Jongno is in Seoul, and constitutes the northern half of the historic core of Seoul, along with Jung, the southern half. As the soul of Seoul (to coin a phrase), Jongno is home to a plethora of beautiful Joseon Dyansty palaces, shrines, temples, parks, historic neighborhoods, and other traditional sights. Jongno holds four out of the five Grand Palaces of Seoul: Gyeongbok-gung, Changdeok-gung,Changgyeong-gung, and Gyeonghui-gung. It also has Jongmyo Shrine, the headquarters of the Korean 'Seon' Buddhist Order Jogyesa Temple, the Bukchon Hanok village, Insadong antiques through-way, the Presidential Palace Cheongwadae, the National Folk Museum of Korea (formerly the National Museum of Korea), and Hyehwa, a district filled with small, independent theaters.
Gyeongbok-gung (경복궁,景福宮), Yulgukno (subway Gyeongbokgung or Gwanghwamun). This is Seoul's grandest Joseon Dynasty-era palace and the seat of power for centuries before it was razed in 1592 by a Japanese invasion (and again by the Japanese in 1910). This was the first palace used by the Joseon Dynasty. Large parts have now been restored and the vast grounds also house the Joseon Palace Museum and the Korean Folk Museum. Admission fee is ₩3,000, open 9AM-6PM (open till 7PM on holidays) daily except Tuesdays.
Changdeok-gung (창덕궁,昌德宮), 99 Yulgong-ro, Jongno-gu (Metro Line 3, Anguk station 5 min walk or Line 1, 3, 5 Jongno-3ga Station). This palace is second only to Gyeongbok-gung (the original Gyeongbok-gung was built before Changdeok-gung but wasn't used for as long a time) in historical importance, this was first built in 1405 and was the seat of power between 1618 and 1896. The buildings have all been recently restored and freshly repainted, creating a dazzling but still elegant effect that got the palace listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Buildings of particular note include the blue-roofed Seonjeongjeon, which was the King's office, and the Daejojeon ("Great Making Hall"), his bedchamber, but perhaps most famous of all is the Huwon ("Secret Garden") in the back. Access to the complex is by guided tour only (₩3,000) except on Thursdays when only self-guided tours are available in summer from April to August. Korean-language tours run every half hour (Japanese-language tours also available) but English tours are only offered at 10:30AM and 2:30PM, and last around 60 minutes with a walking distance of about 2.5 km, including some steps and inclines for the Huwon portion (the grounds are wheelchair-accessible for most parts but may have to enter certain areas in a reverse direction from the group). Closed Mondays. Mainline bus (blue): 109, 151, 162, 171, 172, 272. Branch line (green): no.7025.
Changgyeong-gung (창경궁,昌慶宮), (Subway line 4, Hyehwa Station 10 minute walk or 20 min walk from Changdeok-gung). Originally built in 1104 as a summer palace for the Kings of the Koryo Dynasty, it became one of the main palaces during the Joseon Dynasty. The palace was used as a temporary home for the King during the time Gyeongbuk Palace was being built. Unlike other palaces that has a North-South orientation, Changgyeong Palace faces East-West. Also, what is famous about this palace is the fact it connects to Jongmyo Shrine, a holy place for the Joseon Dynasty, where sacrificial rites are practiced for previous kings and queens. Closed Tuesdays. Admission: Adults (19-64): ₩1,000 (groups: ₩800), Children (aged 7-18): ₩500 (groups: ₩400), Children 6 and under, seniors 65+: free.
Gyeonghui-gung (경희궁,慶熙宮) and Seoul History Museum (서울역사박물관), (Subway line 5, Seodaemun Station, exit 4). Originally built in the 17th century, it was burnt down twice in the 19th century. It was largely destroyed by the Japanese during the colonial rule to build a school for Japanese children. It was finally restored in 1985 and opened to the public. Free admission.
Unhyeongung (운현궁,雲峴宮). A museum located in Jongno-gu, formerly the residence of a Joseon Dynasty prince and where the wedding of the second last king of the Joseon Dynasty was held, it has several mannequins depicting the dressing style of the yangban or noble class during the Joseon Dynasty.
Jongmyo Shrine – Certainly the most famous shrine devoted to the royal family members of Korean dynasties. The grounds are a bit more walker-friendly than some of the palaces, admission is cheaper and they also have some interactive equipment available to learn about the rituals and ceremonies used to treat deceased royal family members. ₩1,000. Closed Tu.
Jogyesa Temple (조계사, 曹溪寺) – The chief temple of the Jogye order of Buddhism, the dominant branch of Buddhism in Korea. As such, it is one of the most important modern Buddhist temples in the country. That being said, Jogyesa Temple is rather small, and if time permits, Bongeun Temple in Gangnam is a larger and more interesting Buddhist temple.
Bukchon, (North Village). The collective name of the few tiny suburbs ('dong') wedged between Gyeongbuk Palace and the Secret Garden, just north of Insadong and Anguk Station. This area was where relatives of the royal family, high public officials and other important families lived for over 500 years as they serviced the nearby palaces. Today, some 900 of their traditional Korean 'hanok' houses remain, making this area one of Seoul's most picturesque centres for arts, culture, food and fashion.
Sejong Center for Performing Arts, 81-3 Sejongno, Jongno-gu, (line 5 Gwanghwamun Stn), . Oldest and one of the largest multi-purpose theatre in downtown Seoul and home of Seoul Philharmonic. Biggest pipe organ in East Asia is in its Great Auditorium, and several video art pieces from Nam June Paik are in the entrance of auditorium.
Hyehwa (혜화) – colloquially known as Daehangno (대학로), is Seoul's performing arts center, located to the north of Jongno. Many small theaters with live dramatic and comedic performances lining every street. This district is filled with life and street commerce past midnight.
Insa-dong. Insadong is known for its art galleries and shops, and is possibly the most touristy place in South Korea. It is a great place to buy cultural souvenirs. There are also a few stores that offer interesting vintage toys and various kitsch. Insadong also contains many traditional tea and coffee shops. It is one of the few places that vegetarian restaurants can be found.