The country of South Korea has been continually progressing towards its current status as a global economic force and a major player in the worlds of technology and culture. Currently, there are around 10 million inhabitants in Seoul, making it one of the world’s most densely populated cities.
The Han river provides calm, placid views in an otherwise cluttered city. It flows through the city with twenty-nine bridges that span its waters enabling people to shuttle from north to south of the city via trains, buses, or cars.
One of Seoul’s accolades is that it is home to four UNESCO World Heritage: Changdeokgung, Hwaseong Fortress, Jongmyo Shrine, and the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty.
Here’s a round-robin of what to do when you get there:
Gwangjang Market was Seoul’s first market. Today, its second floor serves as a massive textile market, but the real draw is the food vendors packed throughout the main floor. Gwangjang Market is one of the best places to sample Seoul’s eclectic street and snack food options. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the famous saxophonist who is often filling this lively market with his music.
Namdaemun Market is Seoul’s largest traditional market. Open daily around the clock, it is massive and hosts over 10,000 vendors spread through a maze of intertwining streets. Many of the shops sell handmade items. From leather belts, jewelry to ginseng, the market has a little bit of everything including camping gear. Though it is very crowded, and you will get bumped around, it’s a great place to wander, people watch, and perhaps pick up a souvenir at a bartered price.
Seoul Folk Flea Market
You’ll find everything from Korean antiques and taxidermy and all kinds of randomness. While amongst these treasures, take a minute to try some fresh honey tea that’s made with honey fresh from the comb. If that’s too sweet try a refreshing concoction of milk, Korean red ginger, honey, and a plant mountain ma. Places like these have a lot of historical significance in Korea and this particular market has been moved around more than once in its 100+ years of existence. Who knows how long it will stay in its current form, so enjoy it while you can, and don’t be surprised if you are the only foreigner in the place.
Explore Insadong Street
This is arguably one of Seoul’s most famous and thoroughfares. The main street and the alleyways intersecting it are a great place to window shop Korea’s culture. Storefronts are flanked with hanging calligraphy paintbrushes and have Korean traditional paper and the Korean traditional dress (hanbok) for observation or purchase. Be sure to visit one of Seoul’s famous tea houses or sample Buddhist temple food.