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Changdokgung (Changdok Palace)Directions from Seoul Gimpo Airport: Direct route via Subway 5
Changdok was rebuilt in 1611 and served as the official residence of a number of Yi dynasty kings, including the last one, King Sunjong, who died in 1926. Today you can visit the throne hall, reception rooms and private living quarters, furnished in a European and traditional Korean style. Behind the palace, the landscaped Secret Garden or ‘Piwon’ is a tranquil collection of pavilions, ponds and copses. Daily guided tours are available in English. Open every day except Mon. Opening hours vary according to time of year. See local listings for precise times. Admission W2,200.
ChanggyonggungDirections from Seoul Gimpo Airport: Direct route via Bus 601
East of Changdok Palace are the ancient grounds of Changgyong Palace, the largest public park in Seoul. A favourite haunt for young couples and families. Tel: 762 4868. Open daily except Tues, times vary month to month, admission W700.
Chongmyo ShrineDirections from Seoul Gimpo Airport: Direct route via Subway 5
Opposite Changgyong Palace, this walled complex includes a wooded garden and two buildings containing the royal ancestral tablets listing the names and great deeds of the 27 Chosun or Yi dynasty rulers. On the first Sunday in May, the inner courtyards and shrines are opened to the public for an annual Confucian ceremonial rite. Tel: 765 0195. Open daily except Tues. Admission W700.
Chogyesa (Chogye Temple)Directions from Seoul Gimpo Airport: Route with 1 transfer – Bus 601, then Bus 104/109
Headquarters of the largest Buddhist sect in Korea, this traditional temple has a typically colourfully painted, curved wooden roofline. Every May, for Buddha’s birthday, the temple grounds become a marvel of lights with hundreds of lanterns strung around the temple. 45 Kyongji-Dong, Chongno-Ku, Tel: 732 2115. Open to the public during daylight hours, admission free.
Lotte World Folk VillageDirections from Seoul Gimpo Airport: Direct route via Bus 6000
This indoor folk village is part of Lotte World, a sprawling entertainment complex with hotel, department store and the largest indoor amusement park in the world. The centre provides a visual lesson in the country’s history and culture, reconstructing the history of Korea from the primitive period to Japanese occupation via scenes of daily life. Lotte World, Chamsil, Tel: 411 4762. Open daily 0930-2300. Admission to the folk village only is W2,000 while general admission to the amusement park is W13,000.
Bukhansan National ParkDirections from Seoul Gimpo Airport: Route with 1 transfer – Bus 601, then Bus 1020
A 30-min bus ride north of the centre takes you to Pukan Mountain for a magnificent view of the mountains and the city below. En route to the top, pause for a refreshing drink of water at any one of several Buddhist temples along the trails. Tel: 909 0497. Open Mon-Fri 0800-1800, Sat-Sun 0700-1800. Hiking trails closed Nov-15 Dec and Mar-May. Admission W1,000.
ToksugungDirections from Seoul Gimpo Airport: Direct route via Subway 5
The ancient Toksu Palace was the seat of the Chosun dynasty, which ruled Korea for more than 500 years, until Japan annexed the Korean peninsula in 1910. Reconstructed after the Korean War, various royal remnants lie dotted throughout the grounds, including a banqueting hall, several pavilions and a statue of King Sejong, the 15c king who created Hangul, the Korean alphabet. At weekends, the re-enactment of the Chosun dynasty ceremony for the changing of the royal guards takes place. Tel: 752 0735. Open daily 0900-1800 (May-Aug until 1900, Nov-Feb until 1630), closed Mon, admission W700.
War MemorialDirections from Seoul Gimpo Airport: Direct route via Bus 605
Modern museum providing a visual history of Korea at war, with hundreds of weapons, memorabilia, war planes (including a B-52 bomber), tanks and weapons. The memorial is in Yongsan, across from the Defence Ministry. Tel: 709 3114. Open daily 0900 to 1800 (Nov-Feb until 1700), closed Mon, admission W2,000.
63 BuildingDirections from Seoul Gimpo Airport: Direct route via Subway 9
The ‘Yuk-sam’ Building, as Koreans call it, in Yoido is Korea’s tallest building. It boasts a fun, but cramped aquarium and Seoul’s only Imax cinema. For W500 you can ride the glass elevator to the observatory deck. In the second and third weeks of Apr the adjacent Riverside Park is crowded with cherry blossom pilgrims. Nearby piers offer nighttime cruises of the river which start at W12,000 a person.
The COEX Urban Entertainment ComplexDirections from Seoul Gimpo Airport: Direct route via Bus 6000
The mall located in the basement of the COEX centre in Kangnam opened in May 2000 and claims to be Asia’s largest indoor shopping and fun centre. In addition to clothing shops representing every Korean and international brand, there is a 16-screen multiplex cinema, a large English language bookstore, Korea’s largest aquarium and scenic walks past indoor gardens and waterfalls.