It would be silly to expect to enjoy everything that Seoul has to offer in one trip — and we here at Armchair Traveler are not silly! So here’s just a sample of the riches on offer to tourists in South Korea’s grandest city.
The Joseon dynasty of 1392-1897 left its stamp on Seoul, building its “Five Grand Palaces” here. You might not have the time to visit all of them, but you definitely should see Changdeokgung and Gyeongbokgung. The first is considered the country’s main palace, admired for the way its buildings harmonize with the natural garden. Its Secret Garden is a delight in all seasons, but the greenery is richest in spring.
Gyeongbokgung is the largest of the Five Grand Palaces. You could spend days here and get lost in its vast spaces. There’s so much to take in, from Geunjeongjeon, the mainly wooden main throne hall where the king would meet foreign officials, to Gyeonghoeru, where state banquets were held in a pavilion built in the middle of a large man-made lake. Don’t forget to enjoy the changing of the royal guards, performed in period dress every hour on the hour.
Now it’s time for some shopping at Myeongdong. It’s been listed as the most expensive shopping street in the world, but don’t let that put you off! Tame your appetite with jokbal (pig trotters) or Korean egg toast, a local favorite.
Finally, ride the cable car to N Seoul Tower, atop Namsan mountain. The tower’s revolving observation deck gives you an awesome view of the city. (T)