Despite being rooted in centuries-old traditions, the South Korean capital is unabashedly trendy and forward-looking.
Author Layla Schlack
THERE MAY BE NO PLACE IN THE WORLD where the gap between ancient enchantment and modern attractions is more pronounced than in Seoul. Due to a legacy of invasion (by the Japanese, the Mongolians, the Chinese), the city has rebuilt itself numerous times since becoming the capital of the Joseon Dynasty in the 14th century. Its latest incarnation is divided into two zones: the design-forward, tech-savvy and trend-loving southern part of the city—where alleyways crowded with irresistible boutiques intersect wide streets lined with luxury condos and restaurants—and the more crowded area north of the Han River, where narrow streets are home to historical sites, traditional residences and packed outdoor markets. The city remains fiercely proud of its traditions and monuments while wholeheartedly embracing commercial growth. It’s a major metropolis with pockets that feel untouched by industrialization. The joy of a visit is in plunging into both sides of Seoul—the old and the new—and imagining where the city will go from here.