Hanboks and royal palaces: Seoul’s historic heritageTo get to know the city and understand its identity, you must delve into its past. Head to Bukchon Hanok Village, Seoul’s former aristocratic and governmental quarter during the Joseon dynasty, which lasted more than 500 years, from 1392 until 1910. Perched between the royal palaces of Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung, its narrow streets are lined with traditional wood houses where you can stay during your holiday. This area is full of tea houses, restaurants, artisan shops and cultural centres that will help you learn about Korean traditions.
Next, make your way to one of Seoul’s five royal palaces to watch the changing of the guard, which is most visible at Deoksugung Palace. You may have noticed the Seoul residents wearing long, brightly-coloured dresses— these are hanboks, traditional Korean clothing, which is as comfortable as it is sophisticated.Seoul, a city of a thousand flavoursIn Seoul, gastronomy is a safe haven that spans many different historical periods. During your stay you will be constantly assailed by the smells emanating from casual restaurants and fine-dining establishments alike. But for a truly unique experience, you must visit the traditional markets. The Noryangjin Fish Market is a must-see in Seoul. This is what awaits you: buy your fish still alive, then choose a restaurant a few metres away, give your fish to the cooks and 10 minutes later, sit down to eat! For the rest of your shopping, head to Namdaemun Market, the largest and oldest market in Seoul. Open all night long, it includes thousands of shops selling everything from agricultural products to T-shirts picturing K-pop (Korean pop) stars. Gwangjang Market offers a beginner’s course on Korean food: kimchi (spiced fermented cabbage), bibimbap (rice dish with satéed vegetables and an egg), kimbap (Korean sushi roll) and bulgogi (Korean BBQ beef dish). It’s a feast of flavours for your taste buds!Seoul’s avant-garde sideSeoul has a thousand different faces if you take the time to explore. Make your way to Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) to appreciate the city’s boldness and modernity. Found in the historic Dongdaemun quarter, this architectural flying saucer was inaugurated in 2014, propelling Seoul to the forefront of the design scene and setting a futuristic tone for the city, which the more conservative skyscrapers had not yet managed to do. A complex filled with museums, exposition halls, creative laboratories and conference rooms, the DDP is the new temple of Seoul culture.
For a last, stunning panoramic view of the city, climb to the top of Namsan Hill to reach the N Seoul Tower. At the end of the day, this former telecommunications tower is a popular place for couples who come to watch the sun set over the city.
Lit up at night and seen from above, Seoul becomes—for a few moments—a bubble of comforting tranquility, a magical place that will make you feel like you’ve captured a glimpse of the future.