Seoul's skyline inspires
Those visiting Seoul may find their senses overwhelmed. Fragrant spices, spectacular ancient temples, bustling street scenes, mouthwatering meals, and beautifully embroidered silks are just a few of the experiences to be had in one of the world’s most fascinating cities.
Day 1: Step Into the Past
After a meticulous five-year, $23-million restoration, one of South Korea’s most treasured national landmarks, 600-year-old Sungnyemun (above) — also known as Namdaemun or the Great South Gate — reopened last month following a devastating fire in 2008. For another spectacular historical landmark, travel north to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Changdeokgung Palace. bit.ly/smSungnyemun
Dine in one of the Insa-dong district’s lovely restaurants — Doore (traditional Korean) and Mingadaheon (fusion) are standouts — and then stroll through its many tea shops and art galleries, or pick up a souvenir along the way. Korean hydrangea, or sweet dew tea as it is sometimes known, is especially refreshing. www.visitseoul.net
One of Seoul’s most beautiful museums is the Korea Furniture Museum, which contains more than 2,000 pieces of furniture from the Joseon Dynasty’s 500-year reign beginning at the end of the 14th century, as well as 10 intricately designed hanok (traditional Korean houses). www.kofum.com
Day 2: See and Taste the Sights
Starting in the Yongsan district, head to Namsan Park, home to a lush botanical garden as well as the striking N Seoul Tower, the best place for panoramic city views. While there, don’t miss the thousands of love padlocks chained along the perimeter fence.
It’s hard to travel to Korea without sampling some of its famous barbecues, also known as gogi-jip (meat houses). One of the biggest establishments, Gombawi, in the Gangnam district, is known for its unseasoned, charcoal-grilled tripe and more than 20 different cuts of quality beef. www.gbw.co.kr
Seoul is renowned for its variety of nonverbal performances, and one of its most famous involves the unlikely combination of ballet and breakdancing. See a performance of “Ballerina Who Loved a B-boy,” a musical told strictly through dance that has enchanted audiences around the world since 2005. www.showbboy.com
Day 3: Glimpse the Future
See what the future of technology holds at T.um (short for “Telecom Ubiquitous Museum”). Whether you check out the shopping avatars or the self-driving cars, you’ll leave amazed. Reservations are required. http://tum.sktelecom.com
Thanks to South Korean rapper Psy, everyone knows about “Gangnam Style.” To experience this posh neighborhood firsthand, start with a stroll through 10 Corso Como. www.10corsocomo.co.kr
After you’ve had your fill of shopping and fine dining in Gangnam, head to the supremely serene Bongeunsa temple, which is also located in Gangnam. http://bongeunsa.org/eng/