Who doesn’t know Seoul? The capital of Korea has a myriad of tourist destinations for foreign tourists. Especially for those of you who are fans of Korean culture, having a vacation, there is definitely one of the things you crave.
There are various things you can enjoy in Seoul, Korea. One of them is a tourist destination with high cultural value. In this article, we provide information about cultural tourism in Seoul that you should try!
1. Namsangol Hanok Village
The perfect opener for your cultural tour is Namsangol Hanok Village or Hanok Village. Namsangol is a collection of five hanok (traditional Korean houses) from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), discovered from different parts of the city, and moved to the northern foothills of Mount Namsan. The interiors of these five houses reflect owners from various walks of life, from the middle class to high government officials, aristocrats, and aristocrats.
At Namsangol Hanok Village, visitors can see hanok of important figures from the Joseon era including the home of Queen Yun’s parents, who was Queen Consort of King Sunjong, 27th king of the Joseon Dynasty; home of Min Yeong-hui, a relative of Empress Myeongseong; the house of Lee Seungeop, who was in charge of building Gyeongbokgung Palace and the home of Kim Chunyeong, a Joseon Dynasty military official. The perfect place to travel and learn Korean culture!
In the hanok village, international visitors can participate in traditional Korean activities such as archery and also enjoy traditional Korean performances. If you are curious about the Korean wedding culture, you should visit the village on weekends when traditional wedding ceremonies take place.
2. Gyeongbok Palace
Gyeongbokgung Palace is the first and largest royal palace built during the Joseon Dynasty. Built-in 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace is located in the heart of the newly appointed capital city of Seoul and represents the sovereignty of the Joseon Dynasty. When it comes to cultural tourism, of course, the king’s palace is worth a visit!
As the largest of the Five Great Palaces, Gyeongbokgung served as the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty. The other palaces are Gyeonghuigung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace, and Changdeokgung Palace, and all of them are full of interesting Korean culture.
Apart from visiting the palace and feeling like a Korean historical drama actor, visitors to Gyeongbokgung can also visit the National Palace Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum of Korea as it is located on the palace grounds. In these places, you can find out more about Korean culture, just in Seoul without having to go far to other Korean areas.
Do you know? The west gate of the palace, Yeongchumun, only opened to the public in December 2018, you know. In the past 43 years, there have only been 3 entrances to Gyeongbokgung Palace – namely the south gate of Gwanghwamun, the north gate of Sinmumun, and the eastern entrance to the National Folk Museum of Korea. Not anymore!
The Bosingak Pavilion is the location of the giant bell and Seoul landmark, Bosingak. The bells hanging there today are known as Seoul Daejong and were created in 1986. At midnight on New Year’s Day, a bell rings to announce the start of the new year. The pavilion’s aesthetic is exactly what you see in Korean dramas!
Bosingak was used during the Joseon dynasty. The bells are rung 33 times at 4 a.m., signaling the start of the day and the opening of the city gates. By 10 p.m., the bells are rung 28 times and the gates will be closed for the night. Korean cultural values are evident on the pavilion decoration, even on the Bosingak bell itself.
Tourists to Jongno-gu and local residents of Seoul can enjoy history through the bell ringing ceremony which lasts for an hour every day (apart from Mondays), starting at 11:20 am. Besides, Bosingak is the location of the Korean New Year ceremony on December 31st. On this evening, the streets around the hanging bell tower are closed to traffic and people gather to celebrate the New Year with chimes.
Imagine coming to Korea for the new year and you can experience the celebrations first hand! The culture of Seoul and Korea will be an unforgettable experience of course.
4. Namdaemun Market
Opened in 1964, Namdaemun Market located id Jung-gu, Seoul, is the largest traditional market in Korea with shops selling a variety of goods. All products are sold at affordable prices and the shops in the area also function as wholesale markets. Unlike the previous locations, here you will see Korean culture today, as it is and without the make-up like in a drama.
Most of the goods are made directly by the shop owner. Namdaemun Market is even open all night, from 11 pm to 4 am, and is packed with retailers from all over the country. The sight of busy shoppers bustling around the market creates a unique scene that attracts tourists around the world.
Namdaemun Market sells various kinds of clothing, glass products, kitchen utensils, children’s toys, mountain equipment, fishing gear, stationery, fine arts, accessories, hats, carpets, flowers, ginseng, and imported goods. This market is interesting because you will see a lot of similarities between Korean and Indonesian shopping culture – yes, even haggling!
Insa-dong, located in the heart of the city, is an important place where old but valuable traditional items are on display. There is one main street in Insa-dong with alleys on each side. Within these alleys are galleries, traditional restaurants, teahouses, and cafes.
Gallery is Insa-dong’s heartbeat. There are around 100 galleries in the area offering every example of Korean traditional fine arts from paintings to sculptures. The most famous galleries are the Hakgojae Gallery which serves as a center for folk art, the Gana Art Gallery which promotes many promising artists, and the Gana Art Center.
The teahouse and restaurant are the perfect complements to the gallery. They were hidden deep within the winding alleyways, making it feel like a treasure hunt. The shops in Insa-dong are very popular among all age groups, because each one is unique
Every Saturday from 14:00 to 22:00 and Sunday 10:00 to 22:00, the main road is blocked for vehicular traffic and becomes a cultural space. Shops set up outlets outside and Korean candy vendors and fortune-tellers can easily be found; there are traditional shows and exhibitions too. Insa-dong is very popular with international tourists.
For those of you who love a calm atmosphere but full of beauty, artistry, and natural enjoyment, this is where you can experience and see Korean traditional culture first-hand, as well as buy fine arts.
6.Bongeunsa (Bongeun Temple)
Once known as Gyeonseongsa Temple, Bongeunsa Temple is located north of COEX, a famous mall in the Gangnam area. This temple was built in the 10th year of Silla King Weongseong’s reign (794). In 1498, Queen Jeonghyeon renovated Gyeonseongsa Temple and renamed it Bongeunsa Temple.
Originally located near the Royal Tomb of King Seongjong, the temple was moved to its current location during the reign of Joseon King Myeongjong. The temple is home to 3,479 Buddhist scriptures of 13 types, including works by Kim Jeong-hee.
At this temple, a Buddhist ceremony called Jeongdaebulsa is held on the ninth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, during which monks line up carrying scriptures on their heads and recite Beopseongge (Buddhist rites).
7. Bamdokkaebi Night Market
After getting tired of visiting historical and majestic places, your next destination is all, perfect to close your day! In Seoul, there is a regular night market called ‘Seoul Bamdokkaebi Night Market’.
‘Bam’ means night in Korean and ‘Dokkaebi’ is a mythical creature from Korean fairy tales, which appears at night and disappears during the day. As the name suggests, this night market only operates at night.
This unique night market is held every week on Fridays and Saturdays, from 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm, from April to October at four different venues – Yeouido Hangang Park, Banpo Hangang Park, Dongdaemun Design Plaza, and Cheonggyecheon Stream ( Cheonggye Plaza) – each featuring its own theme.
Specific opening dates and hours change each year, and places opening hours vary. In 2019, this night market is held from April 5 to October 27. Let’s update the information here!
At Seoul’s Bamdokkaebi Night Market, you can find not only food trucks serving traditional Korean food and food from other countries, but also small shops selling the trendiest items and handicraft items.
There’s a lot you can enjoy here, from stunning live music shows to delicious street food. The beautiful view of the Han River is a bonus!
That’s the list of cultural tourist destinations in Seoul, Korea! How, have you been tempted to try a vacation to the Land of Ginseng! Or, take a peek at our article on travel documents if you’re already planning on taking a vacation!