Located in the heart of ritzy Gangnam, the shrines and halls of the Buddhist temple Bongeun-sa, with its tree-filled hillside location, stand in direct juxtaposition to its corporate high-rise surrounds. Founded in AD 794, the buildings have been rebuilt many times over the centuries. Entry to the temple is through Jinyeomun (Gate of Truth), protected by four king guardians. The main shrine, Daewungjeon, has lattice doors and is decorated inside and out with symbols and art that express Buddhist philosophy and ideals.
On the right is the funeral hall, while behind are smaller shrine halls and a massive 23m-tall statue of the Maitreya (Future) Buddha. Nearby is the oldest hall, Panjeon, constructed in 1856, which houses over 3000 150-year-old woodblocks with Buddhist scripture and art carved into them.
Make an effort to visit on Thursday when monks and volunteers offer the templelife program in English that includes lotus-lantern making, dado (tea ceremony), a temple tour and Seon (Zen) meditation. There's also an opportunity to stay overnight in the two-day templestay program (₩70,000) which includes activities and monastic meals; book three weeks in advance.