Touted as the third biggest urban sprawl in the world, Seoul offers a mix of tradition and pop culture. By Ellen Whyte
Population: 10,356,000 downtown and 23,995,000 in the suburbs
Temperature: Cold, snowy winters with hot, wet summers and a monsoon season from June until September. Temperatures up to 30 degrees Celsius in August and minus 7 degrees in December
Currency: The South Korean won is divided into 100 jeon, with 1000 won being worth around HK$8.50
Must See: Changdeokgung Palace
The Changdeokgung palace complex is set in a 110-acre garden filled with lotus ponds, flower beds, trees and statues.
Originally built in 1405, Changdeokgung has been burnt down and rebuilt several times - each time to the original plans.
What makes this 'Palace of Prospering Virtue' a World Heritage site is that its buildings are designed to harmonise with the garden itself and the mountains that lie behind it.
Korean drama lovers will recognise this as the gorgeous backdrop from the immensely popular TV series Dae Jang Geum.
Must Eat: Kimchi
A typical Korean lunch or dinner is based on a big bowl of rice, a serving of soup, and a main dish that is shared by everyone at the table.
Seoul's popular main dishes include bulgogi, slices of barbecued beef wrapped in lettuce or cabbage leaves, and kalbi or galbi, barbecued beef ribs.
Every meal also comes with a small bowl of kimchi, a fermented cabbage, garlic and chilli condiment guaranteed to add extra oomph to everything you eat.
The Korean alphabet is called Hangul, an alphabet created during the reign of King Sejong in the 15th century. Because it's tough to read, tourist guides are usually written phonetically, using the Latin alphabet.
Hello! An-nyong Ha-se-yo! (an JONG ah SAY oh)
Nice to meet you Man-na-so Pan-kap-sum-ni-da (MANNOsoh panNAPsoom-niDAH)
My name is... Je Irumum... Imnida (E-i-rum-eun ....... im-ni-DA)
Bye! An-nyong-hi! (an-yong-HEE)
Art and Culture
If you love fashion, shop till you drop in fashionable Myeongdong where tonnes of boutiques are filled with the latest designs. Bargain hunters will also adore the traditional street markets in Namdaemun.
Alternatively, step into a world of peace and tranquillity by visiting Bongeunsa, a Buddhist temple complex.
These beautiful shrines, pagodas, and statues set right in the heart of busy modern Seoul are also the home of 3,438 antique wood blocks carved with the Flower-Garland Sutra (scripture) and 14 other sutras.
To really get away from it all, see what the life of a Buddhist monk is like by taking part in the half-day temple-stay programme that includes a lesson in meditation.
While Seoul offers art lovers plenty of traditional dancing, painting, and pottery, millions of fans adore films such as My Wife is a Gangster, Sassy Girl and A Tale of Two Sisters even more. Some Korean films are so successful that Hollywood is asking permission to make US versions.
Want to see more of Seoul but can't afford the fare? Visit www.goseoulcity.com and check out popular attractions without leaving your chair.
Answer the following questions. To test your memory, try answering without referring to the text. If you can't remember the details, read the piece again.
1. Seoul is the capital of:
A. North Korea
B. South Korea
2. Korean currency is called:
A. The Korean dollar
3. In August, Seoul weather is:
A. Hot with monsoon rain
B. Freezing cold with snow
C. Hot and dry like a desert
4. Kimchi is:
A. Barbecued beef
B. Fermented spicy cabbage
C. A type of soup
5. Bongeunsa is a:
C. Fashion centre
6. The Korean alphabet is called:
1B, 2C, 3A, 4B, 5A, 6C