South Korea is known across the globe for its fast-paced technological advancements and rapidly expanding urban amenities as well as its legacy of traditional beauty and wonders of nature. The result is a country that can dazzle any visitor.
Whether you're keen to explore the fast-paced and diverse city of Seoul or the gentle tea fields of Boseong, South Korea has something for you. So which places are absolutely essential? We’ve picked out our top spots.
Located at a three-way intersection at the northern end of Sejongno, you won't be able to miss the famous Gyeongbok Palace. Built in the late 1300s, this marvel has been destroyed and restored many times but still stands today and is one of South Korea's main tourist attractions and most famous royal palaces.
Whether you take a guided tour (English tours run three times daily) or want to wander around solo, be sure to give yourself at least an hour to truly enjoy the pavilions and halls within the palace's expansive walled grounds.
Boseong Green Tea Fields
Nearly half of Korea's tea is produced in the lush greenery of the Boseong County's Green Tea Fields and Daehan Dawon stands as the biggest and longest standing tea garden in the area. The first green tea trees were planted in 1937 and the rich soil and humid temperatures have ensured their continued success.
Wander along the cedar paths and enjoy all the green fields have to offer. Once you've completed your walk, stop by the plantation’s Dawon Lounge to sample all the green tea cuisine your heart desires. From milkshakes to cold green tea noodles to green tea pork belly, we recommend you sample it all.
There is so much to see at the Namdaemun Market located in Seoul. Every section lays claim to hundreds of stalls selling everything from clothes to jewellery to mouth-watering local cuisine.
The market runs all day and well into the night and you'll need to set aside a few hours to cover any kind of substantial ground. Try to end up in Restaurant Alley after all the shopping, to enjoy some of the best Korean food around.
The Changdeokgung Palace Complex is listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Considered to be the most beautiful of Seoul's five main palaces, it has a mountain behind it and a small stream in front. Like all traditional Joseon palaces it was designed to blend in with the surrounding nature.
The Changdeokgung Palace was named the principal palace in the 1590s after Gyeongbok was destroyed during the Japanese invasion and it remained the primary royal residence until 1872. The architecture has a distinct ’far eastern’ design, and despite its size it blends into its surrounds perfectly.
Seongsan Sunrise Peak
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Seongsan Sunrise Peak is famous for a lot of different reasons. There are a variety of rare plant species here, but it is most well-known for the sunrise view.
Located on Jeju Island, hydrovolcanic eruptions formed this majestic volcanic crater 5,000 years ago and the rest is history. Visitors from all over Korea, and the world, come to climb up the peak's northwest side to the highest point. The journey only takes 30 minutes but the views from the top are sure to make long-lasting memories.
As the name suggests, this park was the site for the 1988 Olympic Games. The paths take you to the various stadiums which are now surrounded by lush greenery and sculptures. There is also an art gallery and two museums on the grounds. The park even holds the remains of the Mongchon-toseong (Mongchon Fortress), which is surrounded by a moat, and was built in the third century AD during the Baekje Dynasty.
Many of the Olympic attractions still remain including the indoor swimming pool which is sometimes open to the general public. Every Wednesday and Thursday from March to December, motor boats set off on races through the courses of Misari and local gamblers watch on screens and place their bets.
War Memorial of Korea
This is an absolute must-do for any historians or war-buffs out there. The museum is huge and documents the history of the Korean War. There are black-and-white documentaries showing footage of main battles and events, as well as photos and maps.
Outside you’ll find military hardware including tanks, helicopters and even missiles. It will take a minimum of three hours to see all the museum has to offer, so make sure you plan for this! If possible, schedule your visit to align with the Honour Guard Ceremony, which is a unique display of military precision and weapon twirling by the armed forces.
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