Jongno-gu: cyberpunk and tradition

Main sights: Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace, Gwanghwamun Square. Cheonggyecheon Stream, Insadong Street, Bukchon Traditional Village

Jongno is the central district of Seoul, connecting monumental Gwanghwamun Square with bustling Dongdaemun shopping area. Jongno is one of the oldest city routes, strung with historical and cultural landmarks and towering business high-rises. Literally meaning “The Bell Road”, it is home to the Bosingak belfry – the main bell of the old Seoul, announcing alarms and regulating the opening/closing of the city gates. Nowadays Bosingak Bell rings only once per year – to announce the coming of the New Year.

Many national treasures are scattered around the district, creating one of the most unique cyberpunk landscapes of Korea: royal shrines, temples, palaces, and gates are intertwined with the 70s-80s style industrial zones, neon-lit narrow alleys, shady establishments and glassy skyscrapers.

Constructed in 2005 as part of Seoul’s urban redevelopment plan, Cheonggyecheon Stream runs through the whole Jongno district and further beyond, towards the Han River. It is a chill and relaxing walk, with modern art and notes of city’s history decorating the walls. Koreans love to spend lazy summer afternoons and warm romantic evenings eating, chatting and drinking coffee from the nearby cafes while sitting on many of the stream’s stairs. At its beginning at Cheonggye Plaza, the stream hosts major annual festivals and art installations, including the spring Lotus Lantern Festival and autumn Lights Festival.

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