Seoul Full Day / 7 hours

Tour Highlights

Gyeongbokgung Palace National Folklore Museum Insa-dong Bukchon Hanok Village Namdaemun Market N Tower

Seoul (L)
You will explore Korea's capital city that is full of rich heritage, culture, history and tourist attractions. You begin with a driving tour of the city featuring sites such as the Gwanghwamun Plaza and a statue of Yi Sunsin, who had engaged in twenty-three naval battles against Japan and emerged victorious in all of them during the Hideyoshi invasion (1592-1598). The statue of King Sejong who propagated the Korean alphabet in the 15th century is honored with prominent statue in this plaza.

Enjoy a city tour with such highlight as Gyeongbokgung Palace or Palace of Shining Happiness and see its magnificent gates, graceful architectures and lovely gardens, all directly inherited from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Built in 1395, the palace is a particularly charming spot that represents a colorful and turbulent side of the capital's 500-year history.

Standing majestically in the whirl of city traffic is Gwanghwamun, the main gate of the palace. Following two other gates up, you will get to the Geungeongjeon, a throne hall where the king granted audiences to his officials, presided over large official functions and met foreign envoys. The two-tier edifice stands on a high platform reached by stone steps. At the center of the stone-paved courtyard that is fully enclosed by wooden cloisters is lined with two rows of rank stones, indicating the positions of the officials with the highest rank being closer to the hall and where the court officials are to stand. At the back of this hall is a group of three offices; Manchunjeon, Sajeongjeon, and Cheonchujeon where the king used to meet with his top officials. Gyeonghoeru literally Pavilion of Joyous Meeting, supported by 48 stone pillars set in a lotus pond, was a favored place for the King to entertain visiting dignitaries.

Gangnyeongjeon, a king's main residing quarters with its fourteen chambers, rests on top of a tall stone foundation while Gyotaejeon, the queen's domain with ten chambers sits in the back of the king's quarters. The noted feature of these buildings is an absence of a top roof ridge. You cannot miss Amisan Garden landscaped with four hexagonal chimneys in orange bricks and decorative roof tiles, and artistic patterns of brick on the walls of queen's quarters which are seldom noticed by the hurried visitors. Jagyeongjeon is the queen dowager's residence. Although less colorful, it is worth noting the wall of Jagyeongjeon, adorned with floral designs and the chimneys with ten longevity symbols.

Hyangwonjeong features a small pond with a manmade islet that supports a beautiful two-story pavilion and is one of the famous sites in the palace. Behind this serene garden is Geoncheonggung, where the king and queen could relax in peace and quiet. It was here that the first electric lights in the country were installed and a tragic chapter in Korea's history was recorded in the early morning of 8 October 1895 when empress Myeongseong was assassinated by the sword-bearing Japanese assassins, allegedly under orders from Miura Goro. The assassins killed three court women suspected of being Empress Myeongseong. When they confirmed that one of them was the Empress, they burned the corpse in a pine forest in front of the Okhoru Pavilion.

Then learn about the cultural wealth of this friendly and picturesque nation at National Folklore Museum showcasing life and work, National Folklore Museum showcasing cultural wealth of this friendly and picturesque nation - life and work, costumes and ornaments, handicrafts and technology, educations, living quarters, dietary life, oriental medicine, performing arts and games, beliefs and rituals, and socio cultural life of the Korean people from the prehistoric age to the Joseon Dynasty.

Squeeze in a stop at Jogyesa, the head temple of Jogyejong, the principal sect of Korean Buddhism. It emphasizes the Zen orthodox, meditation tradition and maintains the purity of monastic celibacy. The temple does not give off the solemn and traditional air of the other temples located deep in the mountains, but when you enter the temple the frenzy of the city start disappearing letting you explore the main worship hall, pagodas and bell tower. The Main Worship Hall holds triad Buddha, Sakyamuni, Amitabha and Bhaisajyaraja. The figure in the center is Sakyamuni Buddha who has overcome greed, hatred and delusion. While here it is worth noting the 500 year old lacebark pine and 400 year old locust tree that still grace the property.

You will have time to stroll down the cobblestone walkways and admire upscale art galleries and antique shops in Insa-dong, a unique area of Seoul that truly represents the traditional Korean art and antiques. Clustered along the main street and a multitude of alleys that lead deeper into the district numerous shops dealing antiques, oriental art supplies, and modern Korean arts of all types and styles. A number of galleries also vie for attention with their exhibitions of works by modern artists. Here, you will look for some souvenirs or simply wander and browse at leisure.

Your walking tour continues on to Bukchon Hanok village where you can enjoy a large concentration of traditional Korean houses. The quaint neighborhood hangs on tenaciously to its traditional past. As you wander through this maze of alleys that wind and twist between houses you will come across stunningly beautiful Hanok, making you eager to see what you will find next. The sight of a number of houses built next to each other, sharing a wall and touching each other's eaves, will give you a glimpse into the friendly and open-hearted lifestyle of Koreans.

Drive past Cheonggyecheon stream that tumbles gently through downtown Seoul. Restoration work began in 2003 to free the stream from the layers of concrete and roadways that had covered it since 1958. Opened in 2005, a 5.8km-long serene stream with nearly two dozen overhead bridges provides a much needed source of peace and relaxation for the citizens. At the head of the stream stands a colorful spiral sculpture created by Coosje Van Bruggen and Claes Oldenburg.

Explore the centuries-old Namdaemun Market where well over 11,000 shops selling anything you can imagine. Widely acknowledged as one of the Seoul's best tourist attractions, the market is seriously crowded, so be prepared to get bumped around. One of the most colorful aspects of the market is an endless sprawl of street-vendor stalls that setup in the alleys and walkways between the buildings. As you stroll through the market, you can haggle over the price to get the best deal on something you want or simply admire the vibrancy of this massive market.

At the western entrance of the market in the middle of s traffic circle stands Namdaemun, officially known as the Sungnyemun Gate. It is a formidable and iconic construct that served as the southern gate of the wall that surrounded Seoul during the period of the Joseon Dynasty. The gate suffered severe damage by arson in 2008 and the wooden portion of the gate near the top was completely charred. Restoration work started in February 2010 and was completed in 29 April 2013.

After the visit, enjoy a panoramic view of Seoul over at N Tower observatory. Perched on top of Namsan Mountain at 243m high, the tower measures 236.7m in height from the base and tops out at 479.7m above sea level. It is the absolute best place to enjoy the most enthralling vistas of Seoul. Near the tower base, you cannot possibly miss time capsule. Buried in 1985 under 15m of the ground, it holds 466 relics representing contemporary Korean lifestyle and culture. The capsule is scheduled to open five hundred years later in 2485. There are thousands of Love Padlocks hanging from all sides, overwhelming the wire fence, without their keys to symbolize that their love for each other is forever. Furthermore, Love Trees made of hundreds of locks are quite a sight to behold.

Korean Folk Village Plus / 7 hours

Tour Highlights

Hwaseong Fortress Farmer's Houses Traditional Kiln Governor's Office Nobleman's Residence Farmer's Dance and Music Tightrope Acrobatics Workshops Traditional Market Place

Seoul - Suwon - Yongin - Seoul (L) 110km

Travel to Suwon to explore Hwaseong Fortress which was built in the 18th century and has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of its architectural and historical significance. It encloses both flatland and hilly terrain with well over 30 buildings including gates, watchtowers, command posts, arrow-launchers, fire bastions and beacon tower. A temporary palace where the king sought refuge during war and found rest during times of peace sits inside the wall. The fortress is parapeted with crenels and merlons and highlighted by four main gates. Seobuk Gongsimdon watch tower is the most distinctive structures among all facilities of the fortress. It is a 3-story stone brick structure built on the side of the fortress wall. The holes in the wall allowed sentries to keep an eye out for the events outside the walls and, also, to shoot guns from.

A walk through the whole fortress could take several hours but it is well worth making a short walking tour to enjoy the splendor of the fortress. Overall one hour walking tour starts at Paldalmun Gate, which is located in the middle of the main road through the complex. Just past the sentry post perched on the edge of the turret sits the beacon tower, which possesses five chimneys to create different smoke signals. The smoke from one chimney indicates that all is well, while the smoke from two chimneys indicates that the enemy has been spotted. Three chimneys are used when the enemy is approaching, and a fourth fire is stoked if the enemy has made their way into the city. The fifth fire is lit when active combat with the enemy has begun. The tour covers sentry posts, a crossbow platform, a gate guard platform, an observation tower and secret gates leading down to the dark labyrinths. An exquisite pavilion is located on a hill that overlooks a lotus pond surrounded by beautiful willow trees. Below the pavilion sits northern floodgate, a stone bridge with seven arched sluices topped by an elegant open pavilion and brick-built parapet.

Then journey onward to the town of Yongin to explore Korean Folk Village, a functioning community displaying the diversity of Korean lifestyle and culture of several centuries ago. Experience the heritage of the Korean people and soak up the local culture.

At village entrance stands an eye-catching Nuseokdan, a stone tower topped by a phallic symbol serving as fertility and protective totem, where people write a wish on the paper and tie to the ropes. On entering the village, you are greeted by goofy looking group of wooden Jangseung signifying village boundary and preventing bad luck.

Today, you will see a wide assortment of residential structures from the straw-thatched cottages of commoners to the 99-room mansions of the noble class as well as governor's office. The village also shows workshops of 20 types where the real artisans and craftsmen dressed in traditional costumes ply their trades, demonstrating centuries-old craftsmanship in the art of pottery, pyrography, bamboo craft, Korean paper, brassware, and many more. While strolling past the houses and workshops one by one, you will get the feeling of walking through time in an ancient village.

Enjoy farmer's music and dance, which has been the beloved form of entertainment of Korean people, bearing testimony to the gregarious character of Korean fun-making and festivity. Jultagi or acrobatics on a tightrope is something you cannot miss. The rope walker executes a variety of acrobatic feats on the rope, along with jokes, mimicry, or songs, while a clown engages the tightrope walker in joking banter, and a team of musicians plays music to accompany the entertainment.

You will also experience some of long-observed seasonal customs, beliefs, folk games or plays that have been comprehensively reflected the daily life of the Korean people. A traditional wedding ceremony is also performed on a daily basis, although it may no longer be explicitly followed.

A traditional marketplace offers the exotic flavors of Korean cuisine from different regions. Shops stock a variety of handicrafts and souvenirs, many of which were made on the premises. With all these features combined, the tour offers a fascinating insight into the unique Korean lifestyle of the days gone by.

Seoul Architectures / 7 hours

Tour Highlights

Bukchon Hanok Village Myeongdong Cathedral Yeouido Architecture Tour Gangnam Architecture Tour

Seoul (- - -)

Today, discover the unique surprises in the fascinating city of contrast and get an introduction to a wonderful mix of interesting architecure, with old and new jostling for peace in this mega-metropolis.

Your exploration will begin with a driving tour of the city featuring sites such as the Gwanghwamun Plaza and a statue of Yi Sunsin, who had engaged in twenty-three naval battles against Japan and emerged victorious in all of them during the Hideyoshi invasion (1592-1598). The statue of King Sejong who propagated the Korean alphabet in the 15th century is honored with prominent statue in this plaza.

Enjoy walking tour of the Bukchon Hanok village and see a large concentration of traditional Korean houses, where the quaint neighborhood hangs on tenaciously to its traditional past. As you wander through this maze of alleys that wind and twist between houses you will come across stunningly beautiful Hanok, making you eager to see what you will find next. The sight of a number of houses built next to each other, sharing a wall and touching each other's eaves, will give you a glimpse into the friendly and open-hearted lifestyle of Koreans.

Then continue on to Myeogdong Cathedral that sits on the north eastern edge of the fashion, shopping and entertainment area in downtown. Designed by French Father Goste and completed by Poisnel in 1898, it is the Korea's first Gothic building and an important milestone in the country's architectural history. Neighboring block is high-end department stores filled with carefully laid-out merchandises. Beneath these stores are the huge underground arcades that offer a fascinating subterranean shopping experience.

On an introductory driving tour of Yeouido, see expansive downtown parks and emerging residential neighborhoods and commercial developments including some of the significant buildings. Full Gospel Church is possibly the largest in the world, the massive National Assembly Hall built in the mid-1970s, towering 63 building and S-Trenue, a landmark skyscraper with its Bundle Matrix, Stocky Tower and Podium Tower topped by Sky Garden.

While in Gangnam, explore a number of modern buildings. Urban Hive is the winner of the grand Seoul Architecture Award 2009. With 105cm-diameter holes on the white concrete walls, the building looks like a hive. The building exposes its concrete structure, exposing the many hotels inside which resemble a sponge. Drive past Kyobo Tower majestically rising in Gangnam's busy intersection, a typical of the works of Mario Botta. Gwell tower with its 32 office unit having an outdoor space that creates a unique "eroded" appearance is a very simple glass curtain wall tower, giving each its own characteristic.

Boutique Monaco is an office building designed to have more exterior surface and corners for more natural light and better views. The spaces created by the missing matrixes are landscaped with trees that are visible from the inside and outside of the building.

Then pass by Samsung Headquarters. Inspired by the symbolic joinery represented in traditional Korean woodworking, these complex curtain wall systems allow for maximum control by the occupants over daylighting and natural ventilation, minimizing the amount of artificial lighting, heating and cooling required by the buildings.

Enjoy a driving tour of the 3.5km-long Teheran-ro, or Teheran Boulevard and see various Korean and international financial and business institutions including POSCO, Offices and Banks. Some of Korea's tallest skyscrapers and most expensive real estate are largely centered here.

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