Though Seoul is famous for vibrant nightlife, state-of-the-art technology, and k-pop culture, it’s sometimes easy to forget Seoul had to rebuild itself from the ground up after much of its architecture—a testament of thousands of years of history—was destroyed in the Korean War. Any trip to Seoul requires a break from the bustle of the modern city for a day of seeking out the gems that still survive today. Strive to get Beyond the Scene (wink wink) by checking out these relaxing spots.
1. Changdeokgung Palace
Start your day at Changdeokgung Palace, perhaps Seoul’s most famous relic from the Joseon Dynasty. Once you get over the jarring transition from the urban streets to the Palace Complex, you’ll be transported to a whole other world. Unlike other East Asian palaces like the Forbidden City and other Joseon residences, Changdeokgung is integrated with its surrounding nature, showcasing Seoul’s stunning hilly terrain and greenery. Also in the Palace Complex is the Huwon Secret Garden. Its brilliant flowers, sparkling lake, and traditional architecture—once reserved for royalty to write poetry, hold parties, and relax—is now yours to behold. Drink it all in, you’re a princess here.
About a 15-minute walk away from Changdeokgung Palace is the neighborhood of Ikseon-dong. Ikseon-dong’s narrow streets and antique signs—featuring much less English than you’ll find in other parts of Seoul—are a rare view into pre-war Korea. Walk around and wander in and out of stores selling souvenirs and handmade crafts. Feeling hungry? Famous for its kalguksu—thick buckwheat noodles in broth—and modern cafés hidden in traditional buildings, Ikseon-dong is the perfect spot for a mid-day lunch break.
3. Bukchon Hanok Village
After lunch, take another short walk to Bukchon Hanok Village, a neighborhood that shows off Seoul’s surviving hanoks, traditional Korean houses that date back to the 14th century. Though people live in some of the hanoks to this day, many are open to the public, having been converted into cafés or gift shops. Though the upward-sloping streets of the neighborhood can seem daunting, walk all the way to the top and you’ll be rewarded with a view of Seoul’s modern skyline painted behind the hanok roofs, exemplifying Seoul’s unique blend of modern and traditional.