A megacity in Asia, Seoul is a perfect blend of traditional and modern, with a myriad of attractions to discover. At first glance, the abundance of shopping, dining options and K-pop culture will appear to be the prominent Seoul attractions. However, after wandering around and digging a little deeper, you’ll open new pages which unravel a world of rich history, countless parks and mountains, neighborhoods oozing with life and interesting Korean culture.
Whether you’re a trendy fashionista or a hard-core nature lover or someone who geeks out on culture and history or a downright foodie, from the moment you set foot here until you depart, you will find plenty of cool, interesting and unique things to do in Seoul. From hiking a mountain in Seoraksan National Park in the wee hours of the morning to visiting the palace of your choice in the afternoon to chowing down dinner at a Michelin starred restaurant to partying all night in Hongdae and lastly, kicking back in a 24hour coffee shop before going to bed, Seoul’s a city packed with everything you’re looking for.
Situated atop Namsan Mountain, at a height of 236m, the tower is the second highest point in Seoul occupies top-of-the-mind recall among the top 10 things to do in Seoul. Head to the tower for a panoramic views of the city. A small hike will get you to a windy spot where you’ll have to buy tickets to ride the cable car to the top, an octagon-shaped pavilion. Like most Seoul attractions, there can be a long queue so plan your visit accordingly. The more adventurous and fit can hike all the way up. The octagon-shaped pavilion has several eateries, things to do, different viewpoints and couples can leave locks here! For the real showstopper, if you shell out a few more Won (about 10,000) and at least 60-90 minutes of your time standing in line, you can go to the observation deck which is atop N Seoul Tower. The views from here are even better on a clear day!
#HolxoTip: If you go around 3-4 PM, not only will you catch views during the day; you can also capture great pictures of the sunset and cityscape at night.
Hours: 10 am – 10:30 pm
Translating to ‘Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven’, Gyeongbok is the most prominent and largest one among the five main palaces. For those interested in history, especially the Joseon Dynasty of Seoul, this is a must visit. For less enthusiastic history buffs, the grounds of the palace are extensive and beautiful. If you visit in the summer months, ensure you carry an umbrella, sunscreen, plenty of water and wear comfortable walking shoes. Other temples/palaces to visit are Changdeokgung, Jogyesa Temple and Jongmyo Shrine.
#HolxoTip: You can catch the changing of the guard ceremony held on the grounds at 10 am and 2 pm every day. Get here early to stand in the first row for a clear view.
Hours: 9 am – 6 pm, closed on Tuesdays
Occupying the hilly area between Changdeokgung and Gyeongbokgung, here you can find the largest number of traditional Korean houses, called Hanok. Some of them even date back to the Joseon Dynasty! A stroll through these narrow roads is like a walk back in time. Today, some hanoks are private homes and others are converted into coffee shops, cafes, tea houses, museums, etc. Keep in mind that this is a hilly area and you need good walking shoes plus some people call this area their home and it’s a residential area so ensure you’re as quiet as possible when you walk around here.
Market is an understatement for this shopping mecca, within a 10 block radius, you have 20+ malls, 20,000+ specialty stores and countless wholesale shops, making this Seoul attraction a place to go for all your shopping needs. Ensure you go to the tourist centers and get a map of the area and chalk out exactly where you want to go, otherwise not only will you be walking around in circles but you will not be able to shop your heart out.
P.S.: Dongdaemun Market is open 24 hours a day and some shops are open until 5 am! You can head to Doota, Migliore, Hello APM or Good Morning City which feature a mix of retail and wholesale stores. Once you drop dead after shopping, you can head to ‘Let’s Eat Alley’ or Mukja Golmok and feast on Korean cuisine. In and around this area- one of the top places to visit in Seoul- you can also visit the 10km long Cheonggyecheon Stream. There is graffiti, art exhibits, lanterns and décor along the stream and also steps to just sit back and relax. The DDP White Rose Garden is also a MUST visit and in the vicinity, you’ll find food trucks, live music, shopping and the famous yet oddly structured Design Plaza. Heunginjimun, the east gate is also in and around here.
Other Seoul attractions for less expensive shopping are Express Bus Terminal, Gangnam underground shopping complex, Ewha women’s university shopping street, other underground shopping complexes and COEX Mall.
Once an unknown waterway in downtown Seoul, this stream was covered with an elevated highway post the Korean War (1950-1953). Around 2003, the highway was removed and today, it’s an 11km long modern stream buzzing with life. The stream begins at a well-known popular cultural arts venue, Cheonggye Plaza, and goes past over 22 bridges before ending at Hangang (River). All along this 11km stretch, you’ll find a bunch of attractions. From street art to lighting decorations to art installations to cultural performances, by this stream, you’ll have a great, relaxed time. Visit in the evening to catch the stream lit up in all its glory. It’s certainly an urban wonder that has undergone a magnificent transformation and other cities should take inspiration.
#HolxoTip: Visit this stream during major festivals like Christmas, the Lantern Festival and Buddha’s Birthday to catch the space at its best.
While South Korea isn’t too large, it has around 22 national parks! A beautiful one is in close proximity to Seoul, Bukhansan National Park, where you can hike up the mountain for breathtaking views of the city.
The park comprises of lovely coloured maple leaves, remote temples, sweeping mountain vistas and rushing streams that attract nature lovers, hikers and photographers.
The park is divided into Dobong-san area in the north and Bukhan-san area in the south, both equally scenic and offering great hikes. You’ll find South Korea's highest peak, Baegunda, on the southern side.
PS: don’t forget to carry ample water!
#HolxoTip: The hike to the top can range from 3-5 hours, but the views make it worth it! The hikes are best done early in the morning or on weekdays to avoid crowds.
Lotte World is a major recreation complex which consists of an outdoor amusement park called ‘Magic Island,’ one of the largest indoor theme parks in the world called ‘Lotte World Adventure’, a monorail, shopping mall and an artificial island. There’s also a luxury hotel, movie theatres, sports facilities and a Korean folk museum.
You can easily spend a whole day or more here and have a plethora of things to do!
Both Lotte World Adventure and Magic Island have a range of over 50 rides. Thrill-seekers can ride on the roller coasters in Lotte World Adventure while on Magic Island you can go on the Gyro Drop, Gyro Spin and Atlantis. For those who prefer a more relaxed time, enjoy the carousel and other calmer attractions.
P.S.: Don’t miss the Hot Air Balloon Ride and the World Monorail for a birds-eye view of the park.
Take a break from the rides at the Lotte World Folk Museum that traces the history of South Korea.
Hours: Lotte World is open from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day
At Lotte World Mall, a global fashion hub, you’ll find a range of domestic and international brands. It’s a one-stop-shop for everything you need. There’s also the Lotte World Aquarium where you can see more than 50,000 animals and 13 different themed zones! It’s a great experience for both adults and children alike.
Similarly, Lotte Duty Free is the third-largest duty-free store in the world and the largest in South Korea.
One of the largest underground shopping malls, this mall covers about 154,000 square meters. It’s got everything you need, all in one place. From shops to food courts to movie theatres to a Megabox to the COEX Aquarium to a library and more!
For fashionistas and shopaholics, you’ll find more than a bunch of great international and domestic brands, both affordable and luxurious ones, selling the latest clothing and accessories.
All around the mall you will find several cafes and restaurants that serve delicious food, again both local and international cuisines.
One of Korea's largest movie theatre chains with 17 screens, the Megabox Cineplex is on-site for the best movie viewing experience.
If all this bores you, visit the Kimchi Museum, the Event Court and the ASEM Plaza where magic shows, mini-concerts and other exciting performances take place or the COEX Aquarium.
Other Seoul attractions to look out for are:
Seoul, a buzzing city has so much to offer its tourists that it’s extremely difficult to capture everything you can do in mere words. However, on a 3-4 day trip, you can manage to squeeze in everything mentioned here. Happy Seoul searching!
by Holxo Travel Specialist
by Holxo Travel Specialist
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