Fotolia’s local guides to world cities have so far taken us to Paris, London, Berlin, New York, and Madrid, but this time we’re going a little further afield – to the South Korean capital of Seoul – one of the biggest cities in the world and home to over half of the country’s inhabitants!
Our friendly Fotolia office in Seoul gave us a lightning tour of their beautiful city. A major center for technology, it’s also at the forefront of creativity and was UNESCO’s 2010 World Design Capital. Well done, Seoul!
Fotolia: So, for anyone lucky enough to visit Seoul, where should they go? Over to you, Fotolia Seoul…
Seoul: Thank you! Well, first of all, no trip to Seoul is complete without visiting the skyline-dominating, 777 foot tall Seoul Tower - the panoramic views of the city are breathtaking!
The only way to improve the experience is to travel there on the Namsan cable car. The birds-eye view of the city gives a taste of what to expect from the observatory deck of the Tower. And if you’re visiting with a loved one, it’s traditional to hang a named padlock on the Tower’s fence as a symbol of your love.
If you want to really get high in Seoul then head to the 63 Building, a skyscraper that’s 817 feet high. As the name suggests, it’s 63 stories high – and the 60th floor observation deck even hosts the world’s tallest art gallery, known as the ‘Sky Art Museum’.
If 63 floors are too much for you, do ensure you catch a glimpse of this impressive structure at sunset. With glass windows made from a reflective golden material, when the sun catches the exterior it’s a spectacle you’ll remember forever.
Seoul might be an urban metropolis, but its open spaces still impress. Cheonggyecheon is a vast recreation space in downtown Seoul built on the river of its namesake. Amazingly, prior to the 2003 restoration process it was buried beneath tonnes of concrete, hidden from the city’s eyes.
Take a leisurely stroll down the stream and you’ll see 22 beautifully built bridges, tiered fountains, and lighting features. You’ll pass many of the city’s major attractions along the way such as the Deoksugung Palace, and the Seoul Plaza, and at night the city’s many lights can be seen reflected in the stream.
Sadly, Korea has seen much conflict, and the War Memorial of Korea is a poignant reminder of these. Built on the former army headquarters, it comprises of a huge indoor and outdoor exhibition center displaying over 13,000 items of military significance – the largest collection of its kind in the world!
Seoul is a haven for shopaholics; fortunately, the best places shopping areas are worth visiting even if you’ve “accidentally” left your credit card at home!
The upmarket and trendy area of Garosu-Gil translates as ‘Tree-lined Street’ but is often known as ‘Artists Street’. Known for its cool boutiques, bars, and restaurants, there’s also plenty of art and live music to be enjoyed in the vicinity.
Gyeongbokgung Palace will give a vivid sense of Seoul’s rich history; built in 1395 during the Joseon Dynasty, it’s an immense palace that will leave you in awe on every scale: its large size and small ornate detailing.
Changdeokgung Palace was built in 1405, ten years after Gyeongbokgung Palace, and was home to many of the Joseon Kings. The building is a beautiful structure, and highlights the unadulterated power Korean royalty had in this era.
Sadly, like many of Seoul’s palaces, Changdeokgung Palace was destroyed after a public uprising in 1592; it was rebuilt in 1609, but burnt down again in 1623. Despite this, it has remained remarkably true to its original form.
But for natural splendor, visit the ‘Rear Garden’, built to provide an area of tranquility for members of the royal household. There are over 26,000 different species of trees in the garden, and one particular tree is over 300 years old.
Namsangol Hanok Village is an oddity – a traditional village located in the center of Seoul! It’s been preserved for visitors to stroll through and gain an understanding of the city’s roots. Comprising five houses and a pavilion next to a pond, it highlights differences between ‘old’ and ‘new’ Seoul.
The five houses in the village are all different, each representing the home of one social class, ranging from peasant to royalty. Each is decorated true to the styles and means of each class during the Joseon era (which spanned five centuries, from 1392 to 1897) complete with the possessions and furniture they would have contained.
Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul is a hybrid display of Korean and international art from both past and present. Comprised of two museums, the first houses traditional Korean art, while the second has both Korean and international contemporary pieces.
The buildings, designed by internationally acclaimed architects Mario Botta, Jean Nouvel, and Rem Koolhaas, are worth a visit all by themselves, and their location in the trendy Itaewon district is perfect. Itaewon is renowned for its selection of local and international cuisine, giving you the chance to regain your energy after absorbing all the riches of the museum.
Seoul is such a colorful and vibrant city, it can overwhelm you, so take a moment to chill out after a day’s sightseeing by visiting Jongno-Gu (Top Cloud). Its’ 33rd floor restaurant offers even more breathtaking views of a city already replete with breathtaking views!
And finally, for a real taste of Korean culture, head down to a Norae Bang for karaoke, where you can rent a private room by the hour and sing your heart out. That’s how Koreans relax!
Catch a little glimpse of some of those breathtaking views right now – we’ve put together a gallery of the sights of Seoul as seen by Fotolia contributors. Enjoy!