Arriving in Seoul was like flying into a movie version of my life. I had seen a wide variety of places and cultures in Europe, but I’d never been anywhere like Korea before. Just seeing the mountains and the tall high-rise buildings seemed exotic to me. But by the time I left, the beautiful city felt almost familiar.
A lot of my comfort in the city was thanks to having an amazing host who showed me around. Our neighbors from Texas moved to Seoul a few years ago, and they were gracious enough to let me stay with them while I was there.
During my stay I wanted to use this opportunity to see and learn about Korea’s long history and unique culture. Naturally, I started at some of the city’s museums.
The biggest museum in town is the National Museum. It has over 40 rooms of artifacts from Korean history and walking the entire display area covers 4 km of ground. I honestly didn’t spend that long in the museum. There was too much to do! But I enjoyed the ancient history area, and got to see some amazing paintings and porcelain.
Another great museum I visited was the National Folk Museum on the grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace. Leading up to the museum was an excellent garden full of statues, recreated old homes, and even a little village that you could walk through. Inside was a fabulous exhibit of woodblock prints that were absolutely gorgeous. And there was a station where you could make your own too!
Also on the grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace was the Palace Museum. It held three floors of artifacts from Korea’s royal families and their various palaces around Seoul. There were lots of beautiful things to see from all of the buildings, and it was a nice overview of who had lived where.
Speaking of the royal palaces, I had the chance to visit several while I was in Seoul. Each had different grounds and some unique architectural features, but the look of all of the palaces was very consistent. By that I mean they were consistently beautiful, colorful, and unlike anything I had ever seen. All of them had magnificently simple throne rooms, but each was built for a different ruler. One was even home to the queen. I think the pictures really describe them better.
Other than palaces, I also saw some of the hanok houses built for members of the court. These houses still exist in their original style today, and you can see some walking through the hilly neighborhood of Bukchon.
When I wasn’t in a museum or exploring a historic site, I was shopping. Seoul was full of great malls and markets with a place for just about everyone to shop their heart out. I was obsessed with the gorgeous Korean clothes, so I poked around trendy Myeong-dong. I also stopped at two of the 26 malls near Dongdaemun Market. But I could have shopped a lot more, had my suitcase not been so full.
My time in Korea was truly amazing. I learned so much about a new culture, and got my first taste of a totally unfamiliar place. Plus I just had lots of fun sightseeing, shopping, and eating. Thank you Seoul for a swell time!