Seoul City Walking Tours

Seoul, Korea, South, January 29, 2013 --( For those that are visiting Seoul, Korea for the first time, things may get a bit confusing. It may be a bit overwhelming trying to figure out what to do and what to see. For visitors who enjoy outdoor activities and first hand experiences, the City of Seoul has put together the “Seoul City Walking Tours”. What is a “Seoul City Walking Tour”? It’s a free program designed for tourist groups who want to see Seoul’s top tourist attractions on foot under a multilingual (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese) tour guide. The tour guides are experts that are knowledgeable in Seoul’s history and culture. These “Seoul Cultural Tourism Volunteer Guides” will guide you through 17 different tours that are available with the program. These tours are organized under 5 different themes: Ancient historical Culture, Traditional culture, Modern Historical Culture, Ecological Restoration and Traditional markets. Descriptions for each tour can be found here. Tours are held at 10am and 2pm on weekdays and at 10am, 2pm and 3pm on weekends. Tours themselves are free; however admission fees to royal palaces, cultural experience programs and other facilities and programs must be paid for separately. Reservations can be made online here. Let’s take a look at the Traditional Market Tour: Insadong – Unhyeongung (Unhyeong Palace), one of the many walking Seoul City Walking Tours available in Seoul.

The Insadong – Unhyeongung walking tour takes visitors around the area of Insadong, a quaint neighborhood in the center of Seoul that is full of traditional culture and art. With its wooden tea houses, boutique galleries and street vendors selling traditional snacks, a stroll through Insadong is a mandatory for all visitors. The length of the Insadong – Unhyeongung walking tour is about 3 hours. This tour covers Unheongung (Unhyeon Palace), Central Temple of Cheondogyo, Mingadahyeon (Min’s Club), Kyungin Museum of Fine Arts, Ssamzie-gil, Jogyesa (Temple) and Bosingak (Belfry).

The Unhyeongung, or Unheong Palace, was designated as Historic Site No. 257. The Unheongung was the place where King Gojong lived before he was enthroned and the provate residence of his father, Prince Regent Heungseon (Daewongun Heungseon). The royal wedding ceremony of Emperor Gojong and Empress Myeongseong also took place at Unheongung.

The Central Temple of Cheongdogyo, the head temple for the religion of Cheondo was constructed in February 1921. The foundation of the temple was proposed by Son Byeong-hee. The Cheongdogyo is a t-shaped building with a Baroque-style roof featuring a 4-story steeple, with influences of Vienna Secession in its overall architectural design.

Mingadahyeong, or Min’s Club, was originally a house owned and occupied by the family of Min Ik-du, a descendent of Empress Myeongseong in the early 20th century. Designed by the father of Korean modern architecture, Park Gilryong, in 1930, Mingadaheon is an example of the first instances of Western influences in Korea and was designated as Important Folklore Material No. 15 of Seoul as it is a historically significant house that helps to understand the changes in Korean architecture. The exterior of the building is Korean, designed to look like a hanok (a traditional Korean house), while the interior is western, designed in Victorian style house. Currently, the Mingadaheyong is a fusion restaurant.

Before being converted into a museum, the Kyungin Museum of Fine Arts was originally a residential palace for Bak Yeonghyo, a member of the royal family. The Kyungin Museum of Fine Arts was founded in 1983 and is renowned as a cultural space for artists and tourists from home and abroad. The Kyungin Museum of Fine Art is famous for its blend of modern and traditional elements. It is comprised of five main exhibition halls, an atelier gallery, an outdoor gallery, an outdoor stage and a beautiful sculpture garden that surrounds a traditional tea house.

Ssamzie-gil opened in 2004 as a new traditional culture and shopping complex. It is located within the traditional area of Insadong and it continues within the traditions of the area while blending in modern style and convenient facilities. This fusion can be seen in Ssamzie-gil’s footpath that runs from the first floor to the rooftop, circling around a courtyard like a spiral, reminiscent of an alleyway in Insadong. Lining the path are about 70 shops, including small workshops on the first floor which are original workshops from Insadong even before Ssamzie-gil was constructed. Meanwhile, book cafes, galleries and traditional experience programs help create a cultural complex.

Jogyesa is the head temple of the Jogye Order and of Korean Buddhism. Jogye is the representative order of Korean Seon (Zen) Buddhism, and as the head temple of the largest sect of Korean Buddhism, it is also the grandest in design. Built in 1910, it was first named Gakhwangsa by Buddhist priests Han Yong-wun and Yi Hoe-gwang. During the Japanese colonial period of Korea, the name was changed to Taegosa. It was finally named Jogyesa in 1954. Daeungjeon (Hall) is the main hall of the temple. Its majestic size often compared to that of the halls of the grand palaces and the frames of its paper sliding doors are decorated with beautiful flower designs that are particularly famous. With these artistic features, Daeungjeon is highly praised for its splendid and elaborate design. Joyresa is also home of the Baeksong, a white pine tree which stands next to Daeungjeon, designated Natural Monument No. 9 in Korea.

The National Treasure No. 2 in Korea is the Bosingak (Belfry). Used during the Joseong Dynasty to keep time, a bell was rung 33 times at 4 a.m. and the city gates were opened to signal the start of a day. At 10 p.m., the bell was rung 28 times and the city gates would close to signal the end of a day. The bell was also used as a fire alarm. The original bell was originally constructed in 1396 but was destroyed in a fire accident. In 1468, the bell was remade and still exists today. It is currently being displayed at the National Museum of Korea. However, the bell cannot be rung due to the cracks on its trunk caused by fires and other calamities that occurred over a long period of time. The bell that is currently standing at Bosingak was newly cast with contributions from the public. The bell is now only run 33 times at midnight on New Year’s Eve, an event that thousands of people flock to see in Jongno.

The Insadong – Unheongung walking tour is a walking tour that features the traditional market of Seoul. There are many other Seoul City Walking Tours that feature other aspects of Seoul. Make sure to visit our website to see other Seoul City Walking Tours that feature other aspects of Seoul.
Joseph Ahn