The seventh largest city in the world, dynamic Seoul is a bewitching mix of ancient and modern. A cutting-edge cityscape of glass, steel and concrete skyscrapers tower over traditional wooden houses with tiled roofs and a maze of cobbled alleys in distinct, village-like districts.
High-tech electronic equipment, neon signs clamouring for attention and glittering designer stores lie around the corner from night markets, ancient palaces and temples. A tributary of the Han River winds through it all, bisecting the city, cooling the hot summers and offering moments of calm away from the crowds.
Founded 600 years ago by the Joseon dynasty, Seoul has a truly Asian heart (despite American influence and modernisation), which can be seen clearly in its distinctive, aromatic and healthy food, much of it vegetarian.
People still visit traditional tea houses, the five elegant palaces host cultural performances, and the extensive museums and hugely successful contemporary Korean cinema with historic, cultural themes keep the ancient past alive. Seoul was appointed a UNESCO City of Design in 2010 in recognition of its cultural heritage and thriving