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Seoul

By Amy Adejokun Amy Adejokun Section editor

Our Editorial team's advice

The capital of South Korea is a large Asian city in keeping with the ideas we have as Westerners: everything moves at a fast pace, business and consumption are pushed to the limit, the city is still being developed and there is always something in the process of being built. Seoul is a city full of contrasts that moves at 100 mph but which slows down depending on the district, where 35-storey buildings stand side-by-side with traditional houses and Buddhist temples. On the programme: a visit of Namsan Park with the N Seoul Tower which rises more than 200m, a discovery of the traditional village of Namsangol Kanok with its typical Korean garden; a stroll through the Insa-dong district to buy some local handicrafts and, finally, a Korean-style meal in a traditional restaurant followed by shopping in the huge shopping centres open all night long? The city is very spread out and surrounded by mountains where the South-Koreans love to go for walks. Every district has something to boast but the most pleasant ones remain the city centre (from Gyeongbokgung Palace to the N Seoul Tower and Dongdaemun in the east), and the Itaewon and Gangnam-gu districts. It is not easy to get around in the city so your best and easiest bet is to use the underground.

To see

The National Folk Museum of Korea, the Bonguensa and Jogyesa Temples, located in the city centre, and the five palaces: Gyeongbokgung, Deoksugung, Gyeonghuigung, Changdeokgung and Changgyeonggung.

To do

Go for a walk in Namsan Park. Spend at least one night in a guesthouse in the traditional village of Bukchon Hanok. Stroll around the Insa-dong district. Take some pictures of the Koreans at the KwangJang food market. Shop after midnight in the shopping centres of Dongdaenum. Sing karaoke in the Chong-Ro district.

pros

  • +  The rhythm of the city
  • +  The many food markets

cons

  • -  The constant traffic jams.
  • -  The architecture.

To think about

If you are here on business, don't forget to bring business cards. In general, people are very respectful towards the elderly. Most importantly, be yourself, South Koreans are fun and easygoing, and they talk and laugh loudly; blend in with the crowd by doing the same thing!

To avoid

Avoid driving in Seoul as it is a useless stress since the underground is so practical. Avoid coming in summer or in winter, as it will be either too hot or too cold. Above all, do not speak of the tensions with North Korea; although South Koreans overall do not seem afraid and are for reunification, it is still a sensitive topic for some of them.

To try

Korean cuisine is very surprising. In addition to being tasty, it is nutritional and low in calories, but very spicy, at least for us Westerners? You can't leave without having tried kimchi, the famous spicy fermented cabbage, which is part of every Korean meal. Try every kind of tea you can find in South Korea as well as the soju (an alcoholic drink made from soy).

To bring back

All of it again one more time! A bit of ginger; cheap electrical goods at the Yongsan Electronics Market; good quality clothing made in South Korea; celadon ceramics from Icheon, a city known for its many pottery kilns; buckwheat seeds to make this delicious tea once you get home; Korean films, which are being increasingly exported; good quality leather goods.
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