The capital of South Korea in East Asia is something special, something emphasized by the fact that it’s officially known as the “Seoul Special City.”
This bustling city has a population of nearly 10 million inhabitants within its city limits, but over 25 million people in the metropolitan area of Seoul, making it the 5th-largest in the world.
The city has a history spanning over 2,000 years as it was founded in 18 B.C. This also means that there are plenty of interesting tourist spots for you to check out, a great mix of traditional Korean sites and modern structures.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most famous buildings in Seoul, one of the most fascinating cities on the planet.
1. Gyeongbokgung Palace
Gyeongbokgung Palace or Gyeongbok Palace is one of the 5 great palaces that were built in Korea during the Joseon dynasty (1392-1897). This dynasty ruled from the late 14th century until it was turned into the Korean Empire.
This palace was built shortly after the dynasty came to power and served as the main residence of the Joseon kings. The original palace was destroyed during the Imjin War between 1592 and 1598.
The palace was abandoned for 2 centuries but the 7,700-room structure was completely restored during the reign of King Gojong (1852-1919). Today, it’s a popular tourist attraction and one of the most famous buildings in Seoul.
It houses both the National Palace Museum and the National Folk Museum.
Official website: Gyeongbokgung Palace
2. Lotte World Tower
This height also makes it the 5th-tallest building in the world. The construction of this incredible building in Seoul started in 2009 and it wasn’t completed until December 2016.
The tower was designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, an architecture firm based in New York which has been involved in countless high-level projects all around the world.
Official website: Lotte World Tower
3. N Seoul Tower
The N Seoul Tower is also referred to as the YTN Tower but is commonly referred to as the Namsan Tower. That’s a reference to the location it was constructed in, the Namsan Mountain in Seoul.
This great tower stands 236 meters (774 feet) tall and because of its elevated position, it’s the second-highest point in the city. It was built between 1969 and 1971 for $2.5 million and has been one of the most prominent buildings in Seoul ever since.
It serves as both an observation deck and as a broadcasting tower for radio and television broadcasting companies such as KBS, MBC, and SBS.
Official website: N Seoul Tower
4. Banpo Bridge
This fountain is referred to as the “Moonlight Rainbow Fountain” and features 10,000 LED nozzles that create an amazing spectacle at night. It runs for 1,140 meters (3,740 feet) along the bridge and shoots out 190 tons of water per minute.
The bridge is located in downtown Seoul and crosses the Han River. It’s a double-deck bridge that was completed between 1980 and 1982 and features a girder bridge design.
5. Bukchon Hanok Village
The Bukchon Hanok Village is located on top of a hill near the Gyeongbokgung Palace in the heart of the city. It’s a traditional Korean village that has been preserved for over 600 years.
This also means that you can admire traditional Korean architecture here in the small alleys. These houses are referred to as “Hanok” and were constructed for the first time at the beginning of the Joseon Dynasty in the 14th century.
Although it looks like a low-level residential area today, this was the main residential neighborhood of high-level officials during the Joseon Dynasty.
Official website: Seoul Hanok
6. Dongdaemun Design Plaza
The Dongdaemun Design Plaza is a large futuristic urban development complex in Seoul and one of the modern architectural highlights of the city.
It was designed by renowned Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid (1950-2016) and features a remarkable neo-futuristic design. It features multiple exhibition halls, retail stores, and you can walk on top of its roof as well.
The building was completed between 2009 and 2014 for $451 million. It has since become one of the most famous buildings in Seoul and a popular tourist attraction as well.
Official website: Dongdaemun Design Plaza
7. 63 Building
The 63 Building is one of the most fascinating buildings in Seoul for multiple reasons. The skyscraper stands 249 meters (817 feet) tall and was the tallest building in the world outside of North America upon completion in 1985.
The building is the most prominent landmark on Yeouido island, a large river island of the Han River. It’s covered with gold leaf and is still the tallest gold-clad structure in the world today.
The building becomes an amazing spectacle in the morning because the eastern side of the building starts shining brightly. For 20 minutes after sunset, it shines bright as the sun, blinding everybody who looks at it.
8. Seoul City Hall
Seoul City Hall is the main building of the Seoul Metropolitan Government and is located on a major thoroughfare in the city called “Taepyeongno.” This is in the Jung-gu district in the heart of the city.
The modern building was constructed right next to the Old City Hall, a building that was completed in 1925 during Japanese rule and which is considered to be a prime example of Imperial Crown Style architecture. This building now houses the Seoul Metropolitan Library.
The new building is substantially larger than the old structure and was completed between 200 and 2012. It’s another amazing feat of modern architecture in Seoul.
9. Jongno Tower
The Jongno Tower is one of the most distinctive buildings in Seoul due to its remarkable design. The top floor of the building features a bar and restaurant and is elevated above the other floors of the office skyscraper.
The upper floor reaches a height of 132 meters (433 feet) which means that it’s much taller than it initially appears to be. The views from the restaurant are therefore also amazing, especially because it’s located near downtown Seoul.
The tower was completed in 1999 and was designed by Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly of the “Rafael Viñoly Architects” firm. Some of his most notable works are the Walkie-Talkie Building in London and 432 Park Avenue in New York City.
10. National Museum of Korea
As the name of this famous building in Seoul suggests, it’s the National Museum of Korea. This is the prime museum in South Korea when it comes to artifacts and art related to Korean history.
The first National Museum in Korea was established in 1909 by Emperor Sunjong. The collection was housed at the Gyeonbokgung Palace after the Korean War and was moved to a new building near the palace in 1972.
The current building opened in 2005 in the Yongsan Family Park and is the 6th-largest museum in the world based on floor area. It features a floor area of 295,551 square meters (3,180,000 square feet).
It’s visited by approximately 3 million yearly visitors, a number that makes it the most-visited museum in Korea and one of the most popular museums in the world as well.
Official website: National Museum of Korea