Seoul is a city that can be treated as perfect reflection of a new age Asia – one that has rich cultural history to highlight its glorious past and a world-class technology all around the city that reflects how it has transformed itself to a leading Asian country.
The palaces showcased the history well, though would add that the aplomb display of wealth in Indian or Persian palaces is not what you’d feel through the Korean palaces. But the majesticity does not shy away, for sure.
Not being much history people, we saw only two palaces which we thought were enough for the dosage of history we wanted. The Korean culture has evolved much from the days of history to the modern “Gangnam style” culture in parts of the country. If we go back to South Korea for vacation, we would like to see some history in other states and the Seoul Old city which we missed in this trip. Also, the Lotte Water park outside which we heard is good especially for those with kids.
A Royal palace, built in 1394, in Northern Seoul, the place is easy to reach being near city centre. Worth going there to explore history, the city centre (including the City Hall open area) etc, which is quite photogenic. We have many good pictures around that area. There is also a Folk museum inside and history museum just outside. Expect to spend around 2-4 hours at this place. We spent ~3-4 hours at this place.
Easy access via subway (train) or taxi, Namdaemun Market is popular among both local residents and visitors for its bargains in almost anything – clothes, food, accessories etc. The streets are bit crowded with tiny shops on both sides. Decent restaurants around while an outlet of the up-market chain Shinsegae is nearby. The mall has a great food court offering various cuisines.
We absolutely loved this tour and highly recommend it to anyone visiting Seoul. The tour is a good mix of history of North and South Korea, scenic journey of 1-2 hours from Seoul. There are multiple tour operators who were offering this tour at reasonable cost. Bargaining can be done.
Only drawback of taking these conducted tours – the guides also take you to expensive shops in between – don’t think they are worth shopping and are usually expensive. Ginseng products are especially marketed well. There are many stores in Seoul which offer same products for much less. Otherwise, the tours are excellent.
Photos from top: DMZ area, Dorasan Station which is last S. Korea station of their planned railway line to North Korea, entry to DMZ caves which were supposedly built secretly in the past… symbolizing the unification of the world
War Memorial of Korea
Theme being the historical Korean war of 1953-55 (and going on, technically), this is a worth-it place to visit, and we spent about 3-4 hours there, taking pics, looking around all the boy-toys of yesteryear. The place is easily accessible through the subway (Yongsan station) or taxi. We didn’t get to see the exhibition hall as it was already closed, but the outside models were a delight in themselves. Closes early evening, so plan it well.
Famous for electronics shopping. Easy access through subway. Overall location looks bit shabby while walking from the subway station (rare Seoul place to look bit that way). It’s at least 15-20min talk to get the to market (which looks like a big non-AC mall). Get ready for hard negotiations. We didn’t find great value for its products the place, but that is partially because in Hong Kong. We thought 1-2 hours is sufficient for the place. We took the subway back to City Hall for dinner.
With this our Seoul trip came to an end.. we look next day’s morning afternoon flight to Jeju Island.
Click here for our experience on getting to Jeju and more about Jeju Island.
Getting around using the Seoul subway…
The Seoul subway system is quite efficient and cheap mode to travel around the city. The only confusion we had was that there are quite a number of lines so there is a tiny scope of being confused as to which line to take for the desired station. Also, there are still some stations (as of 2010) that are not air conditioned so even though there are fans and vents to allow the air circulation inside the stations, it still felt suffocating sometimes especially when in the afternoon period. I hear though, the renovation work for turning most, if not all stations to AC powered is being done.
That said, the overall experience was great and worth it. Anyways, the best way to get the feel of a city is living like a local. And in a city like Seoul, seems that is still as easy as it can get 🙂
The airport line is different than usual city line but well inter-connected at certain stations. Makes travel to domestic and especially international airport at Incheon easy and remarkably cheaper than other modes
Click here to see Jeju experiences…