Settled since Paleolithic times, Seoul only rose to prominence in 1394, when an upstart general overthrew the previous dynasty and named the city his new capital. Since that time, Seoul has remained a vital political and economic center; indeed, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Seoul slowly grew into a modern metropolis, even amidst the turmoil of colonialization and the devastation of the Korean War.

Today, Seoul is a vibrant, futuristic megacity that is a curious fusion of the ancient and the modern. Past meets present as ornate temples and sprawling palaces contrast with the shining glass and steel office towers of Itaewon and starchitect-designed museums. With 20.5 million residents, Seoul is the world's second-largest metropolitan area, and in 2010, was designated a World Design Capital. Enter this energetic, fascinating city, and experience its diverse character for yourself.


A handpicked selection of experiences endorsed by our experts. If you can’t see what you’re looking for, let us know, as our extensive network of local contacts can open many doors.

Art Galleries on Samcheongdong-gil

Stroll along Samcheongdong-gil (Samcheong-dong Walkway) and stop in the galleries that line the path, such as Gallery Hyundai, Geumho Gallery, Growrich Gallery, Artsonje Center, Gallery Hak Go Jae, Geum San Gallery, and Kukje Gallery. The last is a must, particularly if you are interested in contemporary art; Kukje opened in 1982 and introduced world-renowned artists such as Helen Frankenthaler, Anthony Caro and Joseph Beuys to local audiences, as well as significant Korean artists.

Bukhansan National Park

At nearly 2750 feet, Baekundae is the highest of Bukhansan National park's three peaks, and offers stunning views of fortress gates, fortified walls, granite cliffs, and the city below. Ascending the summit requires some light rock climbing maneuvers as you hoist yourself up on metal cables.

Gyeongbok Palace

Visit Gyeongbokgung (also called Gyeongbok Palace), the largest of the five palaces constructed by the Joseon Dynasty. Gyeongbokgung translates in English as “Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven,” and it is an intense source of pride for Koreans, who have seen it decimated and rebuilt throughout the centuries. Tour the grounds of the palace with a senior member of the restoration project.

History Museum

Visit the History Museum with a curator, which usually takes half a day to see. The most unique exhibits here are to-scale reproductions of traditional Korean homes, which show the myriad ways in which joints were constructed without nails, as well as replicas of typical furniture and common dress through the ages. The celadon collection here is also top-notch, and for those who want a hands-on approach to history, there is a “touch museum” where you can actually handle real or meticulously recreated ancient tools found on the Korean peninsula.


Spend the afternoon in Hongdae, the area around Hongik University. Here you will witness Korean youth culture at its most creative and vibrant; there are scores of unique cafes, boutiques, performance spaces, bars and other small businesses geared towards young Koreans and the handfuls of foreigners studying at or visiting Hongik.

Leeum Samsung Museum of Art

The Leeum Samsung Museum of Art is a cultural complex of three buildings dedicated to traditional Korean art, dating from prehistoric times to the end of the Joseon Dynasty in 1910, as well as modern art by local and international artists.

Lunch at Sanchon

For lunch, try Sanchon, a unique restaurant owned by Mr. Kim Yon-shik, who lived as a Buddhist monk for 18 years, and is set in a temple-like atmosphere. The entire meal, consisting of several courses (20 at dinner time!) is served to you on a low table as all patrons take their meals while seated on the floor. The monks prepare primarily vegetarian cuisine, replete with various hardy roots and mountain vegetables rarely seen outside Korea.

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