Seoul, South Korea

This vibrant city mixes castles, temples, cutting-edge design, and mountain paths to a relentless K-Pop beat. It is both fashion- and technology-forward and also deeply traditional.

Seoul has made a lot of effort over the past 10 years to soften its harsh industrial edges and create an appealing urban ideal of parks, culture, and design. At the magnificent Dongdaemun Design Plaza & Park and City Hall, glass, concrete, and steel are sculpted into natural forms. More parks and bike paths have been built as a result of the popularity of the beautifully designed parks next to the Han River and the central Cheong-gye stream. Join Seoul residents as they spend time browsing chic boutiques and sipping drinks at hip cafes and social bars.

From any of Seoul’s four guardian mountains, you can see this huge metropolis of around 10 million people, and you can feel the strong pungsu-jiri (feng shui) that has long fostered and protected the city. The “Miracle on the Han,” a phoenix that rose from the ashes of the Korean War, has a strong hold on history. While Seoul has its sights set firmly on the future, you can still find fascinating traces of the city’s past at World Heritage-listed locations like the Jongmyo Shrine, in the narrow lanes that connect Bukchon’s exquisite hanok, and while strolling along the beautiful Seoul City Wall.

Seoul can satisfy your needs at any hour of the day or night. A trip to a temple in the early morning may be followed by a palace tour, tea-drinking in Bukchon, and gallery-hopping in Samcheong-dong. You can get the energy you need for shopping in the bustling Dongdaemun or Namdaemun night markets, partying in Hongdae or Itaewon, or singing in a self-service karaoke noraebang by enjoying soju (a vodka-like beverage) and snacks at a street tent bar. After that, relax in a jjimjilbang by steaming, bathing, and sleeping there (sauna and spa). When you check your watch, it will once more be daybreak.

There is no justification for not expanding your travel horizons outside the city borders given how excellent public transportation is. The terrifying Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which separates South from North Korea, has a strong allure and makes for an interesting day excursion. At the close of the 19th century, the modern world flooded into Korea through the wonderful port city of Incheon, whose Chinatown and waterfront are still a fascinating fusion of cultures today. In Suwon, to the south, King Jeongjo’s spectacular defences that are part of the World Heritage List wind for 3.5 miles (5.7 km) past regal gates and pavilions.


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