South Korea (Rep) is a mountainous peninsular which divides the Chinese Yellow Sea from the Sea of Japan. Alpine to the north, the southern Island of Cheju basks in an almost subtropical climate. The country has several dozen National and Provincial Parks and a ruggedly scenic coastline. Despite some moves towards a political thaw, the border with North Korea (Dem Rep) is closed and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.
Located along the Hangang River, Seoul has grown into a teeming metropolis with a population of more than 10 million. Over the years, the capital city of has greatly expanded in the process of urbanisation and industrialisation and continues to grow as the thriving centre of the country's political, economic, cultural and educational activities.
Seoul is the world's 10th largest city. Its past and present coexist in a fascinating way; centuries-old palaces, city gates, shrines, gardens and priceless art collections attest to the city's illustrious past, while the glistening facades of soaring skyscrapers and the bustling traffic represent its vibrant present..
The old city was encircled by four inner mountains and four outer mountains. Mt. Bugaksan in the north, Mt. Naksan in the east, Mt. Inwangsan in the west, and Mt. Namsan in the south are "the inner mountains" as they were originally inside the castle walls of the ancient capital of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). The four outer mountains are Mt. Bukhansan in the north, Mt. Yongmasan in the east, Mt. Deogyangsan in the west, and Mt. Gwanaksan in the south. Each mountain has a unique beauty of its own while boasting natural scenic landscapes and spectacular views overlooking the city of Seoul. There are also numerous mountain springs that freely provide clean, clear water to refresh weary hikers.
In Seoul, the must see attractions are the ancient royal palaces of the Joseon Dynasty: Gyeongbokgung, Deoksugung, Changdeokgung, and Changgyeonggung. Shrine, the royal ancestral shrine of the Joseon Dynasty, along with Changdeokgung's adjacent Huwon (the Rear Garden) are noted for their beautifully landscaped gardens and classical structures.
One of the most popular areas for international visitors, Insa-dong, which is located in downtown Seoul, is lined with antique shops, art galleries, traditional teahouses and restaurants as well as bookstores. It is a place that beckons both casual shoppers and serious collectors.
Other attractions highly recommended for visitors include the National Museum, the National Centre for Korean Traditional Performing Arts, the Sejong Centre for the Performing Arts, the Ho-Am Art Hall and Korea House. The National Museum of Contemporary Art in Gwacheon, a southern satellite town, also deserves a visit.
At Mt. Namsan Park, in the heart of Seoul, visitors can enjoy a panoramic view of the entire city from Seoul Tower and look around a recreation of a traditional Korean village below.
There are an abundance of parks within and around Seoul, such as Olympic Park, Seoul Grand Park, Citizens' Forest, and the Hangang River Trail, where tourists can relax, walk, or ride a bicycle. These parks are among the hidden treasures of Seoul, enjoyed by residents but often missed by tourists.
Visitors definitely should not pass up a Korean dinner, either at a modern restaurant or a courtly Korean-style restaurant. Excel-lent Chinese and Japanese food is also available, as well as French, Italian, Mexican, Pakistani and many other ethnic cuisines.
Seoul also has an active nightlife with bars, cafes, and roof-top nightclubs. The fantastic night scenery of Seoul can be experienced from the Seoul City Tour Bus or through a river cruise along the Hangang River, which slowly meanders through a valley flanked by high-rises.
Seoul Vicinity & Gyeonggi-do Province
Gyeonggido Province is located in the western central region of the Korean Peninsula, with the Hangang River running through its centre. The river divides the province into a mountainous northern area and open fields to the south. While Seoul keeps its visitors busy with so many intriguing and enticing things to see and do, this area outside of Seoul can provide a refreshing and invigorating break.
The shoreline of coastal regions juts in and out along the beaches and includes countless bays and coves, capes and islands. The bays of Namyangman and Asanman, Gimpo and Hwaseong peninsulas, Ganghwado and Yeongjongdo islands are all attractions that visitors cannot afford to miss. The golden bell, the provincial flower, symbolises prosperity and flourishes widely throughout the region.
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