Travel

Travel QA: Exploring Seoul In 24 Hours

Q: I have a 24- hour layover in Seoul at the end of March. I've never been to South Korea. What might be worth seeing with only one day?

A: Seoul is Asia's hidden secret. Cities such as Bangkok and Tokyo are higher on the list of must-sees for most Americans, but travelers taking advantage of nonstop flights or a layover such as yours won't be disappointed with this thoroughly modern and friendly city.

The subway system is fast and efficient. Start with a visit to Namdaemun Market (Subway Line 4), Seoul's oldest market, first opened in 1414, now a 24-hour-a-day indoor-outdoor warren of more than 1,300 shops and restaurants in the center of downtown Seoul.

Nearby is the trendy Myongdong neighborhood (Line 4), where you'll find rock music blaring from designer boutiques, a five-level Starbucks and a Baskin-Robbins that sells green-tea ice cream. Try a soak and scrub-down in a spa in one of the big hotels, then head for Insadong (Lines 1 or 3), a traditional neighborhood hidden in the heart of the modern city.

Filled with cramped alleys housing antique shops, art galleries, calligraphy shops and tea houses, Insadong is sometimes referred to as Seoul's Left Bank. Traditional restaurants serve Korean dishes in remodeled traditional Korean houses. This is an especially fun area at night when fortune tellers set up in tents, and vendors hawk silkworm cocoons, a favorite evening snack. For maps and more ideas, see Korea Tourism's Web site at www.visitkorea.or.kr.

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