Located along the Hangang River, Seoul has grown into a teeming metropolis with a population of more than 10 million. Over the years, the capital city has greatly expanded in the process of urbanization and industrialization and continues to grow as the thriving center of the country’s political, economic, cultural and educational activities. Seoul is the world’s 10th-largest city. Its past and present coexist in a fascinating way: centuries-old palaces, city gates, shrines, gardens and priceless art collections attest to the city’s illustrious past, while the glistening facades of soaring skyscrapers and the bustling traffic represent its vibrant present.
The old city was encircled by four inner mountains and four outer mountains. Bugaksan in the north, Naksan in the east, Inwangsan in the west, and Namsan in the south are “the inner mountains” as all were originally inside the old city walls of the Joseon capital. The four outer mountains are Bukhansan in the north, Yongmasan in the east, Deogyangsan in the west, and Gwanaksan in the south. Each mountain has a unique beauty of its own while boasting natural scenic landscapes and spectacular views overlooking the city of Seoul. There are also numerous mountain springs that freely provide clean, clear water to refresh weary hikers.
In Seoul, the must-see attractions are the ancient royal palaces of the Joseon Dynasty: Gyeongbokgung, Deoksugung, Changdeokgung, and Changgyeonggung. Jongmyo, the royal ancestral shrine of the Joseon Dynasty, and Changdeokgung’s adjacent Huwon (Rear Garden also known as the Secret Garden) are noted for their beautifully landscaped gardens and classical structures.
One of the most popular areas for tourists in the old center of Seoul is Insa-dong. A place that beckons both casual shoppers and serious collectors, it is lined with antique shops, art galleries, traditional teahouses, and restaurants and bookstores.
Other attractions highly recommended for visitors include the National Museum of Korea, the National Gugak Center, the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, the Ho-Am Art Hall and Korea House. The National Museum
of Contemporary Art in Gwacheon, a southern satellite town, also deserves a visit.
At Namsan Park, in the heart of Seoul, visitors can enjoy a panoramic view of the entire city from N Seoul Tower and look around a reconstructed Hanok village below. Visitors can relax, walk, or rent bicycles in numerous Seoul parks, such as Olympic Park, Seoul Grand Park, Seoul Forest, and the Hangang River Trail. These parks are among the hidden treasures of Seoul, enjoyed by residents but often missed by tourists.
Of course, Korean cuisine is also a must during a trip to the peninsula, either at a modern or traditional restaurant. Excellent Chinese and Japanese food is also available, as well as French, Italian, Thai, Pakistani and many other ethnic cuisines.
Seoul has an active nightlife with clubs, cafes, and roof-top lounges. A fantastic view of the city at night can be seen from the Seoul City Tour Bus or from along the Hangang River as a cruise boat slowly meanders through a valley flanked by high-rises.