Seoul is quite popular among tourists from Asian countries of China, Japan and South East Asian nations. Off late, tourists from western countries too are showing increasing interest in the South Korean country. The Seoul Capital Area consisting of Incheon, Seoul and Gyeonngi-do has five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The city’s skyline is counted among the world’s best skylines with many beautiful architectural structures.
Lotus Lantern Festival
The pretty sights of colossal birds, large sized lotus flowers and larger-than-life Buddhas which glow from within is one experience you may not want to miss. The Lotus Lantern Festival that happens every year on Buddha’s birthday (in April/May) showcases remarkable displays of lanterns on Cheonggyecheon Stream. The festival is preceded by hanging of lotus-shaped lanterns across Seoul for several weeks, and officially kicks off with lighting of the Jangeumdang, a large lantern that symbolizes Buddhism and Buddha's Birthday, at the Seoul Plaza. In case you want to be a part of this grand event, you may have to plan your trip around the same time.
Seoul Lantern Festival is a similar event happening in the winter months.
Seoul’s Architectural Wonders
Buildings in Seoul have redefined traditions through their ultra-modern designs. Some of these are GT Tower East, Incheon Tri-Bowl, Ann Demeulemeester Shop and Ananti Club. The city’s skyline is filled with high rises and as mentioned earlier, it is counted among the best in the world. The Seoul Tower, highest point in Seoul is a communication and observation tower located on Namsan Mountain.
Markets and Shopping
Shopping in Seoul is an interesting experience with the sidewalks of Seoul as one big fashion show. The Gangnam area is home to the world’s best brands. However, local designers too are very popular with Seoul residents. The D-Cube City, popular retail complex houses the international as well as the trendy Korean labels. D-Cube has many interesting signs and maps posted in English which make for good reads. Try not to miss these quotes on your visit to the mall.
Gwangjang Market, one of Korea’s largest traditional markets has shops selling high quality silk, satin and linen bed sheets. The vintage clothing arcade in the market is popular for its unique vintage fashion among the youth and trendy. It is also home to a diversity of traditional Korean street food. Bindaetteok (mung bean pancakes), bibimbap (mixed rice) and hotteok (pancakes with brown sugar filling) are the market's specialties.
Korean Street Food
Seoul is full of street food and open air markets. However, a fascinating sight at nights is the poh-jahng-mah-chah literally meaning covered/ tented wagons that park on street corners and serve delicious Korean street food. Office workers shed their ties on their way home, and loud conversations compete with waving chopsticks. It is a fun way to experience Korean culture.
A visit to the underground railway system too should be on your itinerary in Seoul. The underground railway system is full of fun surprises. You can find interesting graffiti with or without slogans on the walls. You may also stumble upon talented musicians or old women selling traditional homemade snacks in the subway.
Besides the above mentioned, Seoul also offers ample sightseeing in terms of palaces, museums and religious sites.
Seoul is home to five royal palaces from the Chosun Dynasty which are Changdeokgung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, Unhyeongung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace and Gyeongbokgung Palace.
The best way to know about any city is through its museums and culture centers. National Museum of Korea, Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, War Memorial and Museum, National Folk Museum of Korea, Seoul Museum of history, Korean Design Museum, Seoul Yangnyeongsi Herb Medicine Museum, National museum of modern and contemporary art are some of the museums that you may visit.
To get in touch with the religious side of Seoul, you can visit Jongmyo, Jogyesa, Cheondogyo Temple, Seonnongdan, Gilsangsa, Yeouido Full Gospel Church, Myeong-dong Catholic Cathedral, Inwangsan Guksadang and Sajikdan.
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