Seoul is the capital city of South Korea, huge as 5 times Paris, the Korean megalopolis is the third biggest city in the world after Tokyo and Mexico City, with its 10 million inhabitants. Founded 2 000 years ago, Seoul has opened itself to international minds at the end of 19th century and was the first city of Eastern Asia to get electricity, water, telephone, and a tramway network.
Being an important business city, Seoul is welcoming headquarters of the biggest national companies like Samsung, LG or Hyundai and is presenting the fourth highest GDP in the world after Tokyo, New York, and L.A. In the heart of this urban frenzy, the South Korean capital city is offering a rare cultural wealth and a very particular atmosphere composed of skyscrapers which have been built around cultural edifices.
NAMSANGOL HANOK VILLAGE
One of the unavoidable features in Seoul is its Hanok Villages, these traditional villages are sheltering authentic housing, the famous Hanok.
A little historical point is needed:
These traditional Korean houses are built according to – obviously – the Korean architectural style; particularly from the Three Kingdoms Period. Indeed from -57 to 668 Korea was divided into three kingdoms which were Koguryo, Baekje, and Silla. During this period, the kingdoms were fighting each other until the Silla Kingdom became alone for 267 years. The Hanok era took end under the Joseon Period which was founded in 1932 by Yi Seongyye and ended in 1910 under Ito Hirobumi.
Located in Pil-dong area, in the heart of Seoul, the Namsangol Hanok Village is one of these “traditional” towns that can be visited in Seoul. The village does not get crowded, although pleasant to walk around.
At the entry, the village is well flowered and the large ways offer a great view of the Namsan tower overhanging Seoul.
Finally, we arrived at the central place of the village where we were able to discover the Hanok.
Unfortunately, Namsangol Hanok Village is only a reconstitution of traditional Korean houses. If you have a restricted time in Seoul, we advise you to visit the Bukchon Hanok Village that we will be pleased to present you in Part. 2.
FROM NAMSANGOL TO DEOKSUGUNG
After our visit to Namsangol, we decided to walk to Deoksugung Palace, an occasion for us to discover Namdaemun.
First, we decided to make a stop at Namdaemun Market. Located just near the Namdaemun Door, it’s one of the biggest one in the Korean capital city, you can find everything you need from clothes to accessories and obviously, FOOD! Markets in the capital are full of street food which are unavoidable in South Korea.
Continuing our walk to Deoksugung, we are now passing Namdaemun Door, also called the “Great South door”.
Namdaemun is one of the eight doors of Seoul’s wall which surrounded the city during the Joseon Dynasty.
Unfortunately, today the gate is surrounded by skyscrapers and the magic atmosphere has ceded its space to the serious ambiance of business buildings.
Deoksugung or Virtuous Longevity Palace was initially Prince Wolsan’s residence from 1454 to 1488and became a Royal Palace, during Japanese invasions from 1591 to 1598.
Seonjo was the first King of Joseon Dynasty to live in Deoksugung Palace, after him, in 1608, it was Gwanghaegun who was crowned in the Royal Palace.
Deoksugung is one of the five Palace built under the Joseon Dynasty, from the gate we were able to enjoy changing of the guard, which only happens every 3 days.
As many Royal palaces, Deoksugung has been largely destroyed during Japanese invasions, today only a third of the buildings are remaining.
In 1618, Deoksugung was used as a second residence for 270 years, in 1907 Sunjong succeeded to his father, King Kojong, and was the last king to live in this palace.