Welcome to our METRO series: a guide that aims to take you on a journey through Seoul by literally using the metro as your map.
The Seoul Metro has been consistently voted as one of the best transport systems around the world. This is due to a number of factors including its frequent service, cleanliness, low cost and general ease of use. It’s no surprise then that, when travelling around Seoul, the metro is the easiest and best way to travel, especially for first time visitors.
In this series, we’ll be covering our six favourite lines and how you can utilize them as an easy itinerary. In our third edition, we’re covering the wide expanse of Line Five and all it has to offer. Line Five is home to many historical and cultural destinations throughout Seoul, making it the perfect line for this month’s STORY magazine. Starting off at Yeouido station in western Seoul, we aim to take you north across the city, passing over the River Hangang, and then back down to Gwangnaru Station in the far east. We’ll show you the best locations for learning about the rich history and culture of Korea along the way.
Yeouido Station (여의도역)
Our first stop is Yeouido, in the south-west of Seoul. Yeouido itself is an island and is the main financial district of Seoul. You can see many skyscrapers in Yeoudio such as the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) building, the International Financial Centre (IFC) Seoul and the 63 building. The 63 building is home to an observation deck which offers fantastic views across the Hangang River and, as such, is worth a visit. Inside the IFC Seoul building there is a huge mall with many shops, restaurants, cafes and even a cinema. It’s the perfect place to visit on a rainy day or to satisfy your shopaholic tendencies.
A short walk from Yeouido station is Yeouinaru station, which is still on line 5. The stations are only a few minutes walk apart so we’ve included it here. Next to Yeouinaru station is Seoul Color Park which is a great park to take a stroll around whilst looking out across the Hangang. Throughout April to November the Seoul Bamdokkaebi Night Market (서울 밤도깨비 야시장) is held in Seoul Color Park. The night market is named after the 도깨비 or Goblin, a popular creature in Korean folklore. There are many traditional products for sale, along with food and drink. The market is open from 18:00~23:00 every Friday and Saturday.
Seodaemun Station (서대문역)
Hopping back on Line 5 and riding for 6 stations you’ll arrive at the next stop on our list Seodaemun Station (서대문역). A few minutes walk from the station lies Gyeonghuigung Palace (경희궁). This palace served as a second palace for the king during the Joseon period. In times of emergency, the king would retreat to Gyeonghuigung Palace as a safe place to hide. Gyeonghuigung Palace is free to enter and is less well known to tourists than the famous Gyeongbokgung in Gwanghwamun, making for a more peaceful palace to visit.
Also within the palace grounds lies the Seoul Museum of History (서울역사박물관). The museum showcases many relics from the Joseon Dynasty period. It also includes a recreation of the Seoul landscape as it would have been in the Joseon period. The museum is free to enter and is closed on Mondays.
Gwanghwamun Station (광화문역)
After riding two stations you will arrive at Gwanghwamun Station (광화문역); the next stop on our list. Leaving the station by exit 9, you will immediately see the giant King Sejong (세종대왕) statue in the centre of Gwanghwamun Square. King Sejong is the creator of Hangul, the Korean writing system, and is one of Korea’s most revered kings.
Directly behind the statue lies Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁), one of the largest Joseon palaces in Korea. Built in 1395, Gyeongbokgung was the main royal home during the Joseon dynasty. The palace costs 3,000won to enter.
Useful tip: Entrance to the palace is free if you are wearing Hanbok.
For a small ticket price you can explore the extensive palace and it’s beautiful grounds. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful places to visit in Seoul. Inside the palace grounds towards the north-east lies the National Folk Museum of Korea (국립민속박물관). The museum is free to enter and displays many of the daily items used during the Joseon Dynasty, inside and outside of the palace. The museum building itself is extremely beautiful and photo-worthy.
Exiting the palace via the north-east exit will take you directly to Insadong. Insadong is known as the cultural and historical area of Seoul with many shops selling traditional gifts and products. Bukchon Hanok Village is located just a few meters away from the palace exit. The village consists of many traditional style Korean homes that have been preserved as something of a time capsule in the centre of Seoul. If you walk up the main hill of the hanok village you will get a fantastic view across Seoul.
Jongno 3-ga Station (종로3가역)
Our next stop on Line 5 is Jongno 3-ga (종로3가역). Right next to exit 8 lies Jongmyo Shrine (종묘). Jongmyo is a shrine dedicated to the deceased kings and queens of the Joseon Dynasty, where ancestral rites for the deceased were performed. The shrine is a simple structure, unlike the grand palaces nearby, and emanates a solemn vibe. The building dates back to the 16th century and is the world’s longest single wooden structure measuring 109 meters. Jongmyo is now a designated UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site and costs 1,000 won for a guided tour.
Located on the west site of Jongmyo is the area of Ikseon-dong (익선동). Ikseon-dong is one of the oldest areas of Seoul, but over time this has fused together with modern culture. There are may tiny twisting streets filled with shops and cafes, all in a traditional style Hanok setting. It’s a really pretty place to visit and a great place for shopping.
Euljiro 4-ga Station (을지로4가역)
The final stop on our list is Euljiro 4-ga (을지로4가역), located a few minutes walk away from Gwangjang Market (광장시장). Gwangjang Market is formed of over 5000 shops all in an area encompassing 42,000 square metres. It has over 20,000 employees making it one of the largest street markets in South Korea.
Not only is it one of the largest street markets in Korea, it is also one of the oldest. This is reflected in the products sold at the market. Aside from all the food available in the market, there is a wide selection of traditional fabrics and other products.
You can really get a feel for traditional Korea when entering the market. There is so much great food to try inside the market so be sure to visit on an empty stomach.
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Featured Image: ©zheng2088, 16.06.19, pixabay.com