Seoul has it all—traditional hanok villages, magnificent temples, cutting-edge art and architecture, buzzy night markets, non-stop parties, catchy K-pop tunes, and many, many more. If you can imagine it, you’ll find it here. The sheer volume of attractions at your fingertips can be overwhelming, so plan well with our picks of the best experiences in Seoul. As South Korea opens its doors to quarantine-free travel for fully vaccinated travelers, this is the perfect time to get planning for your much-deserved vacation.
1. Explore the magnificent Changdeokgung Palace
Out of the five remaining grand Joseon palaces in Seoul, Changdeokgung Palace is the best preserved. Built in 1405, the stunning palace is set in a sprawling complex featuring ornate buildings, beautifully landscaped lawns, and a lotus pond. The Huwon Secret Garden is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
2. Take a stroll in ancient alleys at Bukchon Hanok Village
Step 600 years into the past at the historic Bukchon Hanok Village. Perched on a picturesque hilltop location, the traditional Korean village is home to several neighborhoods of centuries-old houses known as hanok. Some have been converted into guesthouses, museums, and shops, but most remain private residences.
The Bukchon Hanok Village is often bundled in a tour with Changdeokgung Palace.
3. Look over the city skyline from the top of N Seoul Tower
Bask in sweeping 360-degree views of the city from atop the N Seoul Tower, an observation deck atop Namsan Mountain that’s dubbed the “Symbol of Seoul.” The tower looms nearly 500 meters above the city, with four observation decks and a rotating restaurant at the top. It’s also popular among couples, who come to attach padlocks on N Seoul’s famous Love Lock Bridge.
4. Ride and play at Lotte World Seoul
Home to the world’s largest indoor amusement park and the outdoor amusement park Magic Island, Lotte World is definitely a paradise for kids and kids at heart. There’s a dizzying number of attractions here—not just rides but also a massive indoor aquarium, a shopping mall, a folk museum, a luxury hotel, cinemas, and sports facilities. Trust us, you’d need a full day to make the most of your Lotte World trip. Skip long lines and enjoy unlimited rides with the special Magic Pass.
5. Get a taste of authentic Korean food at the Gwangjang Market
Sample a wide variety of authentic Korean food at Gwangjang Market, famous for being one of the oldest traditional markets in the city. Locals and travelers flock to this renowned central Seoul hotspot to get their fill of tteokboki (rice cakes), gimbap (Korean sushi), bibimbap (mixed rice bowl), japchae (stir-fried noodles) and other delicious Korean delicacies. It’s also a great destination to shop for vintage clothing, silk goods, and other handmade products.
6. Watch the royal guard changing ceremony at the Gyeongbokgung Palace
Another of Seoul’s beautiful Joseon palaces is the Gyeongbokgung Palace, which was originally built in 1395. Every hour, the royal guard changing ceremony takes place—it’s a fascinating tradition that’s certainly worth seeing at least once! The National Folk Museum and the National Palace Museum are also found in the palace complex.
Get the full experience at this Joseon palace and rent a hanbok dress you can wear while sightseeing!
7. Shop ‘til you drop at Myeongdong
Myeongdong is a shopper’s mecca, especially for beauty and skincare enthusiasts always on the lookout for high-quality cosmetics. Streets are lined with shops offering a stunning variety of products—many of them at lower prices than you’ll find elsewhere! Fashion stores are also available, then travelers can end the day with a yummy meal or a soothing spa experience.
Other renowned shopping districts in Seoul include Hongdae and Dongdaemun.
8. Buy traditional souvenirs at Insa-Dong
If you prefer traditional Korean souvenirs and artsy products, visit Insa-dong in Jongno-gu, Seoul. This is a wonderful neighborhood where travelers can find uniquely local handicrafts like pottery, traditional clothing, and teas. There are also art galleries, teahouses, and charming cafés. Insa-dong is especially lively during weekends.
9. Visit Gangnam’s Bongeunsa Buddhist Temple
A Buddhist temple dating back to the late 8th century, Bongeunsa is a serene pocket in the heart of the ultra-modern Gangnam district. The complex consists of several shrines and other buildings. After exploring the temple, go on a tour of the upscale Gangnam, known for soaring skyscrapers, trendy nightclubs, luxury shops, and exciting K-pop culture.
10. Learn to dance like a K-Pop star
Embrace the K-pop wave and polish your moves with a K-pop dance class in Seoul. Even for non-dancers, this is a fun holiday activity—and a great opportunity to learn from industry experts. You might even walk out of the class grooving like a true K-pop star!
11. Immerse yourself in Seoul’s thriving art scene
Museum hopping is a rewarding activity in Seoul, a city that’s becoming more widely renowned for its flourishing art scene. Make sure you stop by a few of the museums and galleries, such as the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Daelim Museum, and Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art.
If you’re planning to hit a few museums, plus other historical and cultural attractions, a Discover Seoul Pass may be worth the buy. The pass will also give you access to transportation options in the metro.
12. Dive into the nightlife at Seoul’s hottest party districts
A vibrant nightlife is one of the major draws of traveling to Seoul—even if you go out every night of your vacation, you’re unlikely to run out of hip clubs in the city. Hongdae, Itaewon, and Gangnam are all vibrant nightlife areas; for travelers looking to let loose, these spots won’t disappoint.
If you’ve roamed Seoul to your heart’s content, look beyond the city borders. It’s worth taking a day trip to some of the nearby natural and cultural attractions like Nami Island, Petite France, and the heavily guarded Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). If you’re only in the city for a day and you’d like to make the most of your stopover, consider signing up for a private day tour of Seoul.
Ready for your Korea trip? Head to KKday for the best travel deals in South Korea and other tourist-ready destinations.