From by-gone era of Joseon to K-pop beats: Jet set into the soul of Seoul

Explore Seoul’s rich cultural offerings, such as Gyeongbokgung Palace and Cheonggyecheon Stream, iconic landmarks like Lotte World Tower and Seoul Sky Observatory, and diverse culinary experiences at Mangwon Market, among others.

By Karen Bong

Seoul is calling. With AirAsia kicked off its direct flight from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah to Seoul, South Korea since March 4, it is time to pack your bags and embark on an adventure to delve into the soul of Seoul.

Seoul is the pulsating heart of South Korea, a city that seamlessly blends tradition with modernity with every changing season. The late winter in this bustling metropolis exudes a unique allure, where the landscape sheds its snowy coat to reveal the naked trees. The stark silhouttes of these bare branches against the pale blue skies creates a captivating canvas of nature’s art. It is a beauty to behold.

Get transported from the Joseon Dynasty era to the realm of K-pop culture in a day, and immerse in Seoul’s rich cultural heritage, dynamic landscapes and unforgettable experience. Whether you’re exploring its historic landmarks, marveling at its futuristic skyline, or indulging in its culinary delights, every street corner holds a new adventure waiting to be discovered.

Here are the some of the places to explore and allow the soul of Seoul to enchant you like never before.

The Blue House

The Blue House or Cheong Wa Dae in Korean is the official residence of the President of South Korea.

Nestled amidst the bustling streets of Seoul, lies a symbol of the nation’s history, culture, and governance – the Blue House or Cheong Wa Dae in Korean. Originally constructed in 1910 during the Japanese occupation, this official residence of the President of South Korea has undergone several transformations over the years.

Its distinctive blue tiles and traditional Korean architectural design reflect the nation’s rich heritage and commitment to preserve its cultural identity. From the tranquil gardens to the meticulously adorned halls, each corner of the Blue House exudes an aura of power and prestige.

A collage photos of the surroundings in the Blue House.

Beyond its political significance, the Blue House serves as a cultural hub, showcasing traditional Korean art, craftsmanship, and aesthetics. Visitors can admire the intricate woodworks, elegant calligraphy, and meticulously landscaped gardens that grace the grounds. Each detail narrates a story of South Korea’s resilience, ingenuity, and dedication in upholding its cultural legacy.

For those eager to explore the Blue House, it is essential to plan ahead. Guided tours are available and visitors are advised to book tours in advance and adhere to any security protocols in place.

Hansik Space E:eum

Part of the interior of Hansik Space E:eum.

Hansik Space E:eum, located at 18 Buckcho-ro, Jongno-gu, is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. Here, the essence of Korean culinary heritage comes alive through an immersive dessert-making experience, offering a glimpse into South Korea’s rich gastronomic traditions where food serves as a medium for storytelling and historical connection.

Among the array of tantalizing treats awaiting exploration, special attention is drawn to the art of crafting Gokgam-Danji, a traditional Korean delicacy cherished for generations. This confectionery masterpiece delights the palate with its unique blend of dried persimmons and candied nuts.

Get hands-on experience in making Gokgam-Danji, a traditional Korean dessert made with dried persimmons and candied nuts.

As you step into the serene ambiance of Hansik Space E:eum, expert instructors will skillfully lead participants through the intricate techniques and time-honoured secrets of Gokgam-Danji making. From assembling the delectable candied nuts filling to shaping the persimmons into elegant pouches and elegantly wrapping them in a decorative box, every step is a journey into the heart of Korean culinary craftsmanship.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

The magnificient Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Step back in time as you wander through the magnificient Gyeongbokgung Palace, the largest and most iconic of Seoul’s five grand palaces. This architectural marvel, whose name translates to “Palace of Shining Happiness”, stands as a testament to Korea’s rich cultural heritage through the annals of history.

Passing through the imposing gates of Gyeongbokgung, you are instantly transported to the Joseon Dynasty, a bygone era of royalty and tradition. Originally established in 1395, the palace served as the principal royal residence until its destruction during the Japanese invasion of 1592. However, its grandeur was meticulously restored in the late 19th century, preserving its legacy for generations to come.

A collage photo of the Gyeongbokgung, Spanning over 40 hectares.
With its timeless beauty and profound historical significance, Gyeongbokgung Palace is a must-visit destination in Seoul.

One cannot help but be awestruck by the sheer magnitude of Gyeongbokgung. Spanning over 40 hectares, the palace complex is a sprawling masterpiece of intricate architecture, serene gardens, and ornate pavilions.

The transition from winter to spring is particularly poignant within the palace grounds in early March. Here, ancient trees stand as guardians of history, their gnarled branches reaching towards the heavens with an air of timeless wisdom.

Adding to the ambiance, the palace is often filled with visitors donned in traditional costumes like hanbok, further drawing you into the Joseon Dynasty era. With its timeless beauty and profound historical significance, Gyeongbokgung Palace is a must-visit destination in Seoul.

HiKR Ground and Cheongyecheon Stream

HiKR Ground offers a vibrant and entertaining playground for visitors.

“Hi” and “Korea” blend to form HiKR, carrying the meaning ‘Hi, Welcome to Korea’. The addition of “Ground” aims to create a vibrant and entertaining playground for visitors.

Located inside the Korea Tourism Organisation Seoul Centre in Cheongyecheon-ro in Jung-gu, HiKR Ground offers an immersive tourism experience encompassing K-pop, K-drama, technological innovation, and media art.

On the first floor, visitors can find delight in various media arts showcased on the expansive HiKR Wall, featuring “Landscape of the New City” by media artist Lee Lee-nam and Korean tourism videos contributed by global Hallyu fans.

The second floor houses the XR Live Studio, where visitors can create their own K-pop music videos.

Immerse in K-pop culture at HiKR Ground.

Meanwhile, the window facing the restored Cheonggyecheon Stream features the mesmerising artwork “North Wall” by installation artist Suh Do-ho.

On the third and fourth floors, visitors can further immerse themselves in Korean local tourism through a range of arts, experiences, and exhibitions.

Just a stone’s throw away from HiKR Ground lies Cheongyecheon Stream, a historic waterway that winds its way through the heart of Seoul, spanning 10.84km. Initially established in 1958 as an industrial thoroughfare facilitating transportation and trade within the city, Cheongyecheon underwent extensive restoration and reopened to the public in 2005.

The tranquil Cheongyecheon stream.

Today, it stands as a pristine oasis and vibrant public space, commemorating the city’s rich history and culture.

Lotte World Tower and Seoul Sky Observatory

The panoramic view of Seoul city from the Seoul Sky Observatory.

Perched on the upper floors of Lotte World Tower on 117th to 123rd floors is the Seoul Sky Observatory, a haven for those seeking to touch the clouds and soak in panoramic views of the vibrant city below.

Ascending 555 metres into the sky, the skyscraper presents visitors with an awe-inspiring spectacle. Seoul stretches out in all directions as its myriad of colours, textures, and sounds laid bare before your eyes.

A collage of photos of the different perspectives of Seoul city from Seoul Sky Observatory in Lotte World Tower.

The observatory offers multiple viewing platforms, each providing a different perspective of the city. From the glass-floored sections, daredevils can experience the thrill of walking on air, while others might prefer to relax in one of the cozy lounges, sipping on a cup of Korean tea as they take in the spectacle below.

For those seeking an extra dose of adrenaline, the Sky Deck awaits. This outdoor observation deck offers unobstructed views and a chance to feel the wind in your hair as you stand 500 metres above the ground.

Mangwon Market

Mangwon Market

Located at 14, Poeun-ro 8-gil in Mapo-gu, stepping into Mangwon Market is like entering a culinary wonderland. The vibrant colours of fresh produce, the aroma of sizzling street foods, and the lively chatter of vendors create an irresistible atmosphere.

Embark on the journey through the seafood stalls, where the catch of the day is proudly displayed. Witness skilled artisans expertly craft dishes such as glistening seafood pancakes, spicy stir-fried squid, or piping hot spicy tteokbokki (stir-fried rice cakes). Every bite is an assurance of explosion of freshness.

A collage of photos of the offerings inside Mangwon Market.

Beyond its gastronomic delights, Mangwon Market harbours a wealth of hidden treasures waiting to be unearthed. Lose yourself in the maze of narrow alleyways, where local artisans showcase their craftsmanship. From handmade pottery to vintage clothing, each stall tells a story of Seoul’s rich cultural heritage.

Tucked away from the tourist crowds, this must-visit destination offers a glimpse into the authentic flavours and lifestyle of Seoul’s locals that will leave you craving more.

Myeongdong and Hongdae

Myeongdong, Seoul’s premier shopping district.

As night falls over the city, Seoul reveals another facet of its late winter charm. Neon lights flicker to life, casting a kaleidoscope of colours across the urban canvas. In places like Myeongdong and Hongdae, the streets come alive with the sounds of laughter and music, as locals and tourists alike embrace the warmth of companionship amidst the cold.

In Myeongdong, hailed as Seoul’s premier shopping district, visitors can hunt for the latest trends in the countless boutiques and department stores that line the area. From high-end designer labels to affordable streetwear, there’s something for every style and budget. Be sure to explore the sprawling Daiso Korea, boasting 12 floors of affordable goods ranging from skincare essentials to delectable snacks.

The nightlife of Myeongdong.

But Myeongdong is not just about shopping; it’s also a food lover’s paradise. Local vendors dish out a smorgasbord of Korean delicacies, from piping hot bowls of spicy tteokbokki to crispy fried chicken served with a side of tangy kimchi. Adventurous eaters can sample exotic treats like grilled octopus skewers or sweet red bean pancakes.

In contrast, soak up the artistic ambiance of Hongdae by day. Explore its myriad shops and markets, offering vintage clothing stores to indie boutiques selling handmade crafts, there’s no shortage of treasures waiting to be discovered. Furthermore, there are artisanal coffee shops and trendy brunch spots cater to the city’s burgeoning hipster crowd, serving up Instagram-worthy dishes and specialty brews.

A collage photos of the artistic ambiance of Hongdae.

Seoul truly shines as a destination where every moment is an opportunity for discovery and delight.

DayakDaily extends its appreciation to AirAsia, Korea Tourism Organisation and Incheon Tourism Organisation for orchestrating an unforgettable media trip.

AirAsia operates direct flight from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah to Seoul (Incheon), South Korea daily. You can easily purchase your ticket online through its website or via the AirAsia MOVE.

All nationals from visa-free countries/regions, including Malaysia, are required to obtain K-ETA before entering South Korea. — DayakDaily