Modern Seoul

One look at a map of Seoul should be enough to get the measure of Gangnam. The rest of the city sees roads going here, there and everywhere, the result of rapid development and hilly terrain. Here, instead, lies a checkerboard of large and evenly spaced thoroughfares - yes, this has to be a new area and also a flat one, rather different in character to those found north of the Han river.

Gangnam in fact translates as "south of the river", though this is something of a misnomer, expats and savvy travelers most commonly use the word to refer to the busy area around Gangnam Station, which is about as close to Blade Runner as Korea gets; even during daylight tours, searing octaves of neon can be seen rippling up the sides of umpteen skyscrapers.

Neon and nightlife aside, Gangnam is primarily a business district, with offices peering out from behind a million rectangles, many housed in modern skyscrapers that rank among the city's most impressively designed. Considering this high-octane commerce, it's perhaps inevitable that the area should also contain some of Seoul's top hotels, like the exclusive Park Hyatt Seoul, serviced residence hotels, as well as a fair number of high-end bars and lounges and top-notch restaurants.

These race along to Seolleung, Gangnam's eastern neighborhood, which although also a business district, sees trade going hand-in-hand with its history thanks to a collection of royal tombs in Samneung Park, beautiful remnants of Seoul's dynastic past. Almost comical in appearance, these mounds of grass-covered earth are somewhat incongruous in their high-rise setting. The lanes around the park area are well worth a wander, dotted as they are with clothing boutiques and hidden wine bars and restaurants.

Heading east again will bring you to the enormous Coex Mall, which was until recently the city's only covered shopping area of any size and consequently the recipient of thousands of visitors in inclement weather. COEX is also home to the COEX Convention Center and some top hotels, whose restaurants, bars and spas are some of the swankiest around.

The surrounding area is quite diverse, despite the washboard-flat terrain; to the north, right across the street from COEX, is the gorgeous Temple of Bongeunsa while just to the south is its diametric opposite, the super-modern Kring Complex, one of Seoul's best examples of modern architecture, designed by renowned Daniel Liebeskind.

'Gangnam Station' by My Guide Seoul.


'Samseongdong' by My Guide Seoul.