Seoul has been Korea's center of politics, economy, culture and transportation for over six centuries since King Taejo moved to the city in 1394. With a current population of over 10 million residents, nearly a fifth of South Korea’s entire population resides here. The number of foreign residents in Seoul stood at some 115,000, about 1.1% of Seoul's population in 2004.
Both traditional and modern features coexist in Seoul. The most interesting sightseeing spots in Seoul are undoubtedly its royal palaces. They are easy to access wherever you are in downtown Seoul. If you are interested in shopping, Myeongdong, Namdaemun & Dongdaemun Markets and Insadong areas are well known and popular to the foreign visitors.
The present site of Seoul on the banks of the Hangang River has long been important as a key location on the Korean Peninsula. In general, Seoul is bisected by the Hangang River – Kangbuk (north of the River) and Kangnam (south of the River). Many of the political and administration buildings, including many of the historical districts are located in Kangbuk area. And much of the new nightlife, business and financial districts are located in Kangnam. The Hangang River that runs through the center of Seoul provides a retreat from the high-rises of the city. There are more than ten riverside parks along the Hangang River.
Seoul preserves numerous relics of the Joseon Dynasty: royal palaces, gates and other historic remains. At the same time, Seoul has risen as a global landmark of modernity, with many must-see attractions: COEX, Seoul Tower, 63 Building, Lotte World, etc.
Traditional Culture Areas
Gyeongbokgung and Insadong Area
Gyeongbokgung Palace was the representative royal palace during the Joseon Dynasty. Insadong is a street lined with galleries, foikcraft stores, and restaurants where you can get a genuine feel of traditional Korea.
Jongmyo and Changgyeonggung Area
Jongmyo, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage, is a royal shrine preserving the ancestral tablets of the kings and queens of Joseon Dynasty. Changgyeonggung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace, which stand across from each other, reveal the characteristics of a traditional Korean garden.
Bukchon and Unhyeongung Area
Bukchon, a village with a long tradition, has been considered a propitious site since the Joseon (or spelled Chosun) Dynasty. Around 900 Korean traditional houses with beautiful roof tiles are lined up along the old alleyways in Bukchon.
Streets of Modern History
Jeongdong and Deoksungung Area
The stonewall-lined street near Jeongdong and Deoksungung Palace is popular as a romantic date route for young couples. This site, however, was the stage of many tragic incidences in Korea's tumultuous history during the late Joseon Dynasty.
Historical and Ecological Sites
Cheonggyecheon Stream, hidden under thick pavement for decades, has recently been restored. In the Cheonggyecheon route, you can have pleasure at the 'eight attractions of Cheonggyecheon', learn the history of the stream, and partake in open-air cultural events like mimes and performing arts by buskers. In addition, you can enjoy shopping at nearby large scaled fashion malls and markets.
Streets of Youth
Dubbed "the mecca of Korea's Cultural Performances", Daehangno provides a vibrant scene of new cultural trends including music, theater, movies, etc. The street, filled with the energy of youth, offers a great cultural experience.
Namdaemun Market, with a 600-year-old history, is one of the most popular sightseeing soots among foreign visitors. It gives every visitor the opportunity to get acquainted with the daily lives of Seoul citizens.
Myeongdong is renowned as a street of fashion and shoppers' paradise. You can see various street vendors and trendy youths.
Established in 1395 as the official residence of the founder of the dynasty, this palace is regarded as the finest techniques of the age and the most representative remaining example of Joseon Dynasty architecture.
Chang Deok Gung Palace
The palace is the best preserved of Seoul's major palaces, and has been designated as a world heritage site by UNESCO. To protect the cultural properties, only guided tours are permitted.
Deok Su Gung Palace
The palace was the residence of King Gojong(1896-1919). The Royal Guard Changing Ceremony is also reenacted in front of Daehanmun Gate of the palace everyday, except Mondays.
Chang Gyeong Gung Palace
This palace, originally built for the father of King Sejong, was used by dowager queens. It is surrounded by a thick forest and connected to the Jongmyo Royal Shrine by the footbridge. Visitors can enjoy both the palace and the shrine with a same ticket.
Un Hyeon Gung
This was a private residence of the father of King Gojong who was born and grew up here until he reached the age of 12. The Wedding Ceremony of King Gojong and Queen Myeongseong is reenacted here on the last Saturday of every April and October.
Gyeon Hui Gung
Originally, this palace accommodated more than 100 buildings, but most of them were demolished by the Japanese. The palace is being restored now and will be completed within 2006. The Seoul Museum of History is in the vicinity of the palace.