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Explore Seoul - An Exclusive Guide

A perfect day in... Seoul, South Korea

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Often voted as one of the best capital cities in Asia, Seoul is a vibrant city offering an interesting mix of history and culture alongside delicious food and shops that cater for all tastes and age groups.

What to see in Seoul

First thing to note is that Seoul is big, spreading over around 605 sq km and made up of 25 gu (districts), which are divided into 423 dongs (neighborhoods). Thankfully, getting around the city is made easy by a very efficient public transport system.

Take a deep dive into Korea’s long and fascinating history with a visit to the Seoul History Museum, in Jongno-gu. Their permanent exhibition covers key moments of Korean history, from the Joseon period and the Korean War to present-day times. Arts and crafts enthusiasts should not miss the National Museum of Korea, the sixth largest museum in the world and home to 310,000 paintings, sculptures and artifacts, some dating back to prehistoric times.

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For more art, head to the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, in Itaewon, which showcases both traditional and contemporary Korean art as well as pieces from international artists – Warhol, Rothko and Damien Hirst, to name a few. Don’t miss Louise Bourgeois’s giant spider sculpture, Maman, in the Sculpture Garden.

Out of the Five Royal Palaces in Seoul, built during the Joseon dynasty (1923-1910), Gyeongbokgung is the largest and most visited. A fun way to experience the palace for free is by renting and wearing a hanbok (traditional Korean clothing). From there, explore nearby Bukchon Hanok Village, famous for its traditional Korean houses or hanok, and narrow, winding alleyways.

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Head to the 236-meter tall Namsan (or Seoul) Tower for impressive, panoramic views over the city. There are many ways to get there, but the most adventurous one, though not the cheapest, is by cable car.

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What to do in Seoul

The architectural landscape in Seoul is fast changing and continuously evolving. Wherever you are in the city, you’ll notice huge, sometimes odd-shaped buildings that blend seamlessly with the surroundings. Head to Dongdaemun Design Plaza, a neofuturistic cultural complex designed by Zaha Hadid, and marvel at its undulating shapes and forms.

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For more architectural gems, and a spot of retail therapy, make a beeline to the Lotte World Tower. This 123-story supertall skyscraper is Korea’s tallest building, housing an aquarium, hotel, spa, swimming pool and shops. While you’re there, make a trip to the Observatory. Located on the top seven floors and fittingly named Seoul Sky, its top to bottom glass windows offer 360 degrees views of Seoul. Thrill-seekers will want to try walking the outdoor sky bridge, which stands 541 meters above the ground.

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Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city at the Bongeunsa Temple, located across the Starfield COEX Mall in Samseong-dong, and founded in 794. Go on a reflective stroll along the temple grounds until you reach the 23-meter stone statue of Maitreya, the Future Buddha, and one of the tallest stone statues in the country.

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There’s no shortage of shops in Seoul. Shinsegae, Hyundai and Lotte are the three main department stores, with several branches across the city, while Gangnam (Seoul’s Beverly Hills) is the place for luxury brands and celebrity-spotting. Hongdae, popular with students and street performers, is filled with cute, independent small shops, or for a more hipster vibe, try up-and-coming Seongsu.

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And of course, Korea is renowned for its beauty regime, or K-beauty. Experience the 10-step skincare routine at Amore Seongsu, where you can cleanse your face on arrival before trying all products on display until you find the one that’s right for you.

What to eat in Seoul

Just as with shops, there’s also no shortage of restaurants and food markets in Seoul. Try bindae-tteok (a pan-fried pancake made with mung beans, vegetables and meat) at the traditional Gwangjang market, in Jongno-gu. Chimaek, Korean fried chicken and beer, is a popular street food snack, as is Tteokbokki (spicy stir-fried rice cake).

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Koreans love their coffee, and drink iced-americanos even when it’s snowing outside. With over 18,000 cafes sprawled around Seoul, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Cafe Onion has three branches in Seoul – try the Injeolmi pandoro at their hanok-style store in Anguk. Or opt for delicious pastries at Maison Ouvert and British baked goods at Scoff, both in the Seochon area.

For more information, go to visitkorea.or.kr

This article has been written for review purposes only and does not suggest sponsorship or endorsement of AARDY by the trademark owner.

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