Seoul is one of the most exciting mega cities in Asia, and a major travel destination in the coming years due to the Winter Olympics 2018. Head to Seoul and you’ll find a mix of traditional and modern, with countless attractions and sites to explore for any taste! Here are the top 20 must-visit attractions in Seoul!
You might be surprised that Seoul has not only one, but five main palaces. Gyeongbokgung is the largest and most important of them all. Often compared to the Forbidden City in Beijing, Gyeongbokgung is a large palace complex that also houses the National Folk Museum of Korea. If you wear a traditional hanbok dress, which you can rent around town, you get free admission!
This lovely square is located in front of Gwanghwamun Gate, the main gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace. The square features a large statue of King Sejong The Great, the inventor of Korea’s Hangul alphabet, as well as statues of some of his other inventions.
The second largest palace in Seoul is Changdeokgung. This palace is especially popular because it has a large ‘secret garden’ with countless temples, pavilions and exotic flora and fauna. Changdeokgung is especially popular during spring with the many cherry blossoms, and in the fall with colorful foliage.
Bukcheon Hanok Village
In between Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung lies a picturesque village featuring over 400 traditional Korean houses, called hanok. The village features small cafes, restaurants, and shops offering handmade crafts and souvenirs. You can also find a couple of traditional teahouses in this area.
This 10-kilometer-long stream in the middle of the city is an outdoor exhibition and festival area. Especially during Christmas, and holidays like Buddha’s Birthday and the Lantern Festival, the stream is decorated with light arrangements and art pieces.
N Seoul Tower
Located on Namsan Mountain, the N Seoul Tower is Seoul’s second highest point, with a total height of 236m. Take in breathtaking views during the day, as well as at night from the tower. Couples also like to leave love locks up on the tower to signify the long-lasting promise of their relationship.
The largest traditional market in Korea, Namdaemun Market is the place to shop for cheap goods, as well as fresh, local fruits and vegetables. It is also a popular place to try your way through Korea’s snack food culture. The market is open throughout the night from 11PM to 4AM and is almost always crowded.
Seoul’s bustling shopping district of Myeongdong is an absolute must if you are looking to pick up trendy Korean fashion and skincare to take home. Myeongdong is also the place to go to find quirky themed cafes, such as the Hello Kitty Cafe or various cat and dog cafes.
Lotte World is Seoul’s largest recreation complex with the world’s largest indoor theme park, and an outdoor amusement park called ‘Magic Island,’ an artificial island inside a lake linked by a monorail and shopping malls. Lotte World also has a luxury hotel, a Korean folk museum, sports facilities, and movie theaters. If you’re looking for first-class entertainment, this is the place to go.
National Museum of Korea
Established in 1945, the National Museum of Korea is the country’s largest museum for Korean history and art. Due to its over 3 million annual visitors, the National Museum of Korea is one of the most-visited art museums in the world, as well as third most-visited in Asia.
The chief temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, Jogyesa Temple is one of the most important in the country. The temple was founded in 1395, at the beginning of the Joseon Dynasty. Visit this temple during Buddha’s birthday in May and you can take part in the local festivities.
Dedicated to deceased kings and queens of the Korean Joseon Dynasty, Jongmyo Shrine in Seoul is a cultural highlight in the city. In 1995, UNESCO declared the monument the oldest preserved, royal Confucian shrine. Jongmyo is adjacent to Changdeokgung Palace.
Bukhansan National Park
Even though South Korea is roughly the size of the US state Kentucky, it has 22 national parks. One of them is located just outside of Seoul. Hike up Bukhansan Mountain to discover an amazing view of the city during both the day and at night.
What might be so special about a bridge? The answer is the Moonlight Rainbow Fountain, the world’s longest bridge fountain. The water for the fountain is pumped directly from the river itself and continuously recycled to reflect Seoul’s eco-friendliness.
Thanks to Psy’s viral single ‘Gangnam Style,’ the neighborhood has probably become Seoul’s most famous part of town. A visit to Seoul would be incomplete without taking a photo in front of the ‘Gangnam Style’ statue in front of COEX Mall.
Covering an area of about 154,000 square meters, COEX Mall is the world’s largest underground shopping mall. The mall houses hundreds of shops with two food courts, a Megabox movie theater, the COEX Aquarium and a large bookstore.
War Memorial of Korea
The War Memorial of Korea opened in 1994 on the former site of the army headquarters. It showcases and pays respect to Korea’s military history. There are six indoor exhibits, as well as an outdoor exhibitions center displaying military equipment and war memorabilia.
The DMZ is one of those attractions that makes one shiver and think at the same time. Being the border between North and South Korea, the DMZ is a place where the cold war is still very much existent. Take a glimpse of North Korea when you tour this part of the country.
Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art
One of Seoul’s most prestigious art museums, the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, consists of two buildings showcasing traditional Korean art and contemporary art. 36 of the pieces in the traditional Korean art exhibition are designated national treasures by the Korean government.
60-16 Itaewon-ro 55-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea, +82 02 2014 6901
One of The Eight Gates of Seoul in the fortress wall of the city is Heunginjimun. It literally translates to ‘Gate of Rising Benevolence’ and is located in Seoul’s Dongdaemun district. The gate was first constructed in 1398, showing a strong architectural style of the late Joseon period.