Planning a trip to Seoul, or looking for some inspiration? Here’s a quick guide on what to see if you happen to find yourself in the bustling yet beautiful capital city of South Korea.
1. Gyeongbok Palace
Built in 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace was located at the heart of newly appointed capital of Seoul (then known as Hanyang) and represented the sovereignty of the Joseon Dynasty. The largest of the Five Grand Palaces (the others being Gyeonghuigung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace), Gyeongbokgung served as the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty.
Gyeongbok Palace has been destroyed and reconstructed numerous times. English tours are available about three times daily for visitors to learn more about Korea's architectural traditions and court customs. Make sure you allocate time to stroll around the premises too, as there are beautiful pavilions and halls within the palace’s spacious grounds worth checking out.
2. Walking tour of Bukchon Village
This traditional Korean village has over 600 years of history and stories worth discovering. The walking tour takes visitors around the area of Bukchon Hanok Village - the only place in Seoul where hundreds of traditional Korean houses, or hanoks, are clustered together. Bukchon Hanok Village is an important area for culture and the arts, with its number of museums, craft workshops and historic landmarks.
3. Dongdaemun Market
Dongdaemun Market is a large commercial district comprised of traditional markets and shopping centers that covers the entire area around Dongdaemun (Gate), a prominent landmark in Korea. It is Korea’s largest wholesale and retail shopping district featuring 26 shopping malls, 30,000 speciality shops, and 50,000 manufacturers. All kinds of goods can be found here including silks and fabric, clothes, shoes and accessories, electronics, leather goods, sporting goods, office supplies, pet products and toys. You can also discover and munch on Korean snacks as you shop.
4. Seoul City Wall
The Seoul City Wall was originally built in 1396, surrounding Hanyang (present-day Seoul) during the Joseon Period (1392-1987). The wall stretches for 18.6km along the ranges of Bugaksan (Mt.), Naksan (Mt.), Namsan (Mt.), and Inwangsan(Mt.), and stands at average height of 7-8m.
The Seoul City Wall consisted of eight gates which were originally built between 1396-1398, but only six remain today. The North, South, East, and West gates of the wall are known as the “Four Great Gates” (Sukjeongmun, Heunginjimun, Sungnyemun, Dongeuimun), while the Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, and Southwest gates are known as the “Four Small Gates” (Changuimun, Hyehwamun, Gwanghwamun, Soeuimun). A walk along this wall and observing all the beauty that comes with it, is one for the books.
5. First islamic Mosque in Korea - Seoul Central Masjid
Located in Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu in Seoul, the Seoul Central Masjid was the first Islamic mosque in Korea. Construction of the mosque began in October 1974 on a piece of land (5,000 square meters) that was donated by the Korean government. Funded by Islamic countries, the mosque officially opened on May 21, 1976 and now stands proudly halfway between the Hangang River and Namsan Mountain.
The first floor of the mosque houses meeting rooms and the office of the Korea Muslim Federation; on the second floor is the men’s musalla (prayer hall) measuring 427 square meters; and on the third floor is the women’s musalla (prayer hall). The Islamic Center, originally a 2-story building (1,362 square meters) attached to the mosque, saw the addition of a third floor on July 20, 1990 thanks to generous funding from the Islamic Development Bank of Saudi Arabia. The Islamic Center now features a madrasah (educational institution for Muslim children), the Islamic Culture Research Institute, and more.
6. Makan - Korean Halal Restaurant
Makan provides Muslim tourists and residents of Korea with a taste of the authentic Korean cuisine. Highly recommended and just down the street from the Seoul Central Mosque, this restaurant is the perfect destination for a good, Halal meal.
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