By Noura Khan
Special to The Times Kuwait

Many of us got to know South Korea through Korean dramas and I admit that my admiration for Korean drama and Korean culture in general was a major reason that made me plan a trip to Seoul, the capital and largest city in South Korea.

Seoul is famous for being a city of modern skyscrapers, ancient Buddhist temples, popular culture, bustling markets, gardens, high mountains, and authentic ancient architecture. It is also the commercial and cultural center of the country, and has worked hard over the past years to become an attractive urban model. Today, the city abounds with picturesque gardens, wide green spaces, elegant shops, trendy restaurants and cafes, and although it is a modern and technologically pioneering city, it has a vibrant cultural side. Traces of the country’s ancient history and culture are reflected in the several captivating historical and archeological monuments and UNESCO World Heritage Sites that lie in and around the city.

Seoul is a city full of creativity, from fashion to food, and from architecture to art. The city includes many classic royal palaces and the famous Hwaseong Fortress, as well as the second largest covered entertainment city in the world. It is the city of Lotte games, the theme park ‘Lotte World’ is Disneyland of Korea, which is visited by millions of tourists every year. It is divided into indoor and outdoor places, so you can enjoy this amusement park in all four seasons, regardless of the weather, and there are many modern attractions such as the Banpo Bridge, which is located over the Han River, and is the longest fountain bridge in the world.

Seoul, Korea, is full of life, excitement, and tourist attractions, as this city combines the civilization of the past with the technology of the present, and there are many areas that tourists can go to when visiting, including:

Bukchon Heritage Village: The village contains neighborhoods and narrow streets full of traditional Korean houses, and is popular with tourists, as some of these houses are converted into restaurants and guesthouses, while others have been converted into museums, and yet others are cultural centers that display traditional crafts and historical aspects of the city

One of the landmarks that must be visited is the Seoul Tower or the Namsan Tower, and the top is reached through the cable car from which you enjoy enjoy watching the picturesque landscapes and skyscrapers during the ascent

Seoul Tower is located on Nam Mountain in central Seoul at an altitude of 500 meters above the city of Seoul, and the visitor can see wonderful views of the entire city from the top. The tower includes four observation floors, and these floors also include gift shops and restaurants serving French cuisine

Among the places that I was keen to visit since the first day in Seoul was Gyeongbok Palace, which was built during the era of the Joseon Dynasty. It is the largest of the palaces that were built at that time. The original palace was destroyed and rebuilt more than once during the previous centuries, and it was completely restored in the nineties.

This palace houses the National Palace Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum of Korea. This museum displays elements from the palaces of the Joseon Dynasty through artifacts and artwork, tools used daily for cooking and cleaning, and clothes that tell the stories of the Korean people in ancient times.

And to complete the fun of the visit, I was keen to wear traditional Korean clothes called Hanbok during my visit to the palace, as there are many shops available to rent traditional clothes for tourists to take pictures in.

The Blue House is one of the places that tourists have to visit in Seoul and it was, like the White House in the United States, the executive office and official residence of the President of South Korea until 2022. It includes several buildings located within one area and built in the Korean architectural style. It was named the Blue House on account of the blue bricks employed in covering all the building. Visitors can book in advance an hour-long tour of the buildings and its premises.

There are many beautiful neighborhoods and streets in Seoul that are worth a visit, including the Itaewon neighborhood, which is among the most crowded neighborhoods in Seoul with its streets lined by shops, cafes, and consumer companies, in addition to food carts and the proliferation of street artists. So the , Itaewon neighborhood is wonderful for people who want to wander around, watch the city going about its daily life, or buy special gifts

One of the beautiful areas that should be visited, especially by young people, is the ‘Hongdae’ area, one of the vibrant areas where you can see the culture of Korean youth. I recommend visiting it after the afternoon when young people gather in the street to dance and sing. There are many shops in the area that sell Korean products and clothes, in addition to restaurants, cafes and karaoke shops.

One of the distinctive night tours is a ship tour of the Han River, to see the city and its beauty at night from the river. There are many companies that provide such tours, but you must book in advance.

And if you are a fan of shopping in traditional markets, be sure to visit the Insadong Street Market. The market has a Korean folk market where you can buy souvenirs, traditional clothes, green tea and traditional sweets. One of the essential things that should be in your schedule is also a visit to one of the traditional tea houses.

When you visit South Korea, you will be amazed at the number of traditional tea houses and houses spread across every side of Korea, which offer tea with special rituals. Korean tea is closely related to the principles of Asian medicine, which say that food and medicine are intertwined and that good food alone can be good medicine for a person. The tea house serves some traditional Korean sweets and the famous rice cakes with tea.

Seoul is a very safe country for visiting and tourism, as it is characterized by low crime rates and violent crime rarely occurs. Today, there are many halal restaurants in the capital, some of which offer Jordanian food, such as the Petra Restaurant, and some of which offer Arabic take-out in general, such as the Arabesque Restaurant and the Dubai Restaurant, as well as Arab cafes that offer hookah.

You will not have any problem communicating with the Korean people, as everyone speaks English fluently, in addition to the fact that the Korean people are very friendly and love to help and very much accept differences.

Shopping in Seoul is a special pleasure, especially for women who are looking for beauty products. Korean cosmetic products are known for their high quality and low prices, in addition to the presence of many huge shopping malls that contain international brands such as the Hyundai Mall, which includes the most famous brands and upscale restaurants in the city.

Noura Khan, a travel influencer and content creator, is a Kuwaiti national, holds a degree in law from Kuwait University and has worked as a journalist prior to taking up a position in the government. In 2018 she started blogging on travel and has visited more than 57 countries since. She has more than 54K followers and her blog post @nourajtraveller is well appreciated for content and travel information. Noura writes exclusively for The Times Kuwait on her travel visits.


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