Seoul is a city of contrasts. Founded 2,000 years ago, it abounds in temples and palaces, the legacy of the royal dynasties that ruled the country and a complex history. But South Korea's capital is also an ultra-modern, dynamic megalopolis of oversized shopping malls and forests of skyscrapers. From the sublime Changdeokgung Palace to the N Seoul Tower and the Hanok village of Bukchon, JOOKS takes you on a tour of hectic Seoul, with three routes right through the heart of the city. Put on your sneakers and follow the guide!
With a population of almost 11 million, Seoul experienced rapid development in the 20th century, thanks to dazzling industrialization and modernization. After decades of conflict and invasion, the country opened up to the world, breaking with a long tradition of isolation.
While Tokyo, and Japan in general, are more often the target of Western tourists, the South Korean capital has nothing to envy its Japanese neighbor. With three UNESCO World Heritage sites, trendy neighborhoods and a vibrant pop music scene, Seoul has become the cultural heart of the country, attracting more and more visitors year after year.
A city of history and tradition
Marked by a history of successive occupations and wars, Seoul nonetheless retains a rich heritage. Much of this heritage dates back to the Joseon dynasty, Korea's golden age, when numerous palaces, temples and sanctuaries were built. While it would take months to explore all these treasures, our Seoul in History tour will take you on a journey of discovery of its emblematic buildings and historic sites. In particular, you'll come across Gyeongbokgung Palace, the principal of the city's five royal palaces. Almost completely destroyed during the Japanese occupation, the palace complex is gradually being restored to its original form and is well worth a visit.
Your run will also take you to the Hanok village of Bukchon, a traditional Korean village dating back to the 14th century. Located right in the center of Seoul, it is made up of a multitude of alleyways lined with traditional houses, called Hanok, some of which have now been transformed into restaurants and tea rooms. The preservation of this place, used as a cultural center, allows visitors to relive the atmosphere that reigned over the city at the time of the Joseon dynasty.
A visit to Seoul would not be complete without a short detour to a museum. There are almost a hundred in the city, including four national ones. While the National Museum of Korea is the most representative of them all, you'll also find the unmissable National Folk Museum on the grounds of the historic Gyeongbok Palace. It offers a unique insight into Korean culture and traditions, with a wealth of everyday objects and life-size reconstructions.
A modern megalopolis
Beyond its rich heritage and history, South Korea's capital is also a modern city, at the cutting edge of technology and constantly changing. Many new districts have sprung up in recent decades, notably the Gangnam district, made famous by Psy's song, which features a large number of futuristic buildings dedicated to new technologies.
The N Seoul Tower is one of the symbols of the country's modernity and technological advance. This telecommunication and observation tower rises to over 200 meters and serves as a landmark as well as an emblem. What's more, the view of Seoul from the top is breathtaking. Not to be missed!
Another major symbol of the South Korean capital's urban development, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) is a vast cultural complex, hosting exhibitions, conferences, concerts and festivals. A leading cultural hub as well as an architectural masterpiece, the DDP helped Seoul become the Design Capital of the World in 2010.
One of the world's top 10 tallest skyscrapers, the 555-metre-high Lotte World Tower dominates the city. The tallest building in South Korea, the tower houses retail space, offices and a hotel, as well as an observatory with a glass floor on the 118th floor, offering a 360° view of the capital.
But Seoul's modernity isn't limited to futuristic high-tech buildings. The Hongdae district, for example, will immerse you in the capital's urban culture, with its themed cafés, clubs and noraebang (karaoke). A student district par excellence, it is also home to flea markets, street art and street performances. The ideal place to immerse yourself in the effervescence of Seoul's youth.
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the capital's bustling districts, don't panic, Seoul has everything you need too. The city abounds in green spaces and places to relax, starting with the banks of the Han River, which boasts no less than a dozen parks along its banks. Left or right bank, on foot or by bike, the Han River parks are the ideal solution for a breath of fresh air in the heart of the capital.
Our three routes also take you along the Cheonggyecheon, a waterway that has been landscaped into a promenade almost 6 kilometers long, with trees, plantations, waterfalls, stone and wooden bridges and water features. A popular spot with locals and tourists alike, it also hosts numerous events throughout the year, such as the Lantern Festival.
And if you still can't find what you're looking for, several national parks are just a short walk from the city center and accessible by metro.
Run, walk or cycle with JOOKS, from Sungnyemun Gate to Jongmyo Shrine!
Find all of Seoul's routes in the JOOKS application.