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Seoul Attractions

Old Seoul

The central and northern neighbourhoods are probably the most interesting areas of Seoul, their olde-worlde atmosphere is in stark contrast to the surrounding modern city. The whole area was once reserved for the nobility, and is home to most of Seouls royal palaces, as well as numerous tiny alleyways with traditional tile-roofed homes. Some of the traditional homes have beautiful stained-wood doors graced with ornate brass doorknocks. You can walk around the quaint residential area and the Gyeongbokgung Palace in about an hour, starting at Gyeongbokgung Station.

Also in this area are several teashops and galleries, such as the Yoon, Hyundai, Kumho, Kukje and the wistfully named Growrich. They all feature the work of local contemporary artists, and its worth your while to have a little explore. You can check out the National Folk Museum while youre here too.

Joseon Dynasty Palaces

The palaces still standing in Seoul were built during the 500-year Joseon dynasty, beginning around the late 14th century. The emperors built a string of palaces and monuments to their own greatness, and although the number left standing has diminished over time, the remainder will keep even the most ardent royal watcher busy for a few days. They are all square, built on a north-south axis and are surrounded by high walls - the layout owes a great deal to Chinese geomancy.

Changdeokgung Palace, and you can visit it only on a guided tour. The paparazzi will be disappointed - parts of the palace grounds are off limits, but a tour is worthwhile if only to see the beautiful Biwon (Secret Garden) - 32 hectares (79 acres) of ponds, pavilions, ancient gnarled trees.

The Deoksugung Palace is the smallest of the palaces in Seoul, but it has served as the royal residence twice in its history, once for 15 years after the 1592 sacking of the capital, and again from 1897 to 1907 by King Gojong. The entrance to the palace is through the Daehanmun Gate opposite the Seoul Plaza Hotel.

Changdeokgung updated!

One of the five palaces of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), was constructed in 1405, as an auxiliary palace. In contrast to Gyeongbokgung, the main palace, the complexs layout is free from symmetrical *or* lineal arrangement of structures and instead is designed in accordance with the surrounding topography. Notably a hill and two flat areas to both sides of it were taken into consideration when determining the layout of the main gate, main hall and inner hall. Since the Three Kingdoms period construction techniques accounted for terrain features. The builders of Changdeokgung, fully employing the ancient techniques, created a structure which is uniquely Korean in terms of design.

Changdeokgung has undergone a number of repairs and reconstructions due to fire, yet it was never reduced in size. Of the three palaces that burnt down during the Hideyoshi invasions of 1592-1598, it was the first to be restored--beginning in 1606--and thus served as the main palace for almost 270 years. Built from the mid-Joseon to the modern period, the buildings within the complex demonstrate the styles of different periods. The oldest structure in the complex is Donhwamun Gate. Other ancient buildings include Injeong-jeon (used for congratulatory ceremonies and the reception of foreign envoys), Seonjeongjeon (used to discuss national affairs) and Daejojeon (the queens residence). In addition, the back garden (Huwon) served as a recreational area for Joseon kings. It is a fine example of ancient Korean landscaping with a lotus pond, trees--some now over 300 years old--and a pavilion all arranged in harmony with the natural surroundings. Changdeokgung makes an invaluable contribution to our understa