Combining culture, cuisine, history, and art in just one enticing city, South Korea’s capital certainly has loads going for it and is well worth visiting if you have the chance. Seoul offers an intoxicating mix of old and new. Ancient temples and palaces lie side by side with towering skyscrapers, thriving shopping, and sleek, modern buildings.
As well as being the economic and political capital of the country, Seoul’s metropolis is home to over 25 million people – this makes it by far the largest city in South Korea. Thankfully, it is very well organized, so visiting its many sights and attractions shouldn’t pose any problems. In addition to its cultural tourist attractions, Seoul is a great city if you are into food. Even the most non-descript street stand will sell excellent Korean fare. Shopping is also very popular and the bustling streets are home to a whole range of shops that sell the latest designer items.
If souvenirs are what you’re after, then Insadong is the place for you. The neighborhood is home to loads of boutique stores and antique shops selling traditional Korean crafts and trinkets.
Tea shops and art galleries can also be found here, and its backstreet alleys are home to some delightful garden restaurants.
Insadong is lots of fun to explore; the traditional Bosingak pavilion and modern Jongno Tower perfectly highlight the different sides of the neighborhood, with both being equally arresting.
Appropriately meaning ‘bright tunnel’, Myeongdong Shopping Street certainly does feel like one as you are hemmed in on all sides by bright, colorful signs.
One of the most popular shopping streets in the city, it is a fascinating place to people watch. You’ll find all types of people flocking here to buy goods from the endless shops that line the street.
With lots of restaurants and food stands on offer, it is also a great place to try out some delicious street food.
Bordering the Han River which flows through Seoul, Hangang Park actually consists of 13 distinct parks and there are loads of leisure activities for visitors to enjoy.
With swimming pools, bike paths and football pitches lying alongside tennis courts and large green spaces, there is something for everyone, and there are also lots of watersports on offer such as yachting and water-skiing.
Relaxing amongst the nature of Hangang Park will refresh you and leave you ready to explore the rest of Seoul’s amazing sights.
An absolute must for nature lovers, Bukhansan National Park contains wonderful forests, beautiful temples and the three peaks of Baekundae, Insubong, and Mangnyeongdae – all of which are great to hike.
Overlooking Seoul, the scenery is stunning. Lovely little traditional temples are tucked away here and there amidst the pristine nature. Despite the park’s overwhelming popularity, it is still possible to find secluded spots to relax and take in the fabulous views.
Among the many highlights on show is the historic Bukhansanseong Fortress and its winding wall, which snakes its way so delightfully along the hills and mountainsides of the national park.
This re-creation of a traditional Joseon Dynasty-era village is very interesting to wander around and does a great job of capturing what life was like back then for both royalty and commoners alike.
Located at the base of Mount Namsan, the Hanok houses are beautiful to behold. The reconstructed interiors show you what a military official, peasant and nobleman’s homes would have looked like.
A great day out for all of the family, Namsangol Hanok Village is just as entertaining as it is informative and educational.
Loads of fun to visit, Lotte World is home to the world’s largest indoor amusement park. If that wasn’t enough, there is also a colossal shopping mall and department store.
A very popular attraction amongst locals, Lotte World is very much Seoul’s version of Disneyland. Children will barely be able to contain themselves once they see all the rides.
Whether it’s splashing log rides that you’re after or the adrenaline filled ‘French Revolution’ roller coaster, Lotte World is one of the best places in Seoul if you’re looking for a fun time out.
Full of traditional Hanok houses, Bukchon is very picturesque to walk around and the narrow winding alleys offer up loads of great photo opportunities.
These kinds of houses were built during the 14th-century rule of the Joseon Dynasty, and Bukchon Hanok Village is now a protected area which preserves South Korea’s rich cultural heritage.
You can enter some of the Hanok homes and at some of them, you can try out traditional arts and crafts and learn to play Korean instruments.
The largest and oldest market in South Korea, Namdaemun is a bustling place to visit. You can buy anything from cheap jewelry and clothes to traditional souvenirs and electronics.
A very popular place among tourists and locals, there is a dynamic feel about the market, with colorful advertisements popping out at you from every angle.
With lots of great restaurants and food stalls, it is also a nice spot to head if you want to sample some of Seoul’s fantastic street food.
Built during the 15th century, Deoksugung Palace showcases an intoxicating mix of Western and Korean architectural styles, with the gardens looking particularly European.
One of the Five Grand Palaces in the city, Deoksugung was deliberately destroyed during the Japanese occupation of South Korea, and many of today’s buildings are reconstructions. While visiting, make sure to check out the impressive statue of Sejong the Great – a Joseon Dynasty king.
The palace complex is fascinating to wander around and Daehanmun Gate and Deokhongjeon Hall are gorgeous to behold, while Seokjojeon Hall wouldn’t look out of place in Europe with its neo-classical features.
If you want to try delicious fish and seafood, Noryangjin Fish Market is the place for you.
The oldest and largest fish market in the city is a lively place; the best time to experience all the hustle and bustle is at 3 am when an auction of the best catches takes place.
Noryangjin is a fun place to stop by. You’ll be amazed at all the fish on display. There are lots of little food stands and restaurants and the fresh fish is mouthwatering.
With a wonderful collection of both Korean and international art on display, the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art is a dream to visit.
Both traditional and modern artworks are represented in its galleries and some of the ceramic arts and paintings are gorgeous. For instance, Jeong Seon’s The Diamond Mountains is particularly lovely; they really do look like the mountains you see scattered about South Korea.
Of the modern art pieces, you can often find a crowd gathered around Basquiat’s Untitled (Black Figure), which is so alluring with its graffiti style and scribbled paint.
Wandering along this artificial stream that runs through Seoul is an increasingly popular thing to do; Cheonggyecheon’s peaceful ambiance makes you feel like you are a million miles from the city’s bustling streets.
Plants and trees line the scenic walkways that border the stream. At night, street performers put on entertainment while light shows so prettily illuminate the water.
A tranquil spot, use Cheonggyecheon’s secluded paths to get about the city with ease.
This delightful Buddhist temple was founded in 794 on the slopes of Sudo Mountain. It somehow stills retains its peaceful atmosphere despite the skyscrapers that now rise up around it.
A popular tourist destination, Bongeunsa is the largest and wealthiest temple in the capital. This is visible in the wonderful carvings of the Buddha that coat the interior of the temple and the stunningly manicured gardens surrounding it.
There is lots of amazing architecture on show, of which the colorful Main Buddha Hall is the undoubted highlight. Visitors can also opt to lead the life of a Buddhist monk for a few hours and learn about Buddhist culture and traditions.
Founded in 2014, Dongdaemun Design Plaza’s neo-futuristic building is marketed as a place where you can ‘Dream, Design, Play’ – and it certainly does live up to its slogan.
Inside the five huge halls, you can find the Design Museum, which offers an interesting look at innovative and creative Korean designs, as well as the Design Market, where you can try out new inventions and experience cutting-edge technologies that have just hit the market.
There is loads to see and do, and numerous conferences, exhibitions, trade shows, and fashion shows are hosted here, so keep an eye out for any event that particularly interests you.
Towering above Seoul’s skyline, the Namsan Tower – as it is also known – reaches a height of 236 meters and the views from the top are simply jaw-dropping.
One of the most recognizable landmarks in South Korea, the tower is located on Mount Namsan. There is a fun cable car ride which you can take to reach it. On one roof terrace, there are thousands of locks, left by lovers to immortalize their eternal love.
At night, the observation and communication tower is delightfully illuminated against the dark sky and the panoramas of Seoul lit up in the darkness are equally mesmerizing.
Opened in 1994, this colossal memorial is symbolically found where the Korean Infantry headquarters were once located. It is now dedicated to preventing conflict by educating people on the horrors of war.
The huge complex tells the story of Korea’s military history and the six exhibition rooms are full of military equipment and war memorabilia, with planes hanging overhead and shells lining display panels.
The memorial commemorates those who died. Gazing upon statues such as ‘Defending the Fatherland’ really does leave you with a lump in your throat. The ‘Statue of Two Brothers’ is equally moving and visitors are unlikely to come away untouched by this emotional memorial.
The National Museum of Korea is an absolute must if you are interested in learning more about the nation’s history. The interesting and educational exhibitions take you from prehistoric eras right up until modern times.
In addition to the wealth of information, there are loads of amazing Korean artworks on display. While the ten-story pagoda certainly steals the limelight as it towers precariously in the museum, the Silla Golden Crown is just as special due to its intricate craftsmanship.
With around 15,000 artworks, historic artifacts, sculptures and more on display, the vast concrete building in which the museum is housed will certainly open your eyes to a wealth of Korean history and art.
Widely reputed to be the most beautiful of Seoul’s palaces, Changdeokgung is backed by a mountain and has a lovely little scenic stream flowing before it which adheres to feng shui principles.
The formal royal residence was built in 1405. The huge entrance gate of Donhwamun is just one of the many highlights on show with its two-story wooden pavilion, while the impressive Injeongjeon Hall houses the opulent throne room.
Wandering around the palace complex is a delightful experience. The wonderful gardens of Hawon at the back only add to the beauty, with a picturesque lotus pond lying amidst the trees.
The largest and most impressive of the Five Grand Palaces, you can easily find Gyeongbokgung Palace by simply following the hordes of visitors who make their way there every day.
Originally built in 1395 by the Joseon Dynasty, the enormous palace complex has been destroyed numerous times over the centuries, and many of the beautiful buildings we see today only date to 1867.
The Korean architecture is stunning throughout; highlights include the royal banquet hall which occupies a scenic spot on an artificial lake and the king’s quarters with their luxurious interior.
A fascinating place, there are a plethora of royal rooms and buildings for visitors to explore. Watching the changing of the guard ceremony at the main entrance of Gwanghwamun is an absolute must.