Seoul is South Korea’s vibrant capital city. If you’re wondering what is famous in Seoul, you just need to visit SMTOWN to see K-pop’s dominance. Myeongdong is the city’s most popular street, so the best things to do in Myeongdong are shopping and eating at the large night market. As for things to do near Seoul Tower, it’s actually located in Namsan Park, which is known for its cable car and scenic trails.
Finally, some of the best things to do near Gyeongbokgung Palace include visiting Changdeokgung Palace and Samcheong Park. Here are 24 amazing things to do in Seoul.
1. Gyeongbokgung Palace
Built in the late 14th century, Gyeongbokgung Palace served as the Joseon Dynasty’s main palace. It’s the largest of the five Grand Palaces and arguably the most beautiful. The National Palace Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum of Korea are both located on the palace’s grounds as well. There are also free guided tours of Gyeongbokgung Palace daily in multiple languages, including English and Chinese. It’s definitely one of Seoul’s most popular attractions.
2. Namsan Seoul Tower
Officially called the YTN Seoul Tower but also known as the Namsan Seoul Tower, this is one of the city’s most beloved landmarks. It began life as Korea’s first integrated transmission tower in 1969, before opening to the public in 1980. It’s home to a rooftop terrace and several restaurants, while digital art is projected onto its exterior nightly. Its digital observatory also has 360-degree panoramic views and 32 TV screens recounting the city’s 600-year history.
3. Bukchon Hanok Village
Bukchon Hanok Village is a traditional Korean village that’s home to 900 hanok (houses) from the Joseon Dynasty. Located between Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung Palaces, the village is home to restaurants, tea houses, cafes, and shops renting traditional Korean costumes. As this is still a residential area though, visitors are asked to be respectful and keep noise levels down. For more information, visit the onsite Bukchon Traditional Culture Center and learn more from its helpful English-speaking guides.
Competing with Gyeongbokgung Palace for the most beautiful palace award is Changdeokgung Palace. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed site was built after Gyeongbokgung Palace in 1405. It’s renowned as a Korean architectural marvel, as the buildings are in perfect harmony with the surrounding natural landscape. The city’s most well-preserved palace, it’s home to a royal family residence, government buildings, landscaped gardens (including the Secret Garden), and small ponds. There are guided tours available daily as well.
5. Lotte World
One of the most fun things to do in Seoul is to visit Lotte World, as it’s home to several exciting attractions. Indoor Adventure is this world’s largest indoor theme park with daily parades and over 20 fun rides. Meanwhile, Magic Island is an outdoor theme park located on an artificial island in the middle of Seokchon Lake with 17 rides. The Lotte World complex also includes shopping malls, the Korean Folk Museum, and a luxury hotel.
Cheonggyecheon is a seven-mile-long stream that runs through the city’s downtown core. It was covered in a highway following the Korean War, which was dismantled in 2003. Starting from Cheonggye Plaza, the stream features 22 bridges and along the way, you’ll find walkways, waterfalls and fountains, and several interesting public artworks. To learn more about the stream tumultuous history, visit the Cheonggyecheon Museum, which is one of the best free things to do in Seoul.
7. The War Memorial of Korea
The War Memorial of Korea (which is technically a huge military history museum) is dedicated to remembering the Korean War and to symbolize the country’s peaceful reunification. With a collection of over 33,000 artifacts, approximately 10,000 are on display across its six indoor exhibition halls and the outdoor exhibition area. Outside, you’ll find memorial statues, peaceful gardens, and armored vehicles, planes, and weapons on display. Head inside to visit the combat experience and screening rooms.
8. Bukhansan National Park
Bukhansan National Park attracts more than five million visitors annually. They primarily visit the park for its rock climbing and hiking opportunities, as it’s home to enticing granite peaks. One of its most popular hikes is the Bukhansanseong Trail up Baegundae, South Korea’s highest peak. But rest assured there are hikes to suit all ability levels. Bukhansan National Park also features streams, more than 1300 flora and fauna species, and over 100 remote Buddhist temples.
9. Myeongdong Shopping Street
Myeongdong is the city’s most popular shopping street. Encompassing multiple streets, the shopping district features souvenir stores, brand-name boutiques, and several major department stores like Lotte Department Store and Shinsegae Department Store. Local recommendations include Artbox for the cutest souvenirs, the Line Store for Line character merchandise, and Oliver Young for the best Korean cosmetics. Myeongdong Night Market is also a great place to visit for delicious local food and fun products like K-pop merchandise.
10. National Museum of Korea
The National Museum of Korea is the county’s most extensive art and history museum. It houses over 310,000 historically valuable artifacts from the Paleolithic Age to the early 20th century. Approximately 12,000 artifacts are always on display across its six permanent galleries, which include Ancient History, Calligraphy and Painting, and Asian Art. The National Museum of Korea also has a children’s museum, a large performance hall, a sculpture garden, and an outdoor exhibition area.
Insadong is a Seoul neighborhood known for its extensive collection of shops and restaurants. Some of the best things to do in Insadong include eating street food; visiting The Alive Museum or the Kyung-in Museum of Fine Arts; shopping at Ssamzie-gil Market; relaxing in Tapgol Park; and enjoying a tea break at Shin Old Tea House, which is one of the city’s most popular cafes. Insadong is also known for being home to over 100 art galleries.
Everland is the country’s biggest theme park; receiving over seven million visitors annually. It’s located at Everland Resort, which is also home to the Caribbean Bay waterpark. Everland is separated into five sections, including Global Fair for food and souvenirs, Zootopia to see the animals, and Magic Land and American Adventure for fun rides. Top rides in these areas include Thunder Falls, Columbus Adventures., and T Express, which holds the world’s steepest wooden roller coaster record.
13. SM Town
One of the top things to do in Seoul for K-pop fans is to visit SMTOWN @ coexartium. Set over six floors, the entertainment complex is home to a merchandise store, a museum, a cafe, a market, and the SMTOWN hologram theater, which mostly features concert recordings. The museum has displays on several SM Entertainment K-pop recording artists, while outside the SMTOWN External Media has bright displays that have it resembling New York City’s Times Square.
Hongdae is a neighborhood known for its youthful atmosphere. It’s filled with cozy cafes, art galleries, nightclubs, and shops. The area’s three main tourist spots include Walking Street, Mural Street (also known as Picasso’s Street), and the Free Market, which is held every Saturday. Pick up quirky gifts from 1300K, check out Hongdae’s impressive street art, visit the unique Meerkat Cafe, and head there at night to see some of the city’s best street performers.
15. Dongdaemun Design Plaza
Designed by world-renowned architect, Dame Zaha Hadid, Dongdaemun Design Plaza is one of South Korea’s most Instagrammed locations. It is also the world’s largest atypical architecture structure. Dongdaemun Design Plaza features five halls, including the Art Hall, the Museum Hall (which has five sections itself), the Design Lab and Market, and the Dongdaemun History and Culture Park. Open 24 hours a day, the plaza hosts many design-related shows, conferences, exhibitions and events throughout the year.
16. Namdaemun Market
Namdaemun Market is the country’s largest traditional market. It’s filled with shops selling various products, like clothes, homewares, toys, stationery, artwork, and accessories. It’s primarily known for its affordable prices and late-night trading, which is why it’s so popular with locals and tourists alike. Namdaemun Market also has plenty of food stores – for when you get hungry after all that shopping! So if you’re searching for local things to do in Seoul, head to Namdaemun Market.
17. Seoul Metro
Seoul Metro is the city’s metropolitan railway system. Its network includes commuter rail, light metro, and rapid transit lines. You’re never far from a metro station, as there are 728 located across the city. Using the metro system is the most convenient and quickest way to get around Seoul, even as a tourist. In fact, the network carries seven million passengers daily. For more information on how to use the Seoul Metro, read this comprehensive guide.
18. Namsan Park
Located on Mount Namsan, Namsan Park is the city’s largest park. Attracting about 20,000 visitors daily, it’s home to tourist attractions like the aforementioned N Seoul Tower, Baekbeom Square, and the Namsan Cable Car. The park also features panoramic city views, a rich selection of flora and fauna, and plenty of peaceful walking trails. Don’t miss a visit to Namsan Park, as it looks particularly spectacular in autumn and during the cherry blossom season.
19. Jogyesa Temple
Established in the late 14th century, Jogyesa Temple is known as the center of Korean Buddhism and the Jogye Order’s head temple. The temple complex features pagodas, prayer halls, and shrines. Its Dharma Hall hosts many important Buddhist events, including lectures and ceremonies. Jogyesa Temple is located in the aforementioned Insadong in downtown Seoul, near Gyeongbokgung Palace. The best time to visit Jogyesa Temple is in May when it celebrates Buddha’s birthday with a lantern festival.
20. Bongeunsa Temple
Bongeunsa Temple is another one of the city’s important Buddhist temples. Built in 794, the temple complex underwent extensive renovations after being damaged and destroyed by fire during World War II and the subsequent Korean War. The oldest remaining building is the library that was constructed in 1856, which houses 3479 Buddhist scriptures. Another highlight at Bongeunsa Temple is its 91-ft stone statue of Maitreya, the Future Buddha. It’s one of South Korea’s tallest stone statues.
21. Gyeongui Line Forest Park
Established in 2015, Gyeongui Line Forest Park is built on the retired Gyeongui railway line, which is now partially underground. The forested urban oasis is a sea of green filled with wide walking paths, clever reading nooks, grassed picnic areas, and exercise equipment. It’s conveniently located close to both Yeonnam-dong and Hongdae, the hip neighborhood mentioned above. A visit to Gyeongui Line Forest Park is one of the best outdoor things to do in Seoul.
A Jjimjilbang is a 24-hour gender-segregated public bathhouse in South Korea. They usually include hot tubs, cold-soaking pools, traditional Korean kiln saunas, exercise rooms, communal sleeping quarters, entertainment lounges, and massage facilities. They’re very popular with South Koreans, with some locals visiting on a weekly or monthly basis. One of the city’s most popular and tourist-friendly Jjimjilbangs is Dragon Hill Spa and Resort, which has featured on both CNN and in The New York Times.
23. Oil Tank Culture Park
Oil Tank Culture Park is definitely one of the city’s most interesting tourist attractions. Surrounded by Maebongsan Mountain, the eco-friendly park and cultural complex was originally an oil depot. However, it was shut down in 2000 due to its proximity to the 2002 World Cup venues. There are still six reservoir tanks onsite, which have fortunately been creatively transformed into performance, exhibition and education venues. The local government is passionate about sustainability and urban regeneration.
24. Leeum Samsung Museum of Art
Run by the Samsung Foundation of Culture, the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art focuses equally on Korean art and international modern and contemporary art. International architects designed the two modern museum buildings, which house an impressive collection of over 15,000 artworks. It has both permanent and temporary exhibitions on display. So when you need things to do in Seoul on a rainy day, head inside to see the exhibits at Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art.