SEOUL SEARCHING; mark staniforth takes a break from the winter olympics action in pyeongchang to explore south korea's capital city.
PYEONGCHANG may be playing host to the Winter Olympics, but South Korea's capital Seoul is not the type of city to sit meekly in the shadows.
With its potent blend of ancient palaces, grand skyscrapers, sizzling street-food and glaring neon, Seoul is fast-emerging as an Asian destination to rival the likes of Tokyo and Beijing.
With the K-Pop phenomenon exporting a bright new brand of Korean culture the world over, and fiery Korean cuisine a global trend, there has never been a better time to visit.
Gyeonbokgung Palace TRANSLATED as 'Palace of Shining Happiness', Gyeongbokgung is a sprawling site of halls and gates. Built in 1394, it provides a glimpse into South Korea's former royal patronage.
Walk through the South Gate, one of the city's most recognisable landmarks, for free access to the front courtyard, while exploring the inner courtyards and the Palace Museum costs W3000 (PS2)/W1500 (PS1).
The exuberant Ceremony of the Guard Change, which takes place outside the South Gate three times per day except Tuesday, is worth catching.
DONGDAEMUN, the Great East Gate, is another ornamental palatial structure which now stands more or less in the centre of the city, in the middle of a major traffic intersection.
The broader area in which it sits is packed with markets and food stalls, including the bustling, labyrinthine corridors of Gwangjang Market.
MUSEUM KIMCHIKAN KIMCHI, a dish of fermented cabbage or other vegetables in a spicy marinade, is found all over Korea, accompanying almost every meal, so it seems only natural that there should be a museum in its honour.
Museum Kimchikan (Insadong-gil 34-5) presents a new and dazzlingly modern multimedia exhibition about the origins and culture surrounding what claims to be the world's healthiest food - including, if you dare, a free tasting. Tickets from W5000 (PS3.30), closed Mondays.
NAM JUNE PAIK MEMORIAL HOUSE TUCKED away in a quiet back street in Dongmyo, a small hanok - a traditional Korean wooden house - harbours an interactive display in tribute to arguably the nation's most famous and controversial artist, Nam June Paik.
Paik was one of the pioneers of video art in the 1950s and 1960s. Find it at 12-1 Jong-ro 53-gil, entrance free.
CHEONGGYECHEON THOSE in need of respite from the frantic pace of modern-day Seoul can always escape to this river which flows right through the heart of downtown.
Covered in concrete in 1958, during the city's rapid expansion, it was restored in 2003 and has become a much-cherished institution by locals and tourists.
HONGDAE THE bustling suburb of Hongdae, close to the Hongik University, buzzes with restless spirit and the shrieks of its innumerable street vendors and stall-holders.
Hongdae really comes alive at night time, with its eateries and bars ensuring its tight streets stay packed well into the early hours.
KOREAN CUISINE SEOUL'S seriousness about food is made plain in its sizzling streetfood stalls, while the most unprepossessing of exteriors mask some stunning, all-you-can-eat hang-outs selling bibimbap and other rice-based dishes for less than a fiver.
A food stall at Gwangjang Market
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|Publication:||Manchester Evening News (Manchester, United Kingdom)|
|Date:||Feb 12, 2018|
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