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Book a flight to Seoul with Qatar Airways, for an alluring blend of technology and ancient tradition. South Korea's high-tech capital is home to over 11.8 million people and has earned a reputation as the cultural epicentre of East Asia. Seoul is constantly evolving, and is a nurturing ground for design, fashion, culture and history.
Seoul is a 24-hour metropolis, offering temples, night-markets, museums, galleries, teahouses and more.
The palaces of Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung, and the 8th-century Bongeunsa Buddhist Temple are a great introduction to Seoul culture; but head to Mount Inwang to survey the city's most famous shrine and hike along nature trails.
Seoul is divided into 25 districts, or gus, and has no discernible centre. Gangnam and Jongno-gu are probably where you will spend most of your time.
Seoul is home to five palaces. Gyeongbokgung is the grandest Joseon Dynasty-era palace in the city, and houses the Korean Folk Museum and the Joseon Palace Museum. UNESCO World Heritage Site Changdeokgung, built in 1405, can be accessed via guided tour.
Head for N Seoul Tower (Namsan Tower) at sunset for stunning views of the city skyline. Or stroll around the 8th-century Bongeunsa Buddhist Temple, which offers an escape from the chaotic city. Also, try to fit in a visit to Bukchon (North Village), where you can see traditional Korean hanok houses.
Pack a picnic and explore the city's parks. Seoul Forest covers 1.15 million square metres and is the metropolitan government’s answer to Central Park in New York City. Or you could just hire a bike and take in the gorgeous scenery of Hangang Park. For a slice of culture, take a cooking course at Hansik Experience Centre, where you can learn how to make the Korean staple kimchi.
A day spent exploring the city's temples is a day well spent, particularly if you head for Mount Inwang. Here you will find a temple, and the city's most famous shrine, set in the hills, with plenty of trails to explore. Arrive in the early morning if you want to soak up the peaceful atmosphere. Hiking is also a popular pastime here, with most trails accessible by public transport. Mount Bukhan is the most popular trail, and can be reached from Dobongsan Station.
Korean social life frequently revolves around food, and this will be evident in the range of restaurants on offer in the city that you’ll encounter when you travel to Seoul. It is possible to eat very well for an affordable price, and as well as Korean food, you will find Japanese sushi and sashimi restaurants in Seoul.
Street food stalls and 24-hour Korean fast-food restaurants offer great opportunities to sample a wide variety of local dishes. Ramyun (Korean instant noodles) and kimchi (hot, spicy, pickled vegetables), can be found everywhere. Kimchi is widely regarded as the national dish.
Korean barbeque restaurants are a popular choice and a great place to mingle with locals. Hanjeongsik is a multicourse Korean banquet, and an all-time favourite. The colourful platter is a feast for the eyes as much as it is for the stomach.
You'll find plenty of international cuisine on offer too, from Asian and Western to Italian, French and American.
Shopping in Seoul is more than just a pastime, it's an art form. The city's markets sell everything from electronics, (try Yongsan Electronics Market and Techno Mart) to women's fashion. Namdaemun is the largest traditional street market in South Korea and a popular tourist spot. As well as local food and textile goods, you'll find utensils, electronics, local produce and traditional crafts, all sold at generously discounted prices. It is also a popular spot for experiencing the feel of a traditional Korean marketplace.
Also worth exploring is Dongdaemun Market, home to the city’s largest clothing supplier, where many aspiring Korean fashion designers make their debut. You can find the most recent trends, along with the latest fabrics and accessories, at affordable prices. Most shops here are open all night and crowded by wholesalers and tourists, throughout the year.
For cultural souvenirs and art, Insadong Market is filled with shops and galleries. Major Korean and international brands can be found at Apgujeong (known as the Beverly Hills of Seoul) or Myeongdong. Korean fashion can sometimes be a little unconventional, especially in areas such as Hongdae, close to the art school, where you will often find customised and vintage outfits.
Essential facts about Seoul
Enjoy a hassle-free journey with all the information you need to know before your trip