In helping someone plan a Seoul stopover recently I drew upon my experience exploring the South Korean capital several years ago to offer sightseeing suggestions and was reminded how little is known about the city despite it being among the largest cities on the planet. When asked for the biggest metropolitan areas most people would likely offer Mexico City, São Paulo, or Shanghai as answers and while sprawling megapolis’ that are among the world’s largest cities all are smaller than Seoul’s 25.6 million residents leaving it only behind Tokyo’s 36 million. Of course it goes without saying that population statistics can be dissected dozens of ways depending upon measurements such as metropolitan areas or only city boundaries but it’s safe to say when including urban and suburban areas Seoul is the quiet giant.

Despite Seoul’s size the masses are moved efficiently thanks to an extensive and relatively inexpensive public transit network which includes a subway system with recorded station announcements in English, Mandarin, Japanese and Korean. This easy access to different parts of the city allows visitors staying for more than a few days to explore all the city sights but for those travellers limited to a short stopover the most important landmarks including Gyeongbokgung Palace are conveniently clustered within a compact city center corridor.

IMG_2000 Photo by author

With mountains ringing the city Seoul offers some scenic vantage points including N Seoul Tower on Namsan Mountain.  The picture below was taken from Namsangol Hanok Village which is a recreated traditional Korean village that offers residents and visitors alike the chance to create wood block ink prints of your name, watch artwork and handicrafts being made in age old ways or peer into clay pots used to make kimchi.


Photo by author

As many Korean restaurants cater to groups of friends & family who share their meals as a single traveller I quite enjoyed the tasty if spicy street food on offer after dusk. When this vendor warned me the chicken and beef skewers were hot I thought he meant temperature-wise but soon discovered a mouth-tingling moment later he meant hot in terms of spiciness but was hooked and devoured several more that visit and others later in my visit. It was a real treat to wander the city center sampling local delicacies like a moveable feast.


Photo by author

Seoul Incheon Airport is a major Asian aviation hub and home of Korean Airlines so many North American travellers connect through the airport on their way somewhere else but sadly the few who do opt to build a stopover into their itinerary allot only a brief break which while better than no time at all hardly does this amazing city justice. If you ever get the chance stay a while in Seoul I’d recommend it as there are so many facets to the city it is well worth taking the time to explore and experience them.

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Little Secrets of Seoul by iflymagazine is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.