Jongno-gu and Jung-gu, the best areas to stay in Seoul
It’s hard to know where to begin in this area though the Grand Palaces are a decent start. The palaces are located in the district, which were originally from the Joseon Dynasty, however the Japanese and Chinese have burnt them down numerous times. The grandest is the Gyeongbok-gung and was the first palace, which has been beautifully restored to its original standing. The other palaces include Changdeok-gung, Changgyeong-gung and Gyeonghui-gung and all of them were used as the seat of power and temporary homes for the King from the 13th century through to the 19th.
The Seoul History Museum is also found on the grounds and although was burnt down on more than one occasion by the Japanese, it was reopened in 1985 and managed to save a considerable number of artefacts of the palaces as well as the general city. The Jongmyo Shrine is one of the most famous shrines in the city and possibly the country, which commemorates past royal family members and nearby the shrine is one of the most important Buddhism temples in the country, being Jogyesa Temple. Another fascinating place to have a look see is Bukchon, which is its own village and is where a lot of relatives of the royal family and important officials lived for over half a millennium.
This area has the traditional ‘hanok’ Korean houses and many art galleries and you will see many people taking photos of these. For shopping, head to Insa-dong, which is a picturesque shopping street with various antique, souvenir, clothing, food and café shops. Even though it is popular between tourists and locals, the place never seems to get too busy and all along it there are also many authentic Korean shops and art galleries that boast Korean artists, regional and international.
At night have a look at the Sejong Center, which is one of the largest multi-purpose theatres and has productions and plays all week long. There are numerous restaurants to pick from with a good percentage being vegetarian though Korean food certainly favours vegetarians anyway. There is an excellent range of luxury hotels and traditional ‘love motels’, and the majority have outstanding views of the palaces and surroundings.
Jung-gu is another district that has plenty of historic attractions, which include the Deoksu-gung and is another palace but has some amazing architecture that has influences from both Korean and the Western world. The old historic gates of Namdaemun and Dongdaemun are very impressive and many people come to see them at night when they are lit up, which is a great sight.
Another reason to visit the gates are the markets and shopping centres, which are exceptionally close by and Namdaemun is one of the largest traditional Korean markets in the country. This market sells traditional children’s toys, electronics and paintings, with Dongdaemun being more modern and busier and concentrating more on fashion and the biggest shop is Migliore, which has 24 floors of garments. Another popular tourist area to shop is Myeongdong, with all the streets teeming with shopping departments and centres that are mostly focused on fashion and has famous Korean and international brands like Adidas, GAP and Gucci.
At night there are various cinemas and theatres in the area and there is the N Seoul Tower. Be it day or night this tower has the best panoramic views of the city, which is situated on top of Namsam Mountain and can pretty much be seen from anywhere in the city. There is also a restaurant at the top of the tower, which is extremely romantic and has a great mix of Korean and European cuisine. However, Jung-gu has a great selection of restaurants and the same goes for the amount of top quality hotels.