In Seoul, a thriving dichotomy exists between the new and the old. Tradition intermingles with progress in nearly every facet of life. Amid the dense city blocks and sprawling iconic architecture, traditional restaurants serve meals prepared in the style demanded by the country’s last dynasties. Other areas of town are cultural polyglots, offering Indian, Pakistani, Swiss, Thai and Japanese restaurants within a few blocks of each other.

Shopping in Seoul is just as paradoxical, from tiny roadside stands and intimately-scaled boutiques to the uber-mega superstore with the name to match: Dongdaemoon. As the capital of a country that has developed into one of the strongest economies in the world, Seoul embodies exponential, rapid change. And yet, this is a city where the International Zen Center teaches Buddhist philosophy — a city where you can traipse along the Demilitarized Zone, or the DMZ, in the long shadow of the cold war era.

Seoul-Searching and Seoul Food

There are mountains to conquer. Jjimjilbangs, or Korean bathhouses, in which to luxuriate. And history to soak in at every turn. Pack it in by taking the Bus Tour or seeing a performance at the Korea House.

You'll definitely eat well in Seoul. Of course, there's the traditional Korean cuisine. Dive into the noodles at the popular Myeongdong Gyoja, or grab some cheap but high quality Korean BBQ. There are also excellent sushi and Italian restaurants with chefs trained in the kitchens of Italy. So look back or look forward, but definitely don't overlook Seoul when planning your trip to East Asia.