City description

The high-tech capital of “Gangnam style”, Seoul is an expert on using steel and concrete to celebrate modernism. But it’s also an arty, poetic city, at the crossroads of different fashions, trends and arts, treading the fine line between its roots and the future, against a backdrop of K-pop. This world within a city showcases the economic miracle of South Korea, and also manages to combine ancient and modern in its own special way, coming up with its own harmonies from one neighbourhood to the next, from one bank of the Han River to the other.

Seoul is a megacity with more than 10 million inhabitants, keen to present itself as the 21st century’s answer to the ideal city, combining nature and culture with design and intelligent urban planning. Far from limiting itself to its famous Gangnam-gu neighbourhood – the epicenter of consumerism and home to luxury labels and cosmetic surgery clinics – Seoul is undergoing a huge transformation. It is a city that is showing how economic growth can go hand in hand with thriving life. In the city center, Cheonggyecheon, once a river buried in concrete, now flows freely. A walk along its banks has become a must. The parks along the Han River have been redesigned and enhanced: the “City of Design” according to UNESCO, has definitely earned its title. Look at it shimmer from Namsan Park, a hill 262 metres tall right in the heart of the capital. It’s even more impressive from the top of the N Seoul Tower, looming up nearly 237 metres tall. From there, you can see the capital’s most secret neighbourhoods, the polar opposite of high-tech bling. A more poetic landscape brimming with gardens and temples, palaces and narrow alleyways. Who would ever imagine that Seoul could be home to Changdeokgung, the Prospering Virtue Palace, with its rolling grounds and intimate garden, Huwon? Or another five stunning palaces, including the massive Gyeongbokgung, and even a number of “villages”, like Bukchon Hanok, along with pretty markets, including Gwangjang. It may come as some surprise, but Seoul is a wonderful place to explore as a pedestrian.

A city of art and history, Korea’s capital is also studded with plenty of museums. From the National Museum of Korea to the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, via the Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul is proud to take you right to the heart of culture. Before inviting you to worship at the ultramodern temples to consumerism, at the likes of the Dongdaemun Design Plaza and the Coex Mall. Fans of a more traditional shopping experience will love Lotte Mart and Myeongdong, Jung-gu or the massive market of Namdaemun.

Another great reason for spending time in Seoul is the fabulous Everland, a theme park in Yongin, on the outskirts of the city. There is also a zoo, a water park and lots of roller coasters. So there’s more than enough entertainment for any visitor, plus a string of events throughout the year. Anybody interested in sport will love the Seoul Marathon in the summer. Another important date in the Korean diary is Memorial Day, when all Koreans commemorate their war victims. Then in the autumn, the Seoul Lantern Festival lights up the skies in a spectacular fashion. There are more lights to be seen at Christmas to warm you up in the winter chill. And then in spring, between another two festivals, “Children’s Day” is another time to celebrate, which, it turns out, Koreans are rather good at!
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