Rising almost 500 meters above the city, this communications and observation tower provides dramatic views of the city from its perch on the side of Mount Namsan. A cable car whisks you up the side of the mountain to the base of the tower. From here, you can go up in the tower and visit any one of four observation decks, one of which is a rotating restaurant.
There are two restaurants at the tower and, of course, several gift shops. There’s even a digital observatory, where people with height issues can experience a live, 360-degree view through the use of 32 LED screens and cameras mounted at the tower’s top.
First built in 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace is the largest of Seoul’s five grand palaces built during the powerful Joseon dynasty. Destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries, it was restored to its original glory after the Second World War and totally restored in the 1990s.
Within the palace grounds, you can also find the National Palace Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum, and both are worth a visit. The palace museum is especially fascinating as it presents items from the palaces of the Joseon Dynasty. This includes priceless antiques and artwork, as well as everyday items for cooking, cleaning, and daily life. The National Folk Museum focuses on items from daily life, as well as clothing and dioramas, to tell the story of the Korean people since prehistoric times.
Set within the strikingly beautiful landscape of the Bukhansan National Park, Jingwansa is an ancient temple complex offering many ways to experience and learn about Buddhism. The traditional buildings are surrounded by miles of hiking trails (you can come here just to hike) snaking through the mountains.
The temple, which grows most of its own food (and ferments its own kimchee), has a range of public programs. There’s a temple stay program, which includes an overnight visit, plus there are cultural and learning programs. They also offer foodie experiences like a traditional vegetarian temple meal, as eaten by the monks. Jingwansa is on the far west side of the city, one of the four major temples of Seoul first built around 1,000 BC.
Seoul’s best food market combines a taste-bud tempting array of street food vendors under one large roof. The market features rows of food stalls, offering every kind of Korean food you can imagine. Most have small chairs in front of them, creating tiny restaurants, where you can sit and have a meal. It’s all about tasting things here, and a smile and request will get you a sample of most of the things on offer.
The market is in central Seoul, and it’s open from 9am to 10pm. The most popular things sold here are bindaetteok (mung bean pancakes), bibimbap (spicy minced beef stew), gimbap (Korean sushi), sundae (blood sausage), tteokbokki (stir-fried spicy rice cakes), and various types of noodles. Other parts of the market have vendors selling clothes and household items.