Top 10 Local Things To Do In Seoul
By Yujin Choi
Are you looking for unique things to do in Seoul? The capital of South Korea is full of hidden gems - you just have to get off the beaten path a little bit to discover secret spots, hipster things to do in Seoul and experiences you can enjoy for free. And surely the best person to ask about what to do in Seoul is a Seoulite local! So here are my 10 favourite things to do in Seoul alone, with my friends or with my family so you can experience a taste of our amazing city. From peaceful gardens and temples where locals come to find some tranquility - which are also great when you’re looking for free things to do in Seoul! - to creative neighbourhoods plastered with street art, you’ll love this alternative guide to Seoul.
If you’re looking for things to do in Seoul with family, the Mongchon Saturn in the Olympic Park is a great option. It’s one of the largest jogging courses in the world, but it’s also the best place in the city to picnic! It mainly consists of lawns centering on Mongchon Saturn, and indoor stadiums where lakes, Asian games and the Olympic Games were held. The Seoul Metropolitan City is a place where you can spend a day enjoying a picnic, and there’s also a space to get a little cultured at the museum.
Gilsanga used to be a luxurious bar and restaurant until it was turned into a Buddhist temple in 1955 by Bop Jong, a monk who was also a famous writer - no longer one for if you’re looking for things to do in Seoul at night! The building was then donated to him by Kim Young Han who was a lover of the famous Korean poet Baek Sok - their beautiful love story is famous throughout Seoul. The temple is located in the city centre, so Seoulites often visit here during the working week to snatch a moment of tranquility away from the office. It’s especially beautiful during the Korea cherry blossom season, when you can enjoy the stunning flowers while they’re in bloom and views of Seoul.
Hongik University Picasso Street
If you’re looking for things to do in Hongdae, one of the neighbourhoods in Seoul known to be a mecca of indie culture, don’t miss this street. If you like art street art, follow any alleyway in Hongdae and you’ll easily find dozens of murals and wall paintings which were completed mainly by the area’s students - it’s easy to find their art work all over the back streets. They’re mainly painted on the walls of old buildings, and are rarely interfered with because they’re in alleyways which are away from the crowded main streets. Tip: locals come here not only to see the street art itself, but to use it as a backdrop for their own photoshoots!
Seonyudo Park was opened in 2002 and it’s already become the most famous of the parks in Seoul. On weekends as well as on weekdays, lovers, family members, friends and clubs all come together enjoy the surroundings and snap photos. Unlike other parks in capital of South Korea, there are well-planned cultural facilities, the modern cafe Naru as well as the small canals. You can easily find many kinds of trees and flowers, artificial waterfalls and benches, and the remnants of the old water purification facilities have been left in some places, making you feel as though you were in a fantasy novel. But Seonyudo is different from day to night; at night, the view of the iridescent Sun Yu-gyo is worth seeing, and you can also photograph the Han River from here.
Photo: Visit Seoul
Mullae-dong art village
The artists from Hongik University and Daehangno moved to Mullae-dong Art Village, a redeveloped factory town in eastern Seoul, due to the expensive rents in their part of the city. It was previously a steel factory, but recently, many young artists have moved to the area and created new street art. This village was created by Seoul city under the first public art factory project and is well worth checking out if you want to experience the city’s artistic temperament!
Photo: Seoul Magazine
Seok chon Baek je Tomb
Seokchon Baek je Tomb is one of the ancient stone mound tombs in South Korea, and is last resting place of King Seokgo, who ruled over what can be said to be the best period of Baekje. Historical facts are important, but above all, you can feel the breath of history is here in the middle of the city. Escaping the city to this peaceful spot calms the mind, and if you come out on the main road, you can also stop by a pretty cafe street and the Seokchon lake.
Express bus terminal basement market
Forget Seoul shopping mall culture, this market will give you a real taste of local life. This is a unique way of shopping in Seoul! Located in the high-speed terminal station, you can see the incredibly long market where locals shop for everything from clothing to miscellaneous goods. Most products are much cheaper than at other markets in the city, and the market is well organised into categories. This is the place to go if you want to grab a bargain or see what everyday life can look like for Koreans!
Garosu-gil is a street full of trees in the middle of the metropolitan Gangnam district (made famous by the song Gangnam style) which has a sophisticated and unique atmosphere, as well as a vintage feel. Grab a window seat at one of the cafes and do some people watching; the view is calming and exciting all at the same time, and you’ll see the locals going around the place with their trends, activities and fashion.This street gives you an extraordinary feeling of no longer being in Seoul, as the style, shops, fashion and cafes are unlike anywhere else in the city.
Han River Cruise Ship and Buffet
For the most magical views of the city at night, nothing beats cruising down the Han River, especially when you can enjoy a delicious meal at the same time! Take a boat from the Yeouido Pier to Jamsil Pier, although there are more marinas in Yeouido island to choose from. Choose from different routes and meal options, but I think the night view is the most beautiful when the city is lit up and reflects on the river. Cruise ship price is around 15,000 won per person.
Enjoy the local street food
What to eat in Seoul?! You might be a little unsure about what some of dishes are you’ll see being flamed, grilled, fried or boiled as you wander through the city, but don’t miss tasting some of the local dishes. Grabbing street food on the go, or to take away and enjoy at your favourite spot will give you a taste of local life in the city. Classics to try (and that you’ll see everywhere) are tteokbokki, sticky rice cakes in a spicy sauce, odeng, which is a stewed fishcake and gyeran Bbang, a sort of miniature eggy bread.
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