Seoul

South Korea's capital, Seoul (서울 in Korean), is a city of astonishing contrasts, where the ultramodern coexists with the ancestral, offering travelers a unique experience. This comprehensive guide invites you to explore the many facets of Seoul, highlighting its history, must-see sites, and much more, to make your trip a memorable adventure.

Seoul, with its 9.5 million inhabitants, is the beating heart of South Korea. The city stands like a beacon of modernity, surrounded by mountains and bisected by the majestic Han River. It's a place where ancient history and innovation meet, creating a rich and diverse urban fabric.

The History of Seoul 

Discovering the history of Seoul is like opening a book, each page of which tells the story of a different era, a significant event that has helped shape the complex and rich identity of this metropolis. The city, today the vibrant heart of South Korea, bears the scars and triumphs of millennia of history.

Ancient Origins: Wiryeseong, the First Chapter

The first mention of Seoul dates back to the Three Kingdoms of Korea, specifically to the kingdom of Baekje, one of the cradles of Korean civilization. At that time, the city was known as Wiryeseong. It's fascinating to note that, even in its early days, Seoul was a center of power and culture, a tradition that continues to this day.

The Joseon Dynasty: A Cultural Golden Age

The founding of the Joseon dynasty in 1392 marked a decisive turning point in Seoul's history. The city, then called Hanyang, became the capital of the kingdom. It was during this period that Seoul began to develop as a political, economic and cultural center. The construction of majestic palaces and harmonious gardens, such as those of Gyeongbokgung Palace, testify to the importance attached to art, culture and architecture. The Joseon dynasty is also famous for the introduction of Hangul, the Korean alphabet, by King Sejong the Great, a revolution in access to education and literature for the Korean people.

The Era of Japanese Occupation: A Dark Period

The Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945 was one of the darkest periods in Seoul's history. The city, renamed Gyeongseong, underwent profound transformations under Japanese colonial administration. This period was marked by the loss of national independence and severe cultural repression. However, it was also a period of forced modernization, which saw the introduction of new technologies and infrastructures. The resilience of the Korean people in the face of this oppression forged a strong national sentiment, which was crucial to the country's reconstruction after liberation.

The Korean War and Seoul's Renaissance

The Korean War, from 1950 to 1953, was another defining moment for Seoul, as the city repeatedly found itself on the frontline of the conflict between the communist North and the capitalist South. The capital was severely damaged, and the population suffered greatly. Yet this was also the start of an astonishing period of renaissance for Seoul. In the decades following the armistice, the city experienced dazzling economic development, propelling South Korea to become one of the world's most dynamic economies.

Seoul Today: A Symbol of Progress and Innovation

Today, Seoul is a global metropolis, renowned for innovation in technology, education and culture. The city is a harmonious blend of old and new, where historic palaces stand alongside futuristic skyscrapers. Seoul continues to surprise and fascinate, attracting millions of visitors eager to explore its rich heritage and dazzling modernity.

When to go to Seoul? 

The city of Seoul, with its temperate climate, offers a different face to each season, each revealing unique aspects of the South Korean capital. Deciding on the best time to visit Seoul depends largely on what you want to see and do. Here's a season-by-season guide to help you plan your trip.

Spring in Seoul: An Explosion of Colors

Spring, from late March to May, is undoubtedly one of the best times to visit Seoul. The city awakens under a carpet of cherry blossoms, forsythias and azaleas. Parks and temples are decked out in bright colors, providing the perfect backdrop for strolls and picnics under the blossoming trees. Temperatures are mild, fluctuating between 10°C and 20°C, making it particularly pleasant to explore the city. Don't miss the Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival, where hundreds of trees line the streets, creating spectacular alleys.

Summer in Seoul: Vibrant but Humid

From June to early September, Seoul enters its summer season, characterized by marked heat and humidity. Temperatures often climb above 30°C, accompanied by heavy rain, especially in July and August. If the heat doesn't put you off, summer is a lively season, marked by numerous festivals and outdoor events. It's also the perfect time to discover Seoul's nearby beaches and water parks to cool off. Summer evenings offer a pleasant respite, with a multitude of night-time activities livening up the city.

Autumn in Seoul: The Magic of Red Leaves

Autumn, from September to November, is another great time to explore Seoul. The heat of summer gives way to cool, clear air, and the foliage transforms into spectacular hues of red, orange and yellow. Temperatures generally range from 10°C to 20°C, creating ideal conditions for hiking in the surrounding national parks or visiting the city's royal palaces. Autumn festivals such as Jongmyo Jerye offer a fascinating insight into Korean traditions in a breathtaking natural setting.

Winter in Seoul: A Snowy and Festive Landscape

From December to February, winter envelops Seoul in a blanket of white, with temperatures dropping below freezing. It's the perfect time for winter sports enthusiasts, with several ski resorts within easy reach of the city. Seoul is transformed into an enchanted winter landscape, with festive illuminations and Christmas markets. Although the cold can be biting, the experience of seeing the city under snow, especially the palace gardens and temples, remains unforgettable.

Conclusion: The best time to visit Seoul

Ultimately, spring and autumn stand out as the most recommended seasons to visit Seoul, thanks to their moderate climate and natural beauty. However, each season brings its own charms and activities, enabling Seoul to seduce its visitors all year round. Whenever you decide to go, Seoul promises memorable memories and fascinating discoveries.

Seoul weather live!

Seoul South Korea
14°C
Monday
Freezing fog
94%
1009
7.416 km/h

Getting around Seoul 

Seoul is a metropolis where modernity and efficiency are perfectly reflected in its transportation system. Whether you're a first-time visitor or a regular, navigating this dynamic city is an experience in itself, thanks to a well-designed public transport infrastructure and varied mobility options.

The Seoul Metro: The Heart of the Transport Network

The Seoul metro is often hailed as one of the most advanced and cleanest mass transit systems in the world. With over 20 lines stretching across the city and beyond, the subway offers comprehensive coverage and easy access to major attractions, business districts and residential areas. Trains are frequent, punctual and air-conditioned, with announcements and information boards in Korean and English. Line maps, clearly marked at each station, make it easy to plan your journey. For even greater ease of use, consider acquiring a T-money card, rechargeable and usable on the entire public transport network.

Seoul Buses: A Flexible Alternative

Seoul's bus network perfectly complements the metro, serving areas less accessible by the latter. With local routes, express buses and special tourist circuits, the bus system is both flexible and economical. Buses are an excellent option for admiring the city from above ground, offering unique perspectives on everyday life in Seoul. As with the subway, the T-money card facilitates payments and transfers between bus and subway.

Cabs: Comfort and Accessibility

Cabs in Seoul are a convenient and relatively affordable option for trips requiring greater flexibility. Available at all hours, they are particularly useful late at night, when subway and bus services are reduced. Korean cabs are safe and the drivers, although not always English-speaking, are supported by translation apps and navigation systems to get you to your destination smoothly.

Rent a Bike: Discover Seoul at a Different Pace

For those looking to explore Seoul in a more intimate and active way, bike rental is a great option. The bike-sharing service, Seoul Bike "Ddareungi", allows users to rent and return bikes at hundreds of stations throughout the city. Cycling along the banks of the Han River is a particularly pleasant experience, offering breathtaking views of the city and access to parks and outdoor recreation areas.

Practical Tips for Navigating in Seoul

  • Download transport apps: Apps like KakaoMetro and KakaoBus provide real-time information on timetables, routes and stations, greatly simplifying your commute.
  • Invest in a T-money card: Available from newsagents and metro stations, this rechargeable card lets you travel easily on the entire transport network.
  • Explore on foot: Seoul is a city full of surprises. Time permitting, walking between nearby sites can reveal hidden treasures.

Thanks to these multiple transportation options, getting around Seoul is not only convenient but also an integral part of the experience of discovering this fascinating city. Whether you prefer the speed of the metro, the flexibility of buses, the comfort of cabs, or the freedom of a bicycle, Seoul connects you to its wonders with disconcerting ease.

Luxury Korean interior

Where to sleep in Seoul? 

Seoul offers a wide range of accommodation, from friendly guesthouses to luxury hotels. For an authentic stay, consider staying in a hanok, a traditional Korean house. The districts of Hongdae and Itaewon are ideal for those seeking a livelier experience.

Seoul's must-sees 

Seoul, a city where the past meets the present in fascinating harmony, is packed with iconic sites that deserve a special place on any visitor's itinerary. Here's a closer look at the city's cultural and historical gems.

Gyeongbokgung Palace: A Journey through Time

Gyeongbokgung Palace is not only the largest of Seoul's five royal palaces; it's also the most majestic. Founded in 1395 by King Taejo, the founder of the Joseon dynasty, this palace was the administrative heart and symbol of royal authority. Today, after several reconstructions, it stands as a powerful reminder of Korean history and culture. Don't miss the Changing of the Guard, a colorful and accurate re-enactment that takes place at the palace's main entrance. The tranquil gardens, elegant pavilions and vast courtyards offer a fascinating insight into traditional Korean architecture and invite contemplation.

Village of Bukchon Hanok: Immersion in Tradition

Located between Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung, Bukchon Hanok village is one of Seoul's hidden treasures, featuring winding alleys and traditional hanok houses. This historic residential area offers a striking contrast to the city's modern skyscrapers. A stroll through Bukchon is like walking through a living tableau of Korea's past. Visitors can not only admire the architecture, but also take part in craft workshops, such as making hanji (traditional Korean paper) or learning the Korean tea ceremony, for an authentic cultural experience.

N Seoul Tower: A Panoramic View of the Metropolis

Erected on Mount Namsan, the N Seoul Tower is much more than just a transmission tower; it's a symbol of Seoul. Accessible by bus, car or via a pleasant hike through Namsan Park, the tower offers an observation platform from which to enjoy a 360-degree view of the city. Whether you go there by day to observe the urban dynamism or by night for a twinkling light show, the N Seoul Tower promises unforgettable memories. The tradition of love padlocks, where couples hang a padlock engraved with their names on the terrace, adds a romantic touch to your visit.

Tips for exploring these must-see sites

  • Plan your visit: Gyeongbokgung and other palaces close one day a week (usually Tuesday), so check times in advance.
  • Wear comfortable shoes: Whether you're exploring the vast grounds of Gyeongbokgung or strolling through the narrow streets of Bukchon, comfortable shoes are essential.
  • Take advantage of guided tours: Many sites offer free or low-cost guided tours in English, offering rich insights into Korean history and culture.
  • Respect the area: Bukchon Hanok Village is first and foremost a residential area. Show respect for residents and their property when you visit.

Are you heading to Seoul soon, or are you already here and looking for things to do? We've put together a complete guide to what to do in Seoul!

Seoul's Best Neighborhoods

Seoul is a mosaic of neighborhoods, each with its own unique character and atmosphere. Exploring these neighborhoods is essential to capturing the city's diversity.

Hongdae: Young and Vibrant

Hongdaenamed after Hongik University, is the heart of Seoul's young and creative culture. Renowned for its underground music scene, independent fashion boutiques and vibrant street art, Hongdae is the ideal place to feel the city's youthful energy. At night, the district comes alive with bars, clubs and restaurants offering an unparalleled nightlife experience.

Insadong: Tradition and Culture

Insadong is Seoul's cultural district, famous for its art galleries, antique stores and traditional teahouses. It's the ideal place to buy authentic souvenirs, such as ceramics, paintings and handicrafts. Insadong's alleyways are bustling with activity, offering a charming glimpse of Korean traditions in the heart of the modern city.

Itaewon: Diversity and Internationalism

Itaewon is known for its cosmopolitan atmosphere and culinary diversity. It's Seoul's international district, where expatriates and tourists mingle with locals to enjoy restaurants, bars and stores from all over the world. Itaewon is also famous for its lively nightlife and cultural events, making it a meeting place for those looking to experience a more global Seoul.

Gangnam: Chic and Trendy

Popularized by the song "Gangnam Style", this district is synonymous with luxury and modernity. Gangnam is the center of fashion, commerce and entertainment in Seoul, home to luxury boutiques, impressive skyscrapers and avant-garde cultural spaces. For those seeking glamour and urban chic, Gangnam offers an unrivalled shopping and entertainment experience.

Every neighborhood in Seoul has its own story to tell, and exploring them is an integral part of the city experience. Whether you're drawn to history and tradition, or modernity and innovation, Seoul has a neighborhood to suit you.

Seoul is in the UTC+9 time zone. South Korea does not apply seasonal time changes, so the time remains constant throughout the year.

Seoul is the capital of South Korea, located in the northwest of the country. The city is bordered by the Han River and surrounded by mountains, forming a dynamic urban landscape where nature meets modern architecture.

For a complete visit to Seoul, we recommend planning at least 3 to 5 days. This will allow you to discover the main historical sites, the cultural districts, enjoy the local gastronomy and, weather permitting, explore the city's surroundings.

Seoul has a population of around 9.7 million. It is one of South Korea's most populous cities and one of Asia's most dynamic metropolises.

The cost of living in Seoul can vary considerably depending on lifestyle, accommodation choices and consumer habits. In general, Seoul is considered to have a higher cost of living than other cities in South Korea, but comparable or lower than other major world metropolises. Average daily expenses for a tourist can vary from 50 to 200 USD per day, including accommodation, food, transport and activities.

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