4 Hours In …
South Korea’s capital presents its guests with a wealth of history, style and excitement
COEX COMPLEX The artery that cuts through the center of Seoul is the Han River, and the district called Gangnam literally means “South of the River.”These days it also means business, entertainment, cuisine and lots of shopping. At its heart is Coex, a business and cultural hub that welcomes an average of 150,000 visitors – both domestic and international – on weekends. It’s home to a huge conference center, as well as Korea’s largest aquarium, a 16-theatre Megabox cinema and the largest underground shopping mall in Asia, which on average welcomes 36 million visitors per year. Three five-star hotels, two premier office towers, a department store, a subway station, an airport terminal and more are all located at Coex. It is also Korea’s top business events destination. The Coex Convention and Exhibition Center itself is a four-story meetings venue with over 4.8 million square feet of total floor space. There are over 200 exhibitions and 2,000 conferences held each year.
For further information visit coex.co.kr/eng.
BONGEUNSA In contrast to the bustle of the city, you can find some peace and quiet with a visit to the Bongeunsa Temple. With its giant Buddha high energy of the Gangnam district, Bongeunsa is more than just a temple.You will feel the day’s strains fade away as you enter the leafy temple complex and look overhead at all the Buddhist prayer flags
The temple is a place to relax and reflect upon yourself. The templestay program is an overnight experience of everyday life in the temple, including traditional Korean Buddhist culture and practices. Some of the simple Buddhist customs available include the daily dawn service, Korean Zen meditation, Dado (a tea drinking ceremony), and Balwoogongyang (a Buddhist meal with traditional bowls).
Another opportunity, the temple life program, is available for foreign visitors. The two-hour program includes a temple tour, lotus lantern making, Dado, and a chance to talk with a monk. All activities are conducted in English.Visitors can take part in this program without
reservations and the fee is
20,000 ($20). All participants receive a souvenir.
Get more details at bongeun.org. 3 SEONJEONGNEUNG ROYAL TOMBS
Seonjeongneung are the royal tombs of two Joseon Dynasty kings and one queen – King Seongjong, Jungjong – dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries. The burial grounds were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2009, in recognition of its historic status. Seonjeongneung features a wide range of trees, bushes and hedges, such as pine, cherry and wild pear. Each tree bears a name tag, as you would find in an arboretum, creating an ideal place to enjoy a stroll and learn a little along the way. Beyond the quiet grounds, the skyscrapers of the Gangnam area rise up around, making it a popular destination for nearby office workers to take a lunchtime break.
4 SINSADONG GAROSUGIL
Garosu-gil was where aspiring Korean artists used to set up their studios, away from the more expensive Gangnam districts. Now it has become lined with Asian and European fusion restaurants and cafes, the latest fashion boutiques filled with designer clothing and accessories, art galleries and nightclubs.
This nearly half-milelong boulevard lined with gingko trees can be especially pleasant in autumn for the casual pedestrian, or couples out to take a romantic stroll, as the golden gingko leaves infuse the atmosphere with an indelible sense of warmth and nostalgia. Compared to some of the crowded hustleand-bustle shopping districts like Myeongdong, Garosu-gil offers a welcome change of pace, and is particularly well suited for trendspotting while latté-sipping.
Check out the designer boutiques then settle down at one of the quaint restaurants that give the street a classy, privileged air. Art galleries further color these roads, as do the fashionable people you are bound to see. 5
SAMWON GARDEN Samwon Garden is a veteran of the local restaurant scene, first opening its doors in 1976. It quickly achieved fame not only because it’s Seoul’s largest restaurant, but also because of its reputation for serving quality and authentic traditional Korean cuisine. It can host up to 1,200 guests simultaneously for a variety of functions. Some of the highlights on the grounds include a watermill, a pond, a garden and a waterfall, all complementing the landscape and nature.
Samwon Garden is noteworthy for its finely-prepared galbi (beef short ribs), bulgogi braised dishes. In 2011, the Michelin Green Guide to South Korea described Samwon Garden as“the single place to go for Korean-style beef.”
Get more details at samwongarden.com.