With just over 600 km² of area, Seoul is a modern metropolis with an ancient and rich history. This capital city of South Korea has a staggering population of over 10.5 million people and the numbers grow each day. Attracted by the rapid development and promises of a better life, many South Koreans flood the city from rural towns and neighboring cities. Besides being the largest city, Seoul is unquestionably the economic, political and cultural hub of the country. By some measures it is considered the second largest urban agglomeration on the planet, after Greater Tokyo. Previously overshadowed by its neighbors, Shanghai and Tokyo, Seoul is becoming a popular destination for travelers. Seoul is an exciting destination in its own right, more affordable than its neighbors and very safe. With beautiful palaces stemming from a rich history, great cuisine and a shopping nightlife, Seoul is a great way to experience the Asia of old and new. If you are planning a visit to this megacity, we have a list for you. A list of attractions, places to see and things to do. We start this week with a list of places you must visit:
Gyeongbokgung Palace: Built in the beginning of the Chosun Dynasty when the Yi Dynasty moved the capital to Seoul in 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace is also commonly referred to as the “Northern Palace” because of its location (situated in the North) The Koreans like to refer to their palaces by its location: Changdeokgung (Eastern Palace) and Gyeongheegung (Western Palace). Out of all the palaces, Gyeongbokgung Palace is arguably the most beautiful and remains the grandest of all five palaces. This majestic palace was destroyed by fire during the Japanese invasion from 1592-1598 and was left in ruins for over 250 years. However during the reign of King Gojong (1852-1919), all of the palace’s 7,700 rooms were restored.
Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty – The Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty form a collection of 40 tombs scattered over 18 locations. Built from 1408 to 1966, the tombs honoured the memory of ancestors, showed respect for their achievements, asserted royal authority, protected ancestral spirits from evil and provided protection from vandalism. The royal tombs have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The location of the burial sites are very important, they typically have their back protected by a hill as they face south toward water and, ideally, layers of mountain ridges in the distance. The royal tombs feature a ceremonial area and an entrance and in addition to the burial mounds, tombs include a T-shaped wooden shrine, a shed for stele, a royal kitchen and a guards’ house, a red-spiked gate and the tomb keeper’s house. The burial grounds are often adorned on the exterior with a range of stone artifacts including figures of people and animals.
The Joseon Tombs completes the 5,000 year history of royal tombs architecture in the Korean peninsula. Visiting all 40 tombs is pretty much impossible so we recommend going to Donggureung Tomb Cluster. Although not in Seoul, we recommend taking a day trip out to visit arguably the most famous royal tombs. This cluster of tombs represents the best sample of royal family group tombs from the Joseon Dynasty. Seven kings and ten queens are interred in nine neung-type tombs. Notable tombs in this group include the Geonwolleung tomb (건원릉) for King Taejo, the founder of the Joseon Dynasty. Situated on the west bank of the Wangsukcheon Stream in the city of Guri, Gyeonggi Province, the Gyeongneung tomb (경릉) holds the remains of King Hyeonjong, who ruled from 1834 to 1849, and his wives Queen Hyohyeon and Queen Hyojeong.
Bukchon Village – This picturesque neighborhood is flanked by two palaces — Gyeongbok Palace to the west and Changdeok Palace to the east — this village has the largest cluster of privately owned traditional Korean wooden homes (hanok) in Seoul. The name, ‘Bukchon,’ (northern village) came about as the neighborhoods that the village covers lie to the north of the two significant Seoul landmarks, Cheonggyecheon Stream and Jongno. Visitors can view beautifully restored architectural features like small courtyards, decorative outer walls and dark tiled roofs. The neighborhood is also home to quaint cafés, art galleries and restaurants. Many of these hanoks operate as cultural centers, guesthouses, restaurants and tea houses giving visitors an excellent opportunity to experience, learn and immerse in Korean traditional culture.
Located in the middle of the city, Insa-dong (인사동) is a traditional street well known to both locals and foreigners. Insa-dong’s main road has alleys on each side and within these alleys are art galleries, traditional restaurants, traditional teahouses, and cafes. Insa-dong is a very popular with people from all age groups because there is something for everyone. Home to about forty percent of the art in Korea, this area has about 100 galleries in the where you can see every facet of Korean art from traditional Korean fine art from paintings to sculptures. Every Sunday from 10:00 – 22:00, certain streets are blocked off from traffic and the area transforms into a cultural space with traditional performances and exhibits. Shops bring their businesses outside. setting up booths on the streets while others set up stalls selling Korean candy and fortune telling services.
For your trip to Seoul, consider staying at any one of our two properties: Fraser Suites Seoul or Fraser Place Central, Seoul. Fraser Suites Seoul is our luxury property in Seoul comprising of 213 fully-furnished gold-standard suites ranging from one to four bedroom apartments to luxurious penthouses. Fraser Suites Seoul is reputedly the first serviced residence in the world to have a rooftop golf driving range, giving you the prefect opportunity to work on that golf swing. Centrally located in Insadong, Fraser Suites Seoul is surrounded by many historic sites dating back hundreds of years including temples, palaces and fortresses, and is only an hour away from Incheon International Airport.
Fraser Place Central is one of the most luxuriously-appointed serviced residences in South Korea offering a seamless blend of professional yet personalized service, comfort and convenience for you and your family. Featuring an indoor swimming pool, jet pool and an extensively-equipped fitness club with steam and dry sauna facilities that offers hot and cold baths, Fraser Place Central Seoul is the ideal retreat within the city. Available and located on the lobby level is also Union Square, a 360 sq metres all-day brasserie, offering the finest fusion cuisine with the option of an indoor or al fresco dining.
For the discerning business travellers, Frasers’ award-winning concept of business and meeting facility – The Retreat is also available and comes complete with body massage chairs. Located in the Kangbuk area, the primary business and culture centre of Seoul, is also adjacent to the “Embassy” district and west of the central business district (CBD) zone, where many of the city’s largest corporations and Government ministries are headquartered.