Seoul is a city like no other. You’ll find an overwhelming selection of mouth-watering foods, exciting attractions, and unforgettable shopping spots around every corner. Seoul is full of hidden gems and there is something for everyone whether you’re traveling solo or with the whole family.
If you’re heading to Seoul for the first time, you won’t have to wander for long before you discover that the list of things to do in Seoul is endless. This guide to the top ten attractions in Seoul will help you kickstart your adventure.
Situated on the side of Mount Namsan, Seoul Tower rises hundreds of meters above the city. The Seoul Tower is a communications and observation tower that provides panoramic views of the city.
A cable car ride will take you up the side of the mountain to the base of the tower. From here, you can go up into the tower and visit any one of the four observation decks.
Each observation deck offers breathtaking views of the city and there is even a rotating restaurant on one of them. If heights aren’t your friend you can still experience the views on solid ground at the high-tec digital observatory.
The digital observatory offers a 360-degree view using over 30 LED screens that display live images from cameras mounted at the top of the tower. The views from the tower are great, but so are the views of the tower from most parts of the city, especially at night when the tower lights up.
Bukchon Hanok Village
Take a break from the busy streets of the metropolis and take time to explore the tranquil Bukchon Hanok Village for a taste of Korean traditional culture and architecture.
You’ll be able to get a real feel of what Korea was like 600 years ago as you explore this beautifully preserved area. It's right in central Seoul, in the area between the Gyeongbokgung Palace and the Changdeokgung Palace.
The neighborhoods feature hanoks or traditional Korean houses that are still lived in today. Some of the hanoks are now guesthouses and bed-and-breakfasts, and a few are museums that can be toured.
Take time to explore the cultural centers showcasing traditional crafts and other historic aspects of Korean life.
Lotte World Tower
One of Seoul’s latest attractions is the Lotte World Tower skyscraper. It's a dizzying 500 meters tall and officially one of the world's tallest buildings. You can explore several indoor and outdoor observation areas here and on the 118th floor, there is the Sky Deck which has the world's highest glass floor.
As you walk across the glass floor, it magically changes from opaque to clear, momentarily taking the breath away from unsuspecting visitors. At the top of the tower on the 123rd floor is the Seoul Sky where you can enjoy breathtaking, 360-degree views of the city below.
Even getting to the top of the Lotte World Tower is fun, you’ll step into super-fast, double-decker elevators, with windows on one side and LED screens on the other three and the ceiling. If you’re looking for something extra to do in the tower with your kids then a visit to the aquarium of the state-of-the-art, 21-screen MoviePlex is well worth a visit too.
First built in 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace is the largest of Seoul's five grand palaces built during the powerful Joseon dynasty. The palace has been destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries. After the Second World War, it was restored to its original glory and then totally restored in the 1990s.
The palace grounds are also home to the National Palace Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum, which are worth a visit if you have the time. The palace museum is especially fascinating as it houses items from the palaces of the Joseon Dynasty.
The collection includes priceless antiques and artwork, as well as everyday items used for cooking, cleaning, and daily life. The National Folk Museum focuses on items from daily life, as well as clothing and dioramas, to tell the story of the Korean people since prehistoric times.
This is the official residence of the Korean president, as well as the location of his and related executive offices of the state. The Blue House is Korea's version of the White House except it isn't a single building but rather a campus of buildings.
All of the buildings on the campus are built in the traditional Korean style and all feature distinctive blue tile roofs. In order to explore the grounds, you will need to book an hour-long tour. Be sure to apply and book for the tour in advance, you won’t be able to get tickets at the door.
The tour is really interesting and takes you to many parts of the palace complex including meeting rooms, reception rooms, and the Korean version of the Rose Garden, where the Korean president holds press conferences.
One of the most visited attractions in Seoul is Bongeunsa, one of the Buddhist temples in the city. It was first opened in the year 794 and is a complex of multiple buildings and shrines. The temple is easy to visit, as it's centrally located in the exciting Gangnam area.
You’ll find the temple on the side of a low mountain, directly across the street from the massive COEX convention center and mall. The COEX mall is a must-visit for anyone who loves shopping.
The temple is a popular spot for convention-goers to take a break and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. Bongeunsa also offers a program that allows visitors from all walks of life to experience the daily life of a monk for a few hours which is a great experience if you have the time.
Possibly Seoul's best food market, the Gwangjang market combines an array of street food vendors under one large roof. The market features rows and rows of food stalls, offering every kind of Korean food you can think of. Most stalls have small chairs in front of them, creating unique, tiny restaurants, where you can sit and enjoy your meal.
It's all about tasting the different foods on offer here, and a smile and request will get you a sample of most of the foods. The market is in central Seoul, and it's open from 9am to 10pm. Look out for delicious foods like bindaetteok (mung bean pancakes), bibimbap (spicy minced beef stew), sundae (blood sausage), and tteokbokki (stir-fried spicy rice cakes)
Dongdaemun Design Plaza
This is a very cool design center in Seoul's Dongdaemun area known to locals as DDP. The DDP is a silver, orb-like flowing building that looks like something from straight out of space. It was designed by the late, great architect Zaha Hadid.
Dongdaemun is known for its shopping and there are a lot of department stores and discount stores all over. The plaza is also home to Seoul's ultimate contrast, with ruins of the ancient city-fortress preserved just outside the front entrance of the ultra-modern design center.
If you’re looking for that picture-perfect moment you’ll probably find it here as the building is very popular as a photo subject at any time of the day. At night, the design center comes alive with over 25,000 white, LED roses that light up all over. The complex is home to showrooms, workspaces, offices, and design studios.
Gwanghwamun Square is one of the best places to go for a glimpse of Korean history. Set against the backdrop of Gyeongbokgung Palace You’ll find statues of some of South Korea’s most notable figures here such as King Sejong and Admiral Ti Sun-Shin.
The best part of the square is underground, below the statues. There are two free museums, dedicated to King Sejong and Admiral Yi Sun-Shin. The tours of the museums take about half an hour so they are great to explore even if you only have one day in Seoul.
The museum has English translations and even headsets that can narrate to you as you explore. There is also a small movie room where you can watch a video as well and a replica of one of Korea's elaborate old navy vessels which is really spectacular.
Shop At Namdaemun Market
Officially the largest traditional market in Korea, Namdaemun Market houses hundreds of stores. The market offers a huge variety of daily essentials and local products and has a vibrant exhibition of wholesale goods from traditional oriental medicine to cheap Korean snacks.
Locals here say that if you can’t find something at Namdaemun Market then you probably won’t find it anywhere. Namdaemun market is not only the largest market but it is also the oldest market in the city and has been around for more than 600 years.
The market is conveniently located near the city’s south gate, making it a great two-for-one stop on your itinerary so even if you only have 24 hours in Seoul you’ll still be able to visit Namdaemun Market. This is a great place to go if you’re searching for traditional gifts like Hahoe masks, jewelry, clothes, or ceramics.
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