Must Do Things In Seoul
Seoul – the capital of South Korea – is a fascinating city with a unique history and culture, and it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Home to over 10 million people and situated on the Han River, Seoul is the epicenter of South Korea’s booming economy and its thriving culture. From its ancient palaces to its modern skyscrapers, Seoul is a living museum of East Asian culture and history, with plenty to offer for both local and international visitors.
Seoul is a city that has experienced rapid expansion and development over the last few decades, from its bustling nightlife scene to its world-renowned shopping districts. It is known for its modern infrastructure and technological advancements, but it is also home to a variety of historical sites, such as the Gyeongbokgung Palace, Bukchon Hanok Village, Changdeokgung Palace, and more. Visitors can explore ancient temples and tombs, visit traditional markets and art galleries, or take in the stunning views of the city from Namsan Tower.
Whether you are visiting Seoul for the first time or are a returning visitor looking for something new, there are plenty of must-do things to explore in this stunning city. From iconic attractions to hidden gems, here are some of the top things to do in Seoul:
Explore Ancient Palaces
No trip to Seoul would be complete without exploring its magnificent palaces. Built during the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910), the five grand palaces of Seoul—Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, Deoksugung, and Jongmyo—are some of the most popular attractions in the city. These Unesco World Heritage Sites are known for their ornate architecture and lush gardens, and visitors can explore them with audio guides or guided tours.
The Gyeongbokgung Palace is especially impressive, and it is considered to be the grandest of Seoul’s five palaces. It was built in 1395 and served as the main royal residence until it was destroyed by Japanese forces in 1592. Visitors can explore the palace grounds, visit the National Folk Museum of Korea, or take part in one of the changing of the guard ceremonies that take place three times a day.
Shop “til You Drop
Shopping is a must-do for any visit to Seoul, and there are plenty of places to explore. The Myeongdong shopping district is one of the most popular spots in the city, and it is known for its many stores and boutiques selling international and local brands. From luxury designer items to trendy streetwear and cosmetics, Myeongdong has something for everyone. The area is also home to a variety of cafes, restaurants, and street food stalls where visitors can take a break from shopping and grab a bite to eat.
For those looking for more traditional markets, Namdaemun Market is a great option. Located near the Namdaemun Gate—Korea’s National Treasure No. 1—this bustling market offers everything from fresh produce to traditional Korean handicrafts and souvenirs. It is also home to many street food stalls serving up tasty dishes such as tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) and odeng (fish cakes).
Visit Historical Sites
Seoul is home to many historical sites that offer insight into the city’s past. The Bukchon Hanok Village is a great place to start exploring the city’s historical side. Located in the heart of the city between Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace, this traditional village is home to hundreds of traditional Korean “hanok” homes that have been preserved since the Joseon Dynasty. Visitors can explore the village by foot or take part in one of the guided tours offered by local experts.
The Namsangol Hanok Village is another great option for those looking to explore more traditional aspects of Korean culture. This recreated village showcases five traditional hanok homes that have been carefully restored to their original state, along with a pavilion, pond, time capsule plaza, and traditional garden. There are also regular performances of traditional Korean music and dance at this attraction.
Seoul is home to many world-class museums that offer visitors an insight into Korean culture and history. The National Museum of Korea is one of the most popular museums in the city and houses over 220,000 artifacts from prehistoric times to modern day. Its permanent exhibitions include ancient artifacts from Korea’s Three Kingdoms period (57 BC–668 AD) as well as paintings from the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910).
The War Memorial of Korea is another popular museum that offers visitors an insight into Korea’s turbulent past. This museum was built to commemorate those who lost their lives during the Korean War (1950–53) and it houses a variety of artifacts from this period as well as interactive displays and multimedia presentations.
Seoul’s nightlife scene is vibrant and diverse with something for everyone. The Hongdae area in particular is known for its lively clubs, bars, live music venues, and street performances. The area has a buzzing atmosphere with plenty of entertainment options such as karaoke bars, dance clubs, comedy clubs, live music venues, and more.
Itaewon is another great spot for nightlife in Seoul as it offers an eclectic mix of bars, restaurants, cafes, clubs, pubs, and more. This area is known for its international vibe as it attracts locals as well as tourists from all over the world. Itaewon also offers plenty of entertainment options such as live music venues, comedy clubs, billiards bars, and more.
Explore Namsan Tower
Namsan Tower—also known as N Seoul Tower—is an iconic landmark located on top of Namsan Mountain in central Seoul. Built in 1969 as a communication tower and TV broadcasting station, Namsan Tower now serves as an observation deck offering stunning views of Seoul’s skyline. Visitors can take the cable car up to the tower or climb up via one of the trails on Namsan Mountain. At the top, visitors can take in 360-degree views of the city from the observation deck or enjoy a bite to eat at one of the restaurants located inside the tower.
Experience Traditional Culture
For those looking to experience more traditional aspects of Korean culture, there are plenty of options in Seoul. Insadong is one such area that offers visitors a glimpse into traditional Korean culture through its many shops selling traditional crafts such as pottery and hand-painted fans as well as its many art galleries, tea houses, restaurants, and street food stalls serving up authentic Korean fare.
The Bukchon Hanok Village is also home to several cultural centers where visitors can experience traditional Korean culture firsthand. The Han Bang Cultural Center offers traditional tea ceremonies with demonstrations on tea drinking etiquette while the Cheonjamun Culture House offers interactive classes in calligraphy, folk painting, pottery, paper folding, weaving, cooking, and more.
Take a Tour
For those looking to get an in-depth look at Seoul’s history and culture, taking a tour is a great option. One popular tour is the Half-Day Walking Tour which takes visitors through some of Seoul’s most popular attractions such as Gyeongbokgung Palace and Bukchon Hanok Village while providing historical context along the way. This four-hour tour also includes plenty of photo ops at iconic landmarks such as Namsan Tower and Tapgol Park while offering insight into Korean culture through visits to traditional markets and temples.
Another popular tour option is the Private Half-Day Cultural Tour, which takes visitors on an intimate exploration of Seoul’s culture through visits to temples, palaces, museums and art galleries while providing historical context along the way. This four-hour private tour includes visits to some of Seoul’s most iconic attractions such as Changdeokgung Palace and Gyeongbokgung Palace as well as a visit to Insadong for an authentic Korean tea ceremony experience.
Book an Activity on GetYourGuide
For those looking for even more activities during their visit to Seoul, booking an activity on GetYourGuide can be an easy way to explore some of the city’s unique attractions. One popular activity on GetYourGuide is Korea Food Tour, which takes visitors on a culinary exploration of Seoul’s best restaurants while providing insight into Korean cuisine through tastings at locally-loved eateries such as Gwangjang Market and Chungmuro Station. This four-hour tour includes tastings of authentic dishes such as kimchi pancakes, mandu dumplings, japchae noodles and more while providing an immersive look into South Korea’s food culture.
Another popular activity on GetYourGuide is Half-Day City Tour, which takes visitors on an exploration of Seoul’s iconic attractions such as Gyeongbokgung Palace and Bukchon Hanok Village while providing historical context along the way. This four-hour tour includes plenty of photo ops at landmarks like N Seoul Tower and Namsan Park while offering insight into Korean culture through visits to traditional markets and temples in central Seoul.
At the end of your trip to Seoul you will come away with a deep appreciation for this vibrant city full of culture, history, and modernity all at once. From its ancient palaces to its bustling nightlife scene, there are plenty of must-do things to explore in this fascinating city – whether you are looking for modern attractions or traditional experiences – that will make your trip unforgettable!