Seoul, South Korea is a spirited and thrilling city, one that deftly mingles ancient history with futuristic design and technology. The city is filled to overflowing with a wide range of tourist attractions of all types, from outdoor adventures such as touring Mount Namsan and its surrounding park to indoor fun like visiting one of Seoul’s many museums.
Seoul is also s city of palaces, with five huge palace complexes located throughout the city and now restored to their former glory. Plus it is also known for its food, with a delicious array of street food, Korean forte such as barbecue, and fine-dining options. Find the best places to visit in this inspiring city with my list of the top exciting things to do in Seoul. So, let’s start to know what are the best places to visit in Seoul!
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1. N Seoul Tower | Best Places to visit in Seoul
Rising almost 500 meters above the city, this communications and observation tower gives dramatic views of the city from its perch on the side of Mount Namsan. A cable car takes you up the side of the mountain to the base of the tower. From here, you can go up in the tower and visit any one of four observation decks, one of which is a rotating restaurant.
There are five various dining experiences at the N Seoul Tower and, of course, lots of gift shops. The n.GRILL, on the top level, is considered one of Seoul’s best French fine-dining restaurants. Make sure to visit the new Inside Seoul mesmeric media art exhibition, where 40 laser projectors create a virtual display of the city via five-dimensional mapping, with the tower at the centre.
The views from the tower are great, but so are the sights of the tower from most parts of the city. Computer-controlled LED lighting on the surface of the tower offers a digital, visual cultural experience of Seoul with changing-themed lighting presentations.
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2. Explore the Bukchon Hanok Traditional Village
For a taste of Korean traditional culture and architecture, a visit to the Bukchon Hanok Village is a fun and educational way to spend an afternoon. This conserved district of many ancient neighbourhoods gives you a feel for what it was like to live in Korea 600 years ago. It’s right in central Seoul, in the area between the Gyeongbokgung Palace and the Changdeokgung Palace.
The neighbourhoods of narrow streets feature hanoks or traditional Korean houses. It’s a distinctive place, as it’s a historic area, very famous with tourists, but it’s also a real neighbourhood because the houses are all inhabited. Some of the hanoks are now guesthouses and bed-and-breakfasts, and hardly any are museums and can be toured. Others are cultural centres showcasing traditional crafts and other historic features of Korean life, but most are private homes.
3. National Museum of Korea | Best Places to visit in Seoul
This must-see attraction in Seoul parades the unbelievable history and artwork of Korea and the Korean people. The museum, one of the largest in Asia, is in the city’s Yongsan District (close to Itaewon). It focuses on archaeology, history, and art and adds a huge collection of works and objects going back more than a million years. There are ancient and prehistoric artefacts, sculptures, paintings, and other artwork along with a large collection of objects and antiques.
Before or after your museum visit, head down the street to Yongsan Family Park, a nice outdoor space to relax. One more important museum worth a visit, The War Memorial of Korea is also close by.
4. Lotte World Tower | Best Places to visit in Seoul
One of the newest latest attractions in Seoul is the Lotte World Tower Skyscraper. The tallest building in South Korea, it’s 500 meters above the ground and is currently the fifth-tallest building in the world. The amphora shape, with gentle curves, is designed to mimic traditional Korean ceramic pieces.
There are lots of indoor and outdoor observation areas (called Seoul Sky) at the top of the 117th-123rd floors. The sights are picturesque both during the day and at night, and you can see 360 degrees around the city.
On the 118th floor, there’s the Sky Deck with the world’s highest glass floor. Such as magic, the floor changes from opaque to clear, petrifying unaware visitors. Even getting to the top is fun, and the tour is done via super quick, double-decker elevators, with windows on one side and LED screens on the other three and the roofing.
Interior the tower are offices, splendour residences, and the SIGNIEL SEOUL luxury hotel. There’s also the Lotte World Aquarium, the Lotte Museum of Art, and a huge shopping mall. The tower is home to the Lotte Concert Hall and the Lotte Cinema, a state-of-the-art, 21-screen MoviePlex with the world’s largest movie screen.
5. Visit the DMZ | Best Places to visit in Seoul
A residuum of the Korean War, the DMZ (DeMilitarized Zone) is the area located along the border between North and South Korea. This highly sensitive and highly protected area can only be visited during an official tour. Aside from the visit to the DMZ, a tour gives you a prospect to get out of urban Seoul and see a bit of the Korean countryside.
The Half-Day Korean DMZ Tour, which includes pickup and drop-off in central Seoul, takes you to the key sites in the DMZ area and gets you back to Seoul right after lunch (if you take the early morning tour). The guided tour includes visits to landmarks like the 3rd Tunnel, harrow by the North in anticipation of an invasion, and the Dora Observatory, where you can glance over into North Korea.
6. Gyeongbokgung Palace | Best Places to visit in Seoul
Built in 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace is the largest of Seoul’s five grand palaces built at the time of the powerful Joseon Dynasty. Demolished and rebuilt many times over the centuries, it was reinstated to its original glory after the Second World War and completely restored in the 1990s.
Within the palace grounds, you can also look for the National Palace Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum of Korea, and both are assets for a visit. The palace museum is especially fascinating as it presents items from the palaces of the Joseon Dynasty. This includes worthy antiques and artwork, as well as everyday items for cooking, cleaning, and daily life. The National Folk Museum focuses on items from daily life, as well as clothing and dioramas, to tell the story of the Korean people since prehistoric times.
7. Seoul Museum of Art | Best Places to visit in Seoul
Situated behind the Deoksugung Palace, SeMa as it’s known to locals, has a large collection of artwork, especially from the modern era. The art museum centre on Korean art and Korean artists but has a decent selection of international works and creators. Changing temporary and visiting exhibitions also showcase unique collections and artwork.
The collection is exhibited over three floors in a large building that was formerly the home of the Korean Supreme Court. The museum has six additional satellite locations in other parts of Seoul, and these feature rotating displays from the museum’s main collection, as well as special exhibitions.
Don’t miss the museum’s Nam June Paik Memorial House, an exhibition and workshop space inside the house of legendary Korean contemporary artist Nam June Paik. The house is located in Seoul’s Changsin-Dong neighbourhood.
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8. Blue House | Best Places to visit in Seoul
The Blue House is Korea’s version kind of the White House. It’s the official residence of the Korean president, as well as the location of his and related executive offices of the state. The Blue House isn’t a single building, it’s a whole campus of buildings, all built in the traditional Korean style and all featuring the special blue tile roofs where it gets its name.
Hour-long tours are given, but participants must apply and schedule their tour in advance online. The tour takes you to many parts of the palace complex including meeting rooms, reception room, and the Korean version of the Rose Garden, where the Korean president holds press conferences.
9. Bongeunsa Temple | Best Places to visit in Seoul
Bongeunsa is one of many Buddhist temples all over Seoul. It first opened in the year 794 and is a complex of multiple buildings and shrines. It’s easy to visit, as it’s mainly located in the stirring Gangnam area.
The temple is on the sides of a low mountain, directly across the street from the huge COEX convention centre and mall. It’s a famous spot for convention-goers to take a break and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. Visitors are welcome, and the temple even has a program that allows guests to experience the daily life of a monk for a few hours.
10. Gwanghwamun Gate | Best Places to visit in Seoul
The largest and main gate to Seoul’s Gyeongbokgung palace, Gwanghwamun Gate is home to the changing of the guards’ ceremony (performed since 1469), which occurs daily (except Tuesdays) at 10 am and 2 pm. The gate has gone through lots of modernization and rebuilding, most recently in 2010, when it was restored to its original location and rebuilt with native materials using traditional tools and building techniques.
There’s a huge plaza in front, and the gate sits in front of the vast Gwanghwamun Square, home to frequent political demonstrations, a large subway station, a giant fountain, and some huge status of Joseon-era leaders.
11. Take a Walk along Cheonggyecheon, Seoul’s Urban Stream
This natural inlet that runs by central Seoul was covered over by highways in the post-Korean War economic boom. Seven miles of the creek were uncovered as part of an urban rejuvenation project and turned into an outdoor recreation area, opening in 2005.
There are now seven miles of creek-side hiking, walking and biking trails. It has changed the CBD of Seoul by conducting an artery of water and green into what was a very urbanized, crowded area. The creek is also home to the eye-catching Seoul Lantern Festival, held each November. Ornate, lighted paper lanterns are displayed in and along the creek, and each night, thousands of people line the creek to view and enjoy the floating artwork.
12. Jingwansa Temple, Bukhansan National Park
Set within the extremely beautiful landscape of the Bukhansan National Park, Jingwansa is an ancient temple complex giving lots of ways to experience and learn about Buddhism and temple life. The traditional buildings are covered by miles of hiking trails (you can come here just to hike) twisting through the mountains.
The temple, which grows most of its food (and even ferments its kimchee), has a range of public programs. There’s a temple stay program, which includes an overnight visit, plus there are cultural and learning programs. They also give foodie experiences such as a traditional vegetarian temple meal, as eaten by the monks.
Jingwansa is on the far west side of the city, one of the four major temples of Seoul first built around 1,000 BC.
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13. People Watch in Itaewon
Itaewon is a teeming neighbourhood of Seoul focused on pedestrian streets filled with shops, cafes, and other consumer businesses. If you have little time in the city, it’s one of those places that can give you a real feel for Korean retail culture in a short period. There are food carts, and street performers and some of the side streets are filled with restaurants. It’s a great place for people-watching.
This is a wonderful place to wander around and just lose yourself in the energy of the city. Make sure to travel down pedestrian-only Gyeongnidan Street, as it’s lined with all types of restaurants and is a place to buy lots of international foods not easily available in Korea (like pizza and American-style barbecue).
One more street, exactly known as Itaewon Antique Furniture Street, is filled with antique shops, and this is always an amazing place to buy unique gifts.
14. Dongdaemun Design Plaza
Known for its countersign, the DDP is a very cool design centre in Seoul’s Dongdaemun area. Dongdaemun, Seoul’s fashion district, is also known for its shopping; there are many department stores and discount clothing and houseware stores in the area.
The silver, orb-like flowing DDP building looks like something from outer space. It was designed by the late Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, taken as one of the great female architects of the modern era. In perhaps Seoul’s variance, there are ruins of the ancient city fortress conserved just outside the front entrance of the design centre.
The multiplex is filled up with showrooms, workspaces, offices, and design studios. There is also what has to be Seoul’s chilliest shop, with small craft vendors selling all types of interesting items showcasing modern design and locally made, handcrafted items. It’s an excellent place to buy unique gifts.
At night, the design centre comes alive, the highlight being 25,550 white LED roses that light up. The silver-coloured, modern, curving building and the rows of artificial flowers make the DDP one of Seoul’s best Instagram spots. After your visit, head across the street for a burger and crinkle-cut fries at one of Seoul’s most famous new dining spots, Shake Shack. It’s across from the DDP in the Doota shopping mall.
15. Gwangjang Market | Best Places to visit in Seoul
The best street food in Seoul combines a taste-bud tempting array of street food vendors under one large roof. The market features rows of food stalls, providing every type of Korean food you can imagine. Most stalls have small chairs in front of them, creating small restaurants, where you can sit and have a meal. It’s all about tasting things here, and a smile and request will get you a sample of most of the things on provide.
The market is in central Seoul, and it’s open from 9 am to 10 pm. The most famous things sold here are bindaetteok (mung bean pancakes), bibimbap (rice mixed with sauteed beef, vegetables, and gochujang red chilli paste), gimbap (Korean sushi), sundae (blood sausage), tteokbokki (stir-fried spicy rice cakes), and different types of noodles. Other parts of the market have vendors selling clothes and household items.
16. Spend a Sunday in Insadong
This eccentric neighbourhood is filled with small stores that sell Korean traditional folk and handicrafts, in addition to art galleries. Stores sell things like hanji (traditional, hand-made paper), hanbok (traditional clothing), teas, pottery, and unique artwork. The galleries in Insadong feature Korean fine art of all types. There are also a lot of tea houses and small cafes, perfect for a break during shopping adventures.
The Insadong area comes alive on Saturday afternoons and all day Sunday when streets are closed to traffic and it becomes a giant craft and culture fair. Aside from food stalls and vendors, there are traditional music and dance performances and other cultural exhibits.
17. Myeongdong – A great place in Seoul if you love to shop!
This is the most popular place in Seoul for shopping and there are always a lot of special offers and deals in this area so keep your eyes open and take advantage of them. Most of them offer free samples, so don’t be afraid to try a brand you’ve never heard of! This is a trip mostly for the girls, so leave guys at home and take your best friends along for the ride. The women of Seoul look gorgeous. They’re always beautifully dressed and have flawless make-up, and this area is why. Myeongdong is a full shopping area dedicated to every cosmetic store and brand you could ever want. So, no matter what type of skin you have or what make-up look you want, you’ll be able to get the right products in this area.