The Infinite Offerings of a Modern Culture
Seoul is a multifaceted metropolis abundant with enticing attractions. Many tourists come to discover the city’s legendary history, yet more are attracted to the thriving culture that is reshaping this paradigm of a modern global center. Indeed, there are numerous exhilarating spots on both sides of the Hangang River that showcase the youthful, dynamic side of Seoul. In addition, exciting year-round festivals jazz up the city’s vibrant beat, creating unforgettable memories.
Alive With Energy, Day and Night
Many tourists coming to Seoul may have already experienced Itaewon, a neighborhood teeming with exotic dining and shopping variety. The Hongdae district is a refreshing alternative. Hongdae, literally meaning “Hongik University,” exemplifies art, culture and style mixed with youth, creativity and passion. Reputed for its art program, the university has congregated a string of boutiques, galleries, studios, craft shops and accessory stores along Picasso Street, and with an authentic market nearby, this area always buzzes with liveliness.
In contrast to the daytime artistic vibe, Hongdae’s nightlife flaunts Seoul’s flourishing clubbing scene. As a home to unique coffeehouses, small venues for indie rock band concerts, live music bars, jazz and dance clubs, Hongdae has something for all tastes. Dance the night away or just relax to soothing melodies. Club Day, the last Friday of every month, is a terrific time for club hopping.
Recently, these stylish clubs have made fast inroads into the city’s other posh neighborhoods, such as Apgujeong-dong and Cheongdamdong, standing side by side with wine bars, park-side cafes, grand-scale flagship designer stores and classy art galleries. Frequented by celebrities as well as young Korean professionals, this is the area in which trendsetters hunt for avant-garde collections by budding Korean designers and international brands.
A Festive City
While these lifestyle hotspots exemplify the liveliness of Seoul, there is perhaps no better way to truly experience a city than by enjoying its festivals with the local people. The biggest festival, Hi Seoul Festival, is held in Seoul every year in early May for seven to ten days. It features a wide array of fun and exciting events revolving around both traditional and new cultural themes as well as eco-friendly ideas.
Imagine seeing an ocean of light floating along downtown Seoul’s Jongno Street, shining from over 100,000 lanterns of all sizes and shapes. This magnificent annual lantern parade is the highlight of the Lotus Lantern Festival (April 25–26), which celebrates the Buddha’s birthday. Prior to the main celebration day, performers, entertainers and merrymakers also gather around Jogyesa Temple for an entertaining cultural evening—a great opportunity to see, touch, smell and taste the Korean Buddhist culture.
For another richly traditional experience, take in the annual Seoul Drum Festival, which captures the nation’s rich musical culture. For a more contemporary event, visit the annual Seoul Performing Arts Festival, in which rousing exhibitions seek to stretch the boundaries of modern performing arts. For the adventurous, do not miss the annual Hangang High-Wire World Championships, which consist of astonishing races against time and dazzling feats of skill along a 1-km.-long tightrope tied across the river.
Other notable performances are Seoul’s well-known pantomime stage shows, which have gained reputations both at home and overseas. Imbued with Korean culture, these shows—Cookin’ (1997), JUMP (1999) and Dance (2005 and 2006)—have entertained numerous audiences for over ten years.
Modern Korean culture has been making waves in Seoul with its imaginative drama, music and style. While staying in the city, do not miss the chance to discover how Seoul’s flourishing modern culture is giving the nation’s capital a unique identity.