8 November 2015

Seoul: 광화문광장 & 세종로 ♡

Proceeding your first steps through Seoul as a tourist you won't get away without visiting the area around Gwanghwamun Station (광화문역) - the Gwanghwamun Plaza (광화문광장) , the mainroad Sejongno (세종로) and Gwanghwamun (광화문) itself, the gate that leads to the Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁), royal palace of the Joseon dynasty.

I visited the Plaza and walked down Sejongno the first time with my two friends who studied abroad during the time I was in Seoul. 

After walking down Gwanghwamun Plaza and taking some photos, we followed some other streets and went to Insadong, where we met other people we knew from our university home but I will talk about this area in another blog post and concentrate on the first part of this day, today.

Gwanghwamun Plaza (광화문광장) is the green area in the middle of Sejongno, that was opened in 2009 as part of the city's enviromentally friendly renovation projects, reducing the originally 16-lanes of traffic that whoosh past Gwhanghwamun every day to 'only' 10. The renovation projects also include the Cheonggye Stream that I will mention in another posting again.
It's rather attractive for tourists because of its good accessibility as well as the sites that you can find on it, and around.
Down Sejongno I found some museums (Sejong Center for Performing Arts, Ilmin Museum of Art, National Palace Musuem of Korea, ...) and later learned that a lot of embassies are close, too.
Further it has historical significance as the location of royal administrative buildings, known as the Street of Six Ministries. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourismn and the Ministry of Information and Communication, as well as the Government Complex are still based around the plaza, too.
Lastly, it features statues of two important personalities of Korean history: Admiral Yi Sun-sin, famed for his victories against Japanese navy during the Imjin war in the Joseon dynasty and Sejong the Great of Joseon, fourth king of the Joseon dynasty and the king who promulgated Hangul, the Korean alphabet - obviously the street - Sejongno - was named after him.

I actually walked around the Gwanghwamun area two days and included photos of both days in this posting. The second time I visited with my boyfriend and we came to actually enter the palace later that evening for one of the special night visit events they organize during the summer - but I will talk about this in an extra posting. 
This day, however was only a couple of days before one of Korea's most important anniversaries they celebrated this summer: August 15 is Korean Independence Day and this year, they celebrated the 70th anniversary, which explains all the Korean banners, flags and pinwheels that you could find everywhere.

Gwanghwamun (광화문) was originally built in 1395 as the main gate of Gyeonbokgung Palace.
In 1592, during the Japanese invasion it was destroyed by fire and left in ruins for over 250 years. After being reconstructed in 1867 it was again deconstructed and moved by the Japanese government in 1926 until it was again totally destroyed during the Korean War... there were some more moves and constructions done until the last restoration was finished and it got officially opened to the public on August 15, 2010.

Next to the obvious opportunity to brave the weirdly foggy weather during my first visit and take some photos of the area, a private highlight allured us: the Kyobo bookstore that you find halfway up exit 8 of Gwanghwamun Station. They have a breathtaking choice of books, magazines, CDs and super cute, high quality stationery there that you should'nt miss! The store is definitely one of my personal tips, though I didn't get the chance to take any photos.

Any question? Ask in a comment below.

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