Seoul, A fascinating mix of old and new.
Settled since Paleolithic times, Seoul only rose to prominence in 1394, when an upstart general overthrew the previous dynasty and named the city his new capital. Since that time, Seoul has remained a vital political and economic center; indeed, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Seoul slowly grew into a modern metropolis, even amidst the turmoil of colonialization and the devastation of the Korean War.
Today, Seoul is a vibrant, futuristic megacity that is a curious fusion of the ancient and the modern. Past meets present as ornate temples and sprawling palaces contrast with the shining glass and steel office towers of Itaewon and starchitect-designed museums. With 20.5 million residents, Seoul is the world’s second-largest metropolitan area, and in 2010, was designated a World Design Capital. Enter this energetic, fascinating city, and experience its diverse character for yourself.
Bukhansan Mountain is situated in the northern part of Seoul. Designated as a national park in 1983, the mountain is 78.45km wide and has 6 districts and extends out into Gyeonggi-do. The name Bukhansan means “big mountain in the north,” and it is also called Samgaksan Mountain. Bukhansan Mountain has such smooth curves that the large granite rocks sometimes look as if they would slide down the mountain. The world famous granite rock peak Insubong is over 200m above sea level, and there are about 100 mountain paths leading to the rock. When you stand on Baegundae and look down, sometimes you can see as far as Seoul City and the Hangang River.
Let us visit the sites and remember those who sacrificed their lives during the war to defend freedom in the Republic of Korea. Palmido Island is an islet located 15.7 kilometers southwest of Incheon Port. The island name Palmido (literally “the tip of the number eight island”) is so named as the two islands lying north and south form the shape of the number eight during ebb tides. The beautiful island is also significant in that the country’s first lighthouse was built on it. More importantly, the most critical mission during the Incheon Landing Operation was the secret mission called “Light the Palmido Lighthouse” carried out by a special intelligence unit. Halfway to the lighthouse is a sculpture called ‘The Light of One Thousand Years’ built in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Palmido Lighthouse. At the peak, you can see two lighthouses. The smaller one on the left is the original Palmido lighthouse. The one behind it is a new lighthouse which was completed in 2003 to replace the original one that had been operational for 100 years. Go up to the 4th floor. From the Sky Garden Observatory, you can enjoy the magnificent blue waters of the West Sea.
Spend the afternoon in Hongdae, the area around Hongik University. Here you will witness Korean youth culture at its most creative and vibrant; there are scores of unique cafes, boutiques, performance spaces, bars and other small businesses geared towards young Koreans and the handfuls of foreigners studying at or visiting Hongik. Come here for a fascinating look at the other side of traditionally conservative Korean culture.
Visit the History Museum with a curator, which usually takes half a day to see. The most unique exhibits here are to-scale reproductions of traditional Korean homes, which show the myriad ways in which joints were constructed without nails, as well as replicas of typical furniture and common dress through the ages. The celadon collection here is also top-notch, and for those who want a hands-on approach to history, there is a “touch museum” where you can actually handle real or meticulously recreated ancient tools found on the Korean peninsula.
WHERE TO STAY
Just steps from Gwanghwamun Plaza, Four Seasons Hotel Seoul boasts commanding city views and features 4 in-house dining, a state-of-the art fitness facilities and traditional Korean saunas. The royal Gyeongbokgung Palace, Sejong Art Center, Cheonggyecheon Stream and the city hall are all within a 10-minute walk from the luxurious 5-star hotel. All of the modern and stylish rooms and suites offer floor-to-ceiling windows with panoramic views of the historical city centre. There are a flat-screen LCD TV, remote-controlled drapes and an iPad Mini to access hotel services including 24-hour in-room dining. Guests can choose from Korean, Cantonese, Japanese, Italian or international fusion cuisine at Four Seasons Hotel Seoul. Bar Boccalino and Charles H. are ideal for enjoying an exotic cocktail or a vast selection of wine.
Located between floors 76 and 101 of Lotte World Tower, Signiel Seoul boasts panoramic views of Seoul in all 235 rooms. This five-star hotel features a champagne bar, Michelin-starred restaurant, indoor swimming pool, fitness centre and banquet facilities. It is also directly connected to Jamsil Subway Station (Line 2 and 8) through an underground passage and provides free WiFi access throughout the entire property. All rooms are carpeted and fitted with a minibar, fridge, coffee machine, safety deposit box and flat-screen TV. En suite bathroom includes a hairdryer, free toiletries, slippers and toilet with an electronic bidet. Evian Spa is located on the 86th floor and features spa and sauna facilities. Staff at Signiel Seoul can assist guests with luggage storage, valet parking and concierge services. Dry cleaning, laundry, trouser press and ironing services are available at a surcharge. Awarded with 1 Michelin star, BICENA provides Korean-style dishes for lunch and dinner. Guests can also enjoy French gourmets at STAY restaurant which is owned by 3-star Michelin chef Yannick Alléno.Share this tour