Seoul: the city where modernity meets tradition

Seoul city, the capital of South Korea, is a dynamic metropolis where modern skyscrapers, big shopping malls, global corporations offices, and bustling streets meet up with ancient palaces, tranquil temples, rapidly expanding green spaces, and traditional street markets. 

Where to find history and traditions in Seoul?

Ancient Palaces

Seoul is a home to “Five Grand Palaces” built in late 14th —17th centuries by the Joseon ruling dynasty. Palaces are marvelous examples of the Korean architectural style. The most interesting ones are Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung.

Hyangwonjeong Pavilion of Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul, South Korea.
Hyangwonjeong Pavilion of Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace was the main royal palace, but it was seriously damaged during the Imjin War (1592–98) and the Empire of Japan period (1868–1947). The palace was reconstructed to its original form later.

Gyeonghoeru Pavilion of Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul, South Korea
Gyeonghoeru Pavilion of Gyeongbokgung Palace

Changdeokgung Palace, the most beautiful of five, was listed as the UNESCO World Heritage Site for its “outstanding architecture and garden design”. Changdeokgung was the second palace first, but later it had been established as a primary palace while Gyeongbokgung was damaged.

Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul, South Korea
Changdeokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁): locationinformation
Changdeokgung Palace (창덕궁): location, information

National Museum of Korea

The National Museum of Korea is the biggest and the most representative museum in the country. It holds the wast collection of historical and cultural Korean treasures. It is one of the largest and most visited museums in Asia. The museum is hosted in the spectacular contemporary building surrounded by a park. The museum is open daily, and permanent exhibitions are free to visit.

National Museum of Korea, Seoul, South Korea
National Museum of Korea

National Museum of Korea (국립중앙박물관): locationinformation, free admission

Bongeunsa Temple

Leafy grounds of this ancient Buddhist temple is the island of tranquility amidst energized Gangnam district. The temple is located on the slope of Sudo Mountain with splendid views to the city.

Beautiful rows of lanterns in Bongeunsa Temple
Beautiful rows of lanterns in Bongeunsa Temple
Bongeunsa Temple, Seoul, South Korea
Bongeunsa Temple

Bongeunsa Temple (봉은사): location, free admission

Gwangjang Market

Gwangjang Market is one of the oldest traditional street markets in Korea. Here, on the narrow crowded lines with hundreds of stalls,  you may soak up the buzzing atmosphere of an old Asian street market and try local favorites sitting on a tight bench just before a cooking vendor.

Food stalls at Gwangjang Market, Seoul, South Korea
Food stalls at Gwangjang Market
Korean street food, Seoul
Korean street food

Gwangjang Market (광장시장): location

Hanok Villages

Hanok is a traditional Korean house. There are two places in Seoul where you may explore traditional houses: the Namsangol Hanok Village and the Bukchon Hanok Village.

Traditional house in the Namsangol Hanok Village
Traditional house in the Namsangol Hanok Village

The Namsangol Village is an open-air museum with restored Joseon-era houses, while the Bukchon is a residential area where people still live in traditional Hanok houses.

Namsangol Hanok Village (남산골 한옥마을): location, free admission
Bukchon Hanok Village (북촌한옥마을):  location, free admission

Where to explore modern Seoul?

Dongdaemun Design Plaza

The Dongdaemun Design Plaza DDP is a remarkable futuristic building designed by  Zaha Hadid. The Plaza is a cultural hub with exhibition spaces, retail stores, cafes mixed with remains of an ancient Seoul Fortress. The DDP is located in a popular shopping and touristic area called Dongdaemun.

The Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Seoul, South Korea
The Dongdaemun Design Plaza
Dongdaemun shopping area, Seoul, South Korea
Dongdaemun shopping area

Dongdaemun Design Plaza DDP (동대문디자인플라자): location

Seoul City Hall

Seoul City Hall is a modern building in which government moved in 2012 from an old city hall located nearby. The new building is an eco-friendly project in which part of energy comes from environmental energy sources: solar, geothermal, thermal and photovoltaic. The most popular attraction of the building is the huge Green Wall in the entrance hall,  the largest vertical garden in the world.

Seoul City Hall, Seoul, South Korea
Seoul City Hall

Seoul City Hall (서울특별시청): location, free admission

Cheonggyecheon Park

Cheonggyecheon Park is a result of the massive urban renewal project. The recreation area was created in the place of the highway which was elevated over the Cheonggyecheon stream.

Cheonggyecheon Park, Seoul, South Korea
Cheonggyecheon Park

Cheonggyecheon (청계천): location

Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain

A usual city bridge turns into the world’s longest bridge fountain several times a day from April to October. When the sun goes down, the fountain is illuminated with rainbow-colored lights accompanied with music.

Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain, Seoul, South Korea
Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain

Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain (반포대교 달빛무지개분수): location

Myeong-dong and Gangnam-gu

Myeong-dong is the main shopping district of Seoul. The lively neon-lighted streets of the area are crowded with shoppers day and night.

Crowded Myeong-dong street, Seoul, South Korea
Crowded Myeong-dong street

Gangnam-gu is the most wealthy district of Seoul with an extremely expensive real estate. It is also called “the Silicon Valley of Korea” due to the number of high-tech companies operating here.

Teheranno, the main street of Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Teheranno, the main street of Gangnam-gu

Myeong-dong (명동): location
Gangnam-gu (강남구): location

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Seoul city, the capital of South Korea, is a dynamic metropolis where modern skyscrapers, big shopping malls, global corporations offices, and bustling streets meet up with ancient palaces, tranquil temples, rapidly expanding green spaces, and traditional street markets. 

Photo credit: © Elena Ermakova, © Evgeny Ermakov. All rights reserved. Contact us here if you are interested in using our photos.