Sightseeing in Seoul

by David Harris

Seoul is the capital city of South Korea, a 600-year-old city that has rebuilt itself, following the devastation of the Korean War. Home to more than 10 million people, Seoul can be overwhelming for first-time visitors who do not speak Korean. Nonetheless, with some prior planning, you will be able to get around the city easily and see the major tourist attractions.

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When to Go

The best time to visit Seoul is during the fall, between September and November. During these months, Seoul is sunny, and the hills around the city are in full autumn color, especially in October. If you cannot visit in the fall, the weather is also nice between April and early June. A visit in April will also yield cherry blossoms in bloom. Avoid Seoul from late June to August. Not only is it hot and muggy, but it rains nearly every day. The winter months are very cold, and it is normal for the temperature to drop below freezing then.

Getting Around Seoul

The cheapest and easiest way to get around Seoul is via taxi, especially if you are traveling in groups of three or more. One drawback is most Korean cabbies do not speak English. In some cabs, though, there is a phone through which you can speak to a translator, who will in turn speak to the driver. The best way to communicate is to write down your destination. If you take a cab between midnight and 4 a.m., it is likely that a 20 percent surcharge will be included.

Palaces

Seoul is home to a few interesting and regal palaces. Gyeongbokgung was the principal palace until 1592, when the Japanese burned it down. Rebuilt in the 19th century, Gyeongbokgung features an ornate main palace building and an ornate pavilion resting on 48 stone pillars. Also destroyed by the Japanese and rebuilt, Changdeokgung has been Seoul's primary palace since 1896 until the 20th century. It is a World Heritage site and features an elaborate courtyard and main palace. Tour the wooded gardens after checking out the palace.

War and Views

Visit the N. Seoul Tower, where you can get panoramic views over the city. The best time to go is at sunset, but views during the day are good as well. History buffs should also stop by the War Memorial & Museum, which has a large exhibit on the Korean War, as well as other skirmishes in Korean history. The museum can take up to three hours to visit, so eat a snack before heading in.

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