Seoul is the capital of Korea with over 600 years of history. It is the heart of Korea’s culture and education as well as politics and economics. Seoul is unique in that historical sites such as Gyeongbokgung Palace and modern cultural facilities coexist in harmony. Seoul is a world-class city with numerous amenities and shopping districts such as Myeong-dong and Apgujeong.
Gyeongbokgung, also known as Gyeongbokgung Palace or Gyeongbok Palace, is a royal palace located in northern Seoul, South Korea. First constructed in 1394 and reconstructed in 1867, it was the main and largest palace of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon Dynasty. The name of the palace, Gyeongbokgung, translates in English as "Palace of Shining Happiness."
Nearly destroyed by the Japanese government in the early 20th century, the palace complex is slowly being restored to its original form prior the destruction. As of 2009, roughly 40 percent of the original number of palace buildings still stand or are being reconstructed.
Changdeokgung, also known as Changdeokgung Palace or Changdeok Palace, is set within a large park in Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea. It is one of the "Five Grand Palaces" built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty. Because of its location east of Gyeongbok Palace, Changdeokgung, with Changgyeonggung, is also referred to as the East Palace(東闕, Donggwol). The literal meaning of Changdeokgung(昌德宮) is "Palace of Prospering Virtue".
Behind the palace lies the 78-acre (32 ha) Huwon (後苑, Rear garden) which was originally constructed for the use of the royal family and palace women. The garden incorporates a lotus pond, pavilions, and landscaped lawns, trees, and flowers. The surroundings and the palace itself are well matched. There are over 26,000 specimens of a hundred different species of trees in the garden and some of the trees behind the palace are now over 300 years old. the garden that was extremely private space for the king had been called 'Geumwon'(禁苑, Forbidden garden) because even high officials could not dare to come in without king's permission. Also it had been called 'Naewon'(內苑, 'Inner garden'). Today Koreans often call it 'Biwon'(秘院, Secret garden) which derived from the office of same name in the late 19C. Though the garden had many another names, the name most frequently used through Joseon dynasty period was 'Huwon'.
Changdeokgung was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997. The UNESCO committee inscribing the site stated the place was an "outstanding example of Far Eastern palace architecture and garden design" being exceptional because the buildings are "integrated into and harmonized with the natural setting" and adapted "to the topography and retaining indigenous tree cover."
Myeong-dong is one of the primary shopping districts in Seoul. The two main drags meet in the center of the block with one beginning from Myeong-dong Subway Station (Seoul Subway Line No. 4) and the other from Lotte Department Store at Euljiro. Many brand name shops and department stores line the streets and alleys. Common products for sale include clothes, shoes, and accessories. Unlike Namdaemun or Dongdaemun, many designer brands are sold in Myeong-dong. In addition, several major department stores include Lotte Department Store, Shinsegae Department Store, Myeong-dong Migliore, Noon Square and M Plaza. The department stores carry many premium labels and other fashionable goods at reasonable prices.
The street from Jongno 3-ga to Jongak is lined with foreign language institutes, shopping centers, wholesale jewelry stores, coffee shops, and restaurants that cater to the needs of young clientele. From Insa-dong to Jongno and then to Cheonggyecheon Stream is a mere 10-minute walk.
There is an interesting story behind Cheonggyecheon Stream. The miraculous economic development of Korea in the 1970s spurred the construction of new roads and bridges, and for decades, the stream had been covered by concrete. After more than two years of renovation, it was unveiled on September 30, 2005.
Today, it is the most talked-about tourist destination in Korea. The total length is 5.8 kilometers and the water is clean. Spanning the stream are twenty-two beautifully designed bridges, and during lunch time, the area is filled with office employees sipping take-out coffee or enjoying a leisurely walk. In the evening, the stream area is perfect for meeting a date or sightseeing. At night, colorful illuminations provide an array of fascinating sights.