Seoul is, hands down, a synergistic and harmonious mash-up of modern-day innovations, deep traditions and nature. Youthful and dynamic, this modernistic fast-paced city will sweep you into bliss with its cutting-edge design, energetic nightlife zones, sprawling shopping districts, towering skyscrapers and nonstop K-Pop beats. And though the city clearly has its eye on the future, the city also proudly displays wondrous fragments of its past in World Heritage sites, like Bukchon and Jongmyo Shrine. Filled with pockets of nature and serenity, the city even has tranquil spots for those who want to escape the crowds and its restless energy. Whether you’re a shopaholic, nature lover or historian, the options for things to do in Seoul are practically endless.
Headed to South Korea’s capital, but don’t know what to do in Seoul? Wondering what are the best things to do in Seoul, South Korea? To make your Korea travel planning experience a bit simpler, we’ve listed down some of the top and most exciting things to do in Seoul.
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1. Savor the views from Seoul Tower
Itching to see something breathtaking in Seoul? Dominating the city skyline, Seoul Tower, or also referred as Namsan Tower, is an impressive landmark that can be seen from all parts of the metropolis. Sitting over 200 meters high on top of a lush mountain, this tower is one of the highest points in the city. To reach the tower, you have to catch a cable car ride to the mountain. And, by the way, the cable car ride also offers some outstanding views of the city, making it one of the most exciting things to do in Seoul. Afterwards, take a short walk to the tower’s base where you can start climbing to the deck. From the observation deck, you’ll get an awe-inspiring 360-degree view of the city.
2. Get wonderfully lost at Bukchon Hanok Village
They don’t call Bukchon Hanok Village as one of the world’s most photogenic neighborhoods for nothing. Perfectly preserved and picturesque, this 600-year-old urban environment is made up of a ton of traditional wooden houses and small alleys that offer a glimpse of the past. While walking along the street, you’ll also find restaurants, art galleries, cafes and small courtyards.
3. Hike Bukhansan National Park
Want to get a break from all the noise and crowds? Why not include hiking in Bukhansan National Park to your list of things to do in Seoul? A relaxing mountainous oasis in a pulsating metropolis, this 30-square-mile park is home to miles of hiking trails, forest-laden valleys and steep granite peaks. Furthermore, the park has over 90 historic Buddhist temples as well as monk cells, making it a unique trail in Asia Pacific. A must-see historical figure here is the Bukhansanseong Fortress – an impressive Joseon stronghold.
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4. See Gyeongbokgung Palace
When it comes to attractions in Seoul, very few can rival the grandeur of the Gyeongbokgung Palace. Admired for its historical significance and ornate features, the Gyeongbokgung Palace impresses visitors with its lustrous grounds, magnificent architecture and important role in South Korea’s history. Here, you can easily spend an entire afternoon exploring the museums, exhibits and iconic spots inside the palace’s walls. Moreover, the palace has a changing of the guard ceremony, happening every hour from 10 AM to 4 PM, daily (except Tuesdays).
To add an extra element of fun to your visit, try wearing a gatekeeper costume at the palace. And the best part is, you can do it, without spending a cent.
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5. Swing by Lotte World
Traveling with your little ones? Don’t forget to include a visit to Lotte World to your list of things to do in Seoul. More than just a typical theme park, Lotte World is one humungous entertainment epicenter that guarantees fun and euphoria in epic proportions. Known as the world’s largest indoor theme park, Lotte World wows visitors with it sheer size, housing a vast shopping complex, a hotel and an outdoor amusement park. Plus, it also entertains budding adventurists and thrill-seekers alike, with child-friendly attractions like Lotty’s Kidstoria and high-octane roller coasters, such as Atlantic Adventure.
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6. Spend a day at Everland Resort
Speaking of kid-friendly things to do in Seoul, you might also want to visit South Korea’s answer to Disneyland – Everland. Housing 5 zones of unique attractions and rides, the largest outdoor theme park in South Korea has a plethora of diversions that promise to blow your mind, such as South Korea’s one and only safari and the steepest wooden roller coaster in the world.
7. Catch sight of Changdeokgung
Gyeongbokgung Palace might be the largest and most famous of the tourist attractions in Seoul. But, for some, Changdeokgung is the most beautiful one, making it a can’t-miss stopover on everyone’s list of things to do in Seoul. The way its building and palace blend seamlessly into the surrounding mountainous landscape makes it a dazzling architectural masterpiece, and has rightfully earned a spot on the revered UNESCO World Heritage List. Enjoy a leisurely stroll around the Huwon Secret garden – near the palace’s rear – to admire fabulous traditional Korea architecture as well as garden that has been barely touched, ever since its construction.
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8. Snap Instagram-worthy pictures at Common Ground
A visit to Common Ground – the city’s very own container park – is an absolute must for Instragram junkies looking for cool things to do in Seoul. Not only does it offer great and catchy hipster snaps, but it’s also technically a shopping mall with trendy boutiques and shops.
9. Relax at Cheonggyecheon stream
Looking for relaxing things to do in Seoul? Then, spend a few hours strolling along Cheonggyecheon stream, while cooling off under its bridges. At night, the visually appealing artificial stream transforms into an entertainment hub with mesmerizing water light shows and musicians. As far as I’m concerned, admiring this stream is truly one of the best FREE things to do in Seoul.
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10. Indulge on Seoul’s mouthwatering street food
Are you a bona fide foodie who’s on the lookout for tasty things to do in Seoul? Guess what? There’s no shortage of delectable street food in Seoul! As you explore the lively pathways in Seoul, make sure to please your palate with its irresistible street food, like the classic chicken skewers, seaweed rice rolls (kimbap), sweet pancakes (hotteok) and spicy rice cakes (tteokbokki).
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11. See Bonguensa Buddhist Temple
Set right at the heart of Korea’s buzzing metropolis, this enchanting temple will take your breath away with its serene atmosphere and beauty. Here, you’ll see how modern buildings blend perfectly with elaborate temples in this cosmopolitan city..
12. Get a guided tour in Jongmyo Shrine
No list of the best things to do in Seoul is complete without the inclusion of Jongmyo Shrine. After all, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and one of the world’s oldest and best-preserved Confucian royal shrines. Built in the 14th century, this shrine has guided tours that let you learn more about the history, ancestral rites and kings of the Joseon Dynasty.
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13. Chill out at Han River
Han River is, without a doubt, a great place to find outdoorsy things to do in Seoul. A local favorite in Seoul, it has plenty of activities in store for visitors, including biking, camping, cruising and taking a picnic. Plus, it hosts an annual impressive firework festival.
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14. Shop until your drop at Dongdaemun Market
Dongdaemun is unlike any market you’ve ever seen in Asia. Encompassing around 10 city blocks, it’s essentially a shopping mecca featuring more than 25,000 specialty shops, 20 malls and scores of wholesale outlets, meaning it is best the place to go shopping in Seoul, South Korea. Just get a map before your visit to Dongdaemun. With so many options available, there’s no possible way a first-time visitor can navigate this rather overwhelming, multi-street market without a little guidance.
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15. Explore Olympic Park
You don’t have to be an athlete or someone in tip-top shape to enjoy Olympic Park in Seoul. Remember, it’s a remarkable leisure facility where historic relics from the Baekja Era rub shoulders with spacious grassy fields, an eco-friendly forests and state-of-the-art stadiums. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the coolest things to do in Seoul for locals.
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16. Visit a museum for FREE
Searching for free things to do in Seoul, South Korea? Seoul has dozens of fascinating museums, and some of them can be visited for free. The most popular admission-free museums in Seoul include the National Museum, National Museum of Korean Contemporary History, National Folk Museum and Agricultural Museum. In summer, you can also visit the Seoul Museum of Art, for everyone’s favorite price of ZERO dollars. Since summers in Korea are hot and humid, museums in Seoul offer free entrance to let people cool off inside their halls.
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17. Bar hopping in Hongdae
Up for wild and crazy things to do in Seoul? Party like a rock star (or in this case a K-Pop star) in Hongdae. Known as a vibrant hub for Korean youth culture, this neighborhood lures young adults and college students with its propensity for all-around alternative ambiance and self-expression. To make things even better, Hongdae boasts a myriad of cafes, restaurants, shops, clubs and bars.
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18. Soak up the energy of Gangnam
Full of gleaming skyscrapers with gigantic projectors, Seoul’s beating heart overflows with life and energy. People come here to party at night, dine at amazing restaurants, and go on a shopping spree. Pulsating with energy, Gangnam is the part of the Korean capital that never sleeps.
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19. Spend at least an hour at Seoullo
Set next to the Seoul station, Seoullo is a wondrous rooftop sky garden with a foot pool, and home to 24,000 different plant species in Korea. As an added bonus, it boasts striking views of Seoul, especially before sunset when the gorgeous amber skies cast a warm glow over the city. Even though it’s not usually mentioned in travel blogs, it’s nonetheless one of the favorite things to do in Seoul for locals.
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20. Hunt for souvenirs and bargains at Insadong
Lined with shops, galleries and booths, exploring Insadong is by far one of the top things to do in Seoul for souvenir hunters. From calligraphy supplies to herbal teas and hanbok, you’ll find tons of great finds and souvenirs in this quaint centrally-located Seoul neighborhood.
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21. Visit Seoul’s abandoned theme park
Craving for offbeat things to do in Seoul? Channel your inner K-drama or K-pop star by going on a pictorial on the abandoned amusement park of Seoul – Yongma Land. Over the years, this non-functional theme park has become quite popular among locals since it has been featured in a number of photo shoots, movies as well as music videos, such as Crayon Pop.
22. See South Korea’s tallest building
Standing proudly at 1,819 feet, the Lotte World Tower is currently South Korea’s tallest building, and the world’s 5th tallest building. Opened officially on April 3, 2017, this super tall skyscraper is the newest addition to Seoul’s skyline, and a must-see sight, when visiting the city. You may look at the sky-scraping man-made marvel in awe, or shop at the mall on the building’s lower levels.
23. Learn more about one of Korea’s favorite spicy dishes
Spice up your life with a visit to the Kimchi Field Museum! As the name suggests, the museums specializes with everything and anything to do with the spicy national side dish of Korea. The most entertaining part of the museum is the hands-on session where you’ll get to learn how to make Kimchi yourself.
24. Visit Trickeye Museum
Want to your trick your buddies into thinking that you were at the giant crocodile’s jaws? The Trickeye Museum is a bizarrely wonderful gallery combining art with 2D or 3D illusions and “Augmented Reality”. Unlike your quintessential art galleries, you can interact with the exhibits and paintings, thanks to the newly-made “Trickeye Camera” application.
Even better, you can also visit the Ice Museum, and be amazed its collection of items made of ice, like an ice slope, ice kitchen and an ice television set. And, don’t worry about the cost, as you can visit both the Ice Museum and Trickeye Museum with one admission ticket. Awesome, right?
25. Be amused by the themed cafes in Seoul
Seoul has a wide array of intriguing and unique themed cafes, including Sheep Café, Doll Café, Poop Café, Raccoon Café, Dog Café and Cat Café. For Hello Kitty fanatics, you may also visit the delightful Hello Kitty Café, adorned wonderfully with pink decorations and kitty faces. My favorite café in Seoul, though, is the Sanmotoonge Café. Even though it’s not easy to find, you’ll be rewarded with great views of the Seoul Fortress Wall as well as the mountains that overlook the city.
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