Seoul, South Korea, travel guide and things to do: Nine highlights


Old Seoul was levelled during the Korean War but one area of town where a semblance of its past can still be glimpsed is Bukchon, a charming hillside neighbourhood distinguished by its proliferation of traditional hanok wood and stone houses. Some of these buildings, such as those managed by the venerable Rakkojae Hanok Collection, have been sensitively transformed into gracious hotels and tearooms reminiscent of Japan’s ryokans. See


A fun and easy introduction to Korean cuisine in Seoul is the lively and tourist-friendly Tongin Market, home to dosirak or Korean-style lunch boxes. At this colourful covered market diners purchase a chain of special gold coin tokens to be exchanged for any of the dishes they fancy from the array of stalls flanking a long laneway. Once you’ve filled your lunchbox, head upstairs to the cosy dining area above the stalls where drinks and sweets are also available. See


A meditative, in every sense, contrast to frenetic Seoul, the origins of tranquil Jingwansa Temple, cradled in mountains surrounding a national park under 90 minutes west from the capital, date to 1010BC. Destroyed during the Korean War and rebuilt three decades ago, foreigners can either visit for a half-a-day or overnight here and join in a Jingwansa Buddhist cultural program incorporating its simple and salubrious vegan temple food. See


D7DG85 The changing of the guard ceremony at Gyeongbokgung Palace in South Koreas Capital Seoul, Asia SatFeb25OneOnly

Photo: Alamy

Photo: Alamy 

Many capitals around the world hold changing of the guard ceremonies at their most important public buildings but few boast one quite as elaborate or rousing as that staged thrice daily at Seoul’s Gyeongbokgung Palace. The Palace Royal Guard Changing Ceremony, complete with traditional costumes, weapons and banners, faithfully reenacts the age-old procedure performed during Korea’s

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How to dress on board a ship

This is something that is very easy to get wrong. I’ve packed shorts and thongs for a cruise in which my fellow guests have worn diamond-encrusted stilettoes. To breakfast.

I’ve gone formal, only to find myself looking like a try-too-hard next to the effortlessly casual glamour around me.

The learning here is that you have to do what suits yourself (but without the suit). And that before you even think about packing, you have to do your homework.

First, check the weather apps for average temperatures for day and night – the difference can sometimes be extreme.

Then, ask yourself what type of cruiser you are. One that wants an invitation to the Captain’s Table and front-row seats to the show, or one who will live in shorts, do all the fitness classes and get your meals sent to the cabin?

For most people, the essentials would include the following.

Great sneakers for the travel days and shore excursions – and for those first couple of days when you walk the length of the entire ship several times while getting lost trying to find the bar/restaurant/swimming pool of choice.

Slip-on, slip-off footwear for the pool. I don’t care how beautiful your new sandals are, you don’t need to bend down and wrestle with buckles.

A small but chic knapsack or tote for water bottle, cap, sunscreen and book.

A snazzy cardigan/jacket for evenings in the more air-conditioned of restaurants, and for men, a collared but lightweight linen shirt (tip: $49 at Uniqlo).

Be warned, there may be a Gala Night on your itinerary for which you will be expected to

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