Seoul: A Snapshot
Here’s our best attempt to give a glimpse at the bustling life of Korea’s largest city, the megapolis of Seoul. Of course, these are just highlights of our time there and in no way captures all that the city offers.
The National Museum of Korea
A huge repository of priceless cultural treasures is stored and displayed here. Remarkably, admission is free and even includes a free English tour. The building itself is beautiful, with the exterior framing Seoul Tower sitting on Namsan and the interior stretching to the sky to house a ten story pagoda.
Oh, the palaces in Seoul! There are several to choose from in the city. We visited Changdeokgung on the northern side, convenient for its proximity to Insadong and lots of great restaurants and cafes. There’s a jarring juxtaposition of these ancient, preserved buildings right next to residential and commercial districts. Built in the 15th century, only thirty percent of the original buildings remain after fires and Japanese invasions but that still leaves a number of stunning examples of Joseon architecture.
We have never visited a city with so many unique and endearing cafés and teahouses. Here is where we discovered the sensory overload of real daechucha (대추차) when we had a cup filled with dried fruits, nuts, and herbs. There was even one teahouse that invited patrons to have a pedicure, serviced by tiny tickling fish.
Of course, the food is amazing in Seoul. Here’s just a few images of what we enjoyed there.
It seems Korea has invented its own form of Broadway entertainment, the non-verbal show. Many of these shows have been running for years and involve visual gags, audience participation, and lots of exaggerated acting fun. We saw “JUMP” down in Jeju Island and caught “Battle B-Boy” in Seoul. As you can see in the photo and video below, it’s easy to get tickets right up front. And if you haven’t heard of Korea’s world dance domination, catch the excellent documentary “Planet B-Boy.” One tip: if you’re getting older like us, a pair of earplugs would be very welcome at the hip hop shows.
Seoul is a pristine city, particularly the city center where much thought is clearly poured into its aesthetics. We visited during the annual lantern festival, where the already lovely Chonggye stream that cuts across the city is adorned with multi-hued creations from across not just the country, but the world (including one from Aomori). It’s a fun occasion as a designated walking path guides all the visitors on a leisurely and surprisingly long stroll.