Top things to do in Seoul South Korea – Taking the world by storm with Kpop (Korean Pop Music), KFC (Korean Fried Chicken), K-Drama (Korean Drama), and so much more, South Korea is a major force to be reckoned with in Asia. Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is as much a hybrid city as if we were to combine Tokyo and Kyoto into one big metropolis. Massive, modern skyscrapers fill the skies in all the major districts, and yet a train ride away lies some of the most historic palaces in their history.
Whilst not as seasoned in visitors as its neighbour Japan, Seoul has risen considerably in tourist numbers over the past years as major musical and acting talent hailing from the popular country places it firmly on the map as one of the most popular cities to visit in Asia nowadays.
The top things to do in Seoul varies from year to year and from traveller to traveller, but rest assured, below we have listed some of the activities you simply cannot miss; they’re the classics, the best of the best, tried and true attractions that are fun, fabulous, and sometimes even free.
But before to start our list of the top things to do in Seoul, let me recommend you a place to stay in the capital of South Korea.
Where to Stay?
Guesthouse – K-Guesthouse Dongdaemun
K-Guesthouse Dongdaemun enjoys a convenient location that’s under 5-minutes walk away from exit 7 of Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Subway Station. The guesthouse offers modern rooms with air-conditioning, a fridge, and a flat-screen TV. It also offers complimentary continental breakfast daily at the communal kitchen.
Why Guests Love It: Clean and kind staff, location is very close to subway, the hotel allows early check-in, near local restaurants and shops.
Book here: K-Guesthouse Dongdaemun
If you are looking for more cheap accommodation in Seoul, make sure to read this blog post too: Hostels Seoul.
Hotel – Staz Hotel Myeongdong 1
Staz Hotel Myeongdong 1 is conveniently located near one of the major subway stations in Seoul, offering easy access to many popular tourist sites. It boasts a fitness centre and free Wi-Fi in all areas. The centre of Myeongdong is a 5-minute walk from the hotel.
Why Guests Love it: Staff were friendly, helpful and could speak English well, the place is clean and safe, the water pressure of the bathroom was great and hot water is readily available, there is a convenience store located on the first floor where you could get snacks, perfect spot for sightseeing.
Book here: Staz Hotel Myeongdong 1
Now that you know where to sleep, let’s start our selection of the top things to do in Seoul! 🙂
Top Things to do in Seoul #1 – Myeongdong Night Market
There is no other market as quintessentially Korean as the Myeongdong Night Market. Almost everyone who has been to Seoul has, at one point, visited the Myeongdong Night Market, and you could almost say it’s as cliché as the Eiffel Tower or the Harbour Bridge, but as a traveller wanting to experience the best of what a city has to offer, why wouldn’t you? Myeongdong Night Market is exactly as how they portray it in the dramas; bustles of locally set up stalls selling everything from leather bags to dried squid alongside rows and rows of stores selling almost every brand of one of South Korea’s most famous export: skincare and cosmetics!
Whilst you’re more likely to bump elbows with tourists here than locals, it’s still a fantastic way to spend a few hours trying authentic ‘tteokbokki’ (Korean rice cakes), Korean fried chicken, ‘gyeranbbang’ (Korean egg bread), and so much more.
Access: Take the Seoul Line No. 4 to Myeongdong Station, and use exit 6.
Opening hours: Hours vary from stall to stall, but the night market generally opens between 5:00pm – 10:00pm. Surrounding shops are generally opened from 10:00am.
Top Things to do in Seoul #2 – Hongdae Shopping Area
If you’re after some youth street culture, Hongdae Street is the best place to be. Located near the Hongik University, it is usually filled to the brim with exuberant youth performing live music and dance performances to an always enthusiastic and big crowd. Sometimes, even up-and-coming celebrities make their way to this street to hype up the crowd with their golden charm before they debut.
Apart from the local talent you’ll find in almost every corner, Hongdae is full of shops selling the latest and greatest in indie fashion, accessories, stationary, and arts. Because this is youth-centric area, prices are generally quite affordable as well. Hongdae is also home to some of the hippest and funkiest restaurants and bars, influenced by the streets and arts culture of the area, so you’ll have fun walking the paths, admiring the street art and shopping your way through.
On Saturdays from 2:00pm until 6:00pm, there is a weekly ‘Saturday Hongdae Free Market’, which is an event showcasing some of the crafty talents from Hongik University selling their handmade products. If you’re after some unique souvenirs and want to support local talents, this is the place to be. (Note: only operating from March to November).
Access: Take the Line 2 (Green Subway) to ‘Hongik University’, and use Exit 5 or 9.
Hours: 1:00pm – 10:00pm
Spot #3 – N-Seoul Tower
The N-Seoul Tower (also known as Namsan tower) is home to Seoul’s most talked about vantage point to view the amazing night skyline. The tower itself is full of activities for those wanting to get some romantic pictures (with the famous love locks trees and the heart-shaped chairs), try on a traditional Hangbok, eat some delicious Korean food, or become immersed in some Hallyu (this refers to the immensely popular wave of Korean entertainment including dramas and K-pop) galleries which showcase drama posters and albums signed by the actors and singers themselves. There are more activities to participate in, but most associate a small fee.
After exploring the tower, you can head up to level 5 for a pure 360 panoramic view of the city of Seoul at 479m elevation above sea level. There are multimedia projections from the tower at night and the view of Hangagang River is second to none. It’s absolutely stunning!
Access: From Myeongdong Station (on Line 4), head to exit 3, and take the ‘Namsan Sunhwan Shuttle Bus No. 5’. This will cost 1,200 won. Otherwise, you can head out of exit 3, walk 10 – 15 minutes following the street along the right side of the ‘Pacific Hotel’, and take the cable car up to the tower. For a round trip, this will cost Adults 8,500 won, and Children & Elderly 3,500 won. This is the more scenic route.
Hours (for the observatory): Sun – Fri: 10:00am to 11:00pm, Sat: 10:00am – 12:00am
Price (for the observatory): Adult: 10,000 won (9$), Children (3 to 12 years) & Elderly (65+): 8,000 won (7$)
Book here (40% Off): N-Seoul Tower
Top Things to do in Seoul #4 – Trick-Eye Museum
One of the things that many Asian countries seem to do really well is craft complex art at museums where visitors can take pictures and it appears to be other-dimensional. Commonly known as Trick-Eye Museums, there are many tricks of the trade used here by artists to make objects appear distorted in pictures and even defy gravity, with some of the more common examples being making a person look huge in a tiny room, or someone sitting on a floating chair, when it’s all really just tricks on the eyes (hence ‘Trick-Eye’).
Almost everyone can have fun at these museums. Whether you’re there with your partner, a group of friends, your family or your cousin’s cousin, this place is absolutely nuts. Seoul is home to one of the best Trick-Eye Museums in Asia, and it makes it so easy to spend a few hours (or even half a day) taking photos of you and Jet li drinking tea, you ripping up the Mona Lisa, or you falling off some logs into a river. This museum in particular even has a completely iced section where you can sit in frozen carriages and slides down icey slides. Some pictures turn out hilarious, and some pictures will even trick you after you take them, thinking how on earth did this turn out the way it did? Definitely worth a visit, and make sure your camera is fully charged!
Access: Take the Subway Line No. 2 (Green Line) to Hongik Station. Take exit 9, walk about 150m, and cross the traffic light towards SPAO towards Hongik University on the left. When you see Tonymoly, turn right at that corner, and head into the alley for around 100m until you reach the museum.
Hours: 9:00am – 9:00pm (last admission at 8:00pm)
Cost: Adults: 15,000 won, Children (under 18): 12,000 won
Book here (30% Off): Trick-Eye Museum
Top Things to do in Seoul #5 – Gyeongbokgung Palace
Gyeongbokgung, meaning ‘Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven’, is one of the most historical palaces in Korean history, having believed to have been built in 1395, just after the beginning of the Joseon Dynasty ruling. It remained as the main royal palace for the remainder of the ruling, and is one of the grandest structures of Seoul in present day. It was unfortunately destroyed during a slave rebellion during 1592, but was reconstructed to its new glory in 1867, and was a humongous structure made of 5,792 rooms, taking up 410,000 square meters. Today, only approximately 40% of the (second) original palace still exists. There is a Changing of the Guard ceremony that takes place at the top of every hour from 11:00am to 3:00pm that is a treat to watch.
This is a great place within the heart of the city where you are able to learn more about the city’s rich history. There are even free tours provided by the palace information centre that you can participate in. For English tours, there are 3 time slots to choose from: 11:00am, 1:30pm, 3:30pm. They all start in front of the Gyeongbokgung Palace Information Centre inside the Heungnyemun Gate, and last 90 minutes. (Note: groups of 10 or more need to make a reservation).
For those who want some classic memorabilia pictures, you can even dress up in a traditional hangbok whilst walking around the palace grounds, giving you the absolute immersive experience.
Address: 161, Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Access: Take the Subway Line 3 to Gyeongbokgung Palace Station, and use Exit 5.
Hours: (Note: closed on Tuesdays)
- January through February 9:00am to 5:00pm (Final admission at 16:00)
- March through May 9:00am to 6:00pm (Final admission at 17:00)
- June through August 9:00am to 6:30pm (Final admission at 17:30)
- September through October 9:00am to 6:00pm (Final admission at 17:00)
- November through December 9:00am to 5:00pm (Final admission at 16:00)
Cost: Adults (19 – 64): 3,000 won (3$), Children (7 to 18): 1,500 won (1.5$)
Spot #6 – Lotte World
Lotte World, astoundingly known as the largest indoor theme park in the world, deserves an entire day dedicated to it. Don’t be put off by the fact that it is indoors, because It is impressive in size, rides, and entertainment, and it does host an outdoor section called the ‘Magic Island’ which is connected to the indoor area by monorail. It even operates rollercoasters! Because of its indoor layout, unlike many other amusement parks which separate their rides off by ‘worlds’ per se, Lotte World rather separates its attractions via levels that represent different countries with various types of facilities and cuisines, which are accessible through escalators located throughout the complex.
There are attractions aimed more at younger children, some that cater to families, and of course, the more thrilling rides for the adrenalin junkies. Crowd favourites including carousels and bumper cars are also on hand for those who want the classic amusement park experience. Unlike other theme parks, however, Lotte World also hosts a Folk Museum that is tremendously popular, displaying folk cultural items from 5000 years ago in Korean history. There are AV devices to listen to descriptions, and the layout is very easy to follow and understand, making it an enjoyable experience for both children and adults alike.
Address: 240, Olympic-ro, Songpa-gu, Seoul
Access: Take the Line 2 to Jamsil Station. Use Exit 4 and then follow the crowd (or the signs to Lotte World, either works).
Hours: Mon to Thurs: 9:30am to 10:00pm, Fri to Sun: 9:30am – 11:00pm
Cost: Adults: 52,000 won (48$), Teens: 45,000 won (41$), Children: 41,000 won (38$)
Book here (40% Off): Lotte World
Top Things to do in Seoul #7 – Visit Apgujeong in Gangnam
Most people would remember the global takeover that ‘Gangnam Style’ by Korean artist Psy achieved in 2012. The song took the world by storm, and hordes of people trawled the internet to find out what this ‘Gangnam’ is that has so much style. The film clip itself was an over-the-top allegory of the affluent suburb of Gangnam, located in Seoul, where the residents are perceived to drip in riches and class. Whilst the suburb itself is far, far from how it is portrayed in the video clip, the song has set the bar for Gangnam to be one of the most visited areas in Seoul from people around the world.
One of the best areas to get a taste of Gangnam is in Apgujeong Rodeo Street. Even before the international spotlight on Gangnam, Apgujeong was a leading, trendy area, known as a unique and cultural hub with strong focus on modern and chic fashion. Whilst in the past it would be there that you’d expect to spot people dressed in luxurious clothing and foreign cars, nowadays, it is a mix of youth culture, cutting edge fashion, and high-end boutiques. Galleria Department is the most popular shopping department stores in the main area of Apgujeong Rodeo Street where people can shop for international famous brands such as Prada, Bally, Ferragamo and Gucci. Many tourists also head to Apgujeong to try their chance at spotting Korean celebrities, as it is known that they like to shop in that area.
Address: Apgujeong-ro South 35-gil, Seolleung-ro West 14-gil
Access: Take the Subway Line 3 to Apgujeong Station. Use Exit 2, then flip 180 degrees when you reach the top. Walk roughly 900m until you reach Apgujeong 50-gil Road, then make a right turn and walk 2 to 3 blocks until you see the ‘Rodeo’ sign.
Top Things to do in Seoul #8 – Jisan Ski Resort
With Japan leading Asia in powder, you’d have to wonder at some point, what about its neighbour South Korea? For the ski bunnies visiting in winter, you’re in luck, because Jisan Ski Resort is a day’s trip from the city of Seoul, and it is an absolutely great way to be introduced to Korean powder.
Jisan Resort features a small ski area with an impressive base. The highest lifted point is 304m, and the lowest skiable point is 100m. There are five ski lifts that take you to various points on the mountain, and the longest run is approximately 1.2km. Whilst the terrain is aimed more so at the beginner-intermediate level skiers and snowboarders, it doesn’t mean that more advanced riders can’t have fun; Jisan boasts an impressive park area where people can practice their tricks and jumps all day. For beginner and intermediate riders, the slopes here are perfect: gentle sloping gradients, wide open slopes, with the option to go a bit steeper at the top.
Whilst the park is considerably small by international standards, it is still a great way to explore the snow in winter. They also breakdown the prices for their lift passes in 14 different ways, catering to the time frames of almost everybody and anybody.
Address: 267, Jisan-ro, Icheon-si, Gyeonggi-do
Access: At the moment, the best and most cost-effective way to get to Jisan Ski Resort is contact the number on the website (031-644-1552-3) and organise for pick up from a free shuttle. You can easily ask the hotel reception that you’re staying at to make this booking for you.
Hours: 7:00am – 4:00am
Cost: Adult (full day): 69,000, Children (full day): 51,000 (Note: these are the maximum prices you would pay. Other lift pass rates are considerably cheaper, depending on what time frame you pick from.)
Book here: Jisan Ski Resort
I hope we liked this selection of the top things to do in Seoul. It is a city with so much to offer, and it is only fair that you stay in this country for at least a week to sample the surface of it. With tradition mixing with modern in all corners, travellers can revel in a city that’s got heart, se-oul, and everything in between.