Korea Paradise introduces you to the 12 must-see places in the South Korean capital – Seoul, South Korea


  1. 1. Gyeongbokgung Palace
  2. 2. Cheonggyecheon River
  3. 3. Bukchon Hanok Village
  4. 4. The National Museum of Korea
  5. 5. Insadong District
  6. 6. Myeongdong District
  7. 7. Namsan N Seoul Tower
  8. 8. Namdaemun Market
  9. 9. Hongdae District
  10. 10. Dongdaemun Design Plaza
  11. 11. Gangnam Ward
  12. 12. Lotte World Tower

1. Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung (경복궁, 景福宮), also called Gyeongbok Palace , is a royal palace located north of Seoul in South Korea . First built in 1394 and then rebuilt in 1867, it is the main palace of the Five Grand Palaces built during the Joseon Dynasty . The name of the palace, Gyeongbokgung , means “Resplendent Palace of Happiness”. Its main gate is the Gwanghwamun Gate .

Almost completely destroyed by the Japanese government at the beginning of the 20th  century, the whole palace is gradually returning to its original form .

In 2015, the site had 510 fire extinguishers as well as 230 surveillance cameras spread over the 432,703 square meters of the palace.

The palace was built in 1394 by King Taejo , founder and first king of the Joseon Dynasty. Gyeongbokgung was named after Jeong Do-jeon , an influential government minister. Gyeongbokgung Palace was continuously expanded during King Taejong ‘s reign as well as King Sejong the Great’s. Unfortunately, the majority of the palace was destroyed by flames during the Japanese invasions of 1592–1598. After all the palaces in the capital were demolished by the Japanese, Changdeokgung, a secondary palace, was rebuilt and served as the main palace.

Gyeongbokgung was abandoned for 250 years, then it was finally rebuilt in 1868 by order of the Prince Regent. 500 buildings were built on a land of more than 40 hectares and constitute a small town. The second time Gyeongbokgung was largely destroyed was during the Japanese occupation (1910-45). 80% of the restored buildings were dismantled, the Gwanghwamun Gate was removed, and a huge Japanese government building was erected opposite the main palace area. An effort to fully restore Gyeongbokgung Palace to its former glory has been underway since 1990.

The colonial government building was demolished, and Heungnyemun Gate was restored to its original state. The Royal Quarters and the Eastern Palace for the Crown Prince were also restored to their original condition. By the end of 2009, it was estimated that around 40% of the structures existing before the Japanese occupation of Korea had been restored or rebuilt. The restoration project by the South Korean government is planned for at least 20 years. The Royal Quarters and the Eastern Palace for the Crown Prince were also restored to their original condition. By the end of 2009, it was estimated that around 40% of the structures existing before the Japanese occupation of Korea had been restored or rebuilt. The restoration project by the South Korean government is planned for at least 20 years.

The great Gwanghwamun gate and its haechi sculpture, a mythical creature that protects Seoul.

The Royal Quarters and the Eastern Palace for the Crown Prince were also restored to their original condition. By the end of 2009, it was estimated that around 40% of the structures existing before the Japanese occupation of Korea had been restored or rebuilt. The restoration project by the South Korean government is planned for at least 20 years.

2. Cheonggyecheon River

Cheonggyecheon ( Korean  : 청계천 ) is a waterway arranged into an almost 6 km long promenade in central Seoul , South Korea . The boardwalk opened in 2005 after a redevelopment that initially cost $900 million but ultimately cost around $280 million.

The Cheonggyecheon is, initially, a watercourse running east to west through part of Seoul . It joins the Jungnangcheon , which flows into the Han River , then finally into the Yellow Sea . During Syngman Rhee ‘s presidency ( 1948 – 1960 ), the Cheonggyecheon was covered over and turned into a road. Thus, in 1968 , an elevated expressway was created at the former location of the river.

Lanterns hanging along the Cheonggyecheon River during Seoul’s Bitchorong Festival.

3. Bukchon Hanok Village

Bukchon Hanok Village is a Korean traditional village in Seoul with a long history located on the top of a hill between Gyeongbok Palace, Changdeok Palace and Jongmyo Royal Shrine. The traditional village is composed of many alleys, hanok and is preserved to show a 600-year-old urban environment.

The area of Bukchon, which consists of neighborhoods: Wonseo-dong, Jae-dong, Gye-dong, Gahoe-dong and Insa-dong, was traditionally the residential quarter of high-ranking government officials and nobility during the Joseon Dynasty. It is located north of Cheonggye Stream and Jongno, hence named Bukchon, which means north village

Nowadays, many of these houses have been transformed into artists’ studios , cafes , restaurants , or even guest houses . But that does not detract from the charm of these narrow streets which form an inextricable labyrinth, in which one enjoys getting lost. No one can claim to know Bukchon perfectly, and no matter how much you return there, you will never see the same thing. That’s really all its charm.

A poll of nearly 2,000 foreign visitors, conducted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government in November 2011, stated that exploring the narrow streets of Bukchon was their fourth favorite activity in Seoul.[3]

According to data by the Bukchon Traditional Culture Center, 30,000 people visited the area in 2007. However, after the village was featured in television programmes, such as 1 Night 2 Days and Personal Taste, the number rose to 318,000 in 2010. In 2012 the figure is expected to double to more than 600,000.[4]

A large beautiful hanok has open to the public in 2015, as part of the Seoul Museum of History. It is located in an alley, just on the foot of the hill. Entrance is free, the visit allows to see those traditional housing in 15–20 minutes.

If you want to get to Bukchon Hanok Village it is close to Samcheongdong street and located between the Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace. You can get to the Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul by taking the subway to the Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3).

Take exit 3 and head to your right. After about 200 meters you will see large information signs that begin the Bukchon Village Walking Tour. In this Hanok Village there is a free walking tour is about 2–3 hours long taking you to multiple destinations will you collect stamps from each of them and at the end you can get a keychain at the end.

The village is the home to Bukchon Traditional Culture Center, Seoul Intangible Cultural Heritage Center, Donglim Knot Museum, Gahoe Museum, Han Sangsu Embroidery Museum, Bukchon Asian Art Museum, and Owl Museum. Sll place to you should make sure to visit on your trip to Korea. In Bukchon that has over 600 years of history surrounding it many of these hanoks operate as cultural centers, guesthouses, restaurants, and tea houses, providing visitors with an opportunity to experience, learn and immerse themselves in traditional Korean culture. They have very picturesque locations and beautiful architecture that you no longer seen in modern-day society. Overall the villages are amazing locations that everyone should see and enjoy. Many tourists come here for photo opportunities and to immerse themselves in the history that is now surrounded by the modern Korea. You can make a guided tour reservation to help you go around the trail. There are tons if things to do while you are there.

Recently in 2018 because of so many tourists visiting the area they have changed the hours of when people may visit from 9-5 Monday-Saturday and Sundays is now closed off to nonresidents.[5] Currently there is an issue with tourists making trouble for the residents that live there; one resident even being yelled at for driving their car on its narrow roads. Residents who live there are not very happy that their resident environment is being taken over by an overwhelming number of tourists taking photos all the time. This village averages about 10,000 visitors a day. Because of the tourists the number of residents fell from over 9000 to 7530; they say the tourists are driving the residents out of the neighborhood.

Some tourists compare Bukchon Hanok Village to a typical town in Switzerland, or Gatlinburg, Tennessee, or Galena, Illinois in the United States

4. The National Museum of Korea

The National Museum of Korea is the main art and history museum in South Korea . With its total area of ​​137,201  m 2 1 , it is one of the largest museums in the world. It welcomed 2,730,204 visitors in 2009 2 . Since its foundation, the museum has carried out numerous studies in archeology and history and has developed several educational programs and exhibitions.

Inoctober 2005, the museum moved into a new building in Yongsan Family Park in Seoul . It contains more than 220,000 objects, including 13,000 on display. These pieces are grouped into six permanent exhibit sections, the Archaeology, History, Fine Arts (2x), Donations and Asian Arts galleries.

The museum houses pieces of great importance: more than 67 are national treasures, while hundreds of others are as many gems in the fields of painting, ceramics, sculpture, furniture or even jewelry. Each room brings its share of delight, starting with the hall that houses the huge 10-story pagoda of Gyeongcheon Temple . Of course, it is not a question of seeing everything, that would be impossible. But just to soak up this rich and turbulent history. Because today’s South Korea would be an empty shell without it.

In 1908, Emperor Sunjong founded Korea’s first museum, the Imperial Museum, during the last years of the Joseon Dynasty . The Imperial Museum collection located in Changgyeonggung and the Japanese General Government Museum formed the core of the National Museum collection established in 1945 when Korea regained its independence.

During the Korean War , the museum’s 20,000 exhibits were transported to Pusan ​​to preserve them from possible destruction. Upon their return, the museum was housed at Gyeongbokgung and Deoksugung Palaces . In 1972, a new building was built near Gyeongbokgung Palace.

The museum moved again in 1986 to Jungangcheong , the former building of the Japanese General Government which housed the museum until its demolition in 1995. This choice was the source of endless criticism and controversy. Many people could not conceive the idea of ​​keeping and displaying the nation’s most precious cultural objects in the Japanese government building. Eventually, the government decided to demolish the building and started a new construction project in Yongsan Family Park. The first prize was won by Kim Chang-il of the Junglim 3 company . In the meantime, the museum was temporarily reopened to the public in the social education hall.

The national museum moved to its current location in 2005, the official inauguration took place onOctober 28, 2005. The Yongsan complex is of an impressive size: 45,438 m² on the ground and 307,227 m² useful. As one of the six largest museums in the world, it is poised to become one of Asia’s premier cultural institutions.

The museum has three floors. The first hosts the archaeological gallery presenting 4500 objects dating from the Palaeolithic to the Silla period . The historical gallery is also on the first floor. The second floor contains the first gallery of fine arts, it contains 890 pieces depicting Korean religious and traditional art. This floor also houses the donations gallery with 800 pieces from a wide variety of cultures. The second gallery of fine arts is on the third floor, it displays 630 handicrafts (metals, celadon , buncheong , white porcelain from the Joseon periodand Buddhist sculptures from Korea. Finally, also on the third floor, 970 objects form the Asian arts gallery. They show the similarities and differences in art between regions as well as the confluence of Asian and Western arts along the Silk Road. Five pieces are centered on Indian and South Eastern arts, on the art of Central Asia, China, Japan and on underwater discoveries. The ground floor contains parks, gardens with local plants and a collection of pagodas , stupas , lanterns and stelae.

5. Insadong District

Insa-dong or Insadong ( Korean  : 인사동 ) is a district or dong of Seoul in South Korea . The main street is Insadong-guil which is connected by a multitude of alleyways that lead deeper into District with modern galleries and teahouses . At one time, it was the largest antique and fine art market in Korea .

In area , Insa-dong is 12  hectares . The district is bordered by Gwanhun-dong to the north, Nagwon-dong to the east, and Jongno and Jeokseon-dong to the south, and Gongpyeong-dong to the west.

The busy streets of Insadong district in Seoul

Insa-dong was originally two towns whose names ended with the syllables “In” and “Sa”. These were divided by a stream that ran along the current main street of Insa-dong.

Insa-dong begins by being a place of residence for civil servants . In the early Joseon period (1392–1897), the place belonged to Gwanin-bang and Gyeonpyeong-bang ( bang was the name of an administrative unit at the time) of Hanseong (former name of the capital, Seoul) . During the Japanese occupation , wealthy Korean residents were forced to move and sell their possessions, so much so that the site became an area for antique trading.

After the end of the Korean War , the district became a center of artistic life and coffeehouses in South Korea 5 . It was a popular destination among foreign visitors to South Korea during the 1960s , who called the area “Mary’s Alley” 6 . It gained popularity with international tourists during the 1988 Seoul Olympics 5 . In 2000, the area was renovated 7 , 8 and, after protest, the rapid modernization of the area was interrupted for two years from that same year 5. In recent years, the alleys of Insa-dong continue to gentrify with cafes, garden restaurants and traditional boarding-style accommodations.

So, of course, cheap shops and excessive globalization have almost ended up getting the better of Insadong. Besides, on a personal level, I may have a preference for the narrow streets of Ikseon-dong, a few steps away. And yet, Insadong is a district to which I return tirelessly, on each of my trips: it is home to the formidable Jogyesa temple , which is always lively. Since 2019, you can also visit the new Gongpyeong Historical Sites Museum .

Gongpyeong Historical Sites Museum, Seoul
The brand new Gongpyeong Historical Sites Museum.

It’s a neighborhood where I love to have a tea during the day, and I like its joyful and light atmosphere (I don’t like crowds). This is also where I got into the habit of shopping for gifts, especially at the National Center for Souvenirs .

It’s hard to ignore Insadong when you come to Seoul for the first time. However, if you prefer more chic areas, a possible alternative are the Sinsa-dong and Apgujeong areas in Gangnam, where the best luxury boutiques and art galleries are located.

Insadong-gil Street is “known as a traditional street for locals and foreigners” and represents the “culture of past and present” . It is a mixture of historical and modern atmosphere and is “a unique area of ​​Seoul that truly represents the cultural history of the nation” .

The majority of traditional buildings originally belonged to merchants and bureaucrats. Some larger residences, built for retired government officials during the Joseon period, can also be seen. Most of these older buildings are now used as restaurants or shops. Important historical buildings include Unhyeongung House, Jogyesa Temple which is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Korea and the oldest Presbyterian Church .

The region is well known for tourism, with around 100,000 visitors reported on Sundays in 2000 . Insa-dong is also a place of visit for foreign dignitaries such as Queen Elizabeth II and the princes of Spain and the Netherlands . The district contains 40  % of the nation’s antique shops and art galleries as well as 90  % of the traditional paper mills .

Other attractions 

Unhyeon Palace , Bosingak Bell Pavilion, and Jongno Tower are in this area. Samcheong-dong is also a neighboring dong with an art scene. One of Insa-dong’s newest attractions is the Asia Eros Museum, opened in 2004, which is allegedly South Korea’s first sex museum. There is also an express bus to the resort island of Namiseom where the popular Winter Sonata series was filmed.

The area is on Seoul’s list of Asia’s top 10 street food spots for gimbap , odeng , and bungeo-ppang.

There are three information centers that offer information or informational materials about Insa-dong and Seoul. These are the Insadong Public Relations Center, the North Information Center and the South Information Center. The North Center and the South Center are located at the North and South entrances of the main street Insa. The public relations center is located on the other side of Ssamzigil, a well-known shopping center in Insadong. At the public relations center, visitors can experience dressing up in hanbok , a traditional Korean attire.

6. Myeongdong District

Myeong-dong or Myeongdong ( Hangul: 명동  ; hanja  : 明洞, literally “bright city” or “lighted district”) is a dong (district) in the Jung-gu ward of Seoul , South Korea .

With an area of ​​0.99  km 2 and a population of 3,409, Myeong-dong is primarily a commercial and tourist area.

Myeong-dong is served to the south by Myeong-dong subway station and to the north by Euljiro 1-ga . Myeongdong Cathedral is also located there.

Want to see a bustling and vibrant Seoul? Myeongdong is the district for you, that of shops and restaurants . It’s a bit as if all these little people had met in one and the same place! It’s super colorful, super touristy, and you’ll have to look up to find some signs: the floors of the buildings are also full of shops. But the best is surely in the street: the street food stands will make your eyes spin! Tteokbokki , gyeranbbang , hweori gamja , mandu , hotteok … Bring plenty of 1,000 won bills and treat your taste buds.

Street food stand in Myeongdong
Street stalls in Myeongdong.

There are various banks and insurance companies, headquartered in Myeongdong, such as Citibank, SK Corporation, Kookmin Bank, Korea Exchange Bank, Lone Star Funds, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, AIG Korea Insurance, Hana Bank and HSBC . The Bank of Korea is also nearby.

In Myeongdong, there is also the Chinese Embassy, ​​Myeongdong Theater and Korea’s oldest Catholic cathedral, Myeongdong Cathedral.

Outside delivery hours, the main street and most of the neighboring streets are blocked off so that pedestrians can move freely without being hindered by traffic.

Alongside all this hustle and bustle, Myeongdong is also a place steeped in history. The century-old red-brick Gothic cathedral was often a refuge for opponents of the military regime in the 1960s and 1970s. It is not just a place of worship. It is also a symbol of human rights. As for the theater of Myeongdong , opened in 1936, it is a witness of the Japanese colonial period.

Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul
The red brick facade of Myeongdong Cathedral, Seoul.
The colonial architecture of Myeongdong theatre.

7. Namsan N Seoul Tower

N Seoul Tower ( 엔서울타워) is a telecommunications tower in Seoul , capital of South Korea .

Built in 1975 and opened to the public in 1980 , the tower measures 236.7  m , and 479.7 m from sea level. It is located on top of a hill overlooking the entire city. It can be reached on foot or by cable car.

First called Seoul Tower, it took the name N Seoul Tower at the request of the builder CJ Corporation . At the top a panoramic restaurant, at its feet is the teddy bear museum , which traces the history of Korea in different paintings with teddy bears instead of figurines.

Namsam Tower was built in 1969 at a cost of about 2.5 million US dollars, and eleven years later it was opened to the public in 1980 . Whereas Seoul Tower was completed on December 3, 1971 , which was designed by Jang Jong Ryul Architects without providing the facility’s interiors. On August 1975 , the third floor of the observatory and museum rooftop, an open hall and a souvenir shop were established, in addition to providing other facilities.

However, despite the completion of the tower’s construction, the observatory was closed to the public until October 15, 1980 . Since then, the tower has been a landmark of the city of Seoul. The height of the tower ranges from 236.7 m (777 ft) from the base to 479.7 m (1,574 ft) above sea level. The name of the tower was changed from Seoul Tower to N Seoul Tower in 2005 , where the name “N” stands for “new” and “Namsan” means “nature”. The cost of renovating and redesigning the tower was approximately KRW 15 billion .

When the original owner of N Seoul Tower merged with CJ Corporation, the tower’s name was changed to N Seoul Tower (official name CJ Seoul Tower). It is also known as Namsan Tower or Seoul Tower. It is also the first public radio wave tower in Korea that carries transmitting antennas from several channels such as KBS, MBC, SBS TV, FM, PBC, TBS, CBS and BBS FM.  The Seoul Tower, which was chosen to rate world travel experts and reader preferences, is among the world’s 500 most visited attractions.

Others Attractions

Lighting of the Tower

The N Seoul Tower is illuminated in blue from sunset to 23:00 (22:00 in winter) on days where the air quality in Seoul is 45 or less. During the spring of 2012, the Tower was lit up for 52 days, which is four days more than in 2011.The tower uses the latest LED technology to offer visitors a digital, cultural art experience through ‘light art.’ The N Seoul Tower puts on many different shows, including the “Reeds of Light” and “Shower of Light.”

An exception to this is Earth Day. On Earth Day, lights were held nationwide to promote awareness of energy conservation. At 8 p.m KST. on that day, lights at N Seoul Tower on Namsan disappear into darkness.

Love Padlocks

In a poll of nearly 2,000 foreign visitors conducted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government in November 2011, 16 percent stated that hanging named padlocks on the Tower fence as a symbol of love was their favorite activity in Seoul.

This attraction is situated on the 2nd floor of the N Plaza, at the Roof Terrace. The “Locks of Love” is a popular location for people to hang locks that symbolize eternal love, and has been depicted in many Korean television shows, dramas, and movies for this reason.

‘Love padlocks’ is a common couple activity consists of the purchasing of a padlock and key, where initials, messages and symbols can be personally inscribed onto the surface of the lock with markers and pens. Securing the padlocks on the fences filled with locks of previous participants, the key is often thrown away as a symbol of everlasting love.This is similar to the love locks in Paris, France, on the Pont Neuf bridge.

Wishing Pond and Observatory

The N Tower also holds many other attractions including the digital observatory and the Wishing Pond. The Wishing Pond can be found on the second floor of the tower, where people throw coins into the pond while making a wish. The coins are collected and donated to help develop schools in China and Southeast Asia, especially in underdeveloped areas.

The observatory, renovated in 2011, is on the third floor. The observatory not only offers the 360° view of the city, but also exhibits 600 years of Korean history through 36 LCD screens. The fifth floor houses a French restaurant known as N Grill.

8. Namdaemun Market

Namdaemun Market is a huge traditional market located in Seoul , South Korea . The market is near Namdaemun , the “Great Southern Gate” which was the main southern gate leading to the Old City . It is the oldest and largest market in Korea .

It seemed difficult to me to choose the most typical market in Seoul . And besides, Miss Kim prefers Gwangjang. It is true that the latter is ideal for lovers of gastronomy. The atmosphere is super cheerful, especially in the evening. But Namdaemun remains for me the closest idea of ​​what a Korean market is: an intertwining of hundreds of shops dedicated to all kinds of possible universes: clothes, tableware, everyday items, food products, flowers, memories…

Miscellaneous Items at Namdaemun Market
Looking for cheap souvenirs? There is everything at the Namdaemun market!

Namdaemun market dates back to 1414, during the reign of King Taejong, as a government managed marketplace. In 1608, King Seonjo set up the office of seonhyecheong (hangul: 선혜청, hanja: 宣惠廳, “tribute bureau”) in the district to manage the tributes of rice, cloth and money. A trading marketplace took its form around that time and commercial activities flourished as traders set up various shops. Trade was active in grains, fish, fruit, and miscellaneous goods.

The management of the market went over to the Japanese in 1922, but after liberation in 1945 the merchants established the Namdaemun Merchant Organization and took over management. The market, however, turned to ruins during the Korean War and succumbed to fire in 1953. The Seoul Namdaemun Market Co. Ltd. was found in 1954 to rebuild the market, but efforts fell short due to financial troubles. Endeavors for reconstruction continued in the following years, but fires swept the market again in 1968 and 1975.

The city of Seoul announced plans to renovate the market in 2007, and reconstruction and renovations are being continued in 2010

Namdaemun Market is one of the oldest continually running markets in South Korea, and one of the largest retail markets in Seoul.

The streets in which the market is located were built in a time when cars were not prevalent, so the market itself is not accessible by car. The main methods of transporting goods into and out of the market are by motorcycle and hand-drawn carts. It occupies many city blocks, which are blocked off from most car traffic due to the prevalence of parking congestion in the area. The market can be accessed by subway or bus; the location is within a 10-minute walk from Seoul Station and is even closer to the subway Hoehyeon station, Line 4.

Much of the market is outside, but there are also many stores which line the streets. Many retailers buy their items, particularly clothing, at wholesale prices at Namdaemun, to resell in their own stores in other cities. Namdaemun is a popular tourist attraction. The Market is on the Seoul list of Asia’s 10 greatest street food cities for the hotteok.

Namdaemun is the largest traditional market in South Korea , and you absolutely have to get lost in its labyrinthine floors. I have rarely seen such a cave of Ali-Baba! Even if you don’t buy anything, the sellers remain pleasant and welcoming. However, I advise you to go there when it’s busy, between 11 am and 2 pm in particular, because it’s then the best place to eat!

To complete your visit, go to the large Namdaemun gate , in the immediate vicinity of the market. The “Gate of Exalted Ceremonies” is South Korea’s No. 1 national treasure , remaining intact for more than 600 years, before being partially destroyed by an arsonist in 2008. Fortunately, it was rebuilt identically in 2013.

If you want to discover a brick hanok , the Hanok Cafe is the ideal place to combine history and a coffee break! Do not hesitate to go there, it is really close.

9. Hongdae District

Hongdae ( Hangul  : 홍대 ; hanja  :弘大) is an area of ​​Seoul , South Korea near Hongik University , from which it takes its name. The neighborhood is known for its street arts and indie music , nightclubs as well as street food  . It is located in Mapo-gu , west of Seoul, between Seogyo-dong and Hapjeong-dong.

Hongdae ( Hangul  : 홍대 ) is an abbreviation of Hong ik Dae hakgyo ( 홍익 대학교 , Hanja :弘益大学), Hongik University. The term “hongdae” is generally used to refer to Hongik University, which notably has one of the best schools of fine arts in South Korea .

Hongdae is the most well-known of all student neighborhoods in Seoul , and it’s hard to ignore. It must be said that it is located at the junction of three major universities: Hongik, Yonsei and Ehwa, and that it therefore attracts an audience completely committed to its cause. Extravagant shops, themed cafes , street artists … If, during the day, it is pleasant to get lost in its colorful streets of mural frescoes and to visit its funny museums , it is especially at night that you have to come and enjoy its festive and lively atmosphere, as is the case during live performances of k-pop. In short, there is always something going on in Hongdae. If you’re curious, this is where you can take the pulse of Seoul’s youth.

hongdae at night

The Hongdae district is known for its trendy cafes and student nights, as well as its indie scene, street arts, and underground musicians . Several known bands like Jaurim, Crying Nut and Peppertones come from this street and started as indie bands. The neighborhood also has street art festivals and performances , as well as concerts by independent artists and famous personalities.

From the 1990s, the district was built around art and Hongik University (Hongdae), which is renowned for its prestigious arts faculty. Rents were low in the early years, prompting penniless street musicians and performers to move to workshops in the Hongdae district. Most of these workshops are now cafés or concert halls, and the area has a reputation as a major area for urban arts and underground nightclubs  .

Like many other multicultural urban areas , Hongdae is also affected by gentrification . However, despite the recent explosion in the number of high-end brand stores which is causing artists to move to the south of the district near Hapjeong subway station , Hongdae Street retains its reputation as the ideal place for musicians. independent. A large number of concert halls and festivals attract many visitors   . YG Entertainment , the big K-pop agency , has its offices near this street  .

Hongdae also has many independent clothing stores and vintage stores . There are also kitsch and eclectic themed cafes centered on characters or animals .

Others events

Zandari Festa 

Zandari Festa  takes its name from “Zandari”, the old name of the district. “Zandari” means “little bridge”, and the ambition of the festival is to build a bridge between the local independent music scene and the general public. The festival is held over 3 days, in autumn, in concert halls determined in advance which host the events. The festival encourages bands to come on their own, and artists are encouraged to participate in the organization and promotion of the events in which they play.

Live Club Day 

Created inMarch 2001, “Club Day” began as an event where a wristband allowed entry to a dozen nightclubs for the price of one. After 2007, “Sound Day” also started with concert halls. In 2008 and early 2009 the days were interrupted due to violence and disruption caused by US Army soldiers and minors. The days started again, but stopped inJanuary 2011(for the 117th Club Day ) , mainly because of disputes over the distribution of profits between popular nightclubs and less frequented and less expensive ones.

After a four-year hiatus, six nightclubs were founded inJanuary 2015the “Cooperative Live Club”, and with other nightclubs, restarted “Live Club Day” onFebruary 27 . Live Club Day is held on the last Friday of each month. The ticketing system is the same, where only one ticket is needed to go to several establishments of various genres (rock, jazz, hip hop, electro).

Street Art Exhibition 

In the early 1990s, Hongik University Fine Arts students began to decorate the streets, walls and roads around the university. They were eventually joined by many artists from all over South Korea, and the first “Street Art Festival” was held in 1993 9 . Every year, Hongik students and local artists create a multitude of visual art projects on the streets of Hongdae, such as graffiti , art installations, and performances .

Free Market 

“Hongdaeap Artmarket Freemarket” 10 stands at Hongdae Playground ( Hongdae Playground ), opposite the main gate of Hongik University. It is held every weekend between March and November (from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.), and has been organized by the NGO ‘Living and Art Creative Center (일상예술창작센터)’ since 2002. The flea markets are called “Free Market on Saturday and “Hope Market” on Sunday. These are craft markets where objects created by students and street artists are sold . This playground market has inspired other cultural markets, which have opened in other areas of the Hongdae district.

10. Dongdaemun Design Plaza

Inaugurated inMarch 2014, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza , or DDP , is a gigantic multi-use complex located in Seoul , South Korea , in the trendy and touristy area near Dongdaemun Gate . A temple of design , a convention center and an entertainment hub, the building is a major symbol of the urban development of the South Korean capital.

At night, at Dongdaemun Design Plaza

During my first trip, in 2013, it was under construction, and all I could see was a gray thing sticking out of the sheet metal walls of the construction site. Not very welcoming. Since then, the DDP has become an essential cultural place in Seoul, hosting a large number of conventions , Fashion Week , and the Bamdokkaebi night markets .

Admittedly, it is difficult to find a common feature with the popular district of Dongdaemun , of which it is close. But it seems to me that it is precisely the pretext for a more in-depth visit of the latter, in contact with the “little hands” of the capital, at work in the very many sewing factories.

Main characteristics

Built on the grounds of a former baseball stadium, its neo-futuristic appearance features powerful curved and elongated forms characteristic of the work of its architect, Zaha Hadid 1 . Both a design temple and a convention and entertainment center, it houses eight exhibition halls, amphitheatres, conference spaces, shops offering designer works as well as creative laboratories that serve as test beds. for marketing new products. Designed over four floors and three basements, it also houses festivals and concerts .

The nearly $500 million building, which The New York Times has compared to “a silver spaceship,” 4 is located in the heart of South Korea’s fashion hub and popular tourist destination. South: Dongdaemun . It is divided into four main parts: Art Hall, Design Lab, Park and Museum. Korean art exhibitions are also visible on the second floor and you can walk on its green roof.

The DDP enabled Seoul to become the World Design Capital in 2010. Started in 2009, construction was officially inaugurated onMarch 21, 20145 . It is directly connected to the Seoul Subway via Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station, on lines 2, 4 and 5.


Dongdaemun Stadium was the first modern stadium in Korea and was built during the Japanese Colonial Period to celebrate the wedding of the Japanese Prince. From 1925 until its demolition in 2007, various national sports and celebration events had been held. The stadium was abandoned after the Seoul Olympics in 1988 and had become a local market in front of the largest fashion hub in South Korea.

Demolition of Fortress Wall in the Dongdaemun District

Around the district of Dongdaemun, Dongdaemun-gu, a fortress wall once existed to protect Hanyang (the capital of Chosun). However, the wall was damaged and destroyed from war and the rapid development and expansion of the city. The first demolition was conducted in 1889 for the construction of the trolley railway between two areas of Seoul, Seodaemun, and Cheongnyangni. The wall in the vicinity of Dongdaemun was demolished in 1908 during the visit of the Japanese prince, and a wall connecting Dongdaemun and Gwanghwamun was destroyed to build Gyeongseong Sports Complex in order to celebrate the marriage of the Japanese prince during the Japanese Emperor Hirohito’s reign in 1924. The construction of residential housing for citizens further destroyed the remaining walls, and a number of illegal construction after the Korean War accelerated the demolition process.

Hullyeondogam and Gyeongseong Sports Complex

The construction of Gyeongseong Sports Complex in 1925, later known as Dongdaemun Stadium, resulted in further demolition of the wall and the buildings near the area. The first modern stadium was renamed the Seoul Sports Complex after Korea became independent, and the stadium became an important venue for various national events. The complex was once more renamed the Dongdaemun Sports Complex, and its use decreased when the Jamsil Sports Complex was built in 1984 for the Seoul Olympics.

Formation and development of Dongdaemun commercial area

The Dongdaemun commercial area developed in the latter part of the Chosun Dynasty when people started to create an autonomous market place around Baeogae. Another large-scale modern market, Gwangjang Market, was formed, and the district became a constellation of various markets and small businesses. In 1960s, a large number of sewing factories were built near Pyenghwa Market, Dongdaemun-gu, and the market soon became the largest shopping district for shopping. With the addition of Miliore, shopping mall for fashion constructed in 1998, the area has become a new retail sphere where citizens and other visitors buy the latest fashions at a reasonable price.

11. Gangnam Ward

Gangnam-gu  강남구 ,is a district ( gu ) of Seoul , the wealthiest in the city. The name Gangnam ( Hangul  : 강남  ; Hanja  :江南) means “south of the river”.

The Gangnam district was developed later than the district north of the river, so it is more modern, with wide avenues and high prestige buildings. In particular, there are a number of companies working on information technology.

This modernity, the presence of foreign institutions, restaurants and places to have fun attract many young people, especially in the district called Apgujeong ( 압구정 ).

This area has become very touristy.

Gangnam District is one of the 25 local government districts which make up the city of Seoul, South Korea. Gangnam translates to “South of the (Han) River”. Gangnam District is the third largest district in Seoul, with an area of 39.5 km2 (15.3 sq mi). As of the 2017 census, Gangnam District had a population of 561,052.[1] There is a high concentration of wealth in the district with prices for an apartment as of 2020 having risen by 83 times in 40 years compared to just 6 times in the rest of Seoul. Gangnam district is generally referred to as a part of Gangnam School District Eight(강남 8학군), along with Seocho District. This district shares half of Gangnam-daero Gangnam Station area with Seocho District, which is one of the most crowded places in Korea.

The important business district around Teheranno (Tehran Street) runs east–west from Gangnam station to Samseong station and the COEX Convention & Exhibition Center-Korean World Trade Center complex. Several popular shopping and entertainment areas are located in Gangnam District, including Apgujeong, the COEX Mall and the area around Gangnam station and Garosugil.

Cheongdam-dong is notable as an upmarket shopping area, with stores of global and local luxury brands, such as MCM Haus flagship store; Vera Wang’s third global and first Asian flagship store ‘Vera Wang Bridal Korea’; as well as French jeweler Cartier’s Cartier Maison, located on Apgujeong-ro, which is the largest in Korea and at the time of opening, in 2008, the seventh largest in the world.

The area has a large concentration of vegetarian and other upscale restaurants that serve Korean cuisine with a modern twist, namely on the main street from Bongeun Temple to Park Hyatt Hotel in Samseong-dong.

Gangnam, “south of the river”, is one of Korea’s most important business districts . The buildings are impressive, either by their height or by their eccentric shapes. If you like architecture, take a tour of the latest constructions, the architects are having a field day  : Starfield Coex Library , Louis Vuitton Maison Seoul, Seocho Garak Tower East, Prugio Summit… The approaches and concepts are of a limitless creativity!

Building in Gangnam
The Prugio Summit, a building in Gangnam that features in many Korean dramas.

When the offices empty after 6 p.m., Gangnam is buzzing. The district, rather quiet during the day, then becomes the temple of nightlife  : trendy bars and nightclubs welcome young clubbing enthusiasts. Well, let’s be honest, Seoul nights are mostly for young people, but the trendy restaurants are open to everyone, so don’t censor yourself.

Gangnam also has some unmissable tourist sites: the Bongeunsa Buddhist temple , the Lotte World Tower , Garosu-gil and Apgujeong Rodeo streets , the royal tombs of Seolleung … A variety of sites that will suit all visitors.

The Bongeunsa temple under the snow, in winter.
The entrance to the Seolleung site
The site of Seolleung, in Gangnam, which houses three royal tombs listed as World Heritage by UNESCO.

12. Lotte World Tower

Lotte World Tower ( Korean  : 롯데월드타워 ), also named Lotte Super Tower 123 is a 123 – storey skyscraper located near the current Lotte World complex opened in 1989 , in Seoul, South Korea.

At a height of 555 meters, the building was when it opened in 2017 the fifth tallest skyscraper in the world

If you like to get high, you have to climb the Lotte World tower. But take the elevator above all, no need to do like Alain Robert, the French spider-man, and launch an assault on the facade ;-). At 486 meters, the view from the observation deck is different from that of Namsan Tower. It is much more impressive, it must be admitted.

Lotte World tower hidden by cherry blossoms

The ground was first ground in 2005, but due to height restrictions imposed by the proximity of the airport, work was postponed until February 2010, after restrictions were lifted in 2009 1 .

The 123rd and last floor was completed in December 2015 .

It was climbed by the duo Ontheroofs 3 .

The building won in December 2018 the Emporis Skyscraper Award 2017 rewarding the most remarkable skyscraper built during the year .

And for you, what are the must-see places in Seoul? Tell us everything in the comments, we would love to hear your point of view!

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Mohamed SAKHRI

Discover team

On this blog you travel with us around the world and discover beautiful places, stories, cultures but also mysterious places and some are even bizarre.

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