Get us in your inbox

Search
Haneul Park
Photograph: KoreaToDo

The best things to do in Seoul that aren’t tourist traps

From abandoned theme parks to overnight temple stays

Pailin Boonlong
Written by
Pailin Boonlong
Advertising

Based on the number of K-dramas binged and Korean BBQs we’ve devoured recently, many of us consider Seoul as a prime destination. It’s easy to understand why – the food, shopping, and culture are all massive draws. But besides typical tourist attractions like shopping in Myeongdong and visiting Gyeongbokgung Palace, there are certain spots that are popular for good reason. From an abandoned theme park to the world’s largest shipping container mall, these are the top seven things to do in Seoul for your next visit.

RECOMMENDED: How to experience South Korea in Singapore and how to save money when booking a trip during the pandemic

Fun things to do in Seoul

Snap whimsical photos at an abandoned theme park
Photograph: Seoul Metropolitan Government

Snap whimsical photos at an abandoned theme park

As thrilling as theme parks are, there's a certain charm to abandoned ones too. While Yongma Land first opened in the 80s, they’ve since been closed for at least a decade – but the whimsical carousels and old-school roller coasters are still around. It’s now more of a photo spot, rather than a theme park for adrenaline seekers. You’ll need to fork out 10,000 won (~$10.70) for entry, but it’s well-worth it for a stroll around these dilapidated amusement park grounds. 

DON’T MISS Head over to the carousel once the sun goes down – you’ll see colourful horses, despite needing a new coat of paint, bobbing up and down. While online sources claim that the owner will turn it on during dusk, you might still need to prepare a small fee.

GETTING THERE It’s just a 10-minute walk from Mangu Station, otherwise, you can simply get a taxi. 

Try fresh sashimi and live octopus at Noryangjin Fish Market
Photograph: Shutterstock/coloursinmylife

Try fresh sashimi and live octopus at Noryangjin Fish Market

Tokyo might have Toyosu Fish Market, but Seoul has Noryangjin Fish Market. While a fresh fish market, Noryangjin is housed in a relatively new building – it’s practically a full-fledged multi-level supermarket that has different sections for fresh seafood, live fish, shellfish, and frozen seafood. While the vendors here will want to get the best price for their seafood, they are unlikely to fleece tourists and will roughly stick to fair market pricing.

DON’T MISS It’s unlikely that you’ll be stocking up on a sprawl of live seafood to bring home, so head on up to the second floor – it’s where all the restaurants are. Here, you can try grilled oysters, fresh sashimi, and even live octopus.

GETTING THERE Take the subway to Noryangjin Station (Lines 1 and 9), and follow the signs. 

Advertising
Enjoy a picture-perfect picnic at Seoul Dream Forest
Photograph: Korea Tourism Organisation

Enjoy a picture-perfect picnic at Seoul Dream Forest

Despite being an urban cityscape, there are hidden pockets of greenery all around South Korea – Seoul Dream Forest is certainly one of them. While not one of the three largest parks in Seoul – that’ll be Seoul Forest, the Olympic Park, and the World Cup Park – Seoul Dream Forest is worth a visit for its scenic landscapes. There’ll be cherry blossoms during spring, and vibrantly red maple trees in autumn. While there are some hidden picnic spots in Singapore, Seoul Dream Forest is where you should be pulling up a checkered rug and some takeaway kimbap rolls. 

DON’T MISS The deer enclosure, where you can hand feed 20 or so deer – they’re all friendly and will come right up to you.

GETTING THERE The Seoul Dream Forest spans six different districts, including Gangbuk-gu and Seongbuk-gu. Because of that, you can easily take the subway down to various stations – this includes Wolgye, Mia, Dolgoji, and Hagye Stations.

Cycle through the scenic grounds of Gangchon Rail Park
Photograph: Shutterstock/Thongchai.S

Cycle through the scenic grounds of Gangchon Rail Park

Those feeling a little outdoorsy during their Seoul holiday will enjoy cycling through the scenic grounds of Gangchon Rail Park. Now, this isn’t your ordinary bike trail so you wouldn’t need to worry if it’s been a while since your last cycling tour – it’s all done on a rail bike that’s fixed to old train tracks. These tracks bring you through a variety of scenic landscapes: stunning mountainscapes and panoramic Bukhan River views. You can choose between a two-seater rail bike (30,000 won, ~$32) or a four-seater rail bike (40,000 won, ~$43).

DON’T MISS Once you’ve completed the railway trail, you would’ve worked up an appetite, so make sure to stop by one of the many chicken restaurants to try the dak galbi (spicy stir-fried chicken). 

GETTING THERE It’s about an hour or two by train from Seoul, making it a fuss-free day trip. Simply take the subway or the ITX fast train, and once you reach Gimyujeong Station, the Rail Park is just an easy five-minute walk.

Advertising
Stay overnight at a 14th century temple in Insadong
Photograph: Shutterstock/Stock For You

Stay overnight at a 14th century temple in Insadong

Staying overnight at a temple makes for an interesting bucket list entry, to say the least. If you’re looking for a peaceful retreat away from the hustle and bustle of Seoul, Jogyesa Temple provides just that in downtown Seoul. You can choose to stay up to three nights  – it’s 50,000 won ($~54) per night, including simple vegetarian meals. There’ll also be lotus flower workshops and Buddhist chanting ceremonies to take part in. 

DON’T MISS One of the dawn chanting sessions. It starts before sunrise around 4am, but even if you’re not an early riser, it’s said to entirely recharge you.

GETTING THERE It’s in the middle of Seoul city, within the Insadong district. Take the subway to Anguk Station or a sightseeing bus to Insadong. 

Shop at the world's largest shipping container mall
Photograph: Shutterstock/Derek Teo

Shop at the world's largest shipping container mall

While Common Ground is now known as the world’s largest shipping container mall, made up of more than 200 containers that are stacked upon each other, it first started out as a humble pop-up space. Today, the crowd is mostly made up of university students and the occasional tourist who’s bothered to venture off the beaten path. There’s the occasional flea market and live performance. If you get peckish, there are also food trucks at the central square. 

DON’T MISS The Index bookstore on the rooftop. It’s a cafe too, so you can stop by for a coffee break. 

GETTING THERE Take the subway to Konkuk Station and leave via Exit 6.

Advertising
Soak in stunning autumn landscapes at Haneul Park
Photograph: KoreaToDo

Soak in stunning autumn landscapes at Haneul Park

There’s no park like Haneul Park, known for its sweeping landscapes and lush greenery. It’s the most popular of all five parks of World Cup Park  – which was once Seoul’s main landfill waste area. Go during autumn since that’s when the vast fields of pampas grass will be in full bloom. There are even certain areas where you can wander through pink muhly grass, known for its feathery pink flowers. 

DON’T MISS Pay a visit to the pumpkins and gourds, a leafy arched space that comes to life during the months of August to September. Vines are draped all around the arch, so pumpkins will be dangling from the roof.

GETTING THERE Take the subway to World Cup Stadium Station and leave through Exit 1. 

Travelling overseas

Advertising
Recommended
    You may also like
      Advertising