Korea has one of the most complex and interesting histories of any country that I have ever been to. There are so many must see historical places in Korea that this post could be twenty pages long. But here are a few that I found to be exceptional.
Most of Gyeongju city is designated as a UNESCO heritage site. This in itself makes it a must see historical place in Korea. The city was the capital of ancient kingdom of Silla which ruled two thirds of the Korean Peninsula for around a thousand years (57 BC–935 AD) . At the time Gyeongju was the forth largest city in the world. There are a number of very interesting historical landmarks in Gyeongju but my breath was taken away by the amazing tombs which were build during the Silla period.
They are massive, almost surreal mounds, some of which you can enter to see the relics of the period. Another must see is the Cheomseongdae. It is an astronomical observatory (the oldest surviving astronomical observatory in Asia, and possibly in the world). It dates back to the sixth century.
Gyeongbokgung Palace is truly a must see historical place in Korea. I mean if you visit Korea without seeing it you’re missing out on a massive part of Korea’s amazing history. Built in 1395 it’s the largest of five grand palaces built during the Joseon dynasty. It has been reduced to rubble in the Japanese invasion of 1592 and the Japanese occupation in the early 20th century but Koreans are extremely resilient. Each time it has been rebuild to its original glory.
The complex is massive and it will take a few hours to really take in. There are three times of the year that the Palace really takes on a life of its own. In the dead of winter the lakes freeze over and you’ll truly feel as if you’re walking through the palace a thousand years ago. During the onset of autumn (fall) the hue which the trees take on make the entire palace complex extremely beautiful. Finally in summer (for a brief period) the palace is opened up in the evening to visitors. Seeing the palace flooded in light is an experience that can’t really be described, you’ll just have to go.
There are a lot of war memorials in Korea. The country has fought invaders from all directions in the past. The War Memorial in Yongsan, Seoul is a harsh reminder of the reality of war. Symbolising both the struggle of South Korea during the Korea War and their appreciation for every country that came to their aid this memorial moved me to the point of almost crying.
The centre piece of the memorial is a amphitheatre where thanks is given to every country that came to their aid. Information can be found about how many soldiers and units each country sent. The memorial also has a great display of planes, tanks and missiles that were used during the war. You’ll also find a North Korean spy boat which was captured. All in all this is one of the must see historical places in Korea.
Andong is the historical heart of Korea (if I had to pick one). There are historical points popping up all over the city dating back thousands of years. Andong has been famous for producing some of Korea’s most renowned scholars. A trip to Hahoe Village will allow you to walk through an amazingly preserved traditional village that has been inhabited by the same clan since the 16th century. As one of the must see historical places in Korea this one is actually still inhabited and actively lived in by the same family from centuries ago.
Being a site of so much of Korea’s history Andong of course has built up some of the countries most talented artisans. Some of which are considered treasures of the nation.
Andong currently creates and supplies handmade paper to a number of other countries for the purpose of maintaining historical records. Andong paper is handmade to last for up to 8000 years and is the highest quality paper you can find anywhere in the world.
Andong soju is something else. Soju is a distilled rice wine with a flavor similar to vodka. But Andong soju is produced with the skill and care equal to that of any whiskey master. Make sure you grab a couple of bottles to take home.
What’s your favourite of the must see historical places in Korea? Comment below and let me know!