Seoul is an incredible city full of futuristic architecture, highrise buildings with traditional villages and gardens blended in between to provide sanctuary in the city. The city is brimming with mouth-watering food, exciting attractions and unforgettable shopping spots. You won’t have to wander for long before you discover that the list of things to do in Seoul is endless, from the number of things to do to the incredible foods to eat. Seoul is full of hidden gems and unique experiences await you on every corner. If you’re heading to Seoul for the first time, be ready for a one-of-a-kind adventure as you check-off the best things to do in Seoul.
Uncover the history in Gwanghwamun Square
Get a glimpse of Korean history when you head to Gwanghwamun Square. You’ll find statues of some of South Korea’s most notable figures like King Sejong and Admiral Ti Sun-Shin set against the backdrop of Gyeongbukgung Palace. 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 that are great for the whole family to explore even if you only have one day in Seoul. The museum has English translations and even headsets that can narrate for you as you explore around the museum. 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.
Explore Gyeongbokgung Palace
Gyeongbokgung Palace is perhaps the most famous historic building in all of Korea. Before you can enter Gyeongbokgung Palace or take a Gyeongbokgung Palace tour, you have to pass through the enormous and breathtaking Gwanghwamun gate. Gwanghwamun was once one of the eight gates that allowed access into Seoul through the fortress walls. Today, Gwanghwamun works the other way around: from inside the city you pass through Gwanghwamun to access Gyeongbokgung Palace. This Korean palace is one of the best sights in Seoul and an unmissable part of any visit to Gwanghwamun Square. It was once the home of the kings of the Joseon Dynasty. Today it stands as the defining statement of Korean history. It’s a perfect example of Korean heritage, architecture, and majesty.
Visit the N Seoul Tower
You’ll find one of the best views in the whole of Seoul at the iconic N Seoul Tower in the Myeongdong district. The city skyline is dotted with little hills and mountains and the winding Han River. The best time to visit the N Seoul Tower is at sunset, just before all the city lights come on. Head up Namsan Hill and onward to the N Seoul Tower. Depending on how much time you have, the best way to access the tower is via the cable car, it’s also the fastest way up to the tower. However, if you have a little more time or you’re looking to walk off all that food you’ve indulged in with a bit of exercise you could choose to walk up via the road that winds up the mountain. Spring is the best time to take the longer option of walking around the mountain as you’ll be rewarded with the breathtaking sight of cherry blossoms in full bloom which is magical.
Explore Bukchon Hanok Village
A trip to Bukchon Hanok provides a cultural experience ideal for curious travelers who want to delve deeper into Korea’s history. This ancient village, positioned on a small hill is a stark contrast to the rest of Seoul stretched out below. The village preserves a 600-year-old urban settlement giving visitors a rich insight into the Joseon Dynasty traditions. Located north of the Cheonggye Stream, the village is home to the Bukchon Traditional Culture Center, and many houses with Korean-style architecture. The best way to explore this area is on a walking tour with your camera in hand. The Bukchon Hanok Village is a window into Seoul hundreds of years ago. After exploring the village, find a quiet spot for a green tea or a shaved ice dessert in a traditional old building.
Try a Korean BBQ
With a gogi-jip (‘meat house’) on just about every corner, it’s safe to say no trip to Seoul is complete without devouring your weight in Korean BBQ at least once. Whether it’s a casual dinner after a long day of sightseeing or a 4am pit stop on a night out on the town Korean BBQ is always a winner. Many specialize in a specific type and cut of meat and are recognizable by the individual extractor fans hanging over each table. Make sure you try roasting some garlic and kimchi on the grill for a true Korean BBQ experience. One of the best places to experience a Korean BBQ is Wangbijib or the Maple Tree.
Visit Jogyesa Temple
Located in the heart of the city, this temple offers an insight into Korean Buddhism and what it means to the people of Seoul. As the head temple of the Jogye Order of Buddhism, Jogyesa is the location of many important Buddhist events, including a special lantern festival held for Buddha's birthday in May. The intricate architecture of this temple is breathtaking and the peaceful halls offer a tranquil space to step away from the crowds of downtown. Entry to Jogyesa is free but there is an option to make a small donation if you wish. The temple is open year-round and is a great place to explore if you’re looking for things to do in Seoul with kids.
Shop At Namdaemun Market
Officially the largest traditional market in Korea, Namdaemun Market houses hundreds of stores. Offering hundreds of daily essentials and local products, this market is a vibrant exhibition of wholesale goods from traditional oriental medicine to cheap Korean snacks. If you can’t find something at Namdaemun Market then you probably won’t find it anywhere. It is also the oldest market in the city and has been around for more than 600 years. This is a great place to go if you’re searching for traditional gifts like Hahoe masks, jewelry, clothes, or ceramics. 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.
Enjoy Tea At Suyeon Sanbang Tea House
Arguably Seoul’s most charming teahouse, Suyeon Sanbang Tea House welcomes visitors from around the world to taste one of Korea’s most revered traditions. The teahouse is housed in a 1930s hanok and surrounded by a picturesque garden that once belonged to famous writer Lee Tae-jun, who settled in the North after the Korean War to an unknown fate. Suyeon Sanbang Tea House serves traditional delicacies such as bamboo rice cakes with a soothing cup of their herbal tea. It is a wonderful place to experience Korean culture and the perfect place for an afternoon respite after exploring all the things to do in Seoul. Apart from a range of medicinal teas and premium-quality, wild green tea, it also serves other traditional treats that are must-try foods when in Seoul like the salty-sweet pumpkin soup with red-bean paste - it is a taste sensation.
Shop At Seoul’s Biggest Fish Market
This is Seoul’s biggest indoor fish market, with more than 700 vendors each selling the catch of the day. The trick is to get here early to enjoy the excitement of this bustling warehouse. You can even participate in the seafood auction that takes place as the sun rises if you get there early enough. Located in Seoul’s Dongjak District, the market sits slightly south of the Han River. It first opened for business in 1927, making it the city’s oldest fish market. The market is busiest in the early hours of the morning when it’s auction time. The sights and smells of this 24-hour fish market will put one’s taste buds in the mood for seafood. Don’t leave without trying some of the seafood specialties on offer. Fish can be purchased from vendors and brought to any of the many restaurants that line the second-floor perimeter of the facility. They’ll clean and prepare your purchase and serve it right to your table.
Hike The Old City Walls
Seoul was once a fortified city with a long city wall that climbed up and over the many hills. The walls were built in 1396 and it has been around for as long as the city has been the capital of Korea. Parts of the city walls still remain alongside hiking routes that offer fantastic views of Seoul. The Inwangsan Peak is one of the best viewpoints along the walls, with views over Gyeongbokgung Palace. There are different routes to walk, depending on how much time you have. The path from Changuimun Gate begins on a long steep climb takes between 30-60 mins all the way to the summit of Baegak (Bugaksan) Mountain. The Baegak Mountain Trail takes about 3 hours to hike and runs from Changuimun to Sukjeongmun to Hyehwamun. It crosses Mt. Baegak (Bugaksan Mountain), the highest of the 4 inner mountains of Seoul. The views from these trails are well worth the walk and it’s a great thing to do if you’re looking for unusual things to do in Seoul.
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