Tours and Activities near 'Seoul'
This is a very picturesque, historic and relatively quiet neighborhood just on the western side of downtown Seoul, but often overlooked by residents and visitors -- the charming "Heart of the Daehan Empire" 1880s~1920s. Jeong-dong is filled with architectural treasures exemplifying the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, as Korea's Joseon Dynasty (temporarily called the Great Han Empire) came crashing down under pressures from many foreign imperial powers. I will tell many poignant stories from that era. Included will be the Seoul Anglican Cathedral, old Salvation Army Headquarters, entrances of the British and American Ambassador's Residences, Old Courthouse, PaiChai Boy's School, First Methodist Church, Simpson Hall of Korea's first high school for girls, the historic Jungmyeong-jeon Hall and the former Russian Legation Tower -- along with the small museums contained in many of those! If you are interested in the history and great architecture of the 1880s~1920s era, this tour will fascinate you. . . I am a professional expert on all of this, and will show and explain every feature.
Guided by:Prof. David A. Mason
This is an interesting guided visit to Seoul’s largest most important ancient Buddhist temple, for spectacular scenery and observing some classic traditional artworks. Doseon-sa was founded around 1100 years ago just beneath the three main peaks of Samgak-san, Seoul's sacred and prominent guardian mountain, by one of Korea's greatest Buddhist masters. It has remained the most religiously important monastery of the Seoul area ever since; it is almost always crowded with sincere Buddhists. It has several unusual features that will be pointed out and explained to your group. There is a large ancient standing Buddha statue designated as a national Treasure, being worshipped around the clock. There are several unique shrines for great heroes of Buddhism and Koreans modern development, and a huge complex memorial for a great 20th-Century master. As this temple is built on a steep slope, halfway up on the edge of Bukhan-san National Park, some brief climbing is necessary on cement stairways; almost anyone can do it. This tour will be led by David A. Mason, a well-known expert on both Korean Buddhism and Korea's folk-religion traditions, currently Professor of Korean Cultural Tourism . He will thoroughly explain the history of this temple and its various buildings, shrines and monuments -- and tell many colorful stories along the way! We can meet at the Suyu Metro Subway Station (Light Blue Line #4), or I can pick you up at your hotel. We will take a taxi up the steep road to the temple. If you wish to experience it, we can eat a basic vegetarian Korean lunch at the temple cafeteria at lunchtime, or eat other Korean meals at one of the good restaurants in the neighborhood below. Those who want to can enjoy a short hike on the steep but beautiful trails in the Park during the afternoon; maps, advice or guidance will be available. Participants are encouraged to bring along simple snacks and beverages for themselves, whenever they would like (water is available from fountains and soft drinks are sold from vending machines at the temple). They should be prepared for any likely weather conditions, and should wear good walking-shoes. Please take this opportunity to see and learn some fundamental aspects of Korean Buddhist and folk-Buddhist culture!
Guided by:Prof. David A. Mason
This is the wealthiest Buddhist temple in Korea, as well as one of Seoul's most important -- and one that is unusually easy to get to, no mountain-hiking required! Bongeun-sa has been an important center of Buddhist education and translation for hundreds of years, once peacefully amid farm-fields and orchards -- but now finds itself directly opposite the great COEX Mall and Korea Trade Center complex right in the northern part of Gangnam District! On a small hill just south of the Han River, it remains a charming oasis in the middle of intense upscale urban madness. It contains some fascinating artworks and picturesque traditional shrines. Most famous is its gigantic statue of Maitreya the Future Buddha, a must-see monument of Seoul! The compound is always busy with Buddhist activities... Korean Buddhism shares the same general features with the other grand Buddhist traditions of Northeast Asia, but due to historical circumstances and Korea's ancient cultural background it developed its own distinctive characteristics and flavor. It was the dominant mode of thought on this peninsula for just about 1000 years, then was severely suppressed under the new wave of Neo-Confucianism beginning in the 15th century, but then staged a remarkable comeback all during the 20th century – until the situation we find today, that Korean Buddhism is one of the strongest and most vibrant such traditions in the 21st century world. I am a professional expert on all of this, and will show and explain every feature of this lovely temple. We can meet at the COEX Mall Exit #6 of Samseong Metro Subway Station (green line number two, in Gangnam-gu District) -- or I can pick you up at your hotel. The temple is just a 10-minute walk from the Metro. This tour can be anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours, depending on how much depth you desire. Any day is possible, regardless of weather. It's the most convenient way to see a major Buddhist site while visiting or doing business in central or southern Seoul City.
Bukchon or “North Village” is a fascinating and photogenic neighborhood containing many traditional Korean wooden houses with tile roofs (called “hanok”), located between the two main Palaces, north of the Anguk Metro Station area and south of the mountain-ridges. Throughout the 600-year history of the Joseon Dynasty its close proximity to the palaces, ideal geomantic location, commanding views and clean waters made it a favorite residential area for high-ranking government officials and Korea's top nobility. Today, it is several neighborhoods comprising an official “Hanok Conservation Zone” -- but there is some modern development there, and some of the great old houses have already disappeared. Plenty of them remain though, some grandly refurbished, with some great museums and historical landmarks. It's a great place to just walk around exploring – passing through the numerous small winding alleyways, one seems to be far away from hectic “Seoul” although it's right next to downtown! Bukchon is so big, with so many interesting places to see, that one half-day tour can only grant an introduction to the most senic and interesting aspects, but I do my best to show the best of it! We can meet at Exit #2 of the Anguk-dong Metro Station (Orange Line #3) -- or I can pick you up at your hotel, and we easily get to Bukchon -- and you start walking and learning from there. We proceed to the white pine tree by the Constitutional Court for our introductory lecture on this district's history, and then walk up through the most-scenic alleyways with the great houses / walls / gates, and some workshops of traditional crafts, in the western side of Gahoe-dong. We might stop to visit the interior of the old-style re-modeled hanok where an international expert on this architecture resides, or visit other charming homes and guesthouses. Reaching the park on top of that hill we will begin to enjoy great views over parts of Seoul. We will then visit two museums up there -- a new one of East Asian Art and another of Bukchon neighborhood cultural history. We will enjoy the great view over key parts of Seoul from the high-road, walk down past all the quirky fashion-clothing shops to the Jeongdeok Library, finish at the new Bukchon Tourist Information Center. There are plenty of small museums showing all sorts of Korean arts and crafts, and we can visit any of those you'd like. Shopping is also possible, as is a visit to a traditional tea-house for Korean Green Tea. I am a longtime expert on Korea's history, culture and religions, and on this particular area, and will answer any and all questions you might have.
An interesting guided visit to Gyeongbok-gung Palace in downtown Seoul. Korea's largest and most important royal palace displays a dramatic history, built at the end of the 1300s, burnt down 200 years later, grandly reconstructed in the late 1800s, badly damaged throughout the 20th Century, and now being restored to its venerable splendor in anticipation of applying for UNESCO “World Heritage Site” status. We can meet at any time at Gyeongbok-gung Metro Station (on orange line number three, just two stations north of Jongro-3-ga) -- or, I can pick you up at your hotel. On the entrance Plaza right in front of us we can watch the reconstituted changing of the guard ceremony, and I will introduce the general history and significance of the palace. I will then lead you through all of its major sites, withe the Throne Hall and beautiful pavilions set on ponds, ending with the newly reconstructed compound way in the back, near the Blue House, pointing out details and telling colorful historical tales all along the way. I am a well-known expert on Korea's royal history & religious traditions, currently a Professor of Korean Cultural Tourism, and can tell you all you'd like to know about this fascinating and beautiful place. Don’t forget to bring your camera! Please join me for this opportunity to see and learn some fundamental aspects of Korea's traditional culture, and view some fascinating artworks and artifacts!
This tour features a mildly-steep but pleasant 4-hour guided hike and temple-tour in Seoul’s famous Bukhan-san National Park. We will visit one of the most scenic and interesting Buddhist temples in the Seoul area (with important ancient relics), take plenty of great photos – and get plenty of healthy exercise. I will pick you up at your hotel, or an easy-to-find spot downtown. Once at the trailhead, we will start our one-hour hike (including brief rest-stops) up the well-maintained rocky road-trail, a bit steep but most people can do it. The pine forest is really lovely! Then we arrive at Seungga-sa, a temple founded in 756 CE and home to many famous monks, spectacularly cited just below one of the sharp forward peaks of Samgak-san, Seoul's prominent sacred guardian-mountain. Seeing the temple involves climbing even more, up several stone stairways! I will give you a thorough tour of the major buildings, monuments, and traditional artworks including the uniquely Korean shamanistic paintings. I will explain the meaning and significance of all this large and important temple's history and features. We will especially enjoy walking up to the large Goryeo Dynasty sitting statue of Buddha carved into a high cliff, enjoying a fantastic view of much of Seoul. Then, we’ll eat our snacks and then hike back down by the same path, and get you where you need to go. Participants are encouraged to bring along simple snacks or lunch foods for themselves, whatever they would like (water is available at the temple). Or they may choose to wait until the hike is finished and eat at a restaurant in the neighborhood below the ticket booth, or elsewhere. There may be the option to eat a basic vegetarian Korean lunch at the temple cafeteria. The temple is only 20 minutes of more hiking below the historic Bi-bong Peak, and any participants who wish to continue up to that peak and then descend with me are free to do so. Participants should be prepared for any likely weather conditions, and should wear good sturdy walking-shoes. This tour will be cancelled in the event of rain.
Would you like to see some sites that are "truly Korean" and yet quite unusual? This tour is entirely "off the beaten path" but is also right on a corner of downtown Seoul. It includes Inwang-san [Benevolent King Mtn], Seoul’s center of Shamanic shrines and practice, and an interesting park with relics of the Joseon Dynasty’s royal Neo-Confucian heritage. These are rarely-seen yet fascinating sites overlooking the busy and modern centers of financial and government power. Our walking-tour will conveniently meet and finish at Metro subway stations. As the Shamanic shrines of Inwang-sa are built on a very steep slope, some uphill walking is necessary on cement stairways, roads and paths; but it's worth it! This tour can meet on any day at any time at Exit #1, street level, of the Gyeongbok-gung Metro Station (Orange Line #3, just north of downtown) -- or I can pick you up at your hotel. I am a well-known expert on both Korean Buddhism and Korea's folk-religion traditions, currently a Professor of Korean Cultural Tourism. I will explain the history and significance of everything you view on this trip, and answer all questions. I will begin by showing you around Sajik Park itself, including the Joseon-Dynasty Altars to the Earth and Harvest and the large statues of a great Neo-Confucian philosopher and his mother. Then we will visit the large modern shrine for mythical Founding-King Dan-gun Wanggeon just up behind the Park, and learn about the background myth and its continuing modern significance. Then we will proceed to walk for about 20 minutes up to the "Inwang-sa" temple/shrine complex of Inwang-san, the very rocky mountain just west of Gyeongbok Palace, which has been the most active site of Korean shamanism for many hundreds of years. We will see the mystic Seon-bawi rocks, the Guksa-dang National Spirit Shrine, several examples of active shamanic shrines, and stand on top of a giant boulder for one of the best views of Seoul there is. We just might see some live-action Shamanism happening right in front of us – or we may not, you never know. When the tour is complete after 3 or 4 hours, we will return down to Dongnipmun Station (next one on the same line); some Korean restaurants are there. This tour will be cancelled in the event of significant rain. This tour can be expanded longer or reduced shorter; it can be combined with another of my half-day tours for a full-day experience. Please take this tour for a unique opportunity to see and learn some fundamental aspects of Korean Buddhist, folk-Buddhist, Neo-Confucian and Shamanic culture!