Seoul Travel Guide

Understand

With over 10 million people, a figure that doubles if you include neighboring cities and suburbs, Seoul is the largest city in South Korea and unquestionably the economic, political and cultural hub of the country. By some measures it is the second largest urban agglomeration on the planet, after Greater Tokyo.

In recent years, Seoul has been swamped with tourists from China, Japan, and Southeast Asia, following the success of Korean pop culture. Travelers will frequently overhear Japanese, Mandarin, or Cantonese; many restaurants and stores, especially in the more touristy areas like Myeongdong, will have signs in Japanese and Chinese as well as Korean and English. However, this travel destination, long popular among Asians, is still relatively unknown in the West and frequently passed over by Westerners for nearby Shanghai, Tokyo, Beijing, and Hong Kong.

However, the traveler who does visit will not be disappointed. This sprawling metropolis is truly vast - though the casual traveler can see most of the main sites in a few days, a dedicated traveler could spend months exploring all the alleyways and far-off neighborhoods. As the capital of a country that has gone through massive development in the past sixty years, Seoul is constantly changing at an incredible pace, matched only by the mainland Chinese cities. This frantic pace of life is reflected everywhere - in Seoul's cutting-edge digital technology, in the millions of commuters rushing to work everyday in the world's third largest subway system, in one of the most vibrant nightlife scenes in the world, and in the thousands of high rises and apartment buildings still under construction.

Considering all of this, one may be forgiven for forgetting that Seoul has a long history stretching far back into Korea's dynastic past. There is evidence for settlement in this area as far as 18 BC but Seoul as the capital city of South Korea has a history back to the 14th century. Originally named Hanseong (한성; 漢城), the city was the capital of the Joseon Dynasty from 1392 to 1910, when Korea was occupied by the Japanese. The Joseon Dynasty built most of Seoul's most recognisable landmarks, including the Five Grand Palaces and Namdaemun. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, the city was renamed to its current name, Seoul. Since the establishment of the Republic of Korea in 1948, Seoul has been the capital of South Korea. Occupied twice during the Korean War by Communist forces, the city was extensively rebuilt and today is one of Asia's primary metropolises. Much of Seoul's infrastructure and facilities, such as the buildings, stadiums, and transport systems, are exceptionally modern and clean.

Orientation

Seoul is a relatively well organized city covering over 600 km² with a population of around 10.5 million. It is a new modern city built on an ancient and shining history. The city is located in the north-western portion of South Korea approximately 40 km east of the Yellow Sea and 60 km south of the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The city is roughly bisected by the Han River (한강 Hangang), which runs east to west across the city. Seoul blurs seamlessly into its surrounding satellite cities, most of which are also served by the Seoul metro. The largest of these is Incheon (to the west) in which Seoul's main Airport, and the area's main seaport, are located. Other satellite cities include such as Ilsan (to the north) and Anyang (to the south).

Climate

Seoul lies between a subtropical and a humid continental climate zones. November to April tend to be more continental, while warmer months are more subtropical with hot, humid summers. There are monsoon conditions in June and July and an average of 28 days of snow during winter.

source: Wikivoyage

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