1. Gyeongbokgung Palace Gyeongbokgung Palace was the first royal palace built by the Joseon Dynasty, three years after the Joseon Dynasty was founded. 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.
An effort by the Korean government has been ongoing since 1990 to rebuild and restore the buildings that were destroyed during the Japanese occupation. This 40-year restoration project aims to fully restore Gyeongbokgung Palace to its original form in the next twenty years. The palace also houses the National Palace Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum of Korea.
2. Myeong-dong Myeong-dong is Seoul’s shopping mecca and is a must-see for tourists, but it is not just a shopping destination; Myeong-dong is also a hub of commerce, banking and culture with a daytime population of 1.5-2 million. For shoppers there is a mixture of street stalls and retail outlets selling everything from high fashion to casual attire, as well as many Korean cosmetics stores offering high-quality products at competitive prices.
Myeong-dong is very popular with international visitors and fills with Japanese and Chinese tourists during the holiday period known as “Golden Week” which takes place in spring and is called golden week due to the week-long holiday period that takes place in Japan and China. Part of Myeong-dong’s popularity stems from relatively affordable prices here, especially compared to the other shopping meccas of Apgujeong-dong and Cheongdam-dong.
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.
Although Dongdaemun Market is traditionally famous for its night market, this popular shopping district attracts hordes of shoppers and tourists at all times of day. Like Namdaemun Market, Dongdaemun Market sells a variety of products, but unlike Namdaemun Market, it is open 24-hours a day. The powerful appeal of Dongdaemun Market stems from the fact that you can buy everything you need at a reasonable price, in one convenient location and at any time. Most major wholesalers and retailers are here along with specialist outlets focusing on the youth market, making Dongdaemun Market the best place to find the latest fashions at bargain prices. Dongdaemun’s famous food alley, Mukja Golmok, is also essential for anyone wanting to check out the latest trends in Korean cuisine.
4. N Seoul Tower N Seoul Tower was built in 1969 as Korea's first integrated transmission tower beaming television and radio broadcasts across the capital. Since opening to the public in 1980, it has become a much-loved Seoul landmark. The tower's main attractions include multi-colored digital art projected onto the tower at night, a digital observatory, a roof terrace, the HanCook restaurant, the n.Grill restaurant, and the Haneul (Sky) Restroom. N Seoul Tower's mountain surroundings on Namsan (Mt.) have made it a popular place to unwind for locals and tourists alike.
Seoul has a number of viewing platforms where visitors can enjoy the nighttime cityscape or gaze out onto the Hangang (River) but the tower's Digital Observatory is unique, offering an astonishing 360 degree panorama over the city, and 32 LCD screens recounting the 600-year history of Seoul. That is why the observatory is so popular and such a source of pride.
5. Insa-dong Insa-dong Street is one of the most memorable attractions in Seoul and represents the focal point of Korean traditional culture and crafts. Stores in Insa-dong specialize in a wide variety of goods that can only be purchased or appreciated in Korea: hanbok (traditional clothing), hanji (traditional paper), traditional teas, pottery, and folk crafts.
Insa-dong Street stretches over 700 meters between the Anguk-dong Rotary and Tapgol Park (Jongno 2-ga). During the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), the street was dominated by Dohwawon, a place of study for painters. The area is still a center for the arts, and painters, craftsmen, and art lovers continue to set up shop along the narrow alleys, making it a unique place full of folk crafts, pottery, and paintings. The street offers rich opportunities for visitors to experience Korean traditional culture and arts. Various art events and festivals are regularly held along the street.
6. Namdaemun Market Namdaemun Market, located in the very center of Seoul, is the biggest traditional market in Korea selling children's clothing, men & women's clothing, daily miscellaneous goods, kitchenware and local and imported products. Most shops have their own factories and make the products themselves offering both wholesale and retail prices which enable visitors to purchase various shopping items at extremely inexpensive prices. Foreign visitors to Namdaemun Market show different tastes: the Japanese are more into foods like gim (seaweed), gimchi, and ginseng, while the Chinese show interest in clothing and miscellaneous goods. On the other hand, most tourists from the West simply enjoy the ambience of the traditional market. Hours vary by store, so it's advisable to plan in advance according toa shopping list before you start actual shopping.
7. Cheonggyecheon Stream Cheonggyecheon is an 11 km long modern stream that runs through downtown Seoul. Created as part of an urban renewal project, Cheonggyecheon is a restoration of the stream that was once there before during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). The stream was covered with an elevated highway after the Korean War (1950-1953), as part of the country's post-war economic development. Then in 2003, the elevated highway was removed to restore the stream to its present form today. The stream starts from Cheonggye Plaza, a popular cultural arts venue, and passes under a total of 22 bridges before flowing into the Hangang (River), with many attractions along its length.
8. Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) is the newest and most iconic landmark of the Korean design industry. Located at the center of the Dongdaemun area, the DDP will serve as a key venue for design-related shows and conferences, exhibitions, and other events and gatherings.
Designed by world renowned architect, Zaha Hadid, DDP is the world’s largest atypical architecture. The DDP is comprised of five halls: Art Hall, Museum, Design Lab, Design Market, and Dongdaemun History and Culture Park. The Art Hall is the primary launch pad for the Korean creative industry. The hall is a key venue for conventions, trade shows, exhibitions, fashion shows, concerts and performances. The Museum Hall brings together Korean design and global trends. The Museum Hall is comprised of five sections: Design Playground, Design Dulle-gil(trail), Design Museum, Design Exhibition Hall, and the Design Rest Area. The Design Lab serves as an incubator for rising Korean and international creative product designers. The Design Market is a multipurpose space that combines culture, experiences and shopping. This hall is open 24 hours a day to provide added convenience to visitors of Dongdaemun Market, the town that never sleeps.
9. Hongdae Hongdae (the abbreviation of Hongik University) has become a symbol of unique cultural identity among Korea’s youth. The area is home to an eclectic mix of cafés and clubs that have served as breeding grounds for many of Korea’s growing subcultures.
At the very center of Hongdae beats the heart of the club culture. Young people from all over the city congregate at the clubs on weekends to drink, dance, and listen to a variety of music ranging from techno to R&B, hip hop and acid jazz. Claiming independence from so-called commercial capitalism, indie bands and underground musicians give live shows in intimate settings such as cafés, bars, and clubs. To the delight of club enthusiasts, a program started in 2001 where visitors can visit multiple clubs with one single ticket purchase (held on the last Friday of every month from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.). This special event (known simply as "club day"), in combination with the area’s unique charm, has attracted a number of international tourists to Hongdae in recent years.
10. The National Museum of Korea The National Museum of Korea is located about 1.5 km away from Yongsan Station. It is the largest museum in Korea and houses precious Korean cultural assets that tell the story of Korea’s fascinating history, from ancient times to the modern era.
The museum is also close to Yongsan Family Park, a grassy wooded park with a pond that serves as a natural habitat for various species of birds, as well as over 80 different kinds of trees. The War Memorial of Korea, also nearby, is located next to Samgakji Station, and 1 km from Yongsan Station. It displays a vast collection of wartime relics.
In addition to galleries with a wide array of national and international pieces, the National Museum of Korea is the stage for a number of cultural activities related to collection, preservation, research and analysis, social training, academic publications, intercultural exchange programs, concerts, and more.