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Seoul, South Korea

Introduction

Seoul is the capital of South Korea and is the largest city with a population of over 10.5 million. Greater Seoul is the second largest urban area in the world after Greater Tokyo.

The city is located in the north-western portion of South Korea approximately 40 kilometers east of the Yellow Sea and 60 kilometers south of the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Seoul is roughly bisected by the Han River which runs east to west across the city.

Seoul was founded in the 14th century and was the capital of Korea (north and south) before its occupation by the Japanese and subsequent division following World War II. Since 1948, Seoul has been the capital of South Korea. The city was occupied by Communist troops during the Korean War.

Travel to Seoul

Jongno-gu is the historical centre of the city and lies on the north side of the Han River. The area hosts Insa-dong which is a popular street area for shopping and within walking distance of many of Seoul's historic cultural landmarks. Yeoui-do is an island in the Han River with skyscrapers, the National Assembly and the Seoul Stock Exchange. Gangnam-gu is an area south of the river that is modern, Seoul's most popular area for tourists and hosts many large western-style hotels. Jung-gu rests to the south of City Hall and is where you'll find the Namsan Tower. Nearby is Itaewon home to dozens of international restaurants, numerous shops selling everything from custom-tailored suits to antiques, and several Western pubs and bars. Hongdae and Sinchon are located west of Seoul Station and are most frequented by college students and foreigners. The area features hundreds of restaurants, bars, and night clubs. Yongsan-gu is home to the US Army Military Base as well as one of the largest electronics markets in the world. Songpa-gu is where you'll find Lotte World, Olympic Park, and Seoul (Jamsil) Sports Complex and is one of the richest districts in Seoul.


Incheon International Airport (ICN) is the main international airport for South Korea. Nearly all international flights to Seoul land in South Korea's 3rd-largest city (Incheon) west of the Seoul. This is one of the best designed and modern airports in the world. Passengers can access free Internet terminals in the transit zone. South Korea's Incheon International Airport, which features a museum, a golf course and driving range, a casino, fine dining, and department stores, has been named the top airport in a survey of the world's best airports.

Limousine buses are the best option for foreign tourists and are located outside 1st floor arrivals and travel directly to major areas and stop near many hotels in Seoul. Consult the maps or ask the ticket sellers which bus goes to your hotel. The limousine bus drivers will not speak English but upcoming stops are announced in English. [KRW9,000]

AREX train link to Gimpo Airport runs every 12 minutes taking 30-35 minutes which is faster and cheaper than by bus. [KRW3,200]

Subway starts at Gimpo Airport and travels into Seoul. Visitors can take the AREX train to Gimpo Airport and change to the subway train.

Taxi direct to Seoul will cost around KRW40-60,000.


Gimpo International Airport (GMP) services domestic flights within South Korea and the shuttle flights to Tokyo (Haneda) and Shanghai (Hongqiao).

Subway - Gimpo Airport is easily reached on subway Line 5 (KRW1400 and 50 minutes to downtown)

AREX train link to Incheon Airport runs every 12 minutes taking 30-35 minutes which is faster and cheaper than by bus. [KRW3,200]

Taxi to central Seoul costs around KRW30,000.

Seoul Transport

Seoul Travel

Subway is the most convenient and cheapest way to explore Seoul. Seouls extensive subway system is easy to use with signs in English and Korean. Tickets can be purchased from ticket counters or vending machines. Hold onto your ticket until the end of your trip, as you'll need it to exit the train station. There is a stored value contactless smart card (T-money) available at most subway stations, kiosks and convenience stores. The card itself costs KRW2500 and cash can be deposited onto the card as required. Fares charged to the card can be slightly cheaper than purchasing a ticket. When entering and exiting a subway station, place the card on the reader (leaving it inside your purse or wallet will work) and it deducts the appropriate fare from the card.

Taxis are inexpensive and convenient in Seoul. Many drivers do not speak English so have your destination written in Korean by your hotel or a friend. Drivers will not be able to understand a map in English. Carry your hotel's business card in case you get lost.

Bus services are extensive and inexpensive in Seoul. However, all destinations are writen in Korean, passengers must have the exact fare and the driver will not speak English. The buses have a route number which is also displayed at the bus stops but it is recommended to have your destination written in Korean to show the driver. Airport buses are available from many hotels and major spots in Seoul. These buses make few stops, are comfortable, cheaper than a taxi and your hotel can assist you with an Airport Bus.

Seoul Attractions

Gyeongbok-gung Palace Seoul Travel Yulgukno (Metro Gyeongbokgung) was the first palace used by the Joseon Dynasty and Seoul's grandest Joseon Dynasty-era palace for many centuries before a Japanese invasion in 1592. The palace has undergone extensive restoration. The grounds house the Joseon Palace Museum and the Korean Folk Museum. [KRW3000, 9am-5pm daily except Tuesday].

Changdeok-gung Palace Jongno-gu (Metro Line 3, Anguk station or Line 1, 3, 5 Jongno-ga Station) was built in 1405 and was the seat of power between 1618 and 1896. The buildings have all been restored and listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Access to the complex is by guided tour only [English tours 11:30am, 1:30pm and 3:30pm KRW3,000 for 90 minutes, closed Mondays].

Deoksu-gung Palace (metro City Hall). Is located in downtown Seoul across the street from City Hall. Built during the fifteenth century, the architecture is a fusion of both Korean and Western architecture. [Closed Mondays, Admission Adults (19-64) KRW1000, child (7-18) KRW500, child 6 and under, seniors 65+ free].

Changgyeong-gung Palace (metro line 4, Hyehwa Station 10 minute walk) was built in 1104 as a summer palace for the Kings of the Koryo Dynasty, it became one of the main palaces during the Joseon Dynasty. It is famous as this palace connects to Jongmyo Shrine, a holy place for the Joseon Dynasty, where sacrificial rites are practiced for previous kings and queens. [Closed Tuesdays, Admission Adults (19-64): KRW1,000, Child (7-18) KRW500, Child 6 and under, seniors 65+ free].

Geyonghui-gung Palace (metro line 5, Seodaemun Station). Was built in the 17th century, it was burnt down twice in the 19th century and it was largely destroyed by the Japanese during the occupation. It was finally restored in 1985 and opened to the public. [Free admission].

Seoul Tower (Namsan Tower) Seoul Tower (metro line 4, Myeong-dong Station, walk to cable car) Once the tallest tower in Asia (built on a hill), the observation decks and revolving restaurant have an amazing panoramic view of Seoul. It is centrally located in Seoul and can be seen from everywhere. Take a taxi or metro to the cable car. [Adult KRW5000, child KRW2500].

Namsan Park is located in the center of Seoul and is surrounded by urban districts. The park is hilly with pine trees, wild animals and the Seoul Tower.

Lotte World (Metro Line 2, Jamsil stn) One of the world's largest indoor amusement parks that is located in Seoul by the Jamsil Station. There is a folk museum that gives insight into 5000 years of history and tradition of Korean life.

Everland - A large adventure theme park similar to Disneyland located south of Seoul. Non-stop buses to Everland leave from various parts of Seoul daily. Has a miniature zoo with a lion-tiger hybrid.

Seoul Land (metro line 4, Seoul Grand Park) This theme park is located in Seoul and has lots of amusement facilities, performances and exhibitions including World Plaza, Adventure Land, Fantasy Land, Tomorrow Land and Samchulli Land. During the summer, SeoulLand is open until late performing a fantastic laser show and fireworks.

63 Building was once the tallest building in Asia and is positioned near the south bank of the Han River. Visitors can ascend to the observation deck on level 60 for spectacular views over all of Seoul. In the basement is a Sea World with many aquariums and a seal show. There is also an IMAX theater, shops, cafes and restaurants.

Namdaemun Gate Seoul Namdaemun Gate (Metro Line 1, City Hall) is the Great South Gate (Sungryemun) to the original walled city and has been designated as the number one National Treasure Number of Korea. In 2008 a fire destroyed some of the structure and it is being rebuilt.

Tongdaemun Gate (Metro Line 1, Dongdaemun) is the original Eastern Gate and one of 3 original city gates still standing along with Bukdaemun (the Great North Gate) and a smaller minor gate known as Changuimun.

Children's Grand Park in Neung-dong, Gwangjin-gu (metro line 7 Children's Grand Park, exit 1) The park has a zoo, amusement facilities, animal performances and botanical garden. [open 9am6pm (8pm in summer), Adult KRW900, child free].

Olympic Park Seoul Olympic park built for the 1986 Asian Games and the 1988 Seoul Olympics. The stadiums are often used for concerts and other special events. [Olympic park station, Metro line 5].

The National Museum of Korea (Metro Line 4, Ichon) houses Koreas best collection of artifacts and relics from different periods and dynasties. [Closed Mondays].

Korean Folk Village depicts the lives of the different social classes and regions of Korea during the Joseon Dynasty. [located in Yongin suburb].

Dining

Korea has a wide array of unique and delicious food. Korea was once a primarily agricultural nation, and since ancient times rice has been cultivated as Korea's staple food. These days Korean cuisine contains a large variety of meat and fish dishes along with wild greens and vegetables. A typical meal normally includes rice, soup, and several side dishes, the number of which vary. In Korea, like in neighboring China and Japan, people eat with chopsticks, however, a spoon is used more often especially when soups are served. /p>


Traditional Korean Dishes worth trying are:

Kimchi is made from cabbages and other vegetables soaked in salt water, then seasoned with different spices before being fermented. There are many different types of kimchi, such as cabbage kimchi (the most common), cucumber kimchi, radish kimchi, cubed radish kimchi, green onion kimchi, and more. It is a health food filled with vitamins, minerals, and more.

Bulgogi is beef or pork thinly sliced, marinated in seasoning and barbequed or grilled.

Bibimbap is a dish made by mixing rice with various other cooked vegetables.

People with sensitive stomachs should use caution when dining in Korea as the local cuisine can be very hot being heavily spiced with copious amounts of chilli, pepper and garlic.

Visitors to Korea will find some international cuisine such as Japanese, Chinese, Italian and Western chain restaurants such as Outback Steakhouse, Bennigan's, McDonald's, Burger King, and Subway are very common.

Nightlife and Entertainment

Seoul Skyline

Itaewon is Seoul's international district, hosting a variety of Western-styled venues to eat and drink. Due to its proximity to the nearby United States Army Garrison Yongsan, a large number of American military are found here in the evenings and weekends.

Hongdae is the premier club area in Seoul and located around Hongik University. The entire club district of Hongdae is officially off-limits to American military personnel.

Gangnam is probably the second most popular club area. It has a grid structure of clubs, bars, restaurants and various other entertainment venues. The station is central and the area is easy to find.

Apgujeong is the upmarket area of Seoul and there are some clubs, bars and restaurants.

Sinchon is home to universities and has many bars, clubs, restaurants, singing rooms. There are a number of Western style bars in the area. [metro line 2, Shinchon Station]

Myeongdong comes alive at night with many bars and clubs.

Seoul Shopping

Namdaemun Market (metro line 4, Hoehyeon Station) is located near the Great South Gate in the downtown area and is one of Korea's largest wholesale markets with over 10,000 shops, stalls, retailers, street vendors, and has several department stores nearby. Test out your bargaining skills. Under Namdaemun-no (the main street to the north of the market) is an extensive underground shopping arcade.

Itaewon is Seoul's international district with the largest concentration of foreigners in Korea. The area is located in the center of the city just south of Namsan Mountain and is crowded with shops and western-styled venues to eat and drink. Most of the shop owners speak English.

Myeongdong (Myeongdong Station) is the Beverly Hills of Korea, located in the city centre of Seoul and popular with tourists. Large stores such as Migliore, Lotte Young Plaza, Avatar and High Harriet, merchandise all the global luxury brand names. There are many smaller individual shops lining the many neon-lit side streets and countless street vendors selling virtually everything.

Tongdaemun Market is a famous market area with large department store-like buildings such as Doota, Migliore, and APM that have trendy shops and stalls. Popular with younger people and tourists.

Insadong located in the historical centre of the city on the north side of the Han River has many shops, art galleries and traditional tea and coffee shops. It is very popular with tourists.

UTOO (U2) Zone is located in Myeongdong and orientated to the luxury market.

Techno Mart are located at Gangbyeon station and Sindorim station. Both complexes house over 2,000 stores across eight floors that sell a variety of high-tech products including electrical goods, cameras, cell phones, computers, music and DVDs. There are over a dozen restaurants on the 9th floor, and a cineplex and arcade on the 10th.

Yongsan Electronics Market (Metro Line 2, Samseong) comprises many buildings with over 5000 stores selling everything electrical.

Duty free are located at Incheon Airport and some major department stores such as Lotte, Shilla Hotel, Walkerhill Hotel, SKM DFS in COEX Mall. There will be someone who speaks English and most credit cards will be accepted.

Seoul Hotels

hotel reservations

Seoul has many of the western luxury hotel chains such Hilton and Hyatt which are conveniently located near the major business and shopping areas. There are also many tourist class hotels particulary in the downtown area. Walker Hill Resort and Casino is located in eastern Seoul and features a casino, Las Vegas style shows and many restaurants.

Anguk is Seoul's main backpacker area located just to the north of the city center, within walking distance of the Gyeongsandong and Changdeokgung palaces. Visitors can travel to the area directly from Incheon Airport on a limousine buses.

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Beyond Seoul

Panmunjeom is a village lying in the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea. The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is 60 kilometers north of Seoul and easily visited on a half day trip.