South Korea Seoul, with its population of 25 million residents spread out over the greater metropolitan area, is cutting-edge cool. The city plays as hard as it works, with a determination to seize the day, and its nightlife is known to extend into the early hours of the morning.
Forging an impressive path into the future, Seoul is home to some of Asia’s oldest communities, where thousand-year-old Buddhist temples, hi-tech subways, pop culture, palaces, and street markets are all part of everyday life. It is said to have the best Internet connection in the world, with WiFi available in the metropolis.
Divided into two halves by the tree-lined Han River, Ganbuk in the north and Gangnam in the south, the city’s historic core is the Jongno District, and the traditional Bukchon Hanok Village that dates back almost 600 years and is home to hundreds of traditional Korean hanok homes.
The city’s celebrated past can be enjoyed at its stately royal palaces, where the country’s royalty resided until Korea’s occupation by Japan in the early 20th century. The largest palace, Gyeongbokgung, is as old as the capital itself. A sprawling network of pavilions, passageways, and courtyards, it is said to have more than 7,000 rooms.
Its eastern counterpart, Changdeokgung, is a quintessential expression of traditional Korean architecture, with sculpted gardens, ponds, and pagodas offering tranquillity within the city’s urban sprawl. Officially the largest traditional market in Korea, Namdaemun Market houses more than 10,000 stores selling everything from traditional oriental medicine to cheap Korean treats.
Gangnam is the most famous Seoul district – likely as a result of the catchy song “Gangnam Style” — and one of the most expensive areas to live in. Designer stores, upscale restaurants, and medical tourism dominate there, with many foreign tourists flocking to reserve procedures with some of the best plastic surgeons in Asia.
For the conscious traveller, Seoul’s citywide bike-share system, set up in 2015 along the Han River, now has thousands of bikes for rent across the city. An excellent way to explore the city, especially taking to the scenic tree-lined bike lanes next to the Han river.
The city was previously called Hanyang and Gyeongseongbu and was renamed Seoul in 1945, when it was freed from Japanese occupation.
She’d never forgotten their last night in Seoul, or above it in fact, surveying the city lights from atop Namsan Mountain. ― Giacomo Lee, Funereal
** This post forms part of my 100x Magical Places series which offers an introduction to my favourite destinations.
** Pics sourced.