Situated in the heart of South Korea, Seoul is a magnificent metropolis and one of the most sought-after destinations in the world. Though most people associate the city with towering skyscrapers and bright lights, there lies a rich culture and heritage under all of the modern marvels.
The Airports Council International has ranked Seoul’s Incheon International Airport as the best in the Asia Pacific region, which means that your vacation starts on a high note the very second that you land in the South Korean capital. The airport is a high-tech facility that is also home to a golf course, museum, skating rink, casinos, spas and a range of restaurants.
This modernity isn’t just limited to the airport, though. Seoul is known for being an IT mega-city, a fact that is reflected in the 133-storey Digital Media City Landmark Building – the world’s second-tallest building! But Seoul isn’t just the technological heart of South Korea. It’s also the cultural soul.
The plethora of things on offer in the megapolis can make a visit seem fairly overwhelming. So, for anyone who wants to make their way to this glorious land, here are some things that are a must-do:
Visit one of the city’s many art districts and be wowed by the sheer variety and brilliance of the works on display. Samcheong-dong, which is the heart of the art scene, boasts of the Kumho Museum, Gallery Hyundai and various strips of road that showcase work by local artists.
Itaewon, meanwhile, houses a number of small exhibition spaces – such as Gallery 101 and Gallery Golmok – that coexist with heavyweights like the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art. Trips to districts like Pyeongchang-dong, Cheongdam and Hyoja-dong will also prove to be rewarding for art enthusiasts, owing to the large number of galleries and exhibition spaces.
Few places have become as integral in the pop culture scene as quickly as Seoul. It’s no surprise that Singaporeans are hooked on K-dramas, K-pop and Korean cinema.
Though Korean pop stars and bands have been famous in East and Southeast Asia for a while now, the West has taken notice in recent years as well. Unsurprisingly, it is a common sight to see fans – both locals and tourists – hanging around the JYP Entertainment & SM Entertainment offices in hopes of catching a glimpse of some of their favourite bands. This includes, but is in no way limited to, mega stars like f(x), SHINee, EXO, Girls’ Generation, Baek A-yeon and TWICE. If you’ve been bitten by the K-pop bug too, there’s no better place to be!
Fans of indie music also have a lot to enjoy in the heart of South Korea, which boasts of an exciting underground dance scene, along with a number of classic coffee houses, record stores, vinyl bars and live gigs. Recently, venues like SKRT Seoul, Club Steel Face and Faust have gained a lot of recognition from music lovers in South Korea and beyond.
For theatre lovers, a visit to Seoul is incomplete without checking out Nanta – the iconic stage show that has been running in the city for over 20 years now. Movie buffs, meanwhile, can visit locations where landmark films like Oldboy and Shiri were shot!
Time flies when you’re on vacation. But in Seoul, you can make the most of every minute… literally! Whether you want to party all night or go grocery shopping at 4 AM, most establishments in Seoul are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Craving McNuggets? Don’t worry, you can have them delivered to your doorstep at any given time. Want a quiet place to study? Just head to one of the 24-hour study rooms that are spread out across the city. Want to squeeze in a workout? There’s no time better than the middle of the night. Whether you want to channel your inner popstar at a karaoke room, play some video games at a cyber café (popularly known as a PC bang), pamper yourself with a spa treatment or get a haircut; time is not an issue. Seoul truly is the city that never sleeps!
Seoul is more than just the hustle and bustle that most people associate it with. And for those who want to go off the beaten path, the city has an abundance of offerings.
Visitors can head to the Five Ground Palaces to get a better understanding of South Korea’s rich history and traditions. Of the palaces, Changdeokgung is a World Heritage Site; Deoksugung boasts of some exemplary museums; Changgyeonggung, meanwhile, is a quiet haven in the chaotic city, and Gyeongbokgung & Gyeonghuigung are must-visits for every history enthusiast.
The metropolis also blends its modern architecture with some traditional thought, something that is immediately apparent in the quaint lanes of Bukchon Hanok village, and sites like the Tteok Museum and the Gwangjang Market.
To add to all of this, Seoul is also home to some warm and friendly locals, who are happy to share their culture and the stories behind the rituals. So, don’t be afraid to ask your hosts about their homeland. Just be respectful, open-minded and appreciative!
With all this and more on offer, it’s no surprise that Seoul is widely considered the soul of South Korea. And the best part? It takes only 6 hours on a plane to get there from Singapore. So, what are you still waiting for?