City Guide: Seoul
Seoul is not only the capital and biggest city in South Korea, but also a really interesting place to visit for tourists. In this extensive guide, we’ll explain what you need to see in Seoul and why the city is so interesting to visit!
Going into our visit of Seoul, we weren’t sure what to expect of the city. Personally, I didn’t love Tokyo and I’m also not a big fan of South-East-Asian cities like Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta or Bangkok. At the same time, I really enjoyed visiting Beijing in China. So what would Seoul be like? Well, the answer is quite clear: It’s basically one of my favorite cities in whole Asia for a couple of reasons, mainly due to the many really interesting sights in town!
City Hall & Deoksugung Palace in Seoul
If you start planning your trip to Seoul, you’ll realize just how massive the city is. The most sights though are located in the Northern part of Seoul, which is where we started our visit. The first monument we stumbled upon was the massive statue of King Sejong.
On the way to the Southern area, to explore the Deoksugung Palace, you’ll also pass a few more interesting buildings, including the historic and modern part of the Seoul City Hall.
One of the real highlight of Seoul is the Deoksugung Palace though, which is located close to several metro stations in the center of town.
Once inside, you’ll have the pleasure of enjoying various different historic monuments, which come in a spread out layout.
It’s not only nice to see the historic buildings, but it’s also really great so check out all the little ornamentation, which make the different parts of the palace so special.
Also worth noting is that the palace was really calm when we visited, making it a real retreat from the busy streetlife in Seoul.
Gwnaghwamun Gate & Gyeongbokgung Palace Seoul
Maybe the two most famous spots in Seoul are the Gwnaghwamun Gate and the Gyeongbokgung Palace. The former is the main and biggest gate of the latter and really looks great.
There’s also some art right in front ot the gate, making it possible to take some very special pictures.
Speaking of special, there are traditionally dressed guards and some historic figures right in front of the gate – definitely worth checking out.
After you paid for your entrance ticket to the Gyeongbokgung Palace, you’ll immediately find yourself in the massive palace, which consists of various different buildings.
Obviously, the main palace buildings look the most impressive and are really imposing.
Nevertheless, I’d also recommend venturing to the side areas of the palace as you are able to enjoy some really nice smaller buildings in quiet and peace.
In the back of the palace, there’s also a charming little lake at the backdrop of the mountains – a beautiful scenery is guaranteed here.
While you could easily spend hours in the Gyeongbokgung Palace Seoul, we decided to venture on after maybe one or two hours as there are so many more places to see in Seoul!
National Folk Museum & Bukchon Hanok Village Seoul
I’m not really a fan of museums, but if you are already in the Gyeongbokgung Palace, you should take the Eastern Exit to get to the National Folk Museum.
You don’t have to necessarily check it out, but the building and a few historic remainings of Seoul’s past around it are definitely worth seeing.
Plus, the National Folk Museum is on the way to the Bukchon Hanok Village anyways.
This and many more Hanok Villages in Seoul showcase the traditional life in Seoul with narrow roads, small buildings and a very special architecture.
You can just walk through the Hanok Village in your own pace and maybe sit down for a coffee here or there.
At some spots, you may also enjoy a nice view over the Hanok Village, which is quite interesting as it looks so different than the sprawling skyscrapes you see in other parts of Seoul. I’d particularly recommend the Bukchon Hanok Village for its location as it’s basically in between the palaces. Thus, you can just continue sightseeing once you’ve passed the village!
Changdeokgung Palace & Changgyeonggung Palace Seoul
For every non-native speaker, things are getting really difficult here as the Changdeokgung and the Changgyeonggung Palace are located right next to each other. I’d recommend entering through the former and then passing over to the other one inside (which is possible when buying another ticket).
The Changdeokgung Palace is the somewhat more impressive of the two palaces as it has massive buildings, which look really with the mountains in the background.
You can also find several more historic buildings as the palace really spreads, but we decided to take a shortcut and just have a look at the main area.
From there we continued onwards to the Changyeonggung Palace, which is the oldest of the palaces and also a little less conserved than the other three big palaces in Seoul.
Nevertheless, I thought that it was a particularly charming place to visit with its very old structure and a less touristic approach than the other palaces.
Anyways, I’d definitely recommend visiting all four palaces, which can be done in a single day, even including the National Folk Museum and the Hanok Village.
Exploring the Jongmyo Shrine Seoul
When you finally have enough of visiting palaces in Seoul, I’d recommend checking out the Jongmyo Shrine, which is the most important religious place in Seoul.
It can only be visited as part of a group, but you can just join one at the entrace. However, be aware of the times, because you sometimes have to wait for a while or take a Korean tour (which is what we did).
Honestly, I thought that the place was interesting, but the tour was a bit too long (especially as it was freezingly cold).
Nevertheless, I’d definitely take the one hour that the tour takes to have a look at the Jongmyo Shrine.
Enjoying spectacular views from Namsan
While there’s so much more to see in Seoul, the last place we decided to visit was Namsan, Seoul’s city mountain. It’s basically located in the middle of the city and you either hike up or take a cable car.
Once up on the mountain, you can see the N Seoul Tower, which is the highest building in Seoul when taking its position on the mountain in consideration, but as a structure it’s not close as high as the Lotte World Tower in the business district, one of the highest buildings in the world.
Even when not going up on the N Seoul Tower, you can enjoy a really nice view of all sides of town from Namsan, which is why I’d highly recommend going up here.
You may also enjoy hiking down along the historic remainings of the Seoul City Wall.
All in all, a nice place to visit for an hour or two with a good infrastructure, so you can easily have a snack or a drink while enjoying the view.
Overall impressions of Seoul
This Seoul City Guide focuses on the most important sights in town, but there’s a lot more to see. Seoul consists of various different areas, all with their very own and special charme. The palaces and other historic monuments are highly fascinating and something that only few cities in Asia can offer. At the same time, there’s still a lot of modern lifestyle in Seoul and the food is amazing, so I can just say that you really can’t go wrong with visiting the capital of South Korea!
Do you have any questions about Seoul? Feel free to ask or share your impressions in the comments!