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Seoul

Seoul is South Korea's economic, political, and cultural center, and is divided into northern and southern parts along the Han River. The northern part of the city is its historical and cultural center, whereas south Seoul is more business oriented. Seoul is a city which successfully fuses the ancient with the modern; although it has a history of more than 2000 years, it is now a major global metropolis with a population of 10.2 million, and excellent environmental conditions – one of the first impressions you will have of the city is its cleanliness.

Myeongdong

Myeongdong is a shopping street located in central Seoul; be it jewelry, fashion, shoes, or second-hand goods, you are sure to find it here. In addition to the specialist stores on both sides of the main street, you will also find smaller discount shops where you can bargain. This is definitely a place where you can "shop till you drop" – Myeongdong is sure to satisfy even the most demanding shopaholic.

Address: Take Metro line 4, and alight at Myeongdong.

Korea House

Korea House comprises Haeringwan, Munhyangru, and a further three separate buildings. The site is the former residence of Ito Hirobumi, Japanese Resident-General of Korea from 1906 onward, and has an area of 7154 square meters.Following the Japanese surrender, the site was used to introduce foreigners to Korea's traditional culture, arts, food, and lifestyle, and is now Korea's largest collection of purely classical wooden buildings.

Address:Take Metro lines 3 or 4, and exit through Chungmuro station exit no. 3; then turn left and walk approx. 2 minutes past the hospital.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace is one of Seoul's largest and oldest palaces, and was the political center of Korean society. The Palace's main gates are the Geonchunmun (to the east), Yeongchumun (to the west), Sinmumun (to the north), and the Gwanhwamun, the main southern gate. The Gwanhwamun was completely destroyed during the Korean War; the inscription on the restored gate is apparently the only inscription solely in Korean script in Korea; the calligraphy is by former President Park Chun-hee. Within the palace, the impressive Geunjeongjeon is Korea's largest wooden structure, and is a throne hall which was used for official ceremonies and receiving envoys and ambassadors.

Address: 1 Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul (take Metro line 3 and get off at Gyeongbokgung Palace station; take exit no. 5 and walk for 5 minutes)

Seoul has an amazing range of shopping districts and department stores catering to all tastes, offering a wide range of consumer goods and snacks, cosmetics, and luxury imported goods; you are sure to find almost everything here, making the city a popular destination for lady shoppers.

Myeongdong

Over 2 million people visit Myeongdong shopping street every day, and over 4 million foreign tourists annually. The government designated the area an official tourist zone in March 2000. This is the best area to lay your hands on Korean-brand cosmetics.

Address: Take Metro line 4, and exit at Myeongdong station exit no. 5.

Dongdaemun

Located at Jongno 6-ga, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Dongdaemun comprises 30 shopping complexes, over 30,000 shops and over 50,000 manufacturing companies, and is Asia's largest wholesale market. Today, Dongdaemun offers goods ranging from small ornaments through to ginseng, utensils, clothing, toys, and jewelry. Generally speaking, prices are cheaper than elsewhere, simply because the area brings together so many retailers and foreign visitors.

Address: Take Metro line 4; get off at Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station, take exit no. 4 and walk 5 minutes

Insadong

Insadong was an official and private residential area during the Korean imperial era (1392-1910). With the Japanese occupation of Korea, residents were forced to raise money by selling their property, and a number of antique shops sprang up in the area. In the years since, Insadong has also become home to a number of antique galleries and shops, transforming the street into a center for cultural commerce.

Address: Take Metro line 3, get off at Anguk station; exit via exit no. 6, and walk for 1 minute

Food in Seoul is generally characteristic of Korean food, but also has a few particularities of its own. You will find the food neither spicy nor salty, and relatively quite mild; Although servings are relatively small, there is a wide variety, and the emphasis is definitely on the elegance of the dishes. Food culture also focuses on ceremony, with great emphasis being placed on etiquette; specialties include miso soup, pickles, rice soups, and barbecued meat.

Samgyetang

This is a famous Korean specialty which makes use of a sophisticated range of ingredients – a 6-week-old broiler, carefully combined with more than 10 different types of Chinese medicinal herbs including ginseng, astralagus, angelica sinensis, lycium, and jujube; the resulting dish has a mild yet fresh taste, and is extremely nutritious; it is highly recommended throughout the year. The bird's stomach is stuffed with rice, so that you can both drink the soup and eat the rice soaked in it.

Recommended restaurant:Hwanghu Samgyetang

Address:Various restaurants spread around Seoul.

Barbecue

No discussion of Korean food could be complete without mentioning the country's famous barbecued meat. Even if it is still barbecued meat, the Korean version is very different from elsewhere. In Korean cuisine, the meat used for barbecuing is deliciously tender; you will also often see people in Korean eateries indulging in barbecue with chili and liquor. Wherever you look, you will see people taking a bite of meat and then a swig of liquor; this is the best way to appreciate Korean barbecue.

Recommended restaurant: Kang Ho-Dong Baekjeong

Address: 5-30 Changcheon-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul.

Bibimbap

Also known as stone pot bibimbap, this is a rice dish unique to Korea. First invented in Gwanju, it has since become an iconic Korean dish. The stone pots are actually thick black, ceramic cooking pots which can be placed directly on to the stove to cook; these retain the heat well, enabling diners to relax and enjoy their meal at ease, without worrying that the rice will cool. The vegetable content of the dish varies, and the most appropriate seasonal vegetables are usually added.

Recommended restaurant:Gogung Jeonju Bibimbap

Address: 12-14 Chungmuro 2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul.

Bus

Seoul has an extremely efficient bus transport network which is relatively convenient to use, since the bus stop signs are in Korean and English – anyone who does not read either of these two languages may however have trouble. You can also pay your bus fare using your T-Money card; the card reader will beep to tell you that your payment has been received.

Taxi

Seoul taxis are clean and safe, and quite reasonably priced; you can hail a cab from the roadside, or from a taxi stand.Taxi rates depend on the color of the vehicle; the most expensive are the black 'model taxis,' whose drivers can speak English – very convenient for foreign visitors. Silver or orange taxis cost half the price of the black ones, but only some of the drivers will be able to speak English. The taxi fare is calculated on the basis of the distance traveled, and the time taken.

Subway

The Metro is the most convenient way to get around Seoul quickly. A total of nine subway lines currently serve various areas of Seoul. You will soon find that the Seoul Metro is a colorful affair, with 9 different colors denoting the 9 different railway lines: Line 1 is purple, Line 2 is green, Line 3 is orange, Line 4 is light blue, Line 5 is dark red, Line 6 is earth yellow, Line 7 is light green, Line 8 is bright red, and Line 9 is light yellow. Interchange stations are indicated by a circle. So, if you want to ride a specific line, change at the appropriate station and simply follow the correct color.

Currency:Korean Won (KRW

Voltage:: 220 V/60 HZ

Telephone code: +0082

Climate

Seoul has a temperate monsoon climate with cool summers and cold winters; the climate is also very humid. Average annual precipitation is approximately 1344 mm, and the average annual temperature is 14℃. Seoul is at its most beautiful during the Spring and Autumn Festivals each year. The height of the tourist season is September to October, when the weather is at its best. In springtime, Seoul is fresh and sunny, and the warm climate brings out the spring blossoms. During the summer months of July and August, the weather is hot and humid, and most Koreans take the opportunity to escape to the mountains or the seaside for their vacations.

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