It could be its attractive K-pop music that instantly sticks in your head, or maybe it is those mind-boggling Korean series on Netflix that keep you on the edge of your seat, or the Oscar-winning films that surprised us all…… or perhaps it is something else. While we may not know the reason behind its insanely growing popularity, we know for sure that South Korea is kind of big news these days.
With the increasing fame of the country, South Korea has become a fixture on the bucket list of many travelers around the round, especially its capital, Seoul. Taking an in-depth look into the country’s largest metropolis, Seoul, the city is full of fun and amusing things to do and places to visit.
While you may not run into your favorite character from the popular Netflix series Squid Game while walking around the city, we assure you, you will be pleased with the other great things and people you will come across while in Seoul. Covering all the must-do things and must-visit places in the city, here is our list of the best things to do and places to visit in Seoul.
If you are new to the South Korean history, here is a small introduction; in ancient times, the county was ruled by different dynasties. The most famous dynasty would probably be the Joseon dynasty that ruled the region for around five centuries. There is a long list of many architectural masterpieces that belonged to the Joseon dynasty, but The Gyeongbokgung Palace rests on the top of that list.
The Gyeongbokgung Palace complex used to be the royal residence for over 200 years in ancient times, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The palace is the best-preserved one out of the five remaining Joseon palaces in Seoul.
After breathing in the beauty of the palace’s view, make sure to snap a good photo of its wood and stone pillars, pagodas, and buildings that will sweep you off your feet with their stunning look.
Next on the list while you are at the Gyeongbokgung Palace is paying a visit to the National Fold Museum, which is housed within the palace’s grounds. A visit to the museum will take you on a journey to the past with the exhibited replicas of artifacts that presents the daily life of ancient Korean people who lived under the rule of the Joseon dynasty. Another must-visit location inside the palace is its secret garden with its breathtaking landscaped lawns, lotus pond, and ornate pavilions. A visit to the Gyeongbokgung Palace is a must while you are in Seoul; it’s a beautiful place with a profound old-world charm.
Next Stop: The Bongeunsa Temple
With a delicate grace and tranquil ambiance that you sense from the moment you step your foot on its ground, you immediately know that The Bongeunsa Temple is a mesmerizing place, and it is one of the top things to do while visiting the city of Seoul. The temple was built in the region of Wonseong of Silla, the 38th ruler of the Korean kingdom of Silla. This was around the year 794, and it was known as the Gyeonseongsa Temple at that time.
Years later, specifically in the year 1498, Queen Jeonghyeon, Queen consort of Joseon, ordered the temple’s renovation and changed its name to the Bongeunsa Temple. The Buddhist temple is positioned on the slope of Sudo Mountain, near the COEX Mall.
Besides admiring the brilliant facade of the temple, we recommend enlisting for the Temple Stay program, which is offered by the temple. The program lets you experience the life of a monk and many other traditions related to the temple’s history. It is an incredible experience that you won’t definitely regret.
However, please don’t end your tour without taking a good shot of the Elephant in the room, AKA the grand Buddha statue and its smaller companions, which decorates the circular arena. You can end your tour with a great view of the temple from one of the many restaurants nearby, where you can enjoy an authentic Korean meal.
Bukchon Hanok Village….
With a strategic location on the top of a hill between Gyeongbok Palace, Changdeok Palace, and Jongmyo Royal Shrine, the traditional Korean village Bukchon Hanok Village is a must-visit while in the city of Seoul. A visit to Bukchon Hanok Village is a guaranteed trip to another world. Reminding us of that old neighborhood in famous Korean dramas, the Bukchon Hanok village is the home of hundreds of traditional houses that date back to the Joseon dynasty.
Many of the village’s houses have turned into guesthouses, cultural centers, tea houses, and restaurants, which provides visitors with an opportunity to learn, experience, and get immersed in the traditional Korean culture. Something to consider, the village is still an actual neighborhood with people’s homes, so make sure to respect that while you have your tour to enjoy the place.
Oppa Gangnam Style
Whether it is the song that made you hear about the neighborhood, or it is the place’s high-class reputation, Gangnam is a place you just have to visit while in Seoul. To make the importance of this district clear, let’s put it this way……Gangnam is Seoul’s Upper West Side.
Gangnam is the third largest district and the central business district of Seoul. The neighborhood is every bit as upscaling and modern as a district could be. In most of the upper-class district streets, you will find skyscrapers and designer brands. The district is also the home of the famous Starfield COEX Mall. Inside the mall, you will find some vast convention centers and exhibition halls that host many international expos and conferences.
Shopping at the luxury shops of Gangnam is undoubtedly something you must do. As for night lovers, then Gangnam is your city! When the night comes, the fashionable district hosts the country’s best DJs at its many VIP nightclubs.
Leeum Samsung Museum of Art
The Leeum Samsung Museum of Art is not your typical museum where you go into to see some old works of art…… No, not here! The Leeum Samsung Museum of Art brings a mixture of ancient and contemporary works from local Korean artists and international ones as well.
The museum features three structures designed by the architectural stars Mario Botta, Jean Nouvel, and Rem Koolhaas. The museum has something for everyone, and it surely deserves the visit. Of all the things we have seen in the museum, we fell in love with the sculpture garden; make sure to visit this one….it is spectacular!
N Seoul Tower
Offering the best panorama of the city, N Seoul Tower is a gorgeous town in Seoul, which is famous for its pointy summit and wrap-around observatory tower. Being 480-m above sea level, you will have Seoul at your feet while standing on the top of N Seoul Tower’s summit.
It doesn’t take much to know that the whole area around the tower is an excellent spot for lovers with romance in the air everywhere around. Speaking of which, couples can leave behind actual proof of their love around the tower’s base. As around the tower’s base, you will find the Locks of Love area, where couples and friends leave their locks in there hoping for a long-lasting relationship…… Just like in the film To All The Boys I Loved Before…. How cute!
After leaving your lock, make sure to stop at the bedazzling Palgakjeong Pavilion, where you will enjoy one of the best views you will ever see. We highly recommend going there to watch the sunset…… Oh, how beautiful!
Seoul Animation Center
This is a dream for all comic fanatics! Located in downtown Seoul, the Seoul Animation Center is a cultural complex of animation and cartoons with Comics Café and Ani Picnic. On the first floor, you will find the Comics Café that offers content from more than 30,000 of the latest and old comics, both from South Korea and international ones.
On the second floor, there is the Ani Picnic, which is an experiential zone offering visitors the chance to meet famous characters from Korean comic series customized to a theme of traveling in Seoul. Some of the characters you will encounter are from well-known shows like Super Wings, Pororo, Slow Sloth Neul, Turning Mecard, and Alice in Wonderland.
A trip to the Seoul Animation Center is so much fun for you and your children, and it is one of the top things to do while visiting Seoul.
The Seoul Forest
If it is not the viral cultural attractions that made you think of Seoul as a destination for your vacation, then it is most probably a photo of its glorious forest that you must have seen somewhere. The Seoul Forest is a vast park that homes over 400,000 trees and 100 different animals. The forest has outdoor classrooms, which are inclusive of the Experiential Learning Park, and there is also the Marsh Plant Garden.
The forest also includes an Ecological Forest where you will get to see elks, ducks, chipmunks, and moorhens with an observatory for closer viewing. As for the family activities, there is the Cultural Art Park, the right place for activities for the children like skateboards and water-play. Offering you a peaceful and pleasant atmosphere, the Seoul Forest is one of the best places to visit in Seoul.
The Guinness Book of World Records’ Bukhansan National Park
When a place gets listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the highest place to have visitors per year, you know this is a place you must visit. The Bukhansan National Park is among the list of the Guinness Book of World Records for a breaking 5 million visitors per year, and once you step inside the park, you will know why this is well-deserved!
The beautiful Bukhansan National Park is 79.92 km2, and it is famous for its forested areas, granite peaks, and temples. The park is a popular place for hikers and Seoul residents, and we highly recommend going for a hike at the park during your stay in Seoul. This is one of the most amazing things to do in Seoul…. So relaxing!
Time for Some Thrill!
Seoul has three big amusement parks, which absolutely deserve the visit. The first one is Lotte World, which has the world’s largest indoor theme park in addition to another outdoor amusement park called “Magic Island.” Magic Island is truly magical! Magic Land is an artificial island located inside a lake tied with a monorail, a luxury hotel, shopping malls, a Korean folk museum, and movie theaters…. How cool is that!
There is also Everland Park, which is located nearby Seoul. Everland park is South Korea’s largest theme park, and it is so much more than an ordinary theme park. The park is divided into five intriguing-themed zones, which are American Adventure, Magic Land, Global Fair, European Adventure, and Zootopia…. Nope not the movie; there is no cute bunny officer or a hustler fox here.
Fun for all ages, Everland offers its visitors a wide variety of great options for rides. On top of the list of these rides is the T-Express, which is Korea’s first wooden roller coaster. It is worth mentioning that the T-Express is also the world’s top 10 fastest wooden roller coaster going at 104km/h, highest drop at 46m, steepest drop at 77 degrees, and the longest at 1.64km. Speaking from experience here, the T-Express is seriously an exciting ride that you must try.
Next on the things to do at Everland park is enjoying its unique Zootopia. Zootopia, again not the movie, is a 15,000-㎡ area exhibiting 2,000 animals from 201 different species. You will enjoy seeing the animals at ease while you are riding on the bus that will become a boat at times to cross the river. There is also a safari area featuring lions, tigers, and bears, and you can feed the animals up close.
Another major attraction of Everland is its water park or Caribbean Bay, which is filled with fun and thrilling adventures for you and your whole family.
As for the third amusement park to consider visiting in the city of Seoul, it is Seoul Land which is located outside Seoul. While it is smaller than Everland, the park still offers some excellent options with over 40 rides to choose from, including roller coasters, and there are also movie theaters. The park also hosts seasonal festivals; we recommend checking if there is any seasonal festival available while you are there, you will really enjoy it.
Street Food? YES, PLEASE!
One of the best things you can do while in Seoul is hunting down and trying the city’s mouthwatering street food. While South Korea may have talented singers and brilliant dramas, the country also has some insanely delicious street food that you will never find anywhere else. Korean street food is so good that it deserves a trip of its own.
The perfect place to get introduced to Korean street food is the Gwangjang Market. Gwangjang Market is one of the oldest and largest traditional markets in South Korea, and it is full of so many delicious foods that you just have to try.
On our list of recommendations for the food to try, well…EVERYTHING! But if we have to choose, then you should start with the Tteokbokki, this is a spicy rice cake, and it is one of the most popular street foods you will find in South Korea. Odeng, AKA Fish cake, or as we like to call it, that famous food every character in almost every Korean drama we have seen have been eating! Odenge is a fish cake skewered on a stick, and it is served with broth, and it is soooooooo good!
Next on the list is the yummy Gyeranppang; this is called Egg bread, it has a muffin-like appearance, with egg on top, and it is served with both sweet and savory flavors. You probably know this next one, Myeongdong it is a corn dog, but Korean corn dog is not like any other! The Koreans added their magical touch to the American dish adding so many tasty things to the outer batter of the corn dog. In South Korea, you will find octopus corn dog and French fries’ corn dog, among others.
Another dish from American cuisine is pancake. In South Korea, there is the street food Hotteok, which is basically a stuffed pancake. With Hotteok, Koreans took the pancake to the next level! There are sweet pancakes with cinnamon, chopped peanuts, or dark brown sugar. There are also savory pancakes like the ones with kimchi or Japchae available.
Adding their touch to the ordinary pancakes, there is a Korean street food called Pajeon, which is a savory pancake. What makes this one different from the regular pancakes is this one’s batter, which is made of wheat flour, rice flour, eggs, and scallions. There are so many good Pajeons to try, like the bindaetteok (mung bean pancake), haemuljeon (seafood pancake), gochujeon (green chili pepper pancake), kimchi-jeon (kimchi pancake), and soegogi-jeon (beef pancake).
Another K-drama regular is that fish-shaped cake they keep on eating and saying how yummy it is. Well, they are right; the Bungeoppang, the fish-shaped bread, is so yummy that you will not be able to stop eating it. The fish-shaped pastry comes with a filling of sweet red bean paste and gets cooked in a fish-shaped mold until it is ready. We recommend trying this one with vanilla ice cream; it would be just perfect!
Another food you should try while at the market is that green-covered kind-of-looking-like sushi, but not really, Kimbap. Kimbap, or seaweed rice roll, is basically the Korean take on Japanese sushi. It is steamed rice, vegetables, and meat fillings wrapped with a sheet of roasted seaweed. You can find lots of these in the market.
There is also the Japchae; this is an authentic Korean dish made of stir-fried glass noodles that are initially made of starch or, as the Koreans call it, dangmyeon. Along with the noodles, the dish also includes fried vegetables and several toppings like carrots, strips of egg, spinach, mushrooms, or marinated slices of beef, and then some sesame seeds.
Saving the best for last, the Yangnyeom tongdak; this is the Korean fried chicken. If you are a fan of K-drama, then you must what this is already. How is it different from any other fried chicken? Well, this one is different because of the chicken’s crispy paper-thin skin that will surprise you with every bite. Koreans fry their chicken twice to make sure it is extra crispy, and they certainly know what they are doing! When eating the chicken, we recommend doing it Korean-style and pair it with some cold beer.
Seoul is one of the most beautiful cities in all of Asia. It is so much more than just attractive locations that we see in Korean dramas or those K-pop music videos. Seoul is a place full of fun and amazing things to do, and some breathtaking places that deserve the trip…… not to mention their insanely delicious food, which would leave you coming back for more and more. It would be a shame not to have the city of Seoul on your bucket list; trust us, you don’t want to miss the chance to explore this beautiful city.