Seoul is by far the largest city in South Korea and a major destination in East Asia. If you’re spending any time in the country, there’s a good chance you’ll be visiting Seoul at some point. There is no end to the attractions in the city, but many visitors start with some of the many palaces located in Seoul.
Seoul was the capital of various Korean states, including Baekje, Joseon, the Korean Empire, Goryeo (as a secondary capital), and presently South Korea. Strategically located along the Han River, Seoul's history stretches back over two thousand years, when it was founded in 18 BC by the people of Baekje, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea.
The city has later designated the capital of Korea under the Joseon dynasty. Seoul is surrounded by a mountainous and hilly landscape, with Bukhan Mountain located on the northern edge of the city. The Seoul Capital Area contains five UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Changdeok Palace, Hwaseong Fortress, Jongmyo Shrine, Namhansanseong, and the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty.
More recently, Seoul has been a major site of modern architectural construction – major modern landmarks include the N Seoul Tower, the 63 Building, the Lotte World Tower, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Lotte World, Trade Tower, COEX, and the IFC Seoul. Seoul was named the 2010 World Design Capital. It is the birthplace of K-pop and the Korean Wave.
Top picks include the incredible Gyeongbok-gung and the 15th-century Changdeok-gung. You’ll also find ancient temples and shrines, beautiful public parks, cutting-edge design, shopping malls, and some of the best cuisine in all of Asia.
Seoul is home to 115 museums, including four national and nine official municipal museums. Among the city's national museums, The National Museum of Korea is the most representative of museums in not only Seoul but all of South Korea. Since its establishment in 1945, the museum has built a collection of 220,000 artifacts. In October 2005, the museum moved to a new building in Yongsan Family Park.
An inscription on the first story of the pagoda states that it was erected in the fourth year of King Chungmok in 1348. The pagoda was first placed at the now-lost Gyeongcheonsa Temple which sat at the foot of Mt. Buso in Gwangdeok-myeon, Gaepung-gun, Gyeonggi-do Province. During the Japanese occupation of Korea, the pagoda was taken to Japan. In 1960, the pagoda was returned and placed on the grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace. Today, the pagoda stands in one of the main halls of the National Museum of Korea.
The pagoda stands 13.5 m in height and is ten storeys tall. However, because of the three-tiered foundation, it is a common mistake to believe that the pagoda has thirteen storeys. Unlike most Goryeo-era pagodas, this pagoda is made from marble. The preferred material of Korean sculptors was generally granite. The later Joseon-era Wongaksa Pagoda is stylistically very similar and is believed to have been heavily influenced by the Gyeongcheonsa Pagoda.
Gyeongcheonsa Pagoda sits on a three-tiered foundation that projects in four directions like a cross. The first three storeys of the pagoda share the same shape as the foundation. Each panel of this tiered foundation is carved with Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, flowers, and arabesque patterns.
Seoul Botanic Park
Located in Magok, Gangseo-gu, Seoul Botanic Park is the first facility in Seoul to combine botanical gardens and parks in one space. A space where a forest, garden, lake, and marsh coexist together, Seoul Botanic Park's theme zone houses plants representing 12 major cities around the world. Within close distance from Gimpo Airport (10 minutes) and Incheon Airport (40 minutes), Seoul Botanic Park is also directly connected with the subway station, allowing visitors to easily access its facilities.
Seoul Botanic Park was created to advance the urban ecology of Seoul and will display plants from 12 cities around the world. As part of an effort to expand green spaces around the city, this facility offers educational programs on top of hosting cultural events, serving as a space where city residents can get back in touch with nature.
Seoul has a well-developed transportation network. Its system dates back to the era of the Korean Empire when the first streetcar lines were laid and a railroad linking Seoul and Incheon was completed. Seoul's most important streetcar line ran along Jongno until it was replaced by Line 1 of the subway system in the early 1970s.
Other notable streets in downtown Seoul include Euljiro, Teheranno, Sejongno, Chungmuro, Yulgongno, and Toegyero. There are nine major subway lines stretching for more than 250 km (155 mi), with one additional line planned. As of 2010, 25% of the population has a commute time of an hour or longer.