Seoul Searching: What to See and Where to Stay in South Korea’s Capital City

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Seoul's city wall in South Korea.
Seoul’s city wall in South Korea.

Viewed as clean, green and efficient, enjoying a highly developed infrastructure, South Korea’s capital city of Seoul is culturally rich, foodie fabulous, spiritually peaceful and people-friendly. Consider just a sampling of possibilities for your clients to experience in Seoul.

Experience a Folk Village
To get a real sense of how Korea looked, felt, sounded and smelled prior to the 20th century, visit a folk village. The finest example is the Hahoe Folk Village, a Unesco World Heritage Site located some way from Andong (four hours by train from Seoul) that’s included on Goway Travel’s 9-day Korea Encompassed itinerary, starting at $1,599 pp dbl. More than 200 people continue to live here in hanoks (traditional wooden homes), maintaining old ways and customs, even inviting visitors to spend the night in their private homes. Korea Encompassed hits all the key sites in just over a week with visits to Daejeon, Gwangju, Yeosu, Busan, Daegu and Pyeongchang. Along the way, guests experience folk villages, tea plantations, temples, museums and markets.

Korean guard at Gyeongbokgung Palace.
Korean guard at Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Experience Strolling like a King
Meander through gardens, pavilions, gates and the corridors of Seoul’s Gyeongbokgung Palace (with the grandest throne hall courtyard) and Changdeokgung Palace featured on Goway Travel’s 6-day Seoul In Depth itinerary, starting at $1,490 pp dbl—these are the final residences of Korea’s final and longest reigning royal family. The tour also includes visits to a Korean Folk Village to experience the lifestyles and architecture from the 18th and 19th centuries with artisans, the COEX Aquarium, the Kimchi Museum, and N Seoul Tower, featuring panoramic views of the city. For more information, call (800) 557-2841 or visit goway.com.

A guest participating in Myogaksa Temple's evening bell striking ritual in Seoul. 
A guest participating in Myogaksa Temple’s evening bell striking ritual in Seoul.

Experience a Temple Stay
Temple stays are a unique cultural asset that give guests a special and memorable perspective on the lifestyle of the monks who preserve the 1,700-year-old history of Korean Buddhism at these traditional temples. Among the more than 100 temples across the country, a dozen accept groups of foreigners, introducing them to Buddhist rituals, Zen meditation and tea ceremonies. Other activities may include mountain trekking, as well as lotus-lantern and rubber-stamp making. For instance, the Myogaksa Temple in Jongno-gu, Seoul hosts guests for a 2-day temple stay and a 1-day temple life program. One of the highlights of the stay is participating in the evening bell striking ritual at sunset.

A fabric shop at the Dongdaemun Market in Seoul.
A fabric shop at the Dongdaemun Market in Seoul.

Experiences Seoul’s Modern Culture

  • Shop till you drop in the Dongdaemun Market for trendy clothes, shoes and fashion accessories at affordable prices.
  • Alternately, the top-of-the-line in retail experiences takes place in the chic Gangnam district, where local designers share the spotlight with Chanel and Louis Vuitton; leave time to visit the Simone Handbag Museum—shaped like a handbag—with some 300 purses on view, a virtual history of handbags, plus a workshop to watch production, and handbags to buy.
  • For art aficionados, essential touring—in the company of an art historian—includes the National Folk Museum, Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul Museum of Art, and Design Plaza and Park (an architect Zaha Hadid project).
  • Foodies will want to sign up for the Pulmuone Kimchi Museum’s special experience of making kimchi, Korea’s most representative dish.
  • And if the spirit calls, experience and enjoy Bulgeum (in Korean, bul meaning fire, geum meaning Friday) for a fired-up Friday night; buy an entry ticket to 13 top clubs and bars in the Gangnam district and party the night away.

For more information, visit english.visitkorea.or.kr.

 

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