Seoul: Asia’s most overlooked travel destination

Discover what makes Seoul an interesting and exciting place to visit on your next Asia trip.

Seoul is one of the hidden gems of Asia. It is often overlooked by travelers more interested in the beaches of Thailand and Vietnam or the technological glam of Tokyo or Hong Kong. Yet, Seoul is just as technology driven as Japan and it is perfect for budget travelers looking for a great time and to save some cash.

The Land of the Morning Calm [Chaohsien] was long cut off from the outside world. Due to a lack of foreign influence up until the 21st century, Seoul was isolated for the most part. Although the 1988 Summer Olympics was held in the city, it wasn’t until the 2002 World Cup that Seoul – and South Korea as a whole – began to open up to western ideas.

Seoul is home to many magnificent historic temples. Major historical buildings like Gyeongbokgung Palace are smack dab in the middle of the city. It is a unique setting in which an ancient palace shares space with skyscrapers. Seoul is a tremendous city to visit, but it is even better with a CityPals guide who can take you to the city’s off the beaten path landmarks.

Picture of the Royal Changing of the Guard Ceremony at Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul

The Royal Changing of the Guard Ceremony at Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul

Hongdae

Two of the most popular areas of Seoul are Itaewon and Insa-dong. The former is a district teeming with bars and restaurants.  Insa-dong is a district filled with Korean shops selling traditional goods.

Hongdae is an alternative area to the ones previously mentioned. A cool district it is filled with hip bars, restaurants, cafes, and shops. Although a fun place to be during the day, at night, Hongdae really comes alive. The neon lights that adorn the buildings invite visitors inside to sample food and drinks.

Korean BBQ restaurants are an absolute must when visiting Hongdae (or for that matter any part of Seoul). You will get seriously filled up at a BBQ restaurant thanks to the meat and abundant sides. You will also get to cook your own meat before eating it Korean style. If you have never eaten at an authentic Korean BBQ restaurant, it is an incredible experience.

Street Performer showing his talents to spectators in Hongdae Seoul South Korea

Street Performer showing his talents to spectators in Hongdae.

Hangang Park

You could spend an entire spring or summer day walking, running, cycling at the Hangang Park. This large park is actually comprised of 12 smaller parks in one and they run the length of the Han River. Built between 1982 and 1986, the Hangang Park is a favorite spot for Koreans to exercise or to simply get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

In recent years, the city has begun a restoration project that will see the Hangang Park brought fully into the 21st century. The park and the areas nearby are being transformed as culture and leisure epicenter for locals and tourists to enjoy.

Picture of Hangang Park, Seoul South Korea in the Summer

Hangang Park in the Summer

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace is a gorgeous traditional palace in the middle of Seoul. It is easy to walk from the palace to the heart of the city in minutes, giving you the chance to engage in multiple activities in one single day. Gyeongbokgung Palace was the main home of the Joseon Dynasty which lasted a full five centuries.

Despite being destroyed several times due to fire and at the hands of the Japanese army, the palace has been re-built into its modern-day design. A CityPals guide can take you around the palace as a personal information attendant. Your guide will be able to tell you the story of the palace and of the Joseon Dynasty for your visit.

Picture of local Koreans wearing traditional dress called "Hanbok" at the Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul

Local Koreans wearing traditional dress called “Hanbok” at the Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Namsan Tower and Namsan Mountain

Namsan Mountain is a favorite hiking and cycling destination in Seoul. The area gives locals and tourists the chance to get fresh air and enjoy exercise. However, it also provides visitors with so much more. You can take Namsan cable car up to the top of the mountain or walk up the paved paths.

A walk can be quite exhilarating, but once you get to the top you will find places to rest before making the journey back down. Atop Namsan Mountain are cafes, restaurants, and convenient stores allowing you to sip a refreshing drink.

The top of Namsan Mountain is a popular place for lovebirds. Love padlocks are a favorite activity of couples living in Seoul. The locks are signed and dated by couples before they are attached to the fence on top of the mountain.

Picture of Padlocks of lovers at Namsan Tower in Seoul. They are a symbol of love and commitment.

Padlocks of lovers at Namsan Tower. They are a symbol of love and commitment.

Demilitarized Zone

Located about 30 miles from Seoul, you will find the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). It is the official separation line between North and South Korea. The two countries are officially still at war which makes the entire area quite intense. A tour to the DMZ is one of the most unique visits you can take anywhere on the planet. At the DMZ you will see soldiers from each side  staring each other down. A DMZ tour gives you a deeper understanding of the history and conflict between the two countries. While touring the DMZ, you will visit the Freedom Bridge, which gives insight into the atrocities of the Korean War.

Picture of soldiers at the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea

Seoul should not be overlooked by world travelers. It is an underestimated city that visitors are sure to enjoy on so many levels. Seoul is the perfect destination for you to discover with the help of a CityPals guide. From great night out hot spots to beautiful traditional palaces, from amazing cuisine to gorgeous nature settings, Seoul has it all for a holiday in Asia.

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