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The 14 best things to do in Seoul

The best things to do in Seoul stretch far beyond K-pop and record-breaking Netflix shows

Written by
Annette Chan

Korean pop culture is all the rage right now. Whether it’s Oscar-winning films, obscenely catchy pop tunes or Netflix shows that manage to engross millions, South Korea’s cultural offerings are taking the world by storm. And there’s nowhere better to indulge in all that – and much, much more – than Seoul.

One of the most spectacular capital cities on the planet, Seoul is the complete metropolis. Here you’ll find urban sprawl at its most beautiful, centuries-old cultural artefacts and famous sights alongside packed bars, innovative restaurants and a fabulous selection of hotels. Strap yourself in; Seoul’s about to take you on the ride of your life.

🍜 The best restaurants in Seoul
🍻 The best bars in Seoul
🛏 The best hotels in Seoul

Great things to do in Seoul

Changdeokgung Palace
Kim Dae Jung

1. Changdeokgung Palace

What is it? This stunning palace complex (and Unesco World Heritage Site) was the primary royal residence for over 200 years, and is the best preserved out of the five remaining Joseon palaces in Seoul.

Why go? Besides the palace and government buildings, Changdeokgung has a truly breathtaking secret garden with landscaped lawns, ornate pavilions and a lotus pond. Continue your cultural tour of the area with the traditional Bukchon Hanok Village and charming Jogyesa Temple.

Leeum Samsung Museum of Art

What is it? Leeum is home to a significant collection of traditional Korean art, as well as modern and contemporary works from local and international artists. The art is divided between three structures designed by architectural luminaries Mario Botta, Jean Nouvel and Rem Koolhaas.

Why go? There’s something for art lovers of all tastes, whether your interest lies with Korean national treasures or contemporary painters. Don’t forget to visit the sculpture garden.

N Seoul Tower
Photograph: Shutterstock

3. N Seoul Tower

What is it? If you don’t fancy knackering your legs with a trek up the – admittedly majestic – Bukhansan mountain, the 480-metre-tall N Seoul Tower also offers mind-boggling views of Seoul.

Why go? Every knows that the best way to get your bearings with a city is to head up to the nearest really, really tall thing and take it all in. The N Seoul Tower is hundreds of metres above sea level and looks a little like a rocket taking off from the top of Namsan mountain. Its panoramas over Seoul are unlike any other: and, better yet, thanks to a lift and cable car, it’ll leave your legs with plenty of energy for the rest of your time here.

Gwangjang Market

4. Gwangjang Market

What is it? One of the oldest and largest traditional markets in Seoul, most famous for its street food market where you can find all manner of Korean snacks.

Why go? It’s the most convenient place to sample a wide variety of Korean food, from tteokboki (sweet and spicy rice cakes), bindaetteok (mung bean pancakes), and mayak gimbap (seaweed rolls). Don’t forget to wash it all down with some makgeolli (rice wine).

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Yueh Hua-Lee

5. Insa-dong

What is it? Located in the historic district of Jongno-gu, Insa-dong is an arty neighbourhood where traditional meets modern. Known for its plethora of galleries, this is the perfect place to take a quick break between sightseeing.

Why go? Insadong-gil, the neighbourhood’s main street, is a great place to pick up some traditional Korean souvenirs – especially during the weekly Saturday market. Make sure to visit Ssamziegil, a multi-storey shopping complex which houses over 70 shops, galleries, and cafés.


6. Hongdae

What is it? The buzzy area around Hongik University where all of Seoul’s tastemakers congregate. Hongdae is known for being the city’s youth culture hub, with a strong indie music and nightlife scene, and a regular arts and crafts market.

Why go? Besides the hipper-than-thou street style shops and artisanal cafés, Hongdae’s main road – Hongik-ro – is home to countless bars and clubs where you can party the night away. Line your stomach at the nearby Oksang Dalbit with some delectable garlic pepper chicken.

Common Ground
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Seyong Back

7. Common Ground

What is it? Occupying a whopping 5,300 square metres, this bright blue structure is the largest shipping container mall in the world. The complex comprises a market hall and street market which border a central square used for weekend markets, performances, and exhibitions.

Why go? It’s a convenient place to find and support independent businesses, whether you’re keen on fashion, art, or beauty. You won’t be short on choices for food either, with options ranging from traditional local food to international cuisines and even food trucks.


8. Dongdaemun

What is it? The beating heart of Seoul’s no-holds-barred shopping culture. It’s got a 24-hour shopping complex, wholesale outlets, an underground shopping centre, and a bulbous, space-age silver cultural hub designed by world-famous architect Zaha Hadid.

Why go? Many boutiques in Seoul and even neighbouring countries source their stock from Dongdaemun, making it a goldmine for thrifty, fashion-conscious shoppers. Everything you want can be found off the main shopping road, Eulji-ro – including pojangmacha (street stalls) serving snacks and soju.

Ihwa Mural Village
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Wei-Te Wong

9. Ihwa Mural Village

What is it? Once designated for demolition, this hillside village was given a makeover as part of a government revitalisation project and has since become a tourist attraction. Just remember that it’s a village, not a theme park – residents have complained about noisy and disruptive visitors in the past.

Why go? Do it for the ‘gram. But seriously, Ihwa is a lovely place to visit if you’re a keen photographer or fan of street art. As it’s at the top of Naksan Mountain, the views are beautiful (even if the walk is a little steep).

Gyeongui Line Forest Park
Photograph: Courtesy VisitSeoul

10. Gyeongui Line Forest Park

What is it? A 6.3-kilometre park that runs from near Gajwa Station to Hyochang Park Station, passing through the trendy Hongdae and Yeonnam-dong neighbourhoods.

Why go? Peaceful green spaces in urban areas are always welcome, but where Gyeongui Line Forest Park sets itself apart is its charming row of local bookstores on the aptly named Gyeongui Line Book Street.


11. Myeongdong

What is it? Known as a shopper’s paradise, Myeongdong is one of the most popular tourist hotspots in Seoul. Myeongdong’s more of a conventional shopping experience than Dongdaemun, with popular retail chains, department stores, and family restaurants lining the streets.

Why go? Myeongdong-gil, the main shopping street, is a dream come true for anyone interested in Korean fashion and beauty. If all that shopping makes you peckish, the knife-cut noodles at Myeongdong Kyoja are always a winner.

Suyeonsanbang Tea House
Suyeonsanbang Tea House

12. Suyeonsanbang Tea House

What is it? In English, Suyeonsanbang means “a small home in the forest where writers gather” – a fitting name for this serene, traditional teahouse which was once the home of late Korean author Lee Tae-jun.

Why go? Located near the idyllic Bukhansan National Park, Suyeonsanbang feels like a mountain lodge far away from the city. It’s a wonderfully tranquil space with a rich literary history, extensive tea menu, and seasonal shaved ice.

Seoullo 7017
Photograph: Shutterstock

13. Seoullo 7017

What is it? Seoul’s answer to New York’s High Line. This eco-friendly, multi-purpose pedestrian walkway built on a former highway above Seoul Station is home to a sky garden, cafés, and even a little pool for you to dip your toes in.

Why go? Seoullo 7017 has a lot to offer, from ‘peeping pots’ that play sounds and videos of Seoul, to the kids’ trampolines, modern art at Seoullo Gallery, and Yunseul – a trippy, immersive public art project.

Korea Furniture Museum
Photograph: Courtesy Korea Furniture Museum

14. Korea Furniture Museum

What is it? Situated on a picturesque hillside in the historic Seongbuk-dong district, this sprawling complex is brimming with historical relics from the Joseon dynasty (1392-1897). It’s essential to pre-book your tour, as walk-ins are not allowed.

Why go? The grounds and architecture alone warrant a visit, but the main attraction is the museum’s 500-piece display of Joseon furniture, exhibited in careful reconstructions of historic Korean homes. Visitors often call it this museum the best-kept secret in Seoul due to its unique insight into Korean history.

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