The Jakarta Post
Visit the Changdeokgung Palace to avoid the scorching summer heat, as there are few areas covered by shade nearby. (JP/Devina Heriyanto)
The Jakarta Post’s Devina Heriyanto recently participated in the 29th International Youth Forum in Seoul and Goyang, South Korea, at the invitation of the Korean Embassy in Indonesia. Aside from three days of group discussions involving more than 150 youths from more than 50 countries, the participants were also taken to visit several famous places around Seoul. Here is Devina’s report.
The sprawling capital of South Korea can be hard to navigate. With a plethora of destinations to choose from, it could be a tad overwhelming for those who only have limited time in the city. Seoul has almost everything a tourist could ask for: a lively, modern city life as well as culture and traditional and historic sites.
Here are four of the best destinations to visit in Seoul for a quintessential Korean experience, and the best times of the day to visit:
Morning: Changdeokgung Palace
The main building of the Changdeokgung Palace, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. (JP/Devina Heriyanto)
Seoul’s landmarks are a mix of the traditional and the modern. One must-visit traditional site is the Changdeokgung Palace, which was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. Some sections of the palace complex have been renovated to replace parts burned or destroyed under Japanese occupation in 1592 and by political revolts in 1623.
Although the largest palace in Seoul is the Gyeongbokgung Palace, the Changdeokgung Palace is significant because of its architecture, which blends the natural topography and the Korean principle of Feng Shui, also known as baesanimsu, into its design. The palace boasts a magnificent park named the Huwon Secret Garden, which members of the royal family often visit for leisure. Tickets to the garden are sold separately.
While there are guided tours of the palace grounds, visitors can also roam freely on their own. One popular activity besides sightseeing is taking photos in hanbok (traditional Korean attire). Entrance to the palace is free for those wearing hanbok.
Tips: From Aug. 23 to Oct. 28, the palace hosts a moonlight tour for visitors who wish to experience the nighttime ambiance of the historic site. The tour is priced at 30,000 KRW (US$26) and takes about two hours, so make sure you have some free time. Reservations can be made via its website.
Afternoon: Digital Media City
One of the most iconic artworks in the Digital Media City complex. The statue makes an appearance in the 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' movie. (JP/Devina Heriyanto)
For those with hallyu, or Korean wave, fever, coming to this area is somewhat of a pilgrimage. The area is a high-tech and entertainment hub in Seoul, and is home to several broadcasting companies such as MBC, SBS and CJ E&M with various art installations along its streets — ticking all the boxes for contemporary Korean culture indeed.
A truly hallyu experience can be found at MBC World, the country’s first hallyu theme park where visitors can watch hologram K-pop concerts, be part of a virtual reality drama set, learn dance moves from K-pop stars and much more. There is also the Digital Pavilion building where visitors can experience the latest developments in augmented and virtual reality.
Being offices, the broadcasting companies’ buildings are not open for the public. However, you can visit the lobbies where gift and merchandise shops are located so you can buy something to take home.
Sunset: N Seoul Tower
The iconic N Seoul Tower against a bright blue sky. (JP/Devina Heriyanto)
Officially called the YTN Seoul Tower and commonly known as the Namsan Tower or Seoul Tower, the iconic landmark is located on Namsan Mountain, approximately 30 minutes ride from the city center. Built on the highest point of Namsan Park, its observatory deck provides a sweeping panorama of Seoul. Visit the tower in late afternoon to enjoy the pastel city skyline during sunset, followed by the mesmerizing view of the city lights, appearing one by one.
Originally intended as a telecommunication tower, the N Seoul Tower now offers a plethora of entertainment options. Couples can symbolize their love by adding a lock to the famous locks of love while trying on hanbok. There are also several restaurants and cafes to choose from, as well as souvenir and gift shops.
Access to Namsan Park is limited to reduce environmental impacts. Visitors can walk from the entrance point or ride the cable car with prices varying from 3,500 KRW ($3) to 8,500 KRW ($7).
Read also: Is one day strolling in Seoul enough?
Visitors watch a music performance by street artists in Yonsei-ro. (JP/Devina Heriyanto)
Shopping is synonymous with the more famous street of Hongdae, but Yonsei-ro is a perfect alternative for those who prefer a less-touristy spot. The bustling area is filled with stores, cafes and restaurants, providing lively nightlife for locals and tourists alike. There are three universities nearby, including the prestigious Ehwa Womans University, giving the area the nickname “university street”. As part of the street is off-limits for vehicles, the road is also a venue for music and dance performances by street artists.
Go on a shopping free, especially for skincare and make up, as the stores often have massive sales that make the products much cheaper than in Indonesia. Some popular brands with stores in the area include Innisfree, Natural Republic, Etude House, The Face Shop and apparel brands Uniqlo and Muji.
But don’t arrive too late, as most stores close at 10 p.m.. Some cafes and restaurants might stay open until midnight. (wng)