7 Non-Touristy Things to Do in South Korea

Ikseondong teahouse
Ikseondong teahouse | © Linda Dunsmore
Linda Dunsmore

South Korea is one of the most intriguing travel destinations as it often stands in the shadows of its two neighbors, China and Japan. However, the land of the morning calm should be high up on your travel bucket list – and not only because of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in 2018. When you go, dive deep into Korean culture with these non-touristy things to do in South Korea.

Wear Traditional Korean Clothing

Chances are, you start your journey in Seoul. The Korean capital is a melting pot of tradition and modernity with old temples and palaces standing next to futuristic exhibition halls and museums. If you want to understand Koreans, the first step is to dress accordingly. Rent a Korean hanbok and you will not only feel more like a local, but you will also have free access to cultural sites, such as the palaces and temples in the city.

Hanbok-clad girls pose at Gyeongbok Palace

Play Traditional Korean Games

Visit Busan’s SpaLand

Koreans love their bathhouses and it’s not uncommon to spend an entire day soaking in a variety of healing waters. One of Korea’s best bathhouses is located in the country’s second largest city of Busan in the south of the country. The coastal city is known for its beach vibe, seafood and natural springs. Busan’s SpaLand is an upscale version of the common Korean jjimjilbang (bathhouses) but absolutely affordable with admissions ranging from ₩12,000 ($10.50) on weekdays to ₩14,000 ($12.25) on weekends.

Explore Seoul’s Upcoming Artist Village

Most tourists in Seoul visit Bukchon Hanok Village with its old Korean houses and lovely shops. However, there is a neighborhood in Seoul that is far more traditional and hip featuring intriguing hanok teahouses, artist cafés and vintage shops. The neighborhood of Ikseondong was saved destruction by its faithful locals who have turned the area into a haven for art lovers, indie music fans and those interested in Korean traditional architecture.

Ikseondong teahouse

Take a Cooking Class

While most tourists enjoy the wide selection of Korean dishes when traveling the country, rarely do they learn how to prepare a Korean meal. Korean food is a vital part of the country’s culture and history, which is why a Korean cooking class is a fantastic opportunity to get in touch with Korean mentality. There are multiple restaurants and cooking schools offering English cooking classes to expats and foreign visitors.

Attend Boryeong Mud Fest

If you have the chance to attend a local festival while in South Korea, do it! One of the most interesting and fun festivals to take part in is the mud fest in Boryeong. While it might seem like a bizarre idea, countless locals and foreigners get together in the middle of July every year to get dirty. If mud wrestling, mud sliding or relaxing in a mega mud tub sounds appealing to you, this is the place to go.

Explore Tapsa Temple

While temples are not a rare sight in South Korea, Tapsa Temple at the foot of Maisan Mountain in North Jeolla Province is so unknown that not even many Koreans know about it. The temple features more than 80 man-made stone pagodas that are said to have created an electromagnetic powerhouse. It is believed that if you make a wish and place a pebble on one of the pagodas, it will come true.

Tapsa Temple

Want more? Check out our previous guide for unusual things to do specifically in Seoul.

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article