South Korea has incredibly skyrocketed from being an impoverished country to a first world economy. The country’s stellar rise as an economic powerhouse in just over half a century is an inspiring success story for other countries to emulate.
There is no doubt; South Korea has already established its place on the global stage. And right now, the world is also finding its way to the country through tourism. As a result of its tourism boom, approximately 14.2 million international tourists have visited the country in 2014 alone.
The dynamic nation offers travellers from all walks of life a diverse array of experiences. And of course, the capital city is a must visit.
The South Korean capital radiates with an impeccable harmony of modern and traditional life. As your plane flies into the city, a breathtaking bird’s eye view of green landscapes and turquoise seas that lead to a remarkable cityscape will welcome you.
The vibrant capital city impresses from the moment you set foot at the Incheon International Airport, one of the best airports in the world.
The clean streets are lined with contemporary structures, high-rise shopping centres, hip cafés as well as restaurants. Travelling around is efficient and easy thanks to Seoul’s well-developed subways. Therefore, even first-time visitors will not find difficulty going from one spot to another.
Despite the visible modernity of the city, it maintains its traditional taste and cultural heritage—a respectful nod to its rich albeit tumultuous history.
The Joseon Dynasty is the last kingdom in Korea. The reign lasted from 1932 until 1910. Today, there are five grand palaces in Seoul that still remain following the governance of Joseon Dynasty.
These grand palaces, namely Gyeongbok Palace, Changdeok Palace, Changgyeong Palace, Gyeonghui Palace, and Deoksu Palace, reflect the history and culture of Seoul. They are open for public visitation.
Another way for young South Koreans to rediscover their past and for tourists to get a glimpse of the beautiful old Seoul is by visiting hanok villages. Hanok is a term that describes traditional Korean homes.
Bukchon Hanok Village is not to be missed. Nestled between Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace, it carries with it six centuries of history.
Unlike other hanok villages in the vicinity that were built specifically for tourists, Bukchon Hanok Village is inhabited by Seoulites. Traditional and charming, every nook and cranny of the village show traces of its rich history which lends an authentic hanok atmosphere.
Travellers can enter the traditional residences to learn more about the Korean lifestyle.
Bukchon consists of five neighbourhoods including Wonseo-dong, Jae-dong, Gye-dong, Gahoe-dong, and Insa-dong. In the past, the area served as home to noblemen and high-ranking government officials who served in the palace along with their families.
Around the village are craft workshops, traditional restaurants, and hanok galleries. If you are keen to know more about the history of the hanok lifestyle, include these museums in your itinerary.
The museum is a traditional Korean house converted into an exhibition hall where numerous life relics, which were utilised in the Bukchon area in the past, are displayed. The museum welcomes tourists all year long.
The art museum, located in Gahoe-dong, features the work of the embroidery master Han Sangsoo. The museum seeks to promote the importance of Korean embroidery tradition to the public. In line with this goal, visitors can attend classes, programmes, exhibitions, seminars, activities, and demonstrations to appreciate the history and understand the meticulous process of Korean embroidery. The museum is accessible every day except Mondays.
The Gahoe Museum is a privately owned gallery situated in Gahoe-dong. Founded in 2002, the museum is home to the most comprehensive collection of Korean shamanistic art all over the world. The museum is ultimately a reputable repository of Korean indigenous beliefs and culture. Currently, it displays over 1,500 items that include 750 amulets, 250 folk paintings, 150 classical books, and approximately 250 other items too.
There are four seasons in South Korea. The dry winter happens from November to March while a verdant spring runs from March until late May. Meanwhile, a humid and rainy monsoon season occurs during the summer months. Lastly, the cool, crisp autumn befalls in the months of September to November. The best time to explore South Korea is during spring and autumn. In winter, fine snow covers the streets. A myriad of winter resorts serves as a haven for winter sports enthusiasts. It is also perfect for people seeking refuge from their own countries’ summer heat. Summer in South Korea is often stifling and therefore is not an ideal time to travel the country.
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Charles is a world traveler having lived in 44 states and 11 countries and traveled to dozens more. He and his wife spend time between London, Ireland, Canada, and the Philippines.