Travel

The Seoul-ful side of South Korea

Contrary to what some might think, it does not take a Korean film or music fanatic to enjoy the wonders of Seoul. The capital city of South Korea cradles a rich cultural heritage at the heart of its buzzing metropolis.

Seoul onlinePhoto: Flickr/golbenge

Relics of dynasties past can still be seen around Seoul, the most prominent ones of which are the “Five Grand Palaces”. Gyeongbukgung is the oldest of the lot and was the main palace in the 14th century. Here you can watch the changing of the guards or check out the National Museum and the National Folk Museum, both within the palace walls.

Changdeokgung, however, remains the favourite of the five palaces, both by royal families of the Joseon dynasty, and by visitors today. It is the most well-preserved of the palaces, earning its place as a Unesco World Heritage Site. The gardens surrounding it are gorgeous, serene and often commended for its harmonious atmosphere.

Also located within the same district is the Insadong Street. Where once was a hub for artists now stands art galleries and shops that specialised goods, such as ceramics, teas and even the hanji, the nation’s traditional wear. Although it is often filled with tourists, it is still a good place to shop for unusual souvenirs.

Foodies would be able to find street food in Insadong, but you should head over to Gwangjang Market, the oldest marketplace in Seoul. A hot spot for its local delicacies, it would be worth tasting the bibimbap (rice mixed with other seasonings), bindaetteok (mung bean pancake) or have tteokbokki (fried rice cakes) with soju (Korean rice liquor), the way the locals like their late night snack.

There are of course many other places and modern landmarks to visit in Seoul. For a more cultural experience though, the historical sites, the palaces and the lovely little streets would be a good way to explore South Korea’s past and the local scenes.

19/03/2013

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