Seoul, South Korea, is a huge city with many things to do.
An immediate glance and you’ll probably notice that shopping and dining are two of Seoul’s most prominent features.
But after a little more research and wandering around, you’ll notice that there’s a rich history (Seoul has been a settlement for over 2,000 years), mountains and parks, countless neighborhoods and a fascinating Korean culture.
The list of top things to do in Seoul could go on and on, that’s why I thought instead of trying to tackle every attraction the city has to offer, I’d just cover 25 of the most amazing things I think there are to do in this entertaining and delicious city!
Let’s get started…
1. Gyeongbokgung Palace
One of Seoul’s most renowned historical attractions and most visited sites in the city is the Gyeongbokgung Palace. It was one of the main palaces during the Korean Joseon Dynasty, originally constructed at the very end of the 14th century. Unfortunately, the palace was destroyed during the Japanese invasion in the 1500’s, but it was rebuilt and remodeled some 200 years ago.
The palace grounds are HUGE – it’s like a park in and of itself. You can browse through all sorts of interesting building and also check out the gardens. My favorite place in the Gyeongbokgung Palace was the courtyard filled with all the clay pots used to store fermented chili pastes and kimchi!
Located in central Seoul, very close to touristy areas like Insadong, the palace is very easy to get to.
Entrance: 3,000 Won
Hours: 9 am – 6 pm
How to get there: Take the Subway to Gyeongbokgung Station and Exit #5
2. Bukchon Hanok Village
Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul, located adjacent to the Gyeongbukgung Palace, is one of the most interesting things to do in Seoul. Exploring the streets and checking out the Korean traditional homes was a lot fun. Within the village there are also a few homes that have opened their doors as guest houses – not the cheapest, but looked like a great experience.
After getting a map at the tourist information center within the village, I followed the main walking route, stopping at a series of viewpoints. In the main areas of the village there are nice little restaurants and boutique shops. I had a great time walking around the antique village while sampling Korean touristy street food.
Hours: I’d go anywhere from 10 am until about 6 pm
How to get there: You can either walk from the palace or take the subway to Anguk Staion and Exit #1 or #2 – then walk 5 minutes north.
3. Jogyesa Buddhist Temple
Located in the middle of Seoul’s business high rise buildings district is the Jogyesa Korean Buddhist temple. It’s almost always buzzing with locals and tourists streaming in and out. The temple is a Zen Buddhist temple, though it reminded me of the Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple in Colombo.
Undoubtedly, one of the coolest things about visiting the temple was the ancient trees on the compound – apparently over 500 years old. Strung up on the trees were banners and paper steamers made from brightly colored paper. It was a pretty cool site to see!
Entrance : Free
Hours: Open around the clock
How to get there: Get off the subway at Jonggak Station and Exit #2
4. Suwon’s Hwaseong Fortress
About an hour and a half from Seoul, Suwon’s Hwaseong Fortress makes a great day trip. Built in the 18th century, the Korean castle is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of South Korea’s most important historical sites.
When I went, I saw nearly the entire fortess, and it took me about 2.5 hours once I was there. If you want to see the entire palace, the walls and gates and the fortress museum, it will likely take 3 – 4 hours to see everything. I’d highly recommend the Hwaseong Fortess if you have a day to spare on your trip to South Korea.
Entrance : 1,500 Won ($1.32) for palace and 1,000 Won ($0.88) for fortress walls, Package ticket is 3,500 Won ($3.07) and includes both options plus museum ticket
Hours: Open 9 am – 6 pm
How to Get There: You can actually take the Seoul Subway to Suwon station and Exit #5. Then you have to get in a local bus #11, #13, #36, or #39 and take it for about 10 minutes to the gates of the fortress.
5. War Memorial and Museum
I wasn’t actually even planning to visit, but the War Memorial and Museum turned out to be one of the pretty cool things to do in Seoul. At the entrance there’s a number of statues and memorials in remembrance of South Korea’s biggest wars. Inside the building are exhibits of tactics and weapon displays.
What I enjoyed most was the outdoor section that showcases a bunch of tanks, planes, helicopters, and giant missiles. You can even climb in and check out a number of the vehicles.
Entrance : Free
Hours: 9 am – 6 pm and closed on Monday
How to get there: Get off the subway at Samgakji Station and Exit #12
6. N Seoul Tower
Central Seoul revolves around the N Seoul Tower that sits at the top of the Namsan mountain. It is a communications tower that is open as an observation and entertainment tower as well. Going to the top offers the opportunity to get one of the best overall views of the city of Seoul, somewhat like the Menara KL Tower.
Many people who go to the N Seoul Tower take a cable car up the to the peak of the mountain and pay to go up to the top of the tower. It has also become famous to go to the tower and lock a padlock from the fence as a symbol of love – one of the most romantic things to do in Seoul!
Entrance : 8,000 Won
Hours: 10 am – 10:30 pm
How to get there: Walk from Myeongdong Station (more info here)
7. Myeongdong Shopping
Shopaholics will rejoice when they head to Myeongdong – it’s one of Seoul’s busiest and most shopper insane areas of town.
From the latest Korean cosmetics and fahion to the brightest neon colored sneakers, there’s all kinds of stores in this outdoor mall. Along with trendy expensive stuff, in the afternoon hours, street shopping stalls also set up shop. If shopping is not your thing, don’t worry, there’s a massive selection of restaurants, street food stalls, towering ice cream cones, and snacks everywhere you look.
As an area that swells to millions of shoppers and walkers daily, you’ll have a good time even if you just want to people watch! If you love to shop, spending time browsing through Myeongdong will be one of your favorite things to do in Seoull!
Hours: Many of the businesses are open from 11 am – 10 pm but things are most busy in the later afternoon and evening
How to get there: Take the Subway to Myeongdong Station
One of Seoul’s most touristy areas of town is known as Insadong. If you’re looking for Korean souvenirs to bring back, this is a great place, but kind of expensive place to buy things. There’s also plenty of food options, like delicious mandu, and lots of Korean street food snacks.
Form Insadong, it’s a breeze to walk to other places around Seoul such as the Gyeongbukgung Palace and the Bukchon Hanok village (mentioned above).
Tip: If you’re looking for a good South Korean food restaurant, go back into one of the alleyways off of Insadong a little ways – the prices are cheaper.
Hours: Open 10 am – 6 pm or so
How to get there: Take the subway to Anguk Station and Exit #6
9. Namdaemun Market
Located in the central area of Seoul is one of the city’s largest and oldest markets – the Namdaemun Market. This is Seoul in its most thrilling local flavor. There’s a downstairs section where you can get all kinds of imported things, including imported liqueur and things like Skippy peanut butter and GNC supplements.
When I went in the middle of the day, the market was hopping with tons of people (as usual) and you could buy all kinds of local Korean made necessities – clothing, some foods, electronics and so on. I bought a few bags of toasted seaweed to eat with rice and kimchi.
Hours: Open almost around the clock, but go during daytime hours, closed on Sunday
How to get there: Take the subway to Hoehyeon Station and Exit #5
Yet another wild Seoul shopping destination, Dongdaemun is not really a single market, but rather an entire area that is dedicated to shopping. It’s an entire commercial area where you can find just about everything imaginable for sale.
The thing about shopping in Seoul is that even though I’m not much of a shopper, there are still so many other things to do at shopping destinations besides shop. There’s always lots of food and interesting things to observe.
Hours: Basically around the clock you’ll be able to shop, including the night owl shopping center
How to get there: Get off the subway at Dongdaemun Station and Exit #8, #9