Seoul — officially the Seoul Special City — is the capital and largest metropolis of South Korea
, forming the heart of the Seoul Capital Area, which includes the surrounding Incheon
metropolis and Gyeonggi Province
, the World
's second largest metropolitan area with over 25.6 million people. It is home to over half of South Koreans along with 632,000 international residents.With a population of over 10 million, the megacity is the largest city proper in the OECD.
Situated on the Han River
, Seoul's history stretches back more than 2,000 years when it was founded in 18 BCE by Baekje, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. It continued as the capital of Korea under the Joseon Dynasty. The Seoul Capital Area contains five UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Changdeok Palace
, Hwaseong Fortress
Shrine, Namhansanseong and the Royal Tombs Of The Joseon Dynasty
. Seoul is surrounded by mountains, the tallest being Mt. Bukhan, the world's most visited national park per square foot. Modern landmarks include the iconic N Seoul Tower
, the gold-cladded 63 Building
, the neofuturistic Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Lotte World
, the world's second largest indoor theme park, Moonlight Rainbow Fountain, the world's longest bridge fountain and the Sevit Floating Islands. The birthplace of K-pop and the Korean Wave, Seoul was voted the world's most wanted travel destination by Chinese, Japanese and Thai tourists for three consecutive years in 2009–2011 with over 12 million international visitors in 2013, making it the world's 10th most visited city and 6th largest earner in tourism.
Today, Seoul is considered a leading and rising global city, resulting from an economic boom called the Miracle on the Han River which transformed it from the ashes of the Korean War to the world's 4th largest metropolitan economy with a GDP of US$774 billion in 2012 after Tokyo, New York City and Los Angeles. A world leading technology hub centered on Gangnam
and Digital Media City, the Seoul Capital Area boasts 15 Fortune Global 500 companies such as Samsung, the world's largest technology company, as well as LG and Hyundai-Kia. In 2012, the city's GDP per capita (PPP) of $39,448 was comparable to that of France
. Ranked sixth in the Global Power City Index and seventh in the Global Financial Centres Index, the metropolis exerts a major influence in global affairs as one of the five leading hosts of global conferences. It also hosts the world's most art openings per square mile.
Seoul is the world's most wired city and ranked joint first in technology readiness by PwC's Cities of Opportunity report. Seoul Station
is the main terminal of the KTX high-speed rail and the Seoul Subway is the world's largest subway network,considered the world's best subway by Jalopnik, providing 4G LTE, WiFi and DMB inside subway cars. Seoul is connected via AREX to Incheon International Airport
, rated the world's best airport nine years in a row (2005–2013) by Airports Council International. Lotte World Tower, a 556m (1,824 ft) supertall skyscraper with 123 floors, is being built in Seoul to become the OECD's tallest in 2015 with the world's tallest observation deck and art gallery. Its Lotte Cinema houses the world's largest cinema screen. Emporis ranked Seoul's skyline having the world's fourth highest visual impact among major cities.
Seoul hosted the 1986 Asian Games, 1988 Summer Olympics, 2002 FIFA World Cup and the 2010 G-20 Seoul summit. A UNESCO City of Design, Seoul was named the 2010 World Design Capital.
The largest wholesale and retail market in South Korea, the Dongdaemun Market
, is located in Seoul. Myeongdong
is a shopping and entertainment area in downtown Seoul with mid- to high-end stores, fashion boutiques and international brand outlets. The nearby Namdaemun
Market, named after the Namdaemun Gate, is the oldest continually running market in Seoul.Sinchon is a shopping area that caters mainly to a younger and university student crowd.
Insadong is the cultural art market of Seoul, where traditional and modern Korean artworks, such as paintings, sculptures and calligraphy are sold. Hwanghak-dong Flea Market and Janganpyeong Antique Market also offer antique products.Some shops for local designers have opened in Samcheong-dong, where numerous small art galleries are located. Itaewon caters mainly to foreign tourists and American soldiers based in the city.The Gangnam district is one of the most affluent areas in Seoul and is noted for the fashionable and upscale Apgujeong-dong and Cheongdam-dong areas and the COEX Mall
. Wholesale markets include Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market
and Garak Market. The Yongsan
Electronics Market is the largest electronics market in Asia
Times Square is one of Seoul's largest shopping malls featuring the CGV Starium, the world's largest permanent 35 mm cinema screen.
Seoul has many historical and cultural landmarks. In Amsa-dong Prehistoric Settlement Site, Gangdong
District, neolithic remains were excavated and accidentally discovered by a flood in 1925.
Urban and civil planning was a key concept when Seoul was first designed to serve as a capital in the late 14th century. The Joseon Dynasty built "Five Grand Palaces" in Seoul — Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung
, Gyeongbokgung and Gyeonghuigung
— all of which are located in the district of Jongno
District and Jung District. Among them, Changdeokgung was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997 as an "outstanding example of Far Eastern palace architecture and garden design". The main palace, Gyeongbokgung, underwent a large scale restoration project. The palaces are considered exemplary architecture of the Joseon period. Beside the palaces, Unhyeongung
is known for being the royal residence of Regent Daewongun, the father of Emperor Gojong at the end of the Joseon Dynasty.
Seoul has been surrounded by walls that were built to regulate visitors from other regions and protect the city in case of an invasion. Pungnap Toseong is a flat earthen wall built at the edge of the Han River which is widely believed to be the site of Wiryeseong. Mongchon Toseong
is another earthen wall built during the Baekje period which is now located inside the Olympic Park
. The Fortress Wall of Seoul was built early in the Joseon Dynasty for protection of the city. After many centuries of destruction and rebuilding, approximately 2/3 of the wall remains, as well as six of the original eight gates. These gates include Sungnyemun and Heunginjimun
, commonly known as Namdaemun (South Great Gate) and Dongdaemun (East Great Gate). Namdaemun was the oldest wooden gate until a 2008 arson attack, and was re-opened after complete restoration in 2013. Situated near the gates are the traditional markets and largest shopping center, Namdaemun Market
and Dongdaemun Market.
There are also many buildings constructed with international styles in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. The Independence Gate
was built in 1897 to inspire an independent spirit. Seoul Station was opened in 1900 as Gyeongseong Station.
Various high-rise office buildings and residential buildings, like the Gangnam Finance Center
, the Tower Palace, N Seoul Tower and Jongno Tower
, dominate the city's skyline. A series of new high rises are under construction, including the Lotte World Tower, scheduled to be completed by 2016. As of February 2014, the tallest building in the city is the 279m high Three International Finance Center.
The World Trade Center
Seoul, located in Gangnam District, hosts various expositions and conferences. Also in Gangnam District is the COEX Mall, a large indoor shopping and entertainment complex. Downstream from Gangnam District is Yeouido, an island that is home to the National Assembly, major broadcasting studios, and a number of large office buildings, as well as the Korea Finance Building and the Yoido Full Gospel Church
. The Olympic Stadium
, Olympic Park, and Lotte World are located in Songpa
District, on the south side of the Han River, upstream from Gangnam District. Two new modern landmarks of Seoul are Dongdaemun Design Plaza & Park, designed by Zaha Hadid, and the new wave-shaped Seoul City Hall
, by Yoo Kerl of iArc.
In 2010 Seoul was designated the World Design Capital for the year.
List of museums in Seoul:
Chohong Museum of Finance
Chojun Textile & Quilt Art Museum
Coreana Cosmetic Museum
Dosan Ahn Chang-ho Memorial Hall
Global Village Folk Museum
Hanul Science Museum
Hanwon Museum of Art
Jeoldu-san Memorial Shrine
Kobaco - Korean Broadcasting and Advertisement Museum
Korea Furniture Museum
Korea Museum of Modern Costume
Korea Racing Association Equine Museum
Korean Magazine Museum
Kumho Museum of Art
Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art
Lotte World Folk Museum
Milal Museum of Art
Museum of Korea Straw and Plants Handicraft
Museum of Korean Buddhist Art
Museum of Korean Embroidery
Museum of Korean Modern Literature
National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art
Nonghyup Agricultural Museum
Paper Art Museum
Posco Art Museum
Samseong Museum of Publishing
Seonbawi Museum of Art
Seoul Art Center
Seoul Education Museum
Seoul Museum of Arts (SeMa)
Seoul Olympic Art Museum
Seoul Olympic Museum
Simone Handbag Museum
Sung Am Archives of Classical Literature
Sungkok Art Museum
The Abaham Park Kenneth Vine Collection
The Museum of Medicine
The Museum of Photography
Tteok & Kitchen Utensil Museum
Ultra Architecture Museum
Woori Bank Museum
World Jewellery Museum
YoungIn Museum of Literature
List of parks in Seoul:
Bangi-dong Marsh Area
Dunchun-dong Marsh Area
Kildong Ecological Park
Olympic Park, Seoul
Seokchon Lake Park
Yangjae Citizens' Forest
Yeouido Saetgang Ecological Park