Being the capital of South Korea and the largest city in country, there is never a lack of things to do in Seoul. There is so much going on in the city that there never really is a dull moment. The day is filled with shopping, history or day trip and then the night comes alive with night markets, street food and even more shopping! We had no idea that there were so many things to do in Seoul, so here is a guide to what you can get up to in the busiest city in South Korea.
Rewind to a few weeks ago….
South Korea was never on our list of places to go and for me, it wasn’t somewhere i ever considered on visiting. We came to a point on our travels where we had to re-consider our route and weigh up our options on where to go but also what would be most cost effective. To be honest, it was a spontaneous flight booking before we had even done any research. We just knew it would be Autumn and that it would be pretty 🙂 Joe then spent the next day or so, researching and writing notes on what we can do there and things to do in Seoul. We had no idea there was so much and what a popular destination it was!
The city of Seoul is situated in the Northwest of South Korea and is home to over 10 million people. Due to its population, it is almost twice that of New York and eight times greater than Rome! With that in mind, consider how much is there and the amount of things to in Seoul.
So, things to do in Seoul?
Seoul is a big city so grab your walking shoes, get on some public transport and make the most of the beautiful city! Here is a list of things to do in Seoul that you wont regret.
Gyeongbokgung Palace & Changdeokgung Palace
If you like history, then head over to see the biggest palaces in Seoul and the most popular too. The Gyeongbokgun Palace house 300 builidings, so definitely make time to have a walk around. To be honest, even if you don’t like history, they are beautiful and definitely worth visiting. The structures are incredible and full of colour. They are both really accessible with direct subway stations and bus stops. If you download the free app; MapsMe, you’ll be find the attractions really easily!
Cost; 3000 Won per adult & 1500 per child.
Opening hours; 9am-5:30pm
A strange but cute little visit to this cafe located in Hyewha- Open from 12:30pm-10:30pm. It’s quite hard to find as it is up a small alley but there are signs on the main road so hopefully you wont miss it! When you arrive at the Racoon cafe, it does just look like an ordinary cafe, so you can just go for food and drink if you wish. It’s not the cheapest of cafe’s but you can just grab a coffee for about 2000 won. However, if your going to visit, you might as well visit the racoons. Admission is 6000 won, and you pretty much get as much time as you want with them. They do have rules such as certain places to stroke them or making too much noise, but the site is really interactive! The staff are also really friendly and help you hand feed the animals. You can tell they are really loved and well looked after!
Cheonggyecheon is an 11 km long modern stream that runs through downtown Seoul. The stream starts from Cheonggye Plaza, a popular cultural arts venue, and passes under a total of 22 bridges before flowing into the Hangang River, with many attractions along the way. What’s most beautiful about this stream, is the hundreds of colourful umbrellas that hang over it. At night, the stream comes alive with little lights along the pathway of the stream and lights throughout the umbrellas. The stream is so long as there is so much around it, that it makes the perfect evening walk. Definitely worth a visit in the day and at night time.
Probably one of our favourite things to do in Seoul. Hanok Village is home to hundreds of traditional houses, called hanok, that date back to the Joseon Dynasty. Today, Hanok village treats many visitors to guesthouses, restaurants and tea houses, providing them with an opportunity to experience, learn and immerse themselves in traditional Korean culture. The village is quite big and is full of hills so be prepared to walk quite a bit, but it is full of cute little souvenir stalls and boutique shops. You’ll see a lot of people dressed in traditional Korean clothing which gives you a really cultured feel. There are tons are photo spots so dont forget your camera!
How to get to Hanok Village?
Take Exit 2 of Anguk Station (Line No. 3).
If you love a bit of shopping like us, then i highly reccomend heading over to Migliore. It is centered right in Dongdaemun and easily accessible from Dongdaemun History & Culture Park. The store is huge and has a range of womens & mens clothes as well as jewellery, cosmetics and accessories. The clothes aren’t anything like high street clothes but it really shows how fashionable South Korea is. The prices definitely vary but it’s the kind of place you can do a bit of haggling. Remember not to be rude or impatient with them. Don’t drop the price too much but they will usually come to a happy medium with you.
Dongdaemun Design Plaza
Located just opposite from Migliore shopping centre, the DDP was voted as one of the top 52 places to visit in 2015 and the most instagrammed tagged location. The structure of the plaza is incredible and is the most iconic landmark in South Korea’s design industry, The Dongadaemun Plaza is a key venue for design related shows, exhibitions and other big events. It is free to enter and look around but there are additional costs if you want to attend an event or conference. The place is full of modern shops full of novelty ideas, its great to look around and see what there is.
Situated almost 480 metres above sea level, makes Seoul Tower one of the tallest towers in South Korea. The tower’s main attractions include multi-colored digital art projected onto the tower at night, a digital observatory and roof terrace. Namsam Mountain surrounds the tower and has made it a popular tourist site. There are a number of viewing platforms that people can use throughout the day and into the evening that give a panoramic view of the city. You either hike up to the tower by a lot of steep steps, or get a cable car that costs 9000 won for both ways. If you have the time, it would be great to hike and get the views, but it was more convenient time wise for us to get the cable car. If its something your interested in, the tower is surrounded by love padlocks that you can buy there, sign and lock on to railings. There are literally thousands there!!
A popular day trip for anyone visiting Seoul. Nami Island is quite tricky to get to and would need careful planning regarding public buses. If that is something you would prefer, then it is possible, but if not there are plenty of tour operators that organise the trip.
Nami Island is located just about an hour from Seoul and its a great little escape from the big city. There are two ways you can get to Nami Island. Either get the 5 min ferry across to the island or you can even zip wire it across. Sometimes it can get quite busy so the queue for the zip line can be long, but thats up to you 🙂 it does look pretty cool! The island is full of nature and is beautiful. We went in Autumn and the leaves were just beginning to turn yellow and orange. Unfortunatly, we went on a Sunday, so it was rather busy and full of families. I would probably recommend going on a weekday for less crowds and queues. Food can also get quite pricey on the Island. So maybe take some snacks and water with you just to fill you up throughout the day.
Nami Island Fact- Nami Island declared its “cultural independence” on 01 March 2006. This imaginary “country” has not only invented its own passport, but also currency, stamp, and telephone card!
•Be advised though, any currency you exchange, you can not use it off Nami Island•
Seoul is a beautiful city and i would highly recommend anyone thinking of going, to definitely take the time to visit. It can become quite pricey, depending on what you do & how you do it. Although, you really can make it as cheap as you want.
Where to stay in Seoul?
If your looking at staying in Seoul on a budget then i would definitely recommend staying at Dongaemun Inn. It is in the best location near Dongdaemun station and right in the centre of markets, food & shopping. The owner of the guesthouse it so lovely and will go out of his way to make sure everything is ok for you and will give you the best information about Seoul. The rooms are basic but clean and it’s all we could ask for, for decent accommodation in South Korea.
Visiting South Korea is definite a must and should be on everyone’s bucket list regardless of what you may think. It is one of the safest and most popular tourist destinations and i am not surprised. It has completely exceeded our expectations and I am so glad we made the decision to come visit. There are hundreds of things to in Seoul, these are just what we got up to and what we enjoyed. South Korea is a beautiful country and with all weather conditions, makes every season breathtaking.