You won’t have to look hard to find reasons to visit Seoul. One of the most amazingly fascinating and vibrant cities in south East Asia, Seoul doesn’t quite fit to all corners of the mold of its counterparts of Hong Kong, Tokyo, Beijing and Kuala Lumpur. Though frenetic, there’s a certain calm to Seoul and it also has a very youthful feel. Check out these reasons to visit Seoul and see why it should be on your must-see list.
1 Traditional and Modern
Every travel writer loves to wax lyrical about how the traditional sits next to the modern, but Seoul is one of the places where it really is so true. This really is a city where towering skyscrapers sit next to or on the same block as ancient royal palaces. When it comes to the modern, Seoul is right up there with the very best in cutting-edge design, so much so that it was named a UNESCO City of Design in 2010. And if you love your cityscape to include antique treasures of palaces, temples, city walls and gates, you find plenty of reasons to visit Seoul. Unmissable architectural attractions of Seoul include Gyeongbokgung (Palace of the Crown Prince), Sungnyemun Gate, Jogyesa Temple, Myeongdong Cathedral, Namsan Tower, and 63 Building.
2 The Food Scene
The food culture in Seoul is nothing short of incredible. While fulfilling all the expectations of an Asian city when it comes to eating, it also ramps it up some serious notches. The Korean cuisine is wonderful and nowhere does it better than Seoul, and no matter your taste, carnivore or strict vegan, you’ll be more than catered for. Street food thrives and there’s always someone doling out deliciousness from dawn to dawn. Uniquely, some neighborhoods are dedicated to certain foods with these “food towns” having restaurants selling just one kind of food. Another unmissable feature of the Seoul food scene are the theme cafés. If you like your cappuccino while you cuddle a rabbit, or want your latte percolated in a princess’s boudoir, you’ll find it in Seoul.
3 The Entertainment
If you choose Seoul for a vacation you won’t be disappointed when it comes to entertainment. Let’s face it, when you choose a city for a vacation, you probably aren’t looking for peace and quiet and early nights. This city literally never closes. It comes alive as the sun goes down and rocks until it comes back up again. As well as the standard menu of theaters, bars, restaurants, nightclubs, bar-cafés and cocktail lounges, one of the most fun attractions of Seoul are the “bangs.” Literally meaning room, there are bangs all over the city covering every activity from comic book reading to karaoke to video games that you hire out and have the exclusive use of.
4 The Shopping
Like all major cities in South East Asia, the shopping in Seoul is superb. Whether you want the latest in high-tech gadgets or unique fashion pieces at purse-friendly prices, Seoul has a mass of choice in malls and markets. For a bit of everything, head to Myeongdong shopping district; for fashion it’s Dongdaemun; for designer labels, Apgujeong is the place to go; or you can visit the world’s largest underground shopping mall, the COEX Mall. If one of your reasons to visit Seoul is the markets, you’ll find traditional ones at Gwangjang, Dongdaemun and Garak.
5 The Countryside
While it’s great to be in a city, it’s also nice to know that you can hop on a train or bus and be in beautiful countryside in not too many minutes. Seoul has some significant mountains within the city limits, so it’s easy to escape the busy streets of downtown for a gentle hike upwards and enjoy a fabulous view of the city too. You can visit a Buddhist temple on Ingwansan, gently stroll up Namsan or enjoy the beauty of Korean nature on Bukhan Mountain – a national park. If you still want to connect with nature but not leave the city streets, the River Han runs through Seoul and offers plenty of riparian entertainments.
6 The Culture
Cities are a terrific haven of a country’s culture – especially capital cities. As well as being a visual feast, Seoul encapsulates the modern south Korean psyche – holding onto the traditional while embracing the modern. The country’s best museums, galleries, theaters and sporting facilities are all among the major attractions of Seoul. I ought to mention too that the Seoul transport system is extremely efficient, so day trips to explore more of the country are really easy too. Many visitors choose a trip to the Demilitarized Zone – the no-man’s land between North and South Korea, or to the charming antique village of Heyri.
7 Lotte World
When I make my recommendations to you, I usually try and pick things that are closely associated with the culture of the location so you get a true flavor of the country or city, but in this case I will make a slight diversion. Lotte World simply deserves its inclusion in the reasons to visit Seoul. Lotte World is the Guinness World Record holder as the world’s largest indoor theme park, but also has “Magic Island,” an outdoor amusement area that sits on an artificial island in a lake. The island is connected by monorail to a luxury hotel, shopping malls, sports facilities, movie theaters and a folk museum.
What do you think of my reasons to visit Seoul? Are you tempted to pay a visit?