The district of Jongno constitutes the northern half of Seoul’s main historic area. As the cultural and financial heart of the city, the area is home to a wealth of shrines, temples, parks and historic sites, including four of the five Grand Palaces of Seoul, including Changdeokgung and Gyeongbokgung.
Travelers shouldn't miss the Jongmyo Shrine, the Jogyesa Temple, the Presidential Palace of Cheongwadae or Hyehwa—a neighborhood filled with small, independent theaters. Also worth a visit is the historic Bukchon Hanok Village, where many of Seoul’s socialites and politically important families live among 900 traditional Korean hanok houses. Meanwhile, the Samcheongdong neighborhood is comparable to New York City's Soho with its cafes, boutique shops and numerous art galleries.
The best way to experience Jongno is by taking an organized walking tour, which may include visiting Gyeonghuigung Palace, witnessing the changing of the guard at Daehamun or strolling along the Cheonggyecheon stream. Foodies can indulge while also seeing the district on a dedicated food tour, available by day or night. Those more interested in Seoul’s royal and political history can learn about the area as part of a historical city tour, taking in the sights with an informative guide.
Insider's Tip: The district's 33-story Jongno Tower features a top-floor bar and restaurant, from where travelers can take in sweeping views of the city through floor-to-ceiling windows. The tower is located near Jonggak Station on Line 1 of the subway.