This post is part of the series Seoul
Other posts in this series:
- Seoul: Interesting And Little Known Facts About Seoul
- Seoul: Best Places and Tourist Attractions To Visit (Current)
There is no doubt, Seoul is one of the most exciting cities and one of the most popular destinations in Asia. Seoul is a truly unique city, where you will find a perfect mix of traditional and modern, a fascinating and unusual culture, amazing food variety, some unique shopping opportunities, and of course, a lot of great entertainment options. Seoul is home to more than 25 million people which makes it the largest city in South Korea. Despite this fact, the capital city of South Korea is a very well organized and a very safe city to explore for any taste so visiting its many sights and attractions shouldn’t pose any problems. Here are our favorite and top must-visit attractions in Seoul!
Where to Stay in Seoul
As you would expect from a major Asian city, Seoul has no shortage of options when it comes to accommodation. As always, I’d suggest you stay somewhere central, to make accessing all the attractions as easy as possible.
The best places to stay in Seoul are Hongdae, Insadong, Myeongdong and Gangnam. However, my suggestion would be to stay in Hongdae or Insadong. Insadong is located in the heart of Seoul, close to most major attractions, plenty of shops, cafes, restaurants and street food options. Hongdae, on the other side, is a bustling university neighborhood which is the best choice if you are searching for a good nightlife and shopping area in Seoul.
You can find alternative hotels in Hongdae here and in Insadong here.
You can find apartments in Seoul here (Airbnb + up to 41 € off).
Read more reviews and compare Seoul hotel prices here.
Gyeongbokgung Palace, known also as Gyeongbok Palace, is one of the must-visit places in Seoul. The Palace was the first and largest of the five Grand Palaces constructed by the Joseon dynasty. Gyeongbokgung is to Seoul as Versailles is to Paris and Buckingham Palace to London. Gyeongbokgung Palace was built in 1395 and served as the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty. The original construction of Gyeongbokgung Palace was assigned in 1394 by King Taejo During, but due to the long history of its existence, the palace was rebuilt many times from the ashes. With the establishment of the Republic of Korea in 1948, the palace serves also as the president’s residence. It was officially opened to the public in 2018 after it was restored.
One of the most interesting things to see here is the changing of the guards which takes place every 60 minutes between the Heungnyemum Gate and Gwanghwamun Gate starting from 10 AM until 6 PM. This ceremony represents the traditional changing of the guards from back in the days when Gyeongbokgunit was an active palace. You do not have to buy tickets for the ceremony of changing the guards as it is free to watch.
Gwanghwamun is the main and largest gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul which was built in 1395 under the reign of King Taejo, the first king of the Joseon Dynasty. Seoul’s landmark has gown through several damages and restorations over the course of history. The Japanese destroyed the gate during the invasion in 1592 which left ruins for longer than 250 years until the reconstruction of Gyeongbokgung Palace in 1864. During the Korean War which took place between 1950 and 1953 year, Gwanghwamun underwent many series of damages and was, again, completely destroyed. The last major restoration project began in 2006 and the Gate was fully restored to its original form an officially opened to the public 4 years later in 2010.
Located in the centre of Sejong-ro Road, Gwanghwamun Square is considered as one of the most important of landmarks in Seoul. The square’s history is more than 600 years old and nowadays is home to the Government’s major administrative departments and mainly serves as a cultural and historical space.
Gwanghwamun Square stretches out from Gwanghwamun Gate to Sejongno Sageori Intersection and is divided into six sections. In the main section, you will find the statue of King Sejong the Great – the creator of Korea’s alphabet (Hangeul). Near King Sejong the Great, you can also observe statues of his main inventions as well as a gallery that displays the story of the King.
You can also visit the statue of Admiral Yi Sunshin, famous for its victories as a commander against the Japanese invasion of Korea (1592-1598). Gwanghwamun Square is also home to the fountain and sculpture of Haeshi which is the symbol of Seoul, as well as the “Waterway of History” on both sides of the square. Sometimes, many different kinds of performances take place here and the night view and landscape are a must-see in Seoul.
Deoksugung Palace is the smallest of the five palaces in Seoul but is still one of the most unique places in the capital that every traveler should visit. Deoksugung was home to Joseon Dynasty who ruled for over 500 years from 1392 until 1910. The Palace was residence of Prince Wolsan – the older brother of King Seongjong. During the Japanese occupation of Korea in 1592, Deoksugung Palace became a temporary royal residence.
Deoksugung means “palace of virtue and longevity” and indeed, you can spot many different architectural styles. After being rebuilt in 1618, Changdeokgung became the main palace in Seoul for the next 270 years and played an important role until the end of the 19th century.
The palace is located in downtown Seoul right next to a subway station which makes it easy to visit. Here you can also see the changing of the guard ceremony which takes place at 11:00, 14:00, and 15:30.
Along with Confucian, Christianity, and Taoism, Buddhism has been one of the main religions of Korea. Located in the heart of Seoul Jogyesa Temple is one of the most important and famous Buddhist temples in Korea. In fact, if you ask a local to recommend you a temple in Seoul, 90% of them will say Jogyesa Temple. The temple was first built in 1395 and after a series of remodelling, the modern temple was established in 1910.
The main hall of the Jogyesa Temple “Daeungjeon” (Main Dharma Hall) is the biggest temple building in Seoul and offers a spectacular view for all the visitors. It has 3 big statues of the Buddha. Jogyesa Temple is a famous spot to visit the whole year-round as there are gorgeous installations that change from a ceiling of lanterns in the spring so lotus plants in pots in the summer and then into flowers in the spring. Whether you’re a Buddhist or not, the atmosphere at Jogyesa temple will give you an incredible feeling. Jogyesa is the place where you can sit down somewhere in the temple and enjoy a sense of peace in the middle of a metropolitan city like Seoul!
Insadong is a district located in the heart of Seoul which represents the Korean traditional culture and crafts. Insadong has a 500 years old history as it was the residence of the royal officials. During the Japanese occupation, Insadong was also an antique trading area.
It is known that Insadong was formed by two towns whose names end with the syllables “In” and “Sa”. Nowadays, there are tons of art stores located along the main road of Insadong, selling a wide variety of traditional goods and souvenirs such as hanbok (traditional clothing), hanji (traditional paper), traditional teas, pottery, and folk crafts.
Bukchon Hanok Village
There is no doubt that visiting Bukchon Hanok Village is one of the top things to do in Seoul. Especially if you are searching for a typical Korean village experience. The name Bukchon literally translates to “northern village”, and hanok literally translates to Korean house (Han means Korea). And indeed, in Bukchon Hanok you can enjoy many traditional Korean houses. The traditional Korean houses are mostly made by natural materal like wood, stone, and paper with tiled roof. Furthermore, Hanoks are usually left undecorated so that the easier melt with the natural surroundings.
Bukchon Hanok Village is a residential area which you can find north of central Seoul between Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung palaces. The village was formed between 1392 – 1910 during the Joseon Dynasty, allowing visitors nowadays to experience the atmosphere of 600-year-old urban environment. Bukchon was traditionally the residential quarter of high-ranking government officials and the home to nobles, serving in the palace and their families.
Changdeokgung Palace is the best-preserved royal palace of all five in Seoul. Changdeokgung is a UNESCO World Heritage Site built by the Joseon Dynasty in 1405 by King Taejong. The palace is also known as Donggwol, or the Eastern Palace, because of its location to the east of Gyeongbokgung Palace. The palace was home to the Joseon government and the residence of many kings for longer than 270 years, which makes Changdeokgung Palace the longest-serving royal residential palace in Seoul. Like all palaces in Seoul, Changdeokgung was burnt down during the Japanese invasion in 1592. The Eastern palace became the first palace to be rebuilt in 1610. In 1997, Changdeokgung Palace was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Bongeunsa Temple is a Buddhist temple located in the heart of Seoul right next to the north of COEX building in Gangnam district. Originally the temple was constructed in the year of 794 by King Weongseong. It was originally known as Gyeonseongsa. During the Joseon Dynasty, the government oppressed Buddhism and supported Confucianism. With the help of Queen Munjeong and Monk Bo-wu, Buddhism was revived in Korea. Nowadays, in Bongeunsa Temple you can visit more than 3400 Buddhist scriptures of 13 different types, including the works of Kim Jeong-hee.
There are a lot of ‘must-visit-shopping’ places in Seoul and Namdaemun is definitely a great place for seeing this unique side of the capital city. Namdaemun offers a multitude of authentic Korean food and the market is a fun place to explore. Namdaemun Market is considered as South Korea’s oldest and largest retail market and you can probably find almost anything you want or need here.
Myeondong Shopping Street
Welcome to our favourite shopping district in Seoul – Myeongdong! It doesn’t really matter if you are the serial shopper or just someone looking for the best souvenirs for your friends and family, Myeongdong is the place to go. Most of the stores at Myeongdong offer tax-free claims. Cashiers will give you 1 receipt + 1 tax refund slip in an envelope for every purchase where you spend at least KRW 30.000. You just need to show your passport or flight number to get them. If you are searching for the famous Korean Cosmetic here you will find hundreds of shops with the best offers in Seoul.
Namsangol Hanok Village
Namsangol Hanok Village is the second traditional village we visited during our stay in Seoul. It is located on the north side of Namsan Mountain. The good news is, you don’t need a ticket and there’s no admission fee so you can visit Namsangol Hanok Village for free! This village has five restored traditional Korean houses, a pavilion, a traditional garden, a performance art stage, making it a perfect spot for both locals and tourists to take a leisure walk. If you arrive here, you will feel like time has frozen up. The buildings from hundreds of years ago still stands, giving people a glimpse of what it was like back then.
N Seoul Tower
First-time travelers to Seoul should include probably the most iconic landmark of the city, the N Seoul Tower or Namsan Tower, in their itinerary. N Seoul Tower is located at the top of Mt. Namsan and has the best panoramic views of Seoul! Namsan is actually the name of the mountain and the tower is called Seoul Tower Plaza. The plaza itself comprises of restaurants, museum, Hello Kitty Island, observatory and shops.
N. Seoul Tower is the second-highest point in Seoul (236 m). The tower was built in 1971 as South Korea’s first general radio wave tower, providing TV and radio broadcast in the capital.
War Memorial of Korea
Another great and free activity in Seoul is visiting the War Memorial Museum of Korea. The museum is housed in the former national army headquarters. The major focus of the museum is on the Korean War which took place between 25th June 1950 and 27th July 1953 resulting in a death toll of just over 1.2 million people. Infront of the museum is a park with an outdoor hall where tanks, aircraft, warships and artillery used during the Korean War are on display. The memorial and museum have a ton of information and it’s an easy stop to make just down the street from the popular Itaewon district of Seoul.
National Museum of Korea
If you want to learn more about the history and culture of Korea and spend an amazing time in one of the best museums in Asia, you have to visit The National Museum of Korea. The museum is home to the best collection of Korean history and culture with more than 420.000 historical artefacts from ancient days to the modern era! The National Museum of Korea is ranked as the sixth-largest museum in the world and the best thing that will leave you speechless: you can visit it for FREE!!!
Starfield COEX Mall
Starfield Coex Mall is the largest underground shopping mall in all of Asia and you will probably get lost here exactly as we did. It can take more than 20 minutes just to walk from one side of the mall to the other. Despite all the shopping possibilities, my favourite place is definitely the Starfield Library. Starfield Library is the most unique, beautiful and modern library I’ve ever been to in my entire life! Starfield is open to the public and is free of charge. The library has an outstanding design as it’s open on all sides to the stores around it. The first thing you will see is the 3 towering bookshelves standing 13 meters tall each. If you love as much being around books as I do, the sight of more than 50,000 books and magazines will most certainly make your knees feel like pudding and your heart will start beating faster and faster… You can literarily spend some hours, days, weeks, and even months here if you want to jump from book to book!
This post is part of the series SeoulOther posts in this series:Seoul: Interesting And Little…
For the week we spent in Seoul, we decided to book an apartment in Hongdae which is one of the hippest areas in the capital city. Many locals will say that this place is for the younger generation as Hongdae is located near three popular and different universities (Yonsei, Hongik, and Ehwa). It’s quickly grown to be the hotspot for all the cool and trendy happenings in Korea and is definitely the best place for people with love for art. From walking the streets at night, shopping at all the various shops, chilling in some unique cafes, enjoying the best Street Performers in Seoul, and finding quirky things to do and see, Hongdae will never get boring!
Dongdaemun & Dongdaemun Design Plaza
Dongdaemun History & Culture Park is home to the world’s largest, atypical architecture which was designed by world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid. Dongdaemun is probably one of the most modern places you can visit not only in Seoul but also in Asia and is a symbol for the Korean creative industry. Seoul was named as World Design Capital in 2010, and one of the biggest reasons behind this award was Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP). DDP is modern, artistic, and minimalistic. The park is an urban hub for creatives and is home to 5 halls: Art Hall, Museum, Design Lab, Design Market, and Dongdaemun History and Culture Park.
South Korea Accommodation:
Ready to visit South Korea? Start looking for your next accommodation now while it’s fresh in your mind.
Want stylish accommodation in South Korea you can afford?. Find the cheapest prices for the best accommodations possible:
- Click here to search for hotels in South Korea (Booking.com)
- Click here to search apartments in South Korea (Airbnb + up to 40 € off)
- Click here to search hostels in South Korea (Agoda)
South Korea Flights:
If you are flying to South Korea it is beneficial to use a flight comparison site to find the cheapest flights. I recommend and use Kiwi.com. Click here to compare and book cheap flights to South Korea.
Rental Car in South Korea
Rentalcars.com searches all the big car rental companies in South Korea and finds the best price for you. This is probably the easiest way to rent a car in South Korea and around the World.
South Korea Tours
If you are the type of person who prefers joining a tour, there are all kinds of guided tours around South Korea including Seoul.
Enjoy the day!
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