As the capital and largest city in South Korea, Seoul spans 605 square kilometers along the basin of the Han River. With a population that tops 10 million people, Seoul is one of the world's most populous cities. In fact, almost half of South Korea's population resides in what is known as the Seoul National Capitol Area, an area that includes the port city of Incheon and Gyeonggi-do. With the 2nd largest metropolitan area in the world, Seoul is a booming hub for both global and South Korean economics, politics, technology and culture.
Seoul's prominent role as a political and cultural center is nothing new. Over two thousand years ago, what is now southeast Seoul was designated as the capital of one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea; it later became capital city of Korea during the Joseon Dynasty. Though the city has seen its fair share of turmoil throughout its long history, it was greatly rebuilt and rejuvenated during the late 1960s and early 1970s and has since skyrocketed to become one of the world's top 10 financial and commercial cities.
A world leader of business, finance and technology, Seoul is home to one of the most technologically advanced infrastructures in the world. It is the only city in the world to feature digital mobile TV technology (DMB) and a wireless high-speed mobile Internet service known as WiBro. In addition, the Seoul Subway is the 3rd largest subway system in the world with approximately two million passengers daily.
Today, modern conveniences and historic traditions blend beautifully in Seoul. An astonishing patchwork of ancient palaces, tombs, temples and villages, Seoul's history waits around every corner. Experience the epicenter of Seoul tradition at the famous Gwangwhamun district, where palaces, shrines, temples and traditional markets line the streets. Here, visitors marvel at the extraordinary architecture and grandeur of the Gyeonghuigung or Gyeongbokgung palaces, visit the royal tombs of the Joseon period, or stroll through the mazes of houses, museums and art galleries of the charming Bukchon Hanok Village.
In recent years, Seoul has exploded into a new age of cutting edge technology and modern culture. Seoul's ever-growing art scene brims with vibrant theaters and sophisticated galleries, from the famous Nanta Theater to the architecturally-stunning Seoul Art Center. Visitors can take a stroll down the narrow streets of the colorful Insa-dong shopping district and pop in and out of art galleries and a number of traditional and modern tea houses. Those seeking eclectic shopping and dining should not miss a trip down Itaewon Street, a bustling thoroughfare full of funky boutiques, jazz bars and more.
Family travelers can keep young guests entertained in Seoul as well. In fact, the city is home to the world's largest indoor theme park known as Lotte World. Designed by prestigious amusement park designers, Lotte World features everything from exhilarating roller coasters and costumed characters to a sports center and folk museum. Or, take an undersea odyssey through the COEX Aquarium, the only theme-oriented aquarium in Korea. Teeming with more than 40,000 oceanic fish, the aquarium is bursting with marine marvels.
Guests can also experience the wonders of wildlife first-hand in Seoul, thanks to the golf courses, botanical gardens and sprawling parkland that populate the city. Hangang River Citizen's Park offers endless possibilities for outdoor adventures, from bird watching at the Bam Isle ecological preserve to ferry cruises along the Hangang River. Alternatively, visitors to Namsan Park can take a relaxing cable car ride up to the peak of Mount Namsan for panoramic views of the city. More adventurous spirits can climb the steps up the mountain and take in the aromatic blooms of the Namsan Botanical Garden along the way.
Sunset over Seoul's gorgeous landscape is the perfect time for guests to enjoy the extensive Seoul dining scene. Visitors can indulge in the delicious tastes of Korean cuisine such as sizzling meat dishes galbi and bulgogi, cooked over a charcoal flame, or the famed kimchi, the Korean spicy side dish du jour. For Western favorites, diners can visit restaurants such as Table 34, where sophisticated European dishes and a 3,000-bottle wine cellar make it a favorite among visiting guests. Whatever their tastes, guests will no doubt find something to love in glorious Seoul.