The capital of South Korea, Seoul has emerged in recent decades as one of the most modern and economically thriving cities in the world. One of Asia’s most bustling urban centres, Seoul is far more than a giant business district, with a rich, distinct cultural identity and several hundreds of years of history.
One of Seoul’s most recognisable landmarks, Gyeongbokgung dates back to the end of the 14th Century. The main palace of the Jose Dynasty, it served as the ruling family’s main residence and administrative centre. Despite incurring significant damage over the centuries, particularly during the Imjin War of the late 16th Century and during the early 20th Century, the Palace remains a major historical icon of South Korea. One of the most beautiful buildings in the country, the Palace has been converted into a museum in recent years and is one of the city’s most significant tourist attractions.
One of Seoul’s most vital and enduring institutions, Namdaemun Market’s history stretches back as far as the early 15th Century. Both the oldest and largest market in Korea, Namdaemun has something to cater to all tastes. Both a thriving retail destination and home to some of the city’s finest street food stalls, there are few better places to glean an authentic impression of the city’s culture.
Korea Furniture Museum
The city’s most unique and beautiful museum, the Korea Furniture Museum may not seem like an essential destination, but it is one of Seoul’s greatest hidden gems. Specialising in traditional furniture, the museum has an estimated 2500 distinct pieces in its collection which rotate regularly. A passion project of a University professor, which draws from his own collection, the museum is also known for its idyllic setting.
One of the most historically significant Buddhist temples in South Korea, Bongeunsa dates back to the end of the 15th Century. Despite the Joseon Dynasty’s hostility to the religion, the temple’s construction coincided with a revival under Queen Jeonghyeon. Despite incurring repeated damages over the centuries, for which it undergoes near-constant refurbishments, the temple remains a major tourist attraction in the present day due to its historical significance and programs.
Bukhansan National Park
One of the most beautiful natural destinations in Seoul, this is a perfect place for those seeking a respite from the hectic pace of the city. A peaceful escape, the park is known for its beautiful mountainous views and plentiful hiking trails. Furthermore, it is well known for housing the Bukhansanseong, a major fortress stretching back several hundreds of years to the early 2nd Century. A major battleground during a number of conflicts including the Imjin War, this is one of the city’s most historically significant sites set against the backdrop of one of the country’s most naturally beautiful places.
main image: courtesy of Republic of Korea, Flickr Creative Commons