I had a great time at Namsangol Hanok Village, but with the sun high in the sky and the air getting a wee bit too warm for comfort, I took refuge in one of Seoul’s largest indoor attractions … deliciously air-conditioned, of course.
Oh, and did I mention that it’s free?
Our next stop: the National Museum of Korea. Newly opened in 2005 – although its origins as an institution stretch back much farther – this enormous facility is said to be the sixth largest museum on earth (in terms of floor space) and houses several hundred thousand artefacts from all major periods of Korean history, only a small portion of which is on display at any given time. There’s so much to see that, even though I’d been here twice before (in February and October 2013), I was still able to enjoy new discoveries during this present visit, and will probably do so again on my next.
The nearest metro stop is Ichon Station, which is directly linked to the museum grounds via a long tunnel equipped with travelators. Note that the tunnel exit is set some distance away from the main building, so there’s still a short but unsheltered stroll to do at the end (bring an umbrella if the weather’s uncooperative).
The National Museum is set within a sprawling park, and happens to be just one of two museums located on the site. We’ll have a quick look at its far smaller cousin shortly, but for now let’s head straight for the main building.
An impressive sight, to be sure – but did I mention that I haven’t had lunch yet? Normally one would view the exhibits first and then waste time (and money) at the souvenir shops or on-site restaurants afterwards, but I was in desperate need of some midday nourishment and veered off towards the food court. There, misjudging the prices (which struck me as being remarkably affordable for a museum concession) and the portion sizes (which I’d assumed would be small), I ended up with a lot more food than anticipated. No matter: to allow time for digestion, I took the chance to enjoy an unusually long lunch break, and also decided that I wouldn’t need dinner that evening.
My selections: a bowl of deliciously chilled mul naengmyeon (noodles served cold in an icy broth), along with some curry rice.
After lunch, I made my way towards the permanent exhibition galleries (which are free of charge; only special exhibitions require fees). I won’t dwell much on the contents of the museum – the official site has more details – but here are a few glimpses of the building’s suitably monumental interiors.
This being Chuseok, I wasn’t too surprised to see a traditional performance being held in the vast outdoor atrium for the enjoyment of the many visitors (including lots of families) who had turned up to see the museum.
A short walk from the National Museum of Korea – but located within the same park – is the shiny new National Hangeul Museum, which opened its doors just last year. The museum is designed to present information about Korea’s home-grown writing system, the hangeul script, in a modern and interactive setting. It’s not huge, indeed after the vast National Museum it might seem almost minuscule in comparison, but it’s still a great place to pick up a bit of culture and history (and even learn Korean writing).
And yes, admission is also free. (^_^)
Well, that was a long day – but I loved almost every minute of it. Now it’s straight off to the hotel for rest, and in due course a good night’s sleep … because we’ve got a morning train to catch tomorrow (and lots more sightseeing to do).