What are the Best Things to See and do in Seoul?
Seoul, the capital and largest metropolis of South Korea, is a city where modern skyscrapers and high-tech subways meet Buddhist temples and royal palaces.
This bustling city is one of Asia’s epicenters of culture, fashion, and technology. However, as much as the city has to offer, it could be difficult to choose just what to see first once there. Below are a few of our top choices:
Historical Things to do in Seoul…
1. Visit One of the Palaces:
This ornate royal palace is a center for Seoul’s history and a beautiful scene with its magnificent architecture. It was constructed in 1395 for the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1920) and is the largest and most popular of the 5 Joseon palaces. In Korean, its name translates to “Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven,”. Though it’s been destroyed and reconstructed several times due to Japanese invasions, so the name might not be too adequate.
The palace also houses the National Palace Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum. Make sure to arrive in time to watch one of the changing of the guard ceremonies. It happens every hour between 10 am and 4 pm on weekdays (except Tuesdays).
Though Changdeokgung is not the oldest or largest of the Joseon palaces, it’s certainly the most well-preserved. Constructed in 1405 and then reconstructed in 1610 after an invasion from Japan in 1592, this palace served as Korea’s principal royal palace, hosting 13 kings over the span of 270 years!
Changdeokgung palace became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. It is widely acclaimed for its spectacular painted structures and beautiful landscaped gardens. Be sure to visit in the Spring or Autumn to catch the trees at their loveliest bloom or change in foliage.
2. Visit a Museum
The War Memorial Museum
This huge museum documents the events of the Korean War (1950-1953) with the help of multimedia, weapons, uniforms, tanks, helicopters, and even planes. It serves as a reminder to its visitors of this still unresolved war parting Korea. Walking the entire museum can take several hours. We recommend you arrive early and be sure to check beforehand if you’d like to join one of the free guided tours.
The National Museum of Korea
Travel through a fascinating journey from Korea’s prehistory to its modern day culture in the National Museum. For a more in-depth look at Korea’s entire history and a first-hand view of some unique artifacts from past dynasties, be sure to visit this modern museum. See that you prepare plenty of time to get lost in history.
Cultural Things to do in Seoul…
3. Bukchon Hanok Village
The Bukchon Hanok Village is Seoul’s historic town with genuine Hanok houses that date all the way back to the Joseon Dynasty. This is definitely one of the prettiest places to visit in Seoul and a perfect place to take pictures!
This 600-year-old urban settlement is also host to the Bukchon Traditional Culture Center. As such it serves as a true example of traditional Korean architecture. Have some tea, take a few pictures, and appreciate history atop this hill overseeing Seoul’s modern metropolis.
4. See an Exhibition or a Show
Dongdaemun Design Plaza
One of Seoul’s most iconic modern landmarks, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), designed by Zaha Hadid, is a multi-purpose space dedicated to the city’s creative industry. It’s a host for events, exhibitions, and shows related to the design industry. Make sure to check what’s happening in the DDP on the days of your visit to see if it peaks your interest.
The NANTA Theatre is known for its light-hearted performance, the iconic Nanta Show. This performance is a culinary-themed comedy filled with acrobatics and rhythmic melodies. This makes for a very memorable experience, perfect for a fun time with family and friends.
Best Places for Shopping in Seoul…
5. The Best Places for Shopping in Seoul
Myeongdong Shopping Street
Shoppers paradise! For all of those travelers looking to dedicate a little time to their shopping, the maze-like roads of Myeongdong are an awesome place to get lost in. Even if you don’t want to shop, this area is filled with fun stuff to see.
Everything from people dressed in cosplay, to K-POP performances, unusually tall ice cream cones, delicious street foods, and tons of big and small stores lining the streets are all available in Myeongdong.
Possibly the largest market in Korea, Namdaemun is a host to hundreds of stalls. All full of handicrafts, accessories, clothes, and amazing street-food restaurants. Day or night, this market makes for an excellent place to walk around, browse, and enjoy.
Last on our list of “shopping spots” is Insadong, the traditional goods market. If you’re keen on finding the best souvenirs for your loved-ones back home, you’ll want to visit this local market lined with booths, shops, tea houses, galleries, and restaurants. Get lost in the alleyways here and find those hidden gems you’ll feel proud to take back home with you!
6. A Few Other Popular Options
This cool stream runs through the city and provides a lovely contrast with the metropolis surrounding it. If you feel like taking a break from sightseeing, stop by the Cheonggyecheon Stream and dip your toes, or feet, in the freshwater.
Common Ground Container Park
Common Ground is a shopping park made entirely out of shipping containers. This quirky mall is filled with trendy shops and makes for a great place to hang out and take some pictures.
Lotte World Amusement Park
Lotte World is the perfect place for families with children, kids, or couples to visit. This indoor theme park is also an outdoor amusement park that promises fun and entertainment for everyone.
N Seoul Tower
Last on our list, but certainly not least, is a must-have for all major cities. N Seoul Tower is the perfect viewing point to get a glance at the entirety of South Korea’s capital.
Standing at 480 meters high, this is the best alternative to hiking one of the mountains surrounding the city. A gorgeous view with easy access, cable cars and a lift are there to help you get the best panoramic views of the city without the hefty climb.
Getting Around Seoul
The best way to see Seoul is with plenty of time, to make sure you don’t miss any of the spots you’re planning to visit. However, traveling through a new city, especially a proper metropolis, can be a bit daunting at times. For this reason, we recommend using a trusted and reliable car service to get around.
Whether it’s for your transfer from Incheon Airport to Seoul City, your hotel, or any of the great spots we’ve mentioned, it’s always nice to have an English-speaking driver that knows his way around the city. This is especially useful because you can book in advance and let the company know of your itinerary. This way they can prepare the perfect vehicle and plan around your schedule.
Exploring the City
Regardless of whether you’re in town looking to delve into some local history, go on a shopping spree, or simply get a taste of the local food and culture, Seoul is an amazing city to visit. With a little planning, you could spend each of your days jam-packed full of fun activities! And with so many activities to choose from, you might still leave planning your next trip on the plane ride home.
If there are any other places you were planning on seeing, or found along the way, that we didn’t mention, let us know in the comments. Alternatively, if you have already visited one of these places and absolutely loved it, let us know about that as well! Most importantly, be sure to enjoy your trip (and take plenty of pictures)!