Seoul is brimming with youthful vibrancy. Art galleries, cinemas, bars and boutiques are dotted all over the city. Seoulites are also in touch with their past, and you’ll find plenty of instances of traditional Korean culture in palaces and theatres.
Korea has suffered from many conflicts, and some of the bruises still show in Seoul. The city’s Five Grand Palaces are testament to this; all of these complexes have been destroyed or badly damaged. Today they have largely been restored to their former glory and house national treasures, art and traditional architecture. For particularly fine examples of these palaces, visit Gyeongbokgung, Deoksugung and Changgyeonggung.
Locals possess optimism and friendliness in abundance. Younger Seoulites will be eager to use their language skills to help you out, and older residents, although not as proficient with their English, are still overwhelmingly warm.
Shopping opportunities in Seoul are boundless. Choose from designer outlets in Myeongdong, traditional craft shops at Insadong and bargain malls at the huge Dongdaemun Market. Wear your new attire while exploring the city’s nightlife. Hongdae Young Street has an eclectic collection of bars, clubs, live music and independent cinema.
Soak up classic Korean culture at venues like Chongdong Theatre. Here, you can marvel at spectaculars featuring traditional music, dance and costume. Sample local cuisine at well-priced stalls and restaurants that serve Korean classics such as kalguksu (“knife noodles”) or donkas (deep-fried pork cutlets). Foodies will want to pay homage to the Korean national dish (kimchi) at the Pulmuone Kimchi Museum. Kimchi is a fermented vegetable (cabbage, radish or cucumber) dish seasoned with spices. Finish your dining experience with a visit to one of Seoul’s excellent teahouses.
When you want some quiet time, escape to one of Seoul’s regenerated areas, such as Cheonggyecheon Stream. This stretch of water in the city center features greenery, wildlife and local art. It’s a great example of Seoul’s ability to innovate, educate and entertain all at once.
Seoul has hot summers and cold winters. The best time to visit is around March through May (spring), or September through November (fall) . Navigate the city using the well-priced and efficient subway system, considered one of the best in the world.