Photograph by Maremagnum, Photolibrary / Getty Images

 

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The Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul, South Korea, was designed by architect Zaha Hadid.

Photograph by Maremagnum, Photolibrary / Getty Images

 

Discover the Best of Seoul

Make the most of your trip to Seoul with these top 10 tips.

A vibrant convergence of cutting-edge culture and rich history sets Seoul apart as an incomparably dynamic urban destination.

Wildlife

Although Seoul Forest is only the city’s third largest park, it exists as the best preserve for wildlife viewing. Riverside real estate directly alongside the Han affords visitors an ideal perch for encounters with mandarin ducks, mallards, moorhens, and the dozens of mammals populating this urban sanctuary.

Natural Wonder

At the beginning of April in Seoul Grand Park, the foliage unfurls a sea of pink. The cherry blossom bloom is a stunning annual spectacle that fades as fast as it arrives, peaking for only one week. It is an act of nature you do not want to miss if your visit coincides with its timing.

National Park

Bukhansan Mountain is one of the world’s great (and only) intracity national parks. Its outcropped granite peak stretches some 2,700 feet above greater Seoul. A laborious hike to the top passes temples, Buddhist statues, and jaw-dropping vistas along the way.

Archaeological Site

Smack dab in the middle of Seoul’s financial district (Jongno), archaeologists have begun excavating a 1.73-acre section of ancient residences dating back to the 14th century. The ruins can be traced back to the Joseon Dynasty, which ruled over Korea until Japanese colonization in the early 1900s.

UNESCO Site

Changdeokgung Palace Complex is a series of royal structures, the oldest of which are upwards of 500 years in age, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. A prototypical example of East Asian palace architecture, the main building features tiled hipped roofs with corbeled supports and ornamental carvings. Framed by expansive gardens, integrated seamlessly into the surrounding topography, it is a site for the ages.

Cultural Site

Yongsam Family Park is the current resting place for the National Museum of Korea—the country’s largest repository of cultural artifacts. The massive complex houses a quarter of a million in total, spread out over three floors, focusing on native expressions and Buddhist relics.

Best Day Trip

A guided tour to the Korean Demilitarized Zone is quite unlike any other tourist experience on Earth. The world’s most fortified border along the 38th parallel is a tense scene, where armed soldiers from the North and South stare each other down in silence. But there’s also a great deal of history on display, rendering it a worthwhile experience for any curious explorer.

Off the Beaten Path

Take Subway Line Four to Hyewa Station to catch a glimpse of Ihwa Mural Village. It’s a recently formed collection of street art conceived by more than 60 local artists. The revitalized neighborhood is also home to boutique galleries and offbeat museums exhibiting household items such as door keys and wine corks.

Most Iconic Experience

Navigating the narrow alleys and quaint tea shops of Insa-dong is an obligatory excursion. The area was once home to the National Department of Painting, establishing its legacy as a mecca for visual artists and craftspeople. Enter the neighborhood without a specific destination in mind, and let your curiosity lead the way.

Local Quirk

Yongma Land is an abandoned 1980s theme park in Seoul’s Jungnang-gu district. The carousel no longer whirls and the Viking ship is hardly seaworthy, but visitors come anyway to marvel at the eerie lifelessness of this once jovial junkyard.