Travel back in time.
Comprised of a jumbled web of narrow alleyways housing nearly 900 hanok buildings, the 600-year-old Bukchon Hanok Village is home to many of Seoul’s most cherished cultural assets, not to mention a collection of romantic cafés and restaurants. Spend an afternoon getting lost in this labyrinth of quaint streets, or, for a more in-depth look at the neighborhood, sign you and your date up for a free walking tour.
See a film.
Situated in the heart of Myeongdong, the Seoul Global Cultural Center is a space that promotes cultural exchange between residents and visitors. In addition to offering an array of programs and classes, the center hosts a number of free movie screenings. What’s more is that the screenings are occasionally followed by a discussion or Q&A session with popular names in the Korean film industry, making for a date that is anything but ordinary.
Similarly, the Korean Film Archive’s Cinematheque KOFA screens a variety of films ranging from Korean classics to foreign arthouse films for free. Ticket reservations can be made on their website or purchased on-site.
Cinematheque KOFA, 400 World Cup Buk-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea, +82-2-3153 2001
Marvel at a light and water show.
Chances are, you (and your certain someone) have never seen a fountain spouting out of a bridge before, much less one illuminated by rainbow lights! While there are numerous bridges that cross the Han River, Banpo Bridge is without a doubt the most spectacular, and it’s not hard to see why. Bring your date here, and surprise him or her with this magical sight. Pair it with a few convenience store beers, and you’ve got yourself the perfect summer night date.
Eat your way through a traditional market.
They say the way to one’s heart is through the stomach, so why not take your date out for a unique lunch? Forego the fine dining and head to Tongin Market’s Doshirak Café. Here, you can pick up a lunchbox and a string of tokens that can be used at participating vendors throughout the market for a mere 5,000 won (about US$4.50). Then, let the market’s aromas lure you from stall to stall, where you and your significant other can sample a variety of Korean classics ranging from steamed dumplings and rice cakes to grilled beef and roasted octopus. Once you’ve loaded up, enjoy your meal with locals and tourists alike at one of the shared tables upstairs.
Take a hike.
Bask in the majesty of Korea’s mountainous landscapes by taking a hike up Bukhansan, Seoul’s highest mountain. Although the various paths are by no means easy, it’s no secret that sweating releases pheromones, the body’s chemical attraction signals. Inject a bit of romance into your outdoor date with a picnic of kimbap (various ingredients rolled in rice) and makgeolli (milky rice wine), a cute gesture that will only set you back a couple thousand won.
Learn something new or enjoy a concert together on the cheap on “Culture Day.” On the last Wednesday of every month, participating galleries and museums offer free admission for permanent, touring, and in-house special exhibitions. Additionally, admission to cultural sites such as the royal palaces and entrance to special performances hosted by national art organizations such as the National Theater of Korea, National Gugak Center, Korea National Opera, and Korean National Ballet are either discounted or free of charge. For a complete list of participating venues, check out the Culture Day website.
Take your relationship to new heights.
There’s nothing more romantic than looking out on a glistening city of lights from a towering observation deck, and while there are plenty of places to make this rom-com-worthy date happen, most charge a hefty admission. But what many don’t realize, however, is that the 139-meter-high observatory at Seoul Dream Forest is both free and offers stunning panoramic views of the metropolis. The park’s Moon Reflecting Pond and Lawn Plaza are just as idyllic and make a great setting for an evening stroll.
Seoul Dream Forest, 173, Wolgye-ro, Gangbuk-gu, Seoul, South Korea, +82-2-2289-4001~5
Enjoy the arts.
Seoul is home to plenty of free art spaces, but Dongdaemun Design Plaza is a must-visit for design-loving couples. While some of the exhibitions require an admission fee, there are also a few free ones from time to time. Even if you don’t go into the structure itself, the Zaha Hadid-built complex is worth visiting if only to take in its magnificent, futuristic design. Don’t miss the field of LED roses, which provides a great background for a couple selfie.
Bike the Han River.
Active and athletic couples can easily and affordably take in views of Seoul’s unique skyline by biking along the city’s iconic Han River. While numerous shops punctuate the river, Yeouido Park is home to one of the biggest, where visitors can rent bicycles for around 3,000 won (US$2.50) for the first hour and 2,000 won (US$1.75) for each additional hour. Yeouido is also a bike tour checkpoint – one of 40 in the country – where riders can purchase a passport for a nominal fee in which they can collect stamps along the country’s bike routes to earn a certificate and medal.
Yeouido Park, Yeouido Park, Seoul, South Korea, +82-2-1330
Explore virtual worlds.
For something a bit more unconventional, make your way to VR Plus Café. As South Korea’s very first virtual reality café, the high-tech establishment is dedicated to showcasing this new form of entertainment to the public, providing multiple virtual experiences that visitors can try out for free. Take your date on a wild ride on the VR coaster or try on the HTC Vive headset, which is currently rated one of the best in the industry. This is one fun date that won’t break the bank, nor will it soon be forgotten.
VR Plus Café, 825-22 Yeoksam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea, +82-2-1522-8999