Looking north from Gwanghwamun, one can see little but cascading palace roofs and the mountains beyond. Turn south again and the contrast is almost unbelievably stark. Looming up are the ranked masses of high-rise blocks that announce Seoul’s main business district, its walkways teeming with black-suited businessfolk. However, there’s more to the area than one might expect – two palaces, a few major museums and art galleries, and one of Seoul’s most charming roads. In addition, the country’s largest market and most popular shopping district lie within this area, as does Namsan, a small mountain in the very centre of the capital.
At the western edge of the business district is Gyeonghuigung, Seoul’s “forgotten” palace, which has an excellent history museum just outside its main gate. A stroll east along the quiet, tree-lined road of Jeongdonggil will bring you to a second palace, Deoksugung, which boasts a superb art museum. East again is Myeongdong, the country’s premier shopping district, followed and counterbalanced by the sprawling arcades of Dongdaemun market.