Seoul surprised me like no other city has. It has such a fabulous character, one that’s best experienced. With the cherry blossom season right around the corner, visitors to Japan and Korea swell. So here are my pick of top 7 must have experiences in this gorgeous city.
Get your fix of art, culture and crafts at Isadong
One of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the city, Insa-dong is a 700m street that stretches from Anguk-dong Rotary to Tapgol Park. In the days of the Joseon Dynasty the street was a hub for painters who gathered in the street to improve their skills; and even today artists and craftspeople set up shop here displaying their creations. The narrow street is lined with pretty cafes, quaint tea houses and shops selling some of the finest Korean crafts, ranging from Hanji paper products, Celadon pottery, calligraphy materials to antique furniture; and souvenirs.
Take a moment and stop at one of the many Kkultarae stalls in Insadong, that make the candy right in front of you in a highly entertaining manner – the people making the candy do so while singing and chatting with customers and sundry onlookers. Also known as Korean court cakes, Kkulatrae is a candy that is made of 16000 odd strands of fine honey, dipped in corn starch with a variety of fillings.
Marvel at Korean Architecture at the Gyeongbok Palace Complex
The stunning Gyeongbok Palace Complex is the largest and most beautiful of the 5 palaces found in the city. Built in the late 14th century, the palace complex was heavily damaged in and was reconstructed in A perfect representation of the architecture style of the Joseon Dynasty, stroll through the well laid out palace grounds or join a tour to get a glimpse into the history, style of architecture and relevance of the buildings. The National Palace Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum are situated close to the palace and the entry ticket gives you access to all 3 places.
Get an introduction to the country’s troubled past at the War Memorial of Korea
The War Memorial of Korea documents the history of the many wars the nation has fought, with particular focus on the war of 1950 – 1953. The museum has a large collection of tanks, helicopters and artillery that have been used over the years. You need at least a couple of hours to view the exhibits and to watch the documentary footage of the wars and rescue missions that were carried out.
Watch the sunset from Namsan Tower
The 236m high Namsan Tower or the N Seoul Tower is a communication and observation tower. Opened to public in 1980, the tower is one of the most popular places to visit both for locals and tourists. Take a cable car up to a point and then trek up to the base of the tower. There are viewing decks at different levels offer sweeping views of the city. At sunset and nightfall the views are particularly splendid as the city comes alive with thousands of lights. At the Roof Terrace look out for the hundreds of locks put out there by lovers signifying their love for each other.
Watch a Nanta performance
Nanta is Korea’s longest running musical and one that also played at Broadway and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where it won an award for best performance. The performance includes acrobatics, tricks, pantomime and audience participation. Set in a kitchen, the show is about a group of cooks racing against time to prepare a wedding banquet. Don’t worry if you don’t understand a word of Korean – the entire performance is non-verbal accept for a few words of English thrown in.
Unwind at Itawon
The expat neighborhood of Seoul, Itawon is a worth a visit to experience the cosmopolitan side of the city. Packed with restaurants, bars and shops, Itawon is a great place to sample cuisines from around the world as well as stock up on souvenirs for back home. If you fancy getting a custom made suit for self, then this is the place for you.It is here that you feel the sizeable presence of the US Military as many of their personnel are deployed in South Korea for long periods of time, and Itawon is where they hangout.
Enjoy a Korean Meal
Korean food is full of flavor, texture and color. Rice, meat and vegetables feature prominently across a variety of dishes. Korean barbecue is a very popular dish and the restaurants that serve it, have little grills built in the middle of tables. Once you are seated and order your meal, then according to what you have asked for meat, vegetables and sauces are tossed together and grilled right in front of you. Kimchi is another hot favorite – is a fermented and pickled dish most often made of cabbage. Eaten as an accompaniment to main meal, there are many variations available.
Have you been to Seoul? Do you have any favorite memories from your visit?