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Seoul (서울) is the capital of South Korea. Seoul is heaven for passionate foodies. Whether tucking into the snacks of commoners or the cuisine of kings, you just can’t lose. Seoul has a long and rich history, having served as a royal capital since 1394. From modern skyscrapers and neon lights to Buddhist temples, palaces and pagodas, Seoul is a fascinating mix of old and new. A hanjeongsik (multicourse banquet) is a feast as much for the eyes as the tummy, as are the creations of chefs crafting neo-Korean dishes. Equally satisfying is scoffing down piping-hot, crispy hotteok (pancakes with sweet or savoury fillings) on a street corner, or delicious, fresh and fiery crab soup in Noryangjin Fish Market. And don’t get me started on the wonderful universe of teas served in charming teahouses: this is where the soul of Seoul lies. A hub of business, culture and finance both within South Korea and internationally, Seoul houses the headquarters for some of the world’s largest corporations. It also has one of the world’s best subway systems the easiest way to get around in this densely populated area. For the best view of the city, go to the tower on Namsan, one of the mountains that encircle the city. With a municipal population of over 11.8 million, and a metropolitan population totaling over 25.6 million, Seoul is by far South Korea’s largest city and one of East Asia’s financial and cultural epicenters. A fascinating blend of ancient traditions and cutting-edge digital technology, home to endless street food vendors and vast nightlife districts, an extraordinarily high-pressure educational system and serene Buddhist temples, a trend-setting youth culture and often crushing conformism, extraordinary architecture and endless monotonous rows of grey apartment buildings, Seoul is a city filled with stark contrasts.

hotels in seoulThe Beautiful Tea Museum showcases a range of teas from around the world. The museum is located in Insa-dong, not far from Insa-dong’s main intersection. The Beautiful Tea Museum’s building is a large hanok that was remodeled for the museum’s specifications. In addition to informational displays about tea, the museum hosts exhibitions of modern ceramic artists. Visitors can purchase tea at the museum’s cafe, located under a glass ceiling in the center of the museum. In addition to soothing traditional teas, the cafe offers green tea bingsu (shaved ice), danpat juk (sweet red bean porridge), and tteok (rice cakes). The museum’s laid-back atmosphere is perfect for taking a break and re-charging during the day. Its auspicious location between mountain and river, made it the chosen location of King Taejo, the first ruler of the Joseon Dynasty, who immediately set about enshrining the status of his new capital with a series of grandiose projects, some of which – palaces, fortress walls and sites for ancestral worship – can still be seen today. Unfortunately, many of these are restorations, since after an uninterrupted succession of twentyseven kings, the Joseon Dynasty faded into history with its annexation by the Japanese Empire in 1910. Occupying forces systematically destroyed much of what Seoul held dear, but even after their rule was brought to a close at the end of World War II, worse was to follow, as Korea descended almost immediately into civil war. Straddling America-backed South, and when and armistice was signed in 1953, the city lay in ruins.

This full-day sightseeing tour of Seoul showcases the best of Korea’s history, culture and traditions. Led by a guide, see the city’s major landmarks, including Jogysea Temple and Gyeongbokgng Palace, National Folk Museum, N Seoul Tower, and Namsangol Hanok Village. Watch the changing of the guards during a stop at Gwanghwamun Gate and enjoy a traditional Korean lunch with your fellow travelers in Insadong. Your full-day tour also includes stops at an amethyst factory, as well as a traditional ginseng center.

Experience the best of the South Korean capital and explore with ease on this full-day tour of Seoul. Visit Jogye Temple, pass by The Blue House, Gyeongbok Palace, Insadong, Bukchon Hanok Village, Bugak Skyway, and Myeongdong with no more than 15 people for a personalized, small-group experience. Lunch in the historic Insadong neighborhood and hotel pickup/drop-off are included.

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