Having been revived, phoenix-like, from the rubble of the Korean War, locals like to call their 600-year-old capital the ‘miracle on the Han’. But as Seoul sets out with typical national zeal to reshape itself from a hardened concrete and steel economic powerhouse into a softer-edged 21st-century urban ideal of parks, culture and design, the signs are that the real miracle is currently unfolding. No stranger to cosmetic surgery, Seoul has signed up for the full face lift and lipo deal. Following on from the highly successful disinterring and landscaping of the central Cheong-gye stream comes the refashioning of the Han River parks, part of a plan to draw citizens towards the broad waterway splitting this immense metropolis into two distinct halves. As the city adopts the mantle of World Design Capital, other projects are in the works, not least of which are the Dongdaemun Design Plaza & Park, the futuristic vision of star-architect Zaha Hadid, and the eco-friendly new City Hall.
In the rush for the new, Seoul’s illustrious history hasn’t been entirely jettisoned. Restoration of palaces and Namdaemun gate is ongoing and there’s a plan to reconnect the fortress wall remains, parts of which snake over the forested mountains encircling the city that provide such wonderful refuge from the pressures of urban life. The joys of eating, drinking, shopping and general merrymaking are all in abundant evidence – from Apgujeong’s chic boutiques to Hongdae’s bars and restaurants. An old Korean proverb goes ‘even if you have to crawl on your knees, get yourself to Seoul!’ With so much going on, never has this been more sound advice.
Ready to go?
These tours & activities make it easy:
- Experience the history and culture of Seoul
- Discover Korean cuisine with a cookery class
- See the best of Seoul on a half-day walking tour
Last updated: Jan 21, 2013
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