Seoul, South Korea is a city of culture and history. The old and the new coexist and all generations interact with each other. Jongno district, located in the middle of Seoul, is a place where you can feel the magnificence and liveliness of this interaction.
I lived in Seoul for more than five years, and my favorite place has always been the Jongno district. Whenever I have free time, I take the subway and get off at Gyeongbokgung station. I usually don’t have a destination and just wander aimlessly because, well, Jongno is a magical district. You always bump into some new places that you haven’t seen before.
The best part of Jongno is that once you get into the district, you don’t have to take any public transportation. All places in Jongno are connected through one huge straight street, so just take your time and start walking. Walking down, you can feel the 1800s, 1900s and 2000s of Korea at the same time. Jongno has a ‘vibe’ that is incomparable to other districts. If you ever choose to visit, here is my walking guide for Jongno.
Start from Myeongdong
Myeongdong is definitely one of the tourist hotspots in Seoul. Myeongdong is actually located in the Jung district, but it’s a great place to start our walking journey to Jongno. Myeongdong has everything — department stores, Korean street food, and Korean skincare and makeup stores. The most famous place to eat in Myeongdong is Myeongdong Kyoja, a kalguksu-special restaurant. You can also visit Myeongdong Cathedral — Korea’s first Catholic Church — which is beautifully built in Gothic style.
Go up to City Hall
Your next destination is Seoul City Hall. From Myeongdong station to City Hall station, it’s a 10-15 minute walk. On the way to City Hall, you can stop by my favorite Starbucks store in Seoul: Starbucks Hwangudan. This store reflects the designs of Hwangudan, a designated national historic site built in 1897. You’ll see that the store is built in a Korean traditional architecture style, Hanok. Inside the store, there’s some seats where you can take off your shoes, sit on a cushion and enjoy the floor-sitting culture of Korea.
Next to Starbucks, you will finally see the Seoul Plaza and City Hall. Seoul Plaza is an oval public space located in front of City Hall. Seoul has two city halls: the new and old. The old city hall was built in 1926 and is now a Seoul Metropolitan Library. The new city hall next to it has impressive modern architecture. The plaza is definitely a place where you can feel the old and new of Korea at the same time.
Turn left, go to Deoksugung Palace
Next to Seoul Plaza, there’s Deoksugung Palace. The palace was used as a temporary residential home of the royal family. The last king of the Joseon dynasty, Gojong, was determined to modernize the country, and you’ll see both Korean traditional style and western style buildings inside Deoksugung palace.
Seokjojeon Hall is a western style building historically used as an audience hall and the sleeping quarters of King Gojong, and is now used as a modern art museum. Deoksugung is a very unique place where you can feel the transition of Joseon to modern society. Outside the palace, there’s Deoksugung Doldam-gil, a romantic street for couples to stroll along. The most famous dessert place is Liege Waffle Seoul. Just grab a waffle and have a short, cultural walk.
Go straight to Gwanghwamun Square
Now, it’s time to visit the landmark of Seoul, Gwanghwamun. From City Hall station to Gwanghwamun station, it’s a five minute walk. Gwanghwamun Square is a public square, located at the center of Sejong-ro Road, focused on the people — pedestrians. From the square, you can see Gyeongbokgung Palace and Bugaksan Mountain in the background, which is breathtaking. You can see the statues of King Sejong, the inventor of Hangul (Korean), and Admiral Yi Sunshin, the great general of the Joseon dynasty. The square serves as a cultural and historical space for people in Seoul.
After Gwanghwamun Square, I recommend you explore Gyeongbokgung and turn right to visit the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), the Bukchon Hanok Village and the Jongmyo Shrine, which can all be reached on foot!
Jongno is definitely one of the most vibrant cultural destinations for tourists visiting Seoul. This was my walking guide, and if you ever end up visiting, make sure to hit up some of my favorite spots!