5 Must-see on Your First Seoul Trip
Seoul, the capital of Korea is undeniably one of the most lively, cultural and magnificent cities in Asia. Packed with numerous sights to see and places to visit, such as ancient palaces, traditional markets, and shopping districts. Arguably the most popular tourist destination in all of Korea. But with so much to offer, you might not know where to start. And with a little time, you surely won’t see all those on the list. Here’s my top 5 places you shouldn’t miss on your itinerary excluding shopping districts on the list since there are a lot in Seoul. I’ll be talking more about it separately. 🙂
1.) Gyeongbokgung Palace
Also called “Northern Palace” and translates in English as “Palace of Shining Happiness” perhaps the most beautiful and remains the grandest of all five palaces in Seoul. You don’t have to visit all the palaces on your visit, 1 or 2 will be enough to give you a taste of their rich culture and history. What a glorious palace with a beautiful scenery inside. Wander around the huge grounds. Yes, pretty huge that we didn’t even covered everything. Look out for the guard-changing ceremony. It would be a waste not to witness it on your visit so plan your timing accordingly. Do take note that the Palace is CLOSED ON TUESDAYS.
Sumunjang (Royal Guard) Changing Ceremony
10:00, 14:00 / 20 minutes per ceremony
Gwanghwamun Gate Guard-on-Duty Performance
11:00, 13:00 / 10 minutes per ceremony
Sumungun (Gatekeeper) Military Training (outside Hyeopsaengmun Gate)
09:30, 13:30 / 15 minutes per ceremony
Get your camera ready to take lots of photos as The Royal Guard-Changing Ceremony is a great opportunity to experience a rare traditional scene in Korea. The guards’ splendid costumes, with their brilliant primary colors, are undeniably a real pleasure to see.
***How to get there:
Exit 5 – Gyeongbokgung Station Line 3 and walk for about 5-10mins and you’ll find the palace or Get off at Gwanghwamun station (line 5), exit 2 – Walk straight for about 5 mins., the palace will be at the end of the road.
2.) Gwanghwamun SquareA public area located in the heart of central Seoul and it stretches all the way down from the gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace. At the center stands a golden statue of King Sejong the Great, the fourth and most respected king of the Joseon Dynasty and creator of Hangeul, Korea’s alphabet and Admiral Yi Sunshin, naval commander noted for his victories against the Japanese navy during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592-1598), a hero among Koreans.The view of the Mountain behind the Gyeongbokgung Palace from the square is magnificent.Originally the area was a 16-lane roadway but in 2009, Seoul Metropolitan Government decided to create a landmark national square by transforming 10 lanes of the roadway into a public space where Seoulites could rest and socialize.
***How to get there:
Just walk your way down south from the gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace.
or Get off at Anguk station (line 3).
3. Bukchon Hanok Village
Meet an Old Seoul. Visit Bukchon hanok Village. Situated between by two palaces, Gyeongbokgung to the west and Changdeokgung to the east, home to hundreds of traditional houses called hanoks that date back to the Joseon Dynasty. This village has the largest cluster of privately owned traditional Korean wooden homes.Once a community for noble families and high-ranking officials, it still functions as a residential neighborhood today, though many of the hanoks now operate as cultural centers, guesthouses, restaurants, and tea houses.Considering how neoteric Seoul can be, it was really nice to visit such a place. It felt like you were back in the old times. Quiet and more deliberate in pace. Visiting the Bukchon area will definitely give you a glimpse of what Seoul used to be 600 years ago. My experience was more fun and memorable as I get to wear Hanbok while roaming around the Village. Yaaay! I thought I was filming K-drama. HAHA! Yes, if you watch Korean dramas often, you’ll recognize that they use those houses and streets a lot as the setting of their scenes. For a more surreal vibe, do get yourself a beautiful hanbok while you wander around the village.
***How to get there:
Get off at Anguk station (line 3), exit 2. Walk straight for about 500m to arrive at Bukchon Hanok Village. Bukchon is a residential neighborhood so there’s no main gate or demarcation lines. Feel free to turn into any alley soon as you start seeing the hanoks.
4.) Changdeokgung PalaceThe Palace is recognized as a World Cultural Heritage site by the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Committee. It was the second Royal Villa built following the construction of Gyeongbukgung Palace in 1405 and was the principal palace for many Kings of the Joseon Dynasty which is most well-preserved among the five remaining Royal Joseon Palaces.As I’ve previously mentioned, you don’t actually need to visit so many palaces in Korea. 2 will be enough, Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung Palace will be a must.
***How to get there:
Exit 3 – Anguk Station Line 3. Walk straight until you see the palace on your left.
5.) N Seoul TowerLocated on Mt. Namsan offers great panoramic views of the city, and has been a symbol of Seoul since it first opened to the public in 1980. Commonly known as the Namsan Tower or Seoul Tower. At 236m, it marks the highest point in Seoul where you can have a wonderful 360° view of the City. Not only the tower had recently undergone a major remodeling, but also a new name following a complete makeover. It is now a true cultural space with various performances, movies, exhibitions as well as upscale restaurants and snack bars.Thousands of locks, gleaming into the night. Reminds me of those romantic hearts.
***How to get there: By Subway & Cable Car
Exit 3 – Myeongdong Station Line 4. Take the wide road next to 7 Eleven convenience store, then walk straight to the left of Pacific Hotel & keep walking up in the direction of Mt. Namsan where the cable car platform is situated.Fare: Round-trip – 6,300 won / One-way – 4,800 won
Cable Car Opening Hours: 10:00~22:30
On foot or by cable car you can get to the tower.