Seoul

THE GYEONGBOKGUNG PALACE

This is the grandest and perhaps most beautiful palace in the country. It was built in 1395 and contains hundreds of halls and rooms .If possible, get there in time for the noon changing of the guard, a display of ancient pageantry that showcases the classical clothing and rituals that are at the heart of Korean culture. The rather quaint National Folk Museum is situated on the palace grounds. It displays 4,000 artifacts detailing Korean history and tradition.

CHANGDEOKGUNG PALACE

The second of the five great palaces of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), this was the principal residence of the Joseon kings from the 15th century onward. Awash ingorgeous, tranquil pavilions and lotus ponds, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage in 1997.

SAMCHEONG-DONG

This is a quaint neighborhood of traditional homes, small cafes and shops within walking distance of Gyeongbokgung. It is a nice place to wander and perhaps enjoy a bowl of patbingsu (shaved ice topped with sweet red bean paste, ice cream, condensedmilk, rice cakes, and fruit).

INSA-DONG

Traditional Korean arts and crafts, such as celadon pottery and ink drawings, are the main draw in Insa-dong, one of the city’s oldest areas. Browse through the volumes at Seoul’s oldest bookstore, sip tea in a Joseon-eratea house, enter an ancient Buddhist temple,and watch calligraphy demonstrations in this 500-year-old section of the city.

BUKCHON HANOK VILLAGE

An ancient aristocratic village, Bukchon is a collection of about 900hanok (traditionalKorean homes), most of which are about 600 years old. The lovely winding alleys, swooping tiled roofs and intimate scale offer a glimpse into medieval Korean life. There is also acultural center and hanok-style restaurant.

NAMSANGOL HANOK VILLAGE

Namsangol is another interestinghanok community. It consists of five traditional houses and a pavilion. Interactive displays make this a worthwhile stop. At night paper lanterns cast abeautiful glow.

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