Things to do in Seoul

Seoul attractions include historic temples and palaces, with some natural and cultural highlights. Preferred seasons for sightseeing in Seoul are spring and autumn with comfortable temperatures and blue skies. But in winter it's covered in snow and can be quite beautiful but cold. Heat and humidity in summer can be uncomfortable.

Seoul is home to three UNESCO-listed sites, as well as numerous other cultural treasures and some fun entertainment hubs. The UNESCO World Heritage Sites are Changdeokgung Palace Complex, Jongmyo Shrine, and the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty. The Gyeongbokgung Palace, built in 1395, is home to the National Folk Museum, as well as other sites of interest, is a great Seoul attraction.

The Namsangol Hanok Village is also a good stop, featuring traditional Korean homes from the Joseon Dynasty. The Bongeunsa, a Buddhist temple founded in 794 AD, is one of a number of temples that offer temple stay programmes for visitors, allowing foreigners to gain insight into the way of life and the faith of the resident monks.

For a break from highbrow cultural sightseeing, visitors can ride the Namsan Cable Car to the summit of the mountain to see the maritime aquarium and botanical gardens, or visit Lotte World, the largest indoor theme park in the world and one of the most exciting Seoul attractions.

There are lovely antique shops and art galleries to be browsed in the Insa-dong alleyways and other fun shopping districts, and the Galbi restaurants are a recreational must with their expertly cooked Korean ribs.

The service is amazingly friendly and helpful in Seoul and there are support structures in place for confused tourists: cheerful operators at the 120 Dasan Center provide answers to any question you might have for free, 24-hours a day, in Korean, English, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Mongolian. The number is 02 120.

Gyeongbokgung photo

Gyeongbokgung

The jewel of Seoul's five historic palaces, Gyeongbokgung was built in 1395 by Lee Seong-Gye. Founder of the Joseon Dynasty, he established the city as the capital of Korea. The ma…

Gyeongbokgung

The jewel of Seoul's five historic palaces, Gyeongbokgung was built in 1395 by Lee Seong-Gye. Founder of the Joseon Dynasty, he established the city as the capital of Korea. The magnificent rectangular palace now contains the National Museum of Korea and National Folk Museum of Korea, featuring royal apartments and staterooms, gardens, and elegant lotus ponds.

The pavilion features on the 10,000 South Korean won note. The palace is in a process of continual restoration as new archaeological treasures are uncovered and restored to their former glory. This historic palace complex consistently ranks as one of the best loved tourist attractions in Seoul.

Address 1 Sejong-no, Jongno-gu

Website www.royalpalace.go.kr

Transport

Five-minute walk from exit 5 of Gyeongbokgung station (Seoul Subway Line 3)

Opens The palace's operating hours are generally 9am to 6pm but these times can change depending on the season. Check website for details.

Admission

KRW 3,000 for adults (19-64) and children (7-18) KRW 1,500. Children 6 and under, and people over 65, are free.

Korean DMZ photo

Korean DMZ

The Korean Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) is a roughly two mile (4km) stretch of demilitarised land that divides the Korean peninsula in two. The DMZ was established in 1953 at the end o…

Korean DMZ

The Korean Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) is a roughly two mile (4km) stretch of demilitarised land that divides the Korean peninsula in two. The DMZ was established in 1953 at the end of the Korean War, remaining not only as one of the most heavily-armed and guarded territories on the planet but also as the last surviving relic of the Cold War.

Daytrips which leave from downtown Seoul include guided tours of North Korean infiltration tunnels and the site of negotiations between the warring countries called the Joint Security Area (Panmunjeon).

Upon entry, visitors are required to put their signature on an indemnity form acknowledging that they are entering a hostile area, where they face 'the possibility of injury or death as a direct result of enemy action'.

Another interesting aspect of the DMZ is that, due to the total absence of development in the area for nearly 65 years, the wider area has become the site of what must be the world's most unlikely wildlife sanctuary.

An area of serene and unspoiled beauty, the sanctuary is home to several rare and endangered species, such as Asiatic black bears, Siberian tigers, Amur leopards, and beautiful migratory birds. There are some hotels and hostels in the area for those who want more than just a tour.

Address Korean peninsula region

Website english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_ENG_2_2_2.jsp

Transport

Since tours of the DMZ are strictly by reservation only, visitors will need to engage the services of a tour company to visit the site.

Opens The DMZ is closed on Mondays and Korean national holidays

Lotte World photo

Lotte World

Fun and thrills are the order of the day at Seoul's main theme park, drawing about six million annual visitors. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Lotte World is the

Lotte World

Fun and thrills are the order of the day at Seoul's main theme park, drawing about six million annual visitors. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Lotte World is the largest indoor theme park in the world.

The park is divided into an indoor and outdoor section. Inside, Adventure Land covers acres of streets representing different countries filled with hundreds of activities, entertainment activities, shops, restaurants, and ongoing parades.

Outdoors, Magic Island offers thrilling high-altitude rides, laser shows, and pleasant walking trails around a lake, all set in the shadow of a fairytale castle. There is also an indoor ice rink and a fascinating Folk Museum, complete with miniature villages.

Address 240 Olympic-ro, Songpa-gu

Website www.lotteworld.com/gate.asp

Transport

Jamsil Subway Station (Line 2 and 8). Take exit 4 directly to Lotte World

Opens Operating hours are 9.30am to 10pm.

Admission

General admission: KRW 36,000 for adults; Children (3-12) KRW 29,000

Insadong photo

Insadong

No visit to Seoul is complete without exploring the capital's heart and artistic soul. Known colloquially as Mary's Alley, the alleyways of the Insa-dong District contain antique s…

Insadong

No visit to Seoul is complete without exploring the capital's heart and artistic soul. Known colloquially as Mary's Alley, the alleyways of the Insa-dong District contain antique shops and countless art galleries that delight collectors and casual browsers alike.

From ancient Chinese pottery to yellowed books and delicate jewellery, most visitors manage to find a treasured souvenir or special gift among the quaint stores. There are plenty of restaurants, taverns, and traditional teahouses in the area too, ensuring shoppers stay refreshed while seeking out treasures.

Address Insadong Junction, Jongro-gu

Website english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SH/SH_EN_7_2_2_1.jsp

Transport

Subway to Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line No.3)

Namsan Park photo

Namsan Park

Namsan is the mountain that stands as a sentinel in the centre of Seoul, proving to be a popular recreational feature in the city. The route through to the top is not extremely hig

Namsan Park

Namsan is the mountain that stands as a sentinel in the centre of Seoul, proving to be a popular recreational feature in the city. The route through to the top is not extremely high and hiking through the park isn't too challenging.

A cable car and stairway take visitors to the summit, where there are several attractions such as the Maritime Aquarium, botanical gardens, and fountains. Seoul Tower, at 1,575ft (480m), offers a fantastic view of the city and surrounds, as does its revolving restaurant.

Also set within the park, the Namsangol Hanok Village centres on five restored historical Korean homes. Depicting the environments of various social classes from the Joseon Dynasty, the village is a time capsule with a peaceful pond and pavilion set in the midst of the city.

Visitors can not only explore the houses, but also enjoy traditional tea, shop for souvenirs, browse traditional crafts, or try their hand at ancient games like neolttwigi (jumping on a see-saw) or arrow throwing. On weekends in summer, traditional wedding ceremonies are held at midday.

Address 100-177 Hoehyeon-dong 1-ga Jung-gu

Website www.nseoultower.co.kr/eng/index.asp

Transport

A 10-minute walk in the direction of Lila Elementary School from Myeong-dong Station on Seoul Subway Line 4 (Exit 2 or 3)

Opens The park's operating hours are generally 10am to 11pm but these times can change depending on the season and weather conditions. Check website for details.

Admission

Admission varies depending on attraction

Incheon photo

Incheon

Hop on a bus and visit Incheon, a major Korean port city on the West Sea. About an hour from Seoul, the surrounding irregular coastline and mountainous inland terrain provide a pop…

Incheon

Hop on a bus and visit Incheon, a major Korean port city on the West Sea. About an hour from Seoul, the surrounding irregular coastline and mountainous inland terrain provide a popular outdoor playground. While Incheon is home to an international airport, this doesn't stop it from being a charming little city surround by rice fields.

Since the days of the Joseon Dynasty, the city has been famed for its therapeutic hot springs and the downtown hotels all operate public bath facilities and swimming pools. Visitors bathe in the spa waters, hoping to enjoy relief from skin ailments, eye problems, neuralgia, and gynaecological disease. In the Incheon Ceramics Village, there are hundreds of studios and shops with kilns producing traditional porcelain.

Transport

Buses depart for Incheon from Dongseoul Express Bus Terminal and from Gangnam Express Bus Terminal.

Changdeokgung photo

Changdeokgung

One of the Five Grand Palaces built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty, Changdeokgung is set within a large park in Jongno-gu and the whole complex has been included on the UNESCO …

Changdeokgung

One of the Five Grand Palaces built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty, Changdeokgung is set within a large park in Jongno-gu and the whole complex has been included on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Located east of Gyeongbok, Changdeokgung is also referred to as the East Palace.

It was the favoured palace of many kings of the Joseon Dynasty and in accordance with the Three Kingdoms of Korea period, its buildings blend harmoniously with the natural landscape. At least 600-years-old, this historic site is one of Seoul's touristic gems. The colourful and intricate architecture is set in expansive gardens, a peaceful green place which is ideal for a meditative stroll.

Address Jongno-gu

Website eng.cdg.go.kr/main/main.htm

Transport

Subway line 3, Anguk Station, Exit 3. Subway lines 1, 3 or 5, Jongno 3-ga Station, Exit 6.

Opens The Palace's operating hours are generally 9am to 6pm but these times can change depending on the season. Check website for details.

Admission

KRW 3,000 for adults and children (7-18) KRW 1,500. Children under 7 are free.

Jogyesa photo

Jogyesa

Jogyesa serves as the primary temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. First established in 1395, Jogyesa is located in the district of Jongno-gu in central Seoul. In 1998, Jo…

Jogyesa

Jogyesa serves as the primary temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. First established in 1395, Jogyesa is located in the district of Jongno-gu in central Seoul. In 1998, Jogyesa made international news when several monks occupied the temple for more than 40 days in a power struggle between factions of the Jogye Order.

A highlight of this attraction is a lacebark pine, an ancient white tree within its grounds said to be around 500 years old. The principles of Buddhism have been taught at this temple for more than a century and visitors keen to interact with the monks and learn something about their faith can join one of the temple's teaching programmes.

Address Gyeonji-dong, Jongno-gu.

Website www.jogyesa.org

Jongmyo Shrine photo

Jongmyo Shrine

Jongmyo Shrine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and celebrated as one of Korea's foremost cultural treasures. Built in 1394, it's the oldest Confucian shine in the world and often h…

Jongmyo Shrine

Jongmyo Shrine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and celebrated as one of Korea's foremost cultural treasures. Built in 1394, it's the oldest Confucian shine in the world and often holds ceremonies, rituals, and traditional dance performances. Jongmyo is the official shrine of Korea's Joseon Dynasty, with it serving as the chief place of worship for the royalty of this line.

The shrine is made up of a number of halls as well as a small cloister, with its interior, roofs, and ceilings exquisitely painted and decorated. Jongmyo is the term used for a place where memorial services are performed and it's therefore unsurprising that the shrine is home to more than 40 memorial tablets of past kings and queens of Korea. Tourists visiting Seoul will find that Jongmyo is situated within walking distance of the Changdoekgang Palace and the two attractions can be conveniently combined while sightseeing.

Address 157 Jong-ro, Jongno-gu

Website english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264351

Transport

Take subway lines 1, 3 or 5 to Jongno-3-ga subway station.

Opens The Shrine's operating hours are generally 9am to 6pm but these times can change depending on the season. Check website for details.

Admission

KRW 1,000 for adults and children (7-18) KRW 500. Children 6 and under, and people over 65, are free.

Hwaseong Fortress photo

Hwaseong Fortress

Hwaseong Fortress is yet another of South Korea's UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The fortress is situated in Suwon, south of Seoul central but still within the greater Seoul area. Hw…

Hwaseong Fortress

Hwaseong Fortress is yet another of South Korea's UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The fortress is situated in Suwon, south of Seoul central but still within the greater Seoul area. Hwaseong Fortress was completed in 1796 in order to protect the capital from Japanese invasions.

The three-and-a-half-mile (5.7km) fortress wall weaves in and out of the modern buildings and roads of Suwon. Visitors to Suwon can climb parts of the fortress wall and marvel at the intricate and often colourful architecture that makes this extraordinary stone edifice blend in to its surroundings in a typically Korean, harmonious fashion.

The Hwaseong fortress includes 41 watchtowers, the Great South Gate, Paldalmun, and Seobuk Gongsimdon. There are also some traditional teahouses in the vicinity of the most popular sections of the wall where visitors can stop for a refreshing cup of iced tea.

Address 910, Jeongjo-ro, Paldal-gu, Suwon-si, Gyeonggi-do

Website whc.unesco.org/en/list/817

Transport

Take Seoul Subway line 5 to the Suwon station.

Opens Operating hours in the summer season are 9am to 6pm and in the winter season 9am to 5pm

Admission

General Admission: Adults KRW 1,000; Teenagers KRW 700; Children KRW 500

Everland photo

Everland

Everland is South Korea's version of Disney Land. This massive amusement park is situated on the outskirts of Seoul and is the perfect daytrip for visitors travelling with kids. Ev

Everland

Everland is South Korea's version of Disney Land. This massive amusement park is situated on the outskirts of Seoul and is the perfect daytrip for visitors travelling with kids. Everland has a selection of rides ranging from heart stopping to sedate.

The amusement park hosts a variety of restaurants, a safari section, and a snow sledding area for winter visitors. There is also a fantastic water park called Caribbean Bay, a racing track, a golf course, and flower display gardens, as well as a twice-daily procession of cartoon characters and trapeze artists through the park.

Address 199 Everland-ro, Pogog-eup, Cheoin-gu, Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do

Website www.everland.com

Transport

Take bus number 6000 to Yongin from Suwon Station, there is a free shuttle bus from Yongin to Everland.

Opens Operating hours are 10am to 10pm

Admission

General Admission: Adults KRW 56,000; Children KRW 44,000

Galbi Restaurants photo

Galbi Restaurants

A quintessential Korean pastime and a good everyday option for budget-conscious travellers, galbi restaurants are immensely popular places which are full every night of the week wi

Galbi Restaurants

A quintessential Korean pastime and a good everyday option for budget-conscious travellers, galbi restaurants are immensely popular places which are full every night of the week with locals, expatriate workers in Korea, and tourists.

The basic concept of galbi is simple: patrons sit around a private barbecue grill and order portions of raw, succulent pork, which they then cook themselves at their own leisure. Of course, over the course of the evening, the waiter will bring a seemingly unending selection of complimentary side dishes (banchan) to the table, including the ubiquitous national dish kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage), a variety of jjigaes (soups), pajeon (pancakes), bean sprout salad (kongnamul), spicy soy bean paste (doenjang) and more.

Over and above the culinary experience of eating in a galbi restaurant, tourists will love the laidback atmosphere and unique social dynamic of cooking food with friends in a restaurant setting. Alternatively, solo travellers or newly-arrived expats will find that galbi restaurants are the perfect places to meet people and establish new friendships. Alcohol (usually consisting of soju or maekju, a type of beer) is always served at these establishments and is generally quite cheap.


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Itaewon photo

Itaewon

Without doubt the most popular area of Seoul for foreign visitors, the gritty neighbourhood of Itaewon is one of Korea's coolest and most cosmopolitan urban enclaves. Located near …

Itaewon

Without doubt the most popular area of Seoul for foreign visitors, the gritty neighbourhood of Itaewon is one of Korea's coolest and most cosmopolitan urban enclaves. Located near the US army base in Seoul, Itaewon is full of great bars, restaurants, clubs, and shops.

Shopping in Itaewon is a unique experience, selling anything from fine tailored suits to cheap plastic jewellery and extremely rare vintage records to American football jerseys. The area is also celebrated for its wide range of restaurants. Aside from fast food joints and galbi restaurants, people can tuck into French cuisine, fine Indian and Pakistani curries, and thick steaks and racks of barbecue ribs.

As wonderful as Itaewon is during the day, it comes alive at night. Travellers will find an inexhaustible selection of clubs, bars, discos, karaoke rooms, and live music venues. Some of these are very upmarket and feature international DJs, while others are pretty seedy. An exciting and edgy neighbourhood, Itaewon is the perfect base for young visitors looking for an unforgettable big city experience in Seoul.

Address Yongsan-gu, Seoul

Website english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SH/SH_EN_7_2_6_1.jsp

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