Seoul and surroundings
Most visitors begin their vacation in the capital, Seoul, a bustling modern commercial hub.
A day tour of both old and new Seoul includes a visit to Changdokkung Palace, used for royal festivities since the 17th century. The main gate of the palace is said to be the oldest gate in the city. Next to the palace there is a “Secret Garden” with pavilions, ponds and groves.
The Toksukung Palace, the former royal residence, now houses the Museum of Modern Art. The Kyongbokkung Palace built in 1394 was burned down in 1592 during the Japanese invasion of the country and was not rebuilt until 1868. The grounds include a pavilion in the middle of a lotus pond. Seoul’s Great South Gate, Namdaemun (built in 1448) has been considered Korea’s most important historical monument. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by fire in February 2008. Here is also the popular Namdaemun market with its inexpensive range of offers.
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The Pagoda Park is named after a pagoda from the Choson Dynasty. The park is a memorial to the struggle against Japanese rule. Namsam Mountain in the city center gives a beautiful view of Seoul. At the top is a television tower, the Seoul Tower, with a viewing platform from which one can see as far as Inchon to the west. Built on Mount Namsan and opened to the public in 1980, Seoul Tower is a popular tourist attraction among visitors from home and abroad and is the symbol of Seoul city.
Other sights include the Octagonal Pagoda built in 1348 and the Market Square at the East Gate. In the amusement park Tigerworld in the south of Seoul there is, among other things, an indoor ski hall.
Excursions: In Suwon folklore village, which is 50 km south of Seoul, will preserve the way of life of past centuries. Potters, weavers, blacksmiths and other craftsmen carry out their work in the old tradition and in old costumes.
In southern Korea lies Pusan, the country’s largest port city, and the two seaside resorts of Haeundae and Songjong. Haeundae with its sandy beaches and medicinal springs is the most popular holiday resort in this region. Hot springs are also found in the resort of Tongnae. Nearby is Kumgang Park with unusual rock formations and historical relics including a pagoda and several temples.
The cultural and historical highlight of every trip to Korea is Kyongju on the southeast coast (about 320 km from Seoul), one of the ten most important historical cities in the world according to UNESCO. The former capital of the Shilla Dynasty (57 BC-935 AD) was once one of the six largest cities in the world. The large number of important historical buildings has earned Kyongju the nickname “Museum without Walls”. Temples, royal tombs, impressive monuments and the oldest observatory in Asia await the visitor. Thousands of relics from the Shilla period are on display at the local branch of the National Museum. Outside of town stands Pulguksa Temple, one of Korea’s most important Buddhist sites. Numerous buildings date from around 751 ADSokkuram Cave with the huge granite Buddha is nearby. The Onung, the complex of five tombs, is said to be the tomb of the first Shilla king, his consort and three later kings. Pomun Lake Holiday Center is accessible from Kyongju with two large hotel complexes, convention center, casino, golf course, marina and shopping mall.
Bespoke garments, sweaters, silks, brocades, leather items, gold jewelry, precious stones, silver, ginseng, folklore dolls, brass items, musical instruments, pottery, lacquerware, wood carvings, basketry, screens and scrolls. In department stores, prices are fixed, in shopping galleries and markets you can bargain.
Mon-Sat 10.30am-7.30pm (shopping malls). Small shops and markets: 10.30am-10.30am.
In the big cities there are “duty-free shops for tourists” where you can buy duty-free with foreign currency and present your passport. Tax refunds are available at airports, some ports and Global Blue offices in Seoul (see www.globalblue.com for more information).
New nightclubs, variety shows, restaurants, theaters and beer halls are opening up in Seoul, especially in the It’aewon entertainment district; there are also numerous cinemas. Operas, concerts and recitals are held in the National Theater. Performances of Korean classical music, dance and drama can be seen at the Drama Center and Korea House (theater restaurant). Both of Korea’s English-language daily newspapers contain calendars of events. There are several casinos.
Korean cuisine is very different from Japanese or Chinese. Typical dishes include kimchi (strongly seasoned pickled Chinese cabbage or radishes with turnips, onions, salt, fish, chestnuts and pimentos); hot soups (with beef, pork, oxtail or other meat, fish, cabbage and chicken); pulgogi (marinated beef cooked on the charcoal grill) and sinsollo (meat, fish, eggs and vegetables such as chestnuts and pine nuts cooked over charcoal at the table). Other local specialties include sanjok (sliced steak with onions and mushrooms), kalbichim (steamed beef ribs), fresh abalone and shrimp (from Cheju do Island, with mustard, served with soy or chilli sauce) and Korean sea vegetables (famous throughout East Asia). Drinks: Jungjong is a type of rice wine and is comparatively expensive. Soju is similar to vodka and is distilled from potatoes or grain. The Korean beers are Crown and OB. Ginseng wine is strong and sweet. In the evenings you usually go to the Suljip (wine bar), but there are also beer cellars where well-known European brands are offered.
There are numerous modern tourist hotels registered with the government in major cities and resorts. Almost all rooms have bathroom, heating and air conditioning. Most hotels offer dining rooms, conference rooms, bars, souvenir shops, cocktail bars, hair and beauty salons, as well as leisure and fitness facilities. Categories: Classification is based on standard and service offering. The hibiscus blossom, the national flower of Korea, serves as a symbol of quality. The classification ranges from 5 (luxury class) to 2 hibiscus flowers (3rd class). For more information, contact the Korea National Tourism Organization KNTO (see addresses) or the Korea Hotel Reservation Center, PO Box 1099, Fort Lee, NJ 07024. Tel: (845) 426 73 35. (Internet: www.khrc.com). A 10% service charge and 10% VAT are included in the hotel bill. Tipping is not customary.
There are campsites all over the country. For more information, contact the KNTO tourist office.
Other accommodation options
There are currently around 30 youth hostels in Korea, mainly in Seoul, Kyongju, Pusan, Puyo and Sokcho. Youth Hostel Association address: Korea Youth Hostel Association, 6th Floor, Semin Building 40-6 Bangi-dong, ongpa-gu, Seoul 138-050. Tel: (02) 725 30 31. (Internet: www.kyha.or.kr)
No religious affiliation (49.3%), Buddhist (23.2%), Christian (26.3%), Confucian (1%), Chondo-gyo and others.
Social Rules of Conduct
Social etiquette: Before entering a Korean house, you should take off your shoes. Small gifts are common. According to traditional manners, only the right hand is used for giving and receiving. Clothing: Clothing can be casual and comfortable. The rural population wears traditional clothing: men wear the hanbok, a short jacket, wide trousers and the kat – a high, dark, round-brimmed hat; Women wear the chima-jeogon, a very roomy silk dress with a chogori, a bolero-like jacket with long sleeves. Tipping is not customary in Korea. In luxury hotels and some restaurants, a 10% service charge is included in the bill. Smoking:
Best travel time
Temperate climate, the hottest season is the rainy season from July to August, the coldest is December and January. Spring and autumn are mild and mostly dry and therefore the best time to travel.
Area (sq km)
51,269,185 (Source: homosociety)
Population density (per square km)
Population statistics year
Main emergency number