Big, modern and connected are the first three words that come to my mind when I try to describe the capital city of South Korea, and because of this there are many things to do in Seoul you will enjoy. As soon as you head out of Incheon International Airport and look out the bus window you’ll realize that you are now in a developed, fast-paced industrialized country where exoticism and adventure are concepts that have to be looked for if you want to experience them. So leave your gear at any of the good value hotels in Seoul and get ready to walk the streets.
Top Things to Do in Seoul
Bukchon Hanok Village This is a beautiful village to visit if you’re looking for awesome sightseeing in Seoul as Bukchon is one the few places in Seoul you can see traditional Korean housing. These traditional Korean homes used to belong to Korean aristocracy, and are now under protection against development
Gwanghwamun This Seoul landmark is a must see tourist attraction for those interested in traditional Korean life. Right next to Gwanghwamun there are the statues of King Sejong the Great and Yi Sun-sin.
Gwangjang Market is one of the markets in Seoul frequented by tourists because of its local feel and delicious Korean street food. Some of the famous dishes here are the Korean pancakes or baby gimbap, and if you want to meet typical old school ajummas, check out the women vendors!
Insadong is the most popular area for tourists in Seoul, and not without reason. There are plenty of stylish cafes, restaurants and shops where you can spend your money in a well decorated street. I recommend you get here about an hour before sunset, so you get to see what the place looks like during the day but also during the night, when the lights go on and the street exudes splendor.
Lotte World Although the Jamsil area can also be included in the shopping section of this list, Lotte World gets its own section as it’s probably the most popular amusement park in Seoul. It’s a great place to go for a date or even with a group of friends. Rides, games and ice skating make this a great place to spend an entire day in Seoul.
Gangnam Station Gangnam Station is now a very popular spot for not only Korean college students who live below the Han river but travellers from around the world thanks to the popular song you all know about. With tons of bars, restaurants, and cafes, Gangnam Station is a central destination for people who just need to hang out with their friends! Also, it’s pretty easy to get to most places in Seoul with all the buses that run in and out of the place.
Yongsan Electronics Market Shopping electronics should be in your list of things to do in Seoul, and all your electronic needs will be met here, at Yongsan Electronics market. It is the place in Seoul to go if you need cameras, video games, appliances, cell phones and anything else electronics. The vendors can be a bit pushy, and you’ll have to shop around to see the best prices, so it can be a bit of work. But it’s a market, so you might have fun with the bargaining side of this whole Seoul shopping experience.
Changdeokgung Palace. For 270 years, the palace was home to the Joseon government and was also the favored residence of many Joseon Dynasty kings. This makes Changdeokgung the longest-serving royal residential palace, and compared to other palaces, Changdeokgung is well-preserved and still has many of its original features, thus ranking high in the things to do in Seoul list. Visiting it requires you join a mandatory 1.5 hour guided tour in English with about 50 other tourists. I really dislike guided tours for large groups, so I drifted behind and took pictures at my own pace while reading the brochure that was given to us. I really enjoyed it doing it like this instead, and if there is one palace you should visit while here this should be it! (For other cities with interesting villages and palaces worth visiting in Korea you will also like consider Gyeongju).
Cheonggyecheon walk The central business district of Seoul is like that of any other major city but with a twist: between high rise buildings and under wide streets flows a narrow clean creek with adjacent sidewalks surrounded by green bushes and flowered plants. It is here that many Seoul citizens come to enjoy a walk or jog through the city but away from it at the same time. We walked as the locals did and dipped our feet in the cool stream, and had the opportunity to see an open air photography exhibition of the Korean war.
Insawan is a must-see for the Seoul tourist, though unfortunately may people miss it. It ranks as one of the top things to do in Seoul in my list as it offers a different perspective of this vibrant city. We meandered for an afternoon along the narrow streets where old shrines and singing shamans transport you to a different world; only the great views of Seoul remind you you are still on planet Earth. I would say it’s the best place where to finish your visit of this city.
DMZ Tour The next day we joined a tour to the world famous DMZ zone with North Korea. The experience is quite interesting although admittedly under whelming but you do learn the history behind it and feel the witted threat north Korea exudes. There are a few options available, and depending on the price you choose to pay you’ll get to see more or less. I do recommend it.
We wrapped up our Seoul stay by meandering that afternoon along the narrow streets of Insawan area, where old shrines and singing shamans transport you to a different world; only the great views of Seoul remind you you are still on planet Earth. I would say it’s the best place where to finish your visit of this city, one that can keep you busy for several days. Enjoy Seoul!
South Korea Tourism Board http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/index.kto
Official Seoul Tourism Website http://www.visitseoul.net/en/index.do?_method=main