Guide to Seoul, Capital Of South Korea
Situated in northwest South Korea in the centre of the korean-peninsula, this bustling Alpha World City and 2010 World Design Capital award winner, situated on the banks of the magestic River Han ranks as one of the world's largest cities both in area and population.
Home to such iconic businesses as Samsung, LG and Hyundai - Kia and the iconic modern structures of 63 Building and the Samsung Tower Palace, this city has earned more awards for the advancement of modern technology than any other in the world, but has still managed to retain it's cultural elegance and natural beauty owing to it's four UNESCO World Heritage Sites and numerousl religious shrines and royal palaces.
Unlike it's sister capital pyongyang-capital-of-north-korea, Seoul is easy to gain access to and you are free to roam at will as a tourist.
If you are flying into Soeul you will arrive at it's Incheon International Airport, a tourist attraction in it's own right owing to it's many features and services such as an onsite golf course, spa, casino, gardens, museum and private sleeeping rooms, all of which has earned the airport the title of Best in the World by the International Airports Council, consecutively every year since 2005.
Travelling from the airport into downtown Seoul is also a pleasure as this rambling 605.25 sq km city is serviced by one of the most technically advanced rail and road systems in the world.
Once you arrive at this great metropolis which is home to 17.2 million people, the attractions that await you are bountiful, irreguardless as to whether you are an Asian culture vulture or a fan of the futuristic, as Seoul can effortlessly cater to both.
The Han River.
The city is divided into 25 districts or Gu most of which are the size of a small city in their own right, all of which house at least one tourist attraction or landmark.
The city as a whole is a mecca to shopping via it's 6 large outdoor markets and myriad of smaller local street venues, the sprawling Myeongdong Shopping Area and a wealth of upscale department stores which are located throughout the city.
It's nightlife is ledgendary, by way of a maelstrom of bars and nightclubs, not to mention it's hundreds of local and foreign cuisine restaurants and hot food street vendors.
As a whole the city is considered a very safe place to travel to with violent street crime and muggings relatively unheard of.
One thing to remember however, is to always have your passport on your person at all times when out and about in Seoul as the police can and will stop you and ask to see identification if there has been any trouble concerning a foreign national in the local area.
The climate of the city is classified as humid continental giving rise to very hot and humid Summers, cold dry Winters ( unusual considering the city is surrounded by water ) and a monsoon season during the months of June and July.
Owing to the size of the city, it has in the past been considered rather heavilly polluted from all the thousands of vehicles that traverse throughout the city both during the day and night, but the government has undertaken to clean up it's air in recent months, quite dispelling the myth that one needs to walk around wearing a face mask in order to protect oneself from exhaust fumes.
TOP - North Seoul Tower and Bampo Bridge.
MIDDLE - Namdaemun and Gangnam district.
BOTTOM - 63 Building and Samsung Tower Palace.
ATTRACTIONS OF SEOUL.
The city is divided by the mighty River Han and is situated on low lying plains of the same name, which are surrounded by eight different mountain ranges.
This gives the city a wealth of open spaces and parkland and plenty of outdoor areas for hikers and nature lovers.
There are at least nine large parks and 4 amusemant parks within the Seoul environs as well as many outdoor areas for local cultural events and sporting venues.
The city is also home to 4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a myriad of museums and cultural venues depicting the city's various stages throughout it's eventful history.
Designated a world heritage site in 1997 the Grand Palace at Changdeokgung was the most favoured palace of the Joseon Dynasty princes with it's origins dating back to 1411.
The palace is situated in 78 acres of parkland which is home to 26,000 natural plants and a stunning waterfall.
Designated a world heritage site in 1997 the fortress / castle and old city walls of Hwaseong which were built along the banks of the River Suwoncheon date back to the late 1700's.
Designated a world heritage site in 1995, Jongmyo is the oldest preserved Confucian shrine in Korea, dating back to 1392.
The Royal Tombs.
Designated a world heritage site in 2009 the Royal Tombs are situated at 18 seperate locations around Seoul, and are the royal buriel tombs of the Joseon Dynasty, dating back to 1392.
The Korean Folk Village.
Is a living museum that depicts all aspects of traditional Korean life and culture and includes an amusement park, restaurants and a world folk museum which depicts art and cultures from other parts of the world.
A totally absorbing venue with exhibitions ranging from Korean dress and cuisine to farming methods, as well as entertainment from local dance troups, singers and martial arts displays.
Yet another Joseung royal residence that has it's origins in the 1300's, but has been extensively rebuilt over the years.The site also features the Duksung Womens University which shares part of the royal grounds.
Museum of Korean culture.
Built as part of the new airport complex at Incheon International Airport, the museum is packed with cultural artifacts and artwork from some of Korea's most talented artisans. The indoor site also features a full size pagoda.
This 63 storey building built in 1985 and now officially called 63 City, is the iconic masterpiece built to celebrate the Miracle of the Han River, the term used to symbolise Seoul's rapid economic growth over the last 50 years.
It's lower floor houses 90 stores, a theatre and an aquarium, with it's subsequent floors used as office suites, but it's crowning glory is it's observation deck at the building's pinnacle, 249m above the streets of Seoul, that enables visitors to see the whole of the city laid out below.
The Namsan Tower and Mount Park, Mount Mongmyeok
This 236m high communications and observation tower was built in 1969 and is situated on Namsan Mountain or Mount Mongmyeok to give it it's official title.
The 262m high mount features a public park and public cable cars which along with the tower,offers stunning panoramic views of Seoul and it's surrounding areas.
Samsung Tower Palace.
A group of 7 luxury residential towers completed in 2004 which are home to Seoul's super rich and celebrities.All the towers are at differing heights, with the tallest one being Korea's tallest building at 264m.
The complex is unique as everything about it is completely automated from it's digitally fingerprinted door security code to the blinds at the windows.
Situated at the top of each of the towers is a private helipad for the use of it's residents..
This bridge was built in 1982 and spans the River Han in downtown Seoul.it is unique as it has been built on top of another previous one, the Jamsu Bridge which was built in 1972.
In 2009 the bridge was fitted with the largest bridge fountain in the world, the Moonlight Rainbow Fountain.
At night this bridge cames alive with it's cascading torrents of coloured water and it's multi laned roadways of continual downtown traffic.
World Peace Gate, at Seoul's Olympic Park.
There are of course many more attractions within Seoul and it's environs, too many to fit into just one article, from ancient, majestic palaces and Confucian shrines of the peninsula-'s former, once united kingdom to the most technologically advanced, futuristic structures on the planet, all derived of a unique habitat, history and culture unlike any of it's other east Asian neighbours.
MORE ARTICLES ABOUT KOREA BY THE SAME AUTHOR.
© D.B.Bellamy. April 2010.
All images courtesy of wikimedia commons.