A local’s guide to Seoul
- By Haeryun Kang
- Photos by Jean Chung
In Seoul, you’ll find contrasts everywhere: mountains behind skyscrapers, entangled electrical wires near hyper-modern buildings, traditional hanoks alongside Irish pubs and Soho cafes, and a man-made stream in the city center with fish, ducks and herons. It’s immensely old, continuously settled by different kingdoms for over 2,000 years. But it’s also new, with much of its architecture rebuilt after the Korean War in the 1950s in pursuit of modernity.
The city is loud and quiet, dirty and clean — sometimes all within a block. It’s a fascinating symbol of a country that modernized rapidly and is coming to terms with its own history. What’s constant is change: All that’s left of a Japanese shrine in the colonialist era is an unnoticed stairway in quiet neighborhood; the old cafe you love may well be replaced with a fried-chicken joint in months. That’s the beauty of Seoul. It’s never the same, so see it today before it’s something else tomorrow.
Meet Haeryun Kang
Haeryun has lived in Seoul since 2014. She loves its mountains, although more the idea of them than the actual hiking.
Want to get in touch?Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Explore more of Seoul
- Check the air quality and always be ready with a protective face mask. Air pollution is becoming a severe health concern in South Korea.
- Google Maps has limited access because of government restrictions. Try Korean companies Kakao or Naver instead, which offer detailed maps in English.
- Korean spas, locally known as jjimjilbang, are all over town and can be a cheap alternative to other types of accommodations — but only if you don’t have much baggage.