Last weekend I had a short but sweet trip to South Korea’s capital city of Seoul.
Now I’m not a fan of the cold but I especially enjoyed the crisp autumn weather that Seoul turned on for us.
Think sharp and vibrant blue skies, the leaves on the trees turning brilliant shades of burnt orange, deep reds and golden honey hues….. AND the chance to actually wear scarves, boots and trench coats (which is such a novelty after coming out of a very long Hong Kong summer!).
It’s been said, (rather ironically), that Seoul lacks soul, but I totally disagree!
Despite the dramatic hot and cold temperatures, this is a place I would be happy to return to, as the few times I’ve visited, I’ve really enjoyed it!
If you’re keen for a weekend getaway or you need an alternate stop over, Seoul is a great choice!
Below I share the highlights of my two days in Seoul.
To me a ‘palace’ means something like Buckingham Palace or Versailles ……..so when I decided to visit palaces in Korea I guess you could say my expectations were a little off.
However, I wasn’t disappointed!
Built in 1395, Gyeongbokgung was once the main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty.
As you explore the palace grounds you will see the remaining halls including geunjeongjeon, where the official ceremonies were held as well as the private and rather expansive quarters of the King and Queen.
It’s worth trying to time your visit to watch the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at Gwanghwamun Gate.
The ceremony runs for about 10 minutes at 11am, 2pm and 4pm.
Whilst you’re at Gyeongbokgung Palace I can also recommend you visit the National Folk Museum of Korea.
After a guided tour I had a much better understanding of the ancient Korean life cycle and a deeper appreciation of the sites I visited across Seoul (and I’m not a huge fan of museums!).
Another palace worth visiting in Seoul is Changdeokgung.
This was originally built as the secondary palace to Gyeongbokgung and is now a UNESCO world cultural heritage site.
It was interesting to see how the halls were built along the mountain slope and the gardens were designed to preserve the natural surroundings.
I especially loved hearing about Dancheong, which literally means “red and green,” and refers to the beautiful five-coloured designs found on the walls, pillars and eaves of traditional Korean wooden buildings.
As well as Dancheong being for decorative reasons, this ancient painting technique also helps to preserve the wood from rotting in Seoul’s crazy weather.
These basic colours are related to the traditional five elements including wood, fire, gold, water and earth. The Koreans believe that bringing together these five colours symbolises their desire for stability, peace in the present life and a rewarding afterlife.
If you’re keen to get a feel for a traditional Korean marketplace from days gone by, head to the quaint district of Insa-dong.
This gorgeous district known for its antiques is lined with galleries, traditional Korean teahouses, cool restaurants, street food vendors and cute hanji paper stores.
I visited Insa-dong a few years ago and I loved it….I still loved it the second time around!
After I enjoyed a heart warming lunch of Bulgogi (a popular Korean beef dish), I took time to wander up the tree-lined street to do some window shopping and enjoy a Korean sweet (a knotted style donut completely covered in sugar…so delicious!)
If you wish to hit the shops hard, you can’t go past the busiest region in Seoul, Myeong-dong.
This shopping mecca stretched over a kilometre from Myeong-dong station to Euljiro and includes the famous Lotte Department store.
You can spend your time browsing the large shopping malls and designer boutiques as well as weave up and down the many alleys and take time out in the cozy cafes and specialty restaurants.
I particularly loved seeing all the weird and wonderful street food vendors and soaking up the buzz of Seoul’s Downtown district.
I know this sounds really strange, but Seoul actually reminded me of Istanbul.
There was something about the heaving crowd in Myeong-dong, the street vendors selling roasted walnuts and pomegranate juice, not to mention the sprawling neighbourhoods with colourful roves and religious structures punctuating the horizon.
Feeling kind of silly, I shared my thoughts with James and he agreed…..so I’m not crazy!
If you’ve ever been to Seoul and have some must-see destinations, I would love to hear them in the comment section below!
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