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The people of Seoul have seamlessly married their ancient traditions with their desire to live in one of the most technologically advanced and modern cities in the world. Consequently, there are almost limitless opportunities for any kind of person looking for things to see and do in Seoul.
Recommended attractions in Seoul
The ancient city wall and gates
If expats want to explore Seoul's history, a hike along the old city wall is an excellent way to get a history lesson and some truly amazing views of the city. The wall snakes along the mountains around Seoul and impresses upon expats how strategically and well defended the city was in ancient times.
The four great city gates of Seoul (Sukjeongmun, Heunginjimun, Sungnyemun, and Sungnyemun) have all been lovingly preserved. Originally, Seoul was a completely closed off city and could only be entered or exited either through one of these four main gates or through four of the smaller, lesser gates. This walk offers views of the city that can’t be found anywhere else.
The Great Palaces of Seoul
Korean palaces contain some of the most unique architecture in the world. Ancient Korean design ensured that palaces complemented the surrounding nature but, due to Korea being controlled at different times by both China and Japan, the marriage of Chinese, Japanese and Korean palace styles has created something wholly unique.
There are five different palaces (Gyeongbokgung, Changgyeonggung, Changdeokgung, Deoksugung and Gyeonghuigung) in Seoul. Each of them was constructed during different eras in Korean history, with each exhibiting varied styles of Korean architecture.
Namsangol and Bukchon Hanok villages
The two largest Hanok villages are Bukchon and Namsangol. They are traditionally styled residential areas, have been either constructed or preserved in order to give both Koreans and visitors a sense of what life was like in old Seoul. Bukchon gives a feel of the ancient city with winding streets, small businesses and still functioning homes. Namsangol is more of a museum to showcase the rural aspects of Korean life and is surrounded by a serene park.
Bukhansan and Namsan Mountains
Every weekend the subways of Seoul are filled with middle-aged Koreans flocking to one of the many mountains surrounding the city. Bukhansan mountain is extremely popular, with the widest variety of hiking trails and views. A hike up Namsan is also extremely doable and offers spectacular views of the city.
There's no better place to people-watch than in Seoul’s parks. The largest, Hangang Park, runs the entire length of the Han River on both sides. Though sorely in need of more trees, it's excellent for a picnic, a game of Frisbee or just relaxing and watching people walk by.
National Museum of Korea
The National Museum of Korea is the largest museum in Seoul. It houses a combination of traditional art and history, and regularly hosts international exhibits. Traditional Korean art is wholly unique to the peninsula, and the museum is curated to provide an art history lesson for those unfamiliar with Korean art.
Leeum Art Museum
The Leeum Art Museum is the most architecturally striking museum in Seoul. It boasts a diverse collection of ancient Korean pottery as well as modern installations and sculptures.
The largest concentration of galleries in Seoul can be found in Samcheong-dong. The modern galleries of this area provide a wonderful overview of modern Korean art. Expats could easily spend an entire day walking through this neighbourhood, popping in and out of galleries and cafes. This is one of the reasons why the unique neighbourhood is a popular dating spot for young and trendy Koreans.
►For information on famous annual festivals in the city, read What's On in Seoul.
►Read Getting Around in Seoul to learn about navigating the city.
"Public transportation, food, activities, and incredible public places are a few things that Seoul offers and does exceptionally well. I'm from a small town in South Africa, so Seoul offers a bit more to do and see than what I was used to." Read about Malcolm's move to Seoul and how he's adjusted to life in the South Korean capital.
Are you an expat living in Seoul?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Seoul. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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