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Seoul, South Korea’s capital city, has a rich, storied history dating back more than 600 years. Once the fortress of the Joseon dynasty, this sprawling metropolis now ranks as the fourth-largest economy in the world. Synonymous with the ‘Miracle on the Han River’ (the name given to Korea’s rapid post-war economic growth), plus blazing fast internet and an abundance of workspaces make Seoul an ideal hide-out for digital nomads. It’s truly a city of dizzying proportions, but this also makes it an ideal location for Instagram-worthy snaps. Here are all the places that make Seoul an impressively instagrammable city.
1. Majestic cityscapes
Take in the striking Seoul skyline from a number of lookout points. One of the most popular spots to see the view is the Namsan Tower, a landmark which punctuates the cityscape. Alternatively, take a trip to the Lotte Tower, the fifth-tallest building in the world. The views from these landmarks prove why Seoul is essentially Korea in a single city — it’s mountainous, lush and densely populated.
2. Hidden cafes
Make no mistake, Seoul can get frantic. Luckily, amongst the frenzy of shoppers searching for their next beauty fix sit the most serene hideaways and cafes, tucked into alleyways that you wouldn’t see if you didn’t look twice. With coffee shops around almost every corner, Seoul is a haven for Instagrammers looking to add a minimalist aesthetic to their feeds.
3. The Han River
The Han River is a colossal waterway that essentially bisects the city, splitting it into north and south. In ages gone by, the Han River played a vital role in the development of the Korean economy but nowadays serves more as an escape from the swarming crowds. It features numerous pedestrian walkways, parks, eating spots and bike paths. What’s more, this landmark was voted by residents in 2011 as the second-most scenic location in the city, which is all to say, it’s the perfect location to shoot the sun going down.
4. Bustling streets
As with most bustling Asian metropolises, there’s an energy that permeates the city, no matter where you go. This makes it ideal for photographers looking to capture compelling subjects in a street setting. From the ajummah (a married woman, usually middle-aged) hawking her wares on the side street to the ajosshi (the male equivalent of an ajummah) hard at work cleaning the streets, this is a city filled with stories.
5. Colossal palaces
Seoul is home to four palaces built during the Joseon dynasty: the Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace, and Deoksugung Palace. Each of these palaces is striking in their scale but the Gyeongbokgung is perhaps the most colossal of the lot and one of the best things to do in Seoul. This means that Seoul isn’t just a great city for culture buffs, it’s also great for those looking to sprinkle their Instagram with some rich East Asian history.
6. Mix of modern and retro
Technology is synonymous with the capital of South Korea, especially considering that some of the world’s largest electronics companies have their headquarters in the city region. But for all its modern advancement, some areas of Seoul are still decidedly retro. All you need to do is take a walk through suburbs like Hannam-dong, Itaewon-dong or Samcheong-dong to snap some architecture from yesteryear.
7. It’s one of the safest places in the world
Safety might not directly qualify a destination as being ‘Instagrammable’ but it certainly does help while out roaming the streets with nothing but your travel backpack and a camera, in search of your next Instagram post. If you’re wondering if South Korea is safe, you’ll be pleased to know that in Seoul, crime is close to non-existent and the transport infrastructure is some of the best in the world. There’s no need to be worried about the tensions with South Korea’s northern neighbor either. Despite being at war since 1950, relations are constantly improving.
8. Fast internet speeds
As with number seven on this list, blazing fast, easily accessible internet isn’t necessarily a direct factor in making a destination ‘Instagrammable’, although being able to browse and post at will thanks to quick, ubiquitous Wi-Fi is a huge advantage.
There’s no doubt that Seoul is a hyper-connected city with an old-world charm. Photo opportunities await around every corner, all you need is to have your camera packed. Ready to bring some fire to your Instagram feed? Grab your backpack and get to Seoul!
About the author: Stuart Hendricks is based in South Korea. He is a street photographer and travel writer for brands like Arcido. He’s got his heart set on documenting everyday life across different Asian countries and creates content to help aspiring photographers capture their own travels across the continent.