What to do if you have a few days to spare in Seoul? Rod Abson, Conservation Campus Manager at the World Conservation Congress, takes us on a journey through Korea's capital city and beyond.
Seoul experience: five-day itinerary
Get your walking shoes on and step back in time to discover ancient Korea, right in the heart of the modern metropolis of Seoul. There's a rich history to explore with many centuries old palaces and cultural centres within easy walking distance of the Jongno district. Be sure to see the colourful changing of the guards at the Deoksugung Palace (+82-2-771-9952). Get a picture taken with the highest ranking guard, but don't pull on his (fake) beard!
Indulge in the intricate arts and crafts of Insadong market. Everything from fine pottery, hand made carvings and paintings, through to your very own Korean traditional clothing bright silk hanbok!
Complete your evening with a traditional Miso dance performance at the Chongdong theatre, where you'll be amazed by the colourful dances and traditional instruments (+82 2 751 1500).
If you're an early adopter or electronics-addict, Korea is the place to play! Go to Yongsan I'Park Mall where you'll see some of Korea's big name companies like Samsung and LG's latest designs and accessories sold first in Korea. You're sure to find a new toy here to impress your friends!
Find a classy new look, at Seoul's high quality fashion outlets at Myeongdong street, so you can head home feeling like a new you!
If you're holidaying as a couple, take a romantic evening stroll along the Chongechon that runs through the centre of Seoul. This urban stream has been brought back to life, offering a soothing blend of nature and industrial art. Top it all off with a trip up the Seoul tower (+82-2-3455-9277) for a glitteringly great view over the entire city. Then cement your love (or your heart's desire) by writing your love message on a lock and securing it to the fence as a lasting memento of your trip to Seoul.
Begin the day with a ferry tour along the Han river (82-2-3271-6900), where you'll get another perspective on Seoul. Stop off at the 63 City Building (+82-2-789-5663) where you can choose from a wide range of art galleries and exhibitions. Come fast to face with sharks, stingrays and strange sea creatures at the 63 Seaworld. In the evening, head up to the top floor where you can choose from Korean, Chinese, Japanese and European themed restaurants and dine overlooking Seoul.
Korea's most popular, and truly unique, tourist attractions is the De-Militarised-Zone (DMZ) that separates North and South Korea. Still technically at war, since a ceasefire was signed in 1953, you can take a look for yourself into reclusive North Korea within only a 90 minute bus ride from Seoul. Be sure to book in advance with a tour operator such as International Cultural Service Club (02-755-0073) to get your paperwork cleared. Tours can include the Dorasan observatory where you can peer out over the 6 km wide DMZ into the propaganda village of North Korea. See the room where the Armistice agreement was signed and the exact place that divides North and South Korea. Listen to the tour guides and they'll be sure to keep you safe and enlighten you on the dark part of Korea's recent past.
You'll head back into Seoul in the later part of the afternoon in time for an evening meal. A Korean BBQ (Sam gyap sal) is a great experience, as you cook up your own beef, pork or seafood on a hot coal grill, then wrap it all up with some kimchi and special sauces in crisp lettuce leaves – a delicious mouthful!
Head out to the Lotte world amusement park (+82-2-411-2000), home to a dizzying option of ways to spin and throw your body around on the rides. Whether you're looking for fun with your partner, friends or family, there's something to keep everyone happy. Once you've worked up an appetite, try some of Seoul's street food vendors that will fry up a rich array of meats and vegetables.
A trip to Korea wouldn't be complete without locking yourself away in a little soundproof room to belt out a few songs at a Karaoke bar ('Noriebarn' in Korean). There are hundreds dotted amongst the bright neon lights of Seoul. Sit back on the couch, order some Soju (Korean rice wine), some snacks and sing away into the night...