Gyeongbok Palace, sometimes referred to as Gyeongbokgung Palace, was constructed in 1395 by King Taejo. Largest among the Five Grand Palaces built in Seoul around this time, Gyeongbok served as the central palace during the Joseon dynasty, doubling as the official kingly residence and seat of the Joseon government. The palace was designed with majestic towers, grand facades, intricate furnishings, a massive royal court, and no fewer than 7,700 individual rooms. Much of the palace was restored in the 19th century, and it continues to undergo work as part of a campaign to restore the site to its original glory. At once visually stunning and culturally significant, Gyeongbok Palace and its onsite museums offer excellent insight into Korean history.
Built in 1971, the N Seoul Tower, located at the peak of Mt.Namsan is 236.7 meters (777 feet) tall. The iconic landmark, built for transmitting signals of radio and television, is visible from nearly everywhere in the city. Now, a famed tourist attraction, the tower offers stunning views from the top. One of the most romantic places in Seoul, the N Seoul Tower or Namsan Tower is a favorite for couples and as any Korean Drama fan will recognize, is the top spot to profess undying love, much like the Eiffel Tower in France. Around the roof terrace, there are locks in a colorful display, proclaiming messages of true love, as couples come here to leave a love lock as a symbol of their devotion to each other. Accessible by cable car, car or hiking, the tower has other attractions including art exhibitions, restaurants, and a cultural experience center.
This Korean-style village is nestled at the foot of Pukansan between Gyeongbok Palace and the secret garden. There are over 2,000 buildings of which more than half are Korean-style houses. Most of these structures have antique tiled roofs and stone walls. The village is a fascinating walk down olden times and a much needed escape from the otherwise modern environs of the city. Some of the attractions that are incorporated in the Bukchon Hanok Village include Gahoe Museum, Han Sangsu Embroidery Museum and Rakgojae.
Designed by renowned architect Zaha Hadid, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) is one of the most iconic landmark structures in Seoul. The cutting-edge modernity of this mega-structure coupled with its unique design won Seoul city the title of World Design Capital in 2010. The structure of the building is curvaceous and fluid, devoid of any straight lines or walls. It houses as many as five spaces inside, namely an art hall, a museum, a design lab, the Oullim square and the Dongdaemun History and Culture park. Visit the DDP at night for a dazzling view of this modern wonder.
The Bongeunsa Temple is one of oldest and most traditional of its kind in Korea. This Buddhist shrine, located amidst cosmopolitan buildings and at a short distance from COEX mall, is a branch of the main Chogyesa Temple downtown. Founded in 794 in the Silla Kingdom, it has a longstanding legacy. The colored decorative motifs on the external facade and traditional roof are hard to miss. Another unique feature of the temple is its 3,479 plates containing 13 different sutras. Visitors should also be sure to check out the wooden nameplates hanging under the eaves of the temple. The calligraphy was written by one of the greatest Korean masters, Chusa Kim Jeong-hui. The place comes alive during the annual Jeongdaebulsa ceremony, where monks march around with holy scriptures and reciting verses.
One of the top theme parks in South Korea, Lotte World is a stimulating facility of outdoor and indoor recreational zones. Home to one of the biggest indoor theme parks across the globe, the range of activities inside the park are astounding. For an adrenaline rush, the Magic Island offers an abundance of thrills, while the Across Dark ride takes one on an adventurous journey through space. The complex also features a fantastic folk museum, shopping malls, performance venues and a massive aquarium. Entertaining and exciting, it is no wonder that Lotte World is counted among Seoul's top tourist destinations.
To travel around Korea especially Seoul, travel information is of great benefit. KNTO (Korean National Tourism Organization) operates a friendly and informative tourist information centres throughout Seoul. There are English speaking operators present. Well-illustrated booklets, transportation information and maps are available to all visitors.
The tastefully ornate and elaborately adorned, Changdeokgung is the best-preserved of the Five Grand Palaces of the Joseon Dynasty and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Constructed in 1405 at the behest of King Taejong, Changdeokgung is a distinguished showcase of landscape design and far-eastern architecture from this period; a stellar example of the Joseon's' remarkable affinity for designs that worked with the natural topography of the landscape rather than attempting to change it. Although partially destroyed by fire during the Japanese occupation of the island, the palace was faithfully reconstructed each time, preserving the heritage and legacy of the mighty Joseon Emperors. Set amid picturesque gardens, what remains of the royal residence is a veritable oasis amid Seoul's contemporary sprawl; a sliver of the past that brings into perspective the hope of a bright future. Of particular interest are the Geumcheongyo Bridge and the Injeongjeon Hall. While the former is Seoul's oldest extant bridge, the latter is the reconstructed throne room of the Joseon. Daejojeon Hall is another historic treasure, the official residence of the last Joseon empress.