Seoul: 5 must-see places

By Judith Balea,

Posted at Oct 23 2011 11:53 PM | Updated as of Oct 25 2011 01:22 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Seoul is a shutterbug's paradise.

Here, skyscrapers blend well with cultural monuments and sites, offering a picturesque view of its history and a glimpse into its future.

As any megacity, it has its famous tourist spots, but its allure doesn't solely come from these.

For the first time visitor, the hustle and bustle of Seoul – its boulevards, where groups of fashionable yuppies shop at fancy boutiques, or its narrow alleyways flanked by little shops that sell almost everything – are also attractions.

Here are some nice places to go to when you visit Seoul. Get your camera ready and click away!

Gyeongbok Palace


You can't say you have been to Korea if you haven't been to Gyeongbok, its most famous royal palace.

This former seat of power is hard to miss as it is just a stone's throw away from the Blue House, the Korean president's residence.

Built during the Joseon dynasty in 1394, Gyeongbok is located between two "holy" mountains -- Keunjeong-jon and Pukhan-san -- and considered a lucky place.

In this over 600-year-old palace are pavilions and halls that were destroyed, rebuilt and destroyed again. Only about a dozen or so structures remain in it at present.

Hanok Village


Get a glimpse into the lives of Korean ancestors and take a stroll through Namsangol Hanok village, where traditional Korean homes have been relocated and restored to their nearly original state.

Five hanok or wooden houses belonging to high officials during the Joseon dynasty are displayed here, giving tourists a feel of the citizenry at that time -- from royalty to commoners.



Now, if you've learned enough of Korea's culture and want to go shopping for clothes, this is where you should go.

Myeongdong is one of Seoul's primary shopping districts featuring a selection of branded shops like Zara, UniQlo and Forever21.

This isn't only a fashion center, however. It also has major department stores like Lotte, Shinsegae, Migliore, Noon Square and M Plaza.

The district also houses a theater, where tourists go to watch the world famous "Cookin' Nanta", a performance of five people using knives, chopping boards and other kitchen wares to cook up drum beats, with a mix of juggling, acrobatics and slapstick comedy.

Insadong Art Street


Insadong is another nice place to shop in Seoul, especially if you're looking for souvenirs for families and friends back home.

This street of quaint shops also offers art supplies, antiques, handicrafts and traditional Korean goods.



Hail a cheap taxi to Itaewon to eat, drink and be merry!

Located near the main US military base, this block of bars, clubs and restaurants is very friendly to foreigners as most Koreans here can speak English.

Aside from international cuisines, you can find both counterfeit and authentic clothing and other goods here.