Seoul Vacation Travel Guide | Expedia (4K)

Welcome to Seoul, the capital of the Republic of South Korea. For decades the city known as The Miracle
of The Han, kept its head down, barely raising a ripple as the country rebuilt
in the decades following the Korean War. Today, Seoul has re-emerged as an economic
powerhouse and the epicentre of Hallyu, a Korean wave of culture
that is sweeping the world’s smartphones, food halls and dance floors. But Seoul wasn’t always so outgoing. In the 14th century, a 12-mile fortress wall encircled
Korea’s ancient capital; its gates closed each night to keep marauding
Siberian tigers and invaders at bay. Since then the city has spilled out far beyond
and above its great city gates and Guardian Mountains. 21st century Seoul is a city where
glass and steel towers and the ancient curves of palace roofs coexist. It’s a city where
the brushstrokes of the past and contemporary public art tell stories of
tradition and inspiration. Coming to grips with Seoul’s incredible
size and sweeping narrative can be a little daunting, so start your adventure at the K-Style Hub, a state-of-the-art visitor centre. Where South Korea’s past,
present and future converge, from the latest in K-Pop
to its timeless national parks, from the cutting edge of K Design to culinary
traditions which have taken centuries to perfect. And while you’re here, why not slip into
the traditional dress. Dressing up Hanbok-style doesn’t just
put you in touch with Koreas proud past, it also gives you free admission into
many of Seoul’s most revered historic places. At the head of Gwanghwamun Square sits
the gleaming statue of Sejong the Great, the 15th century Joseon-dynasty king whose
reign oversaw a golden age of literature, science and technology. The great leader sits before
the grandest of Seoul’s five royal palaces, Gyeongbokgung, the Palace of Shining Happiness. A residence of Joseon Dynasty rulers
from the late 1300s until 1910, the palace has endured fires, invasion, and wars. Wander through the palace’s ornate gates,
pavilions, halls and throne room, which in accordance with Confucian principles, are perfectly balanced by the simplicity of
the pine-covered mountain backdrop. Take a short bus or subway ride to the east, to explore the adjoining palaces of
Changdeokgung and Changgyeongung, which are separated by a simple stone wall. In the tranquil confines of
Changdeokgung’s secret garden, sit for a while by the pond where kings once
paused from royal duties and dramas to write poetry beneath the ginko,
walnut and plum trees. To the south at Deoksugung Palace, see the changing of the guard
which takes place three times each day. Then explore the eclectic mix of palace buildings, such as the pavilion where coffee-loving
King Gojong enjoyed his daily cup, paving the way for his country’s future
caffeine obsession. Just to the west,
is the last of Seoul’s great palaces, Gyeonghuigung, a royal refuge in times of unrest. After exploring Seoul’s vast temple complexes, see how government officials
and ordinary Koreans once lived. At the Namsangol Hanok Village, ancient buildings and traditions
have been preserved in one of the most scenic and tranquil areas
of Seoul. To see how Seoul’s citizens furnished their homes, visit the Korea Furniture Museum in Seongbuk-gu. Here, over 2000 exquisite pieces
of practical craftsmanship are displayed within ten traditional houses. The story of Korean craftsmanship continues
at the National Museum of Korea, which houses national treasures such as the Ten Story Pagoda and priceless
white porcelain from the Joseon era. But it’s in Seoul’s busy streets where
the past and present really rub shoulders, and where the two Korean loves of shopping
and food go hand in hand. Close to Seoul’s Great South Gate,
step into Koreas largest marketplace, Namdaemun Market, where locals have been bargaining
hard for over 600 years. If you’re looking for beauty products, join the one million shoppers who stream into
neighboring Myeong-dong each day to hit the 1000 cosmetic stores. And when your head starts to spin,
take a snack break. From lobster tails to foot long ice creams,
the options here are almost limitless! A few blocks north is Insadong, where you can disappear for days amid
the labyrinth of antique, curio and craft stalls. While just a short bus ride
away at the Dongdaemun Market, you could spend months
browsing the fashions on offer in the area’s 26 malls and 30,000 specialty shops. Blow the dust off the old wares
and vintage bargains at the Gwangjang Traditional Market, then treat yourself to some of
the best Korean pancakes in the city. If you’re a seafood lover, cross the river to the futuristic
Noryangjin Fish Market, where the skilful vendors at 700 stalls sell, slice and cook every kind of
seafood imaginable! Looking for some Gangnam style? Head just upriver to the Samseong-dong, whose exclusive boutiques and wide boulevards
have made it the Beverly Hills of Seoul. But it’s not all bling in Gangnam, you’ll find plenty of bliss here too. Pass through the Gate of Truth and spend
a few hours in the wooded surrounds of the Bongeunsa Buddhist Temple, a peaceful antidote to the fierce pace of
Seoul’s shopping. Seoul is filled with quiet spaces. Also in Gangnam, stroll past the stadiums
and museums of the 24th Summer Olympics, at Olympic Park. Across the river, relax with locals amid the leafy glades of
Seoul Forest. While just downriver, enjoy the ponds and
playful sculptures at Yongsan Park. Namsan is one of Seoul’s Guardian Mountains, marking the southern limit of the ancient capital. The city has long since grown around it and today the mountain has become one of
the city’s favourite green getaways. At Namsan Botanical Garden, follow the winding paths through fields of
wildflowers and pine forests. Then hike, or take the cable car to the peak, and take in the sweeping views from the old
city walls or from Seoul’s iconic tower. Running right through the busy
heart of downtown Seoul, another landmark has also been given
a new lease on life. After centuries of neglect, Cheonggyecheon Stream has been transformed
into a 7-mile corridor of serenity and creativity. Take time out just a few feet from some of
the city’s busiest streets, in a space so quiet you can sometimes hear
the sweet sounds of bird song and whispering lovers. Leave the bright lights and noise of the city
even further behind, amid granite-studded peaks of
Bukhansan National Park. Take the 45-minute subway ride from central Seoul and spend the day hiking
through the crisp mountain air, past ancient temples and rushing streams. Just 55 miles from Seoul is another daytrip
which will give you pause for deep reflection, the truce village of Panmunjom. After three years of brutal warfare,
it was here in 1953, where the armistice was signed
between North and South Korea. From the observation post,
look out upon the eerie silence of the DMZ, the 2.5-mile wide buffer zone that separates
the two Koreas. Yet despite the tense atmosphere here, there is also a prevailing sense of hope. On returning to Seoul, spend a little time
at the War Memorial of Korea to truly appreciate the scale and trauma of
the Korean War, a conflict that tore a country in two,
involved 22 nations, and cost millions of lives. Besides displaying all the usual machinery
of war, above all, this is of place of remembrance,
longing, and determination. When the sun gets low and the city lights up, locals gather on the banks of the Han to see
the Banpo Bridge erupt in waves of water and light. It’s in moments like these that South Koreans
reflect on life’s possibilities, and are reminded that they are capable of
anything they put their minds, imaginations and hearts to. And Seoul, The Miracle on The Han is certainly proof
of that.

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