10 of the Best Things to Do in Seoul
Are you planning on visiting Seoul? The South Korean capital is a real gem, full of ancient treasures and modern bars and restaurants. From bustling food markets to traditional attractions, there’s something for every type of traveller. Seoul is best explored with an open mind. The city itself is evolving at a rapid pace and the riches of different periods intertwine in the streets.
In this article, I’ll be sharing ten of the best things to do in Seoul. If you have any recommendations you would like to share, I would love to hear about them in the comments below.
Learn More: 8 of the Best Hotels in Seoul
The Best Things to Do in Seoul
From historic villages packed full of culture and delicious street food to the natural beauty of carefully-created green spaces, there’s a lot to see and experience in Seoul. I would love to recommend:
1. Discover the ornate beauty of Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁).
The largest of the Five Grand Palaces in Seoul, Gyeongbokgung (경복궁) is a worthwhile attraction for any tourist to visit. Over the centuries, this wonderful architectural icon has had quite the turbulent time. Gyeongbokgung has fallen to fires on several occasions, once spending several centuries waiting to be rebuilt.
Many of the buildings that we can see today are reconstructions of the originals. Each tells a unique story, as Gyeongbokgung was home to the royals of the Joseon dynasty and the centre of the government. The main palace building is Geunjeongjeon (근정전), where royals took their place of power in the throne hall.
At the time of writing, Gyeongbokgung is closed on Tuesdays. Standard opening hours are 09:00 – 17:00, but Gyeongbokgung remains open slightly longer during the summer months. It costs ₩3000 for adults to enter Gyeongbokgung and ₩1500 for children older than 7. Anyone younger than that or older than 65 can enter for free.
Learn More: Gyeongbokgung Palace (Official Website)
2. Dive into history at Namsangol Hanok Village (남산골한옥마을).
Offering a realistic view on what life would have been like during the Joseon dynasty, Namsangol Hanok Village (남산골한옥마을) is where history comes to life. Here, traditional Korean houses called hanoks (한옥) have been lovingly preserved.
Each property is furnished to reflect the era that it came from, as well as the social status and personality of those who resided there. You can explore the past or wander through the traditional garden to just unwind. There are various cultural activities within Namsangol Hanok Village that visitors are welcome to enjoy.
Namsangol Hanok Village is currently closed on Mondays. From April – October, it’s open between 09:00 – 21:00. From November – March, it’s open between 09:00 – 20:00. Entrance is free, but some of the experiences do cost varying amounts of money. There’s also Bukchon Hanok Village (북촌한옥마을), a residential area worth walking through.
Learn More: Namsangol Hanok Village (Official Website)
3. Find a place to relax at Bongeunsa Temple (봉은사).
Looking to visit one of Seoul’s many idyllic temples? Bongeunsa Temple (봉은사) is one of my personal favourites favourites. Some visitors come here just to look around for a short while. Others stay as part of a Temple Stay programme in which they can see how the temple’s monks live.
The temple itself can be dated back more than a millennium, but many of the buildings that can be seen are not original. During the Korean War and events before then, the temple suffered greatly. The buildings have since been repaired and renovated to try to recapture the beauty of the temple.
Bongeunsa Temple is open daily from the early hours of the morning till late at night. I would recommend visiting early in the morning and giving yourself a couple of hours to explore at your own pace.
Learn More: Bongeunsa Temple (Official Website)
4. Unleash your inner child in Lotte World Adventure (롯데월드 어드벤처).
One of the best places to let your adrenaline run wild in Seoul, Lotte World Adventure is full of different rides for all ages. From the Drunken Basket teacup ride to the electrifying Gyro Swing, there’s something for everyone.
When making your way through Lotte World Adventure, you’ll find that it’s stretched out across four floors. There’s also Magic Island, where many of the biggest rides can be found. These include Atlantis, a hybrid rollercoaster and flume ride.
You can find the opening hours for Lotte World Adventure here, but you will need to select a day as the hours can vary slightly. Entry for a day for adults currently costs ₩56000 and entry for a day for children currently costs ₩46000. You can pay slightly more to get a pass to both Lotte World and the Folk Museum. Cheaper rates are available if you arrive after 4pm.
Learn More: Lotte World Adventure (Official Website)
5. Escape to nature in Bukhansan National Park (북한산국립공원).
A centrepoint of nature in Seoul, Bukhansan National Park (북한산국립공원) is the place to go to find natural beauty in the South Korean capital. It covers more than thirty miles of mountainous space and houses over a hundred temples, as well as more than a thousand species of flora and fauna.
There are also many attractions to visit here. Jingwansa Temple (진관사) is just one of them, set amidst scenes of waterfalls, streams and mountains. If you like hiking, there are lots of different trails here to choose from. The difficult trail is steep and involves the use of steel cables so it’s worth keeping that in mind.
If you are driving to Bukhansan National Park, you will have to pay for parking. It ranges from ₩1100 – ₩2000 for the first hour, depending on the size of your car. It’s then an additional ₩250 – ₩500 per hour. Alternatively, there are packages for nine hours or more. You can also camp at Bukhansan National Park, with a general site costing ₩5000 – ₩7000 depending on the season.
Learn More: Bukhansan National Park (Official Website)
6. Head out later in the evening to enjoy the nightlife.
When I first started travelling, I wasn’t at all ready for the nightlife experience that comes with different countries. If you’re fond of nightlife, Seoul is an incredibly dynamic city to find yourself in. Night owls will feel right at home here, where the city only really sleeps if you want it to.
If you’re starting the evening with locals, you might find yourself eating barbecue food prior to drinking with them. Your stomach will thank you for eating beforehand in the land of drinking games, trust me. You can find every type of establishment in Seoul, from bars full of specialised spirits to venues with live music.
Itaewon is one of my personal favourite places to drink with friends in Seoul. There are lots of different options there, making it easy to venture from place to place. There are also trucks selling cocktails in the streets. If you’re looking for something luxurious, head towards Apgujeong. Hongdae is a great option for students and is full of university bars.
7. Explore Huwon Secret Garden at Changdeokgung Palace (창덕궁).
Another of the Five Grand Palaces in Seoul, Changdeokgung (창덕궁) can be found in Jongno-gu. This grand structure is less contemporary than Gyeongbokgung. During the Joseon dynasty, it was the palace favoured by many royals.
A gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage site, Changdeokgung was unfortunately damaged during the Japanese occupation, just as the other grand palaces were. 30% of the structures that still remain are from before this period. There are many buildings here, including Injeongjeon Hall (인정전), a National Treasure and the throne hall where many royals experienced their coronations.
Yet, it’s Huwon (후원) that really captures the attention of many. Known as the secret garden, it features landscaped lawns, a lotus pond and pavilions. While it wasn’t always open to the public, you can now visit it on a guided tour. Tickets for this can be booked via the official website.
Learn More: Changdeokgung Palace (Official Website)
8. View Seoul’s skyline from Seoul Sky in Lotte World Tower.
Situated at the top of the fifth tallest building in the world, Seoul Sky in Lotte World Tower offers the perfect opportunity for viewing the surrounding city. If you’re a fan of viewing the world from above, this place should definitely be on your list of things to do.
The view here is incredible. You can walk around to get a full 360° view of Seoul. All of the huge buildings look miniature below. In the distance, you can see hills and mountains. If you’re feeling brave and not bothered by heights, there’s also a Sky Bridge Tour.
Entry for adults to Seoul Sky currently costs ₩27000, while entry for children costs ₩24000. You can also get a Fast Pass, but they cost ₩50000. Tours of the Sky Bridge range from ₩100000 – ₩110000. I would highly recommend visiting the website before visiting for accurate opening hours.
Learn More: Seoul Sky (Official Website)
9. Spend some time unwinding in a jimjilbang (찜질방).
A Korean bathhouse, a jimjilbang (찜질방) ia where you want to end up after you’ve had a long day of exploring on your hands. Many are full of kiln saunas and hot tubs, usually split by gender.
There are usually many different treatment options available in jimjilbangs. I would highly recommend seeking out one that suits you. Some are full of entertainment options like cinemas, others are more traditional. You do have to be naked in specific areas, which can take a little bit of getting used to if you’re from a country where that just isn’t the norm.
I’ve only ever been to one jimjilbang in Seoul, Spa Lei. I had a good experience there and would highly recommend it. It’s definitely worth researching any potential jimjilbangs beforehand as some can be hit and miss in terms of the experiences travellers have.
Learn More: Spa Lei
10. Venture to Haneul Park in World Cup Park (월드컵공원) to see a unique side of Seoul.
Once the site of a landfill and not a tourist destination at all, Haneul Park is now just one of the parks in World Cup Park that are worth visiting. It’s by far the most popular, but the others are worth a stroll through too. The view of the Han River is really beautiful from here, but it’s the seasonal attractions that really capture people’s attention.
The Pampas Grass Festival takes place every October, when the pampas grass blooms. It creates a striking silver-like visual, standing tall against the backdrop of the city. Slightly later, the pink muhly grass begins to bloom and coats the area in a pink hue.
There’s something to see every month of the year here, from the spring flowers to the pumpkin tunnels. You can find observation points all over, as Haneul Park sits at the highest point of World Cup Park.
Learn More: World Cup Park (Official Website)
Enjoy Finding the Best Things to Do in Seoul
Hopefully my choices for the best things to do in Seoul have helped to fill you with ideas and inspiration. It’s an awe-inspiring city to explore, where seeing history and the modern world collide fills your imagination. You can learn more about Korean culture, explore natural landscapes and have fun.
Do you have any favourite things to do in Seoul? I would love to hear about them in the comments below.