Seoul is an intriguing city transforming itself from the Yi Dynasty capital of the Hermit Kingdom to a major mover and shaker on the international scene, especially in the field of commerce and sports. Nowhere else is the Korean drive to come to terms with a turbulent and fractured past so evident.
Seoul was battered by Japanese and Manchu invasions in the 16th and 17th centuries and flattened by the Korean War; most of its cityscape is modern. Overshadowed by high-rises and 12-lane freeways, it yet retains a hidden history of centuries-old temples, palaces, pagodas and pleasure gardens.
Despite being home to 10 million residents, Seoul is a safe and friendly city with a low crime rate. Seoulites work long hours but also enjoy socialising and are generally more than kind to foreign visitors. If you look lost, someone is bound to offer to help you.
Facts for the traveller
Off the beaten track