel and Prada—this market has it all.
Seoul has an unconventional area known as Hongdae. Many students flock to this part of town, famous for its peculiar fashion, energetic street art, live music, dancers and public entertainers. This is also the place to go for the hottest bars and clubs.
But to really get the feel for Hongdae, you have to go here at night. There’s a place called the “Children’s Playground”, which is designed for anyone but kids. The place turns into a full-on dance party with entertainers and DJs, plus the soju here is so cheap you won’t break your wallet at the end of the night (but you may get quite the hangover in the morning).
Art has become a big part of Korea, which can be seen in the ever-growing upsurge of galleries around the nation, especially in Seoul. Outside of galleries, there’s a fascinating industrial area located in the Mullae-dong neighborhood. You can see a variety of art created from metal, as well as street art and shops where you can discover funky knickknacks to take back home with you.
Aside from the art, there are tons of cool cafés here too, and some even say that you can find the best Korean chicken at the restaurants around this hip neighborhood.
Many who visit Seoul probably miss Seonyudo Park, a peaceful, man-made island that sits on the Han River. The only way you can get to the Park is via a bridge from the mainland. Once you step onto this mini island, you’re transferred into a blissful getaway from the busy city.
Interestingly enough, this area previously was a water treatment plant, but now features a pond with lilies, a playground for kids, and even pianos that are open for anyone to play on. Want to learn more about this metal area? Head to the Hangang River History Museum before you go exploring in the park.
Gyeongbok Palace, more formally known as Gyeongbokgung, is probably one of the most gorgeous places in all of South Korea.
Built in 1395, this once was the royal palace of Joseon Dynasty, but was destroyed by a fire during the Imjin War. It wasn’t until the 19th century that over 500 buildings and almost 8,000 rooms were refurbished, only to have them destroyed again in the 20th century by Japan. Since then, it’s been slowly rebuilding back to its original state. Aside from restoring an ancient palace, a new building has been added to the area—the National Palace Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum. If you’re one for grandeur sites, the Gyeongbok Palace is a must.
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