Recent Trips

SEOUL: Seollal + DIY City Highlights

South Korea will always be memorable for me, as it was where I experienced my first winter, and also where I have spent quite some time in Asia (so far). Throughout my stay, I was able to walk through the East and West side of the Seoul City Wall, and visit several major palaces. It was also this time when I was in the country as they celebrated Seollal, which is the Korean New Year, one of the most significant holidays annually.

‘자연과 빛’ at Asian Park 
Five Nobleman’s Seollal Feast of Namsangol Hanok Village
To make my sightseeing more productive, and more authentic, I planned on joining some walking tours headed by local guides. It may have been the season of freezing temperatures, but that didn't stop me from going on those walking tours. Now, what's even better was that these tours I found were for free! Courtesy of the City of Seoul, the tours are guided by locals who are very knowledgeable about the sights that you will visit, but as well as the history and culture of the city. In one of my tours, I was the only one since they had a rule that the tour would push through even if there's only one person who reserved a slot. Even if you're not alone though, the group was pretty small in my experience, say 3-5 people. So it was somewhat like a private tour, and it was great. For those who are interested, the tours can be reserved here.

The City Wall tours brought me to the East side - from Naksan Park to Marronnier Park, that apparently only has one Marronnier. We were able to walk around Ihwa Mural Village, a neighborhood that greeted us with not only culture, but also art. Found on the stairs, walls, windows, and everywhere else, beautiful murals were painted around the village for us to marvel on.

On the West side, I was able to visit the Seoul Museum of History, which gave insight on the traditional to modern evolution of Seoul. There was also a palace that we explored, the Gyeonghuigung Palace, a detached royal villa during the Joseon Dynasty. It may have not been one of the popular ones, but it was still one with a great story to tell. 

Other places that I recall were also part of the itinerary were the Seoul City Wall Museum, Hong Nanpa’s House, Dongnimmun and Seodaemun Independence Park. There were some more aside from these, and it does seem a lot, so note that it took me more than a day to go through all the locations.

Naksan Park
Marronnier Park
Ihwa Mural Village
Seoul Museum of History
Gyeonghuigung Palace
Hong Nanpa’s House
Seodaemun Independence Park
Aside from having walking tours, I also did some sightseeing by myself. It's quite easy to make your way around (even by yourself) as long as you know where the places are, and since I traveled around Seoul via subway, it was not difficult to map out. I've included a subway exit guide on how to get to each place listed below, too.

Bonguensa Temple 
Once known as Gyeonseongsa, this Buddhist temple is the Head temple of Seon Buddhism. To get there, get off at Bongeunsa Temple Station - Exit 1.

Changdeokgung Palace
I remember being at this palace last winter, but didn't get the chance to visit the secret garden then. So this time I did, and there was so much to see, especially pavilions and frozen ponds. To get there, get off at Anguk Station - Exit 3.

Deoksugung Palace
This was a temporary palace that epitomized a gateway to modernity. You can also see Western architecture at the Deoksu Palace when you visit the the Seokjojeon Hall. To get there, get off at City Hall Station - Exit 1.

Gyeongbokgung Palace
My visit, especially during the celebration of Seollal, would not be complete if I hadn't visited the main palace - Gyeongbokgung. Did you know that Seoul is surrounded by mountains? From a good angle, you can see Gyeongbokgung showing a good view of one. To get there, get off at Gyeongbokgung Station - Exit 5.

Namsangol Hanok Village
This place is where you will get to experience a traditional village, and find hanok houses. During Seollal, they had performances and activities that I enjoyed. On regular days, I was told that they had some too. To get there, get off at Chungmuro Station - Exit 3.

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