There are a number of reasons that Seoul is important for South Korea. For example, it is the capital, so it should come as no surprise to learn that it hosts the cultural institutions that most people would expect of such cities. Furthermore, Seoul and its surroundings make up what is called the Seoul Capital Area, which is home to about half of the South Korean population. Due to this, it is no exaggeration to say that people's first-time visit to South Korea without them seeing what Seoul has to offer. Here are 10 things that might interest people who are visiting Seoul for the first time:
Sometimes called either Gyeongbok Palace or the rather redundant Gyeongbokgung Palace, the Gyeongbokgung was the most important of the palaces from which the Joseon dynasty ruled Korea for about five centuries. Said palace has been destroyed not once but twice by the Japanese, but since the late 1980s, the South Korean government has been engaged in a process of restoration, thus making it one of Seoul's must-see sites.
2. Bukchon Hanok Village
Speaking of the Gyeongbokgung, first-time visitors might want to check out Bukchon Hanok Village as well. In short, said village is situated close to Gyeongbokgung, but what makes it stand out is its status as a reminder of traditional Korean culture. In particular, interested individuals have made mention of its narrow streets as being well-suited for people seeking to explore.
3. Jongmyo Shrine
The Jongmyo Shrine is a Confucian shrine meant to hold memorial services for both the kings and queens of the Joseon dynasty. When viewed from the perspective of the ruling king on his throne, the Jongmyo Shrine would have been situated to his left, while another Confucian shrine called the Sajikdan Shrine would have been situated to his right. Even now, memorial services are still held at the Jongmyo Shrine.
4. Sajikdan Shrine
In contrast to the Jongmyo Shrine, the Sajikdan Shrine was meant to hold what are called soil and grain ceremonies, which were state rituals of paramount importance. Nowadays, the Sajikdan Shrine has seen the revival of some ceremonies, which are meant to parallel those of its counterparts over at the Jongmyo Shrone.
5. Korean War Museum
The division of Korea into North Korea and South Korea continues to have important consequences for people living in the past. As a result, for people who are interested in learning more about how the current situation came to be, there is the Korean War Museum, which is open to the public free of charge.
Technically, the DMZ between North Korea and South Korea isn't considered to be part of Seoul. However, it is situated so close to said city that a lot of people choose to use it as a starting point for their visit to said location. With that said, interested individuals should know that the DMZ isn't a place that they can visit on their own for excellent reasons, meaning that they will have to visit with a tour group of some kind.
7. Noryangjin Fish Market
Visiting the Noryangjin Fish Market is a popular past-time for a lot of foreign visitors to Seoul. In part, this seems to be because of the chance to see as well as sample a wider range of seafood than most people realize existed. However, it should also be noted that there are plenty of people who are interested in the excitement of the fish auctions.
8. Gangnam District
Some people might remember the singer-songwriter Psy's "Gangnam Style," which became a huge international hit in 2012. For those who are curious, "Gangnam Style" was intended to mock people claiming to possess Gangnam style, which refers to a kind of upscale lifestyle with strong connotations of classiness that is associated with one of the wealthiest districts in Seoul. Amusingly, Gangnam style is rather similar to classiness in that people who actually have it don't need to boast about it, which explains much about the song.
9. Myeongdong Night Market
Myeongdong is a popular place to shop, so it should come as no surprise to learn that it brings in a lot of tourists on a regular basis. With that said, its street vendors remain open during the night, which should come as welcome news to those interested in seeing what Korean street food is like.
10. Namdaemun Market
The Namdaemun Market is another example of the excellent shopping opportunities that can be found in Seoul. However, it is interesting to note that it is a traditional Korean market, which is perhaps unsurprising when one considers that it is the longest continually-running market in Korea as well.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker