Put the shopping aside for a hot minute!
There’s no doubt that Seoul attracts worldwide shoppers especially those of us who die for high-quality yet affordable beauty and skincare products. For a moment, we should still respect the culturati in us and do something, well, cultural. One thing to keep to mind is that Joseon Dynasty was one of the most prominent royal empire throughout Korean history. It began in 1392 and lasted for five centuries, which explains the extravagant palaces you’ll see, as well as the old village.
I highly recommend a visit to the Gyeongbokgung Palace during the day, then head over to Daelim Museum for an artistic afternoon. End the night at Bukcon Hanok Village for a delightful stroll since all three sites are situated in the same area.
During the Joseon dynasty, Gyeongbokgung was the royal family’s main palace built in 1395. During the Imjin War around late 1500’s, parts of the palace was annihilated then abandoned during two centuries. When Prince Regent Heungseon was at helm during the 19th century, he reconstructed the palace along with 7,700 rooms and 500 buildings while maintaining much of ancient Korean architectural features. When Korea was at war with Japan in the early 20th century, the palace was once again destroyed but later restored. Today, you can visit the premise of the palace on a beautiful day, along with the National Palace Museum of Korea which features over 40,000 royal artifacts from the Joseon Dynasty. Don’t miss King Gojong of Joseon’s personal letters to the Russian czar and the Italian emperor.
As the first photography museum in Korea, Daelim Museum aims to bring daily life to art. A former residential house transformed into an art museum by French architect Vincen Cornu, Daelim might appear small from the outside but it composes four levels of artistry and creativity inside. If you’re an art fanatic, also check out D Museum which highlights 350+ contemporary drawings, illustrations, animation, and installations from international artists.
Walk through the Bukcon Hanok Village at dusk, when the sun is about to set and the lights in the village illuminate tiny alleys adorned by intricate hanoks (traditional Korean houses built during the 14th century.) During the Joseon Dynasty, Bukchon area was designated as a residential district for government officials and nobles. Sitting on top of a hill, the village is now preserving a 600-year-old local history. Along the windy streets, you can browse through shops that sell handcrafted goods. Several ateliers owned by local artists and curators make this neighborhood extra special.
As one of the Five Grand Palaces constructed during the Joseon Dynasty, the Changdeokgung (aka: East Palace) was the favorite among the Joseon princes. Although it was the second palace built after Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung embodies design elements dating even further back than Gyeongbokgung’s disciplined and structured style. Many theories of feng shui were incorporated into building Changdeokgung. Notice the river in front of the palace to signify flowing movement and “smooth sailing” ideals.
Every city has its skyscraper mark, and the Seoul Tower is no exempt. Located on top of the Namsan Mountain, Seoul Tower was built in 1969 to function as a radio wave tower that broadcasted signals for major local media channels. If snapping a photo with the tower in the background isn’t enough of a thrill, then you can ride the Namsan cable car up to the mountain then meander over to the tower. The panoramic view from the top has become many photographers’ fave.