The 8 Best Guided Tours to Take in Seoul
Korean palace guard | © travel oriented / Flickr
Whether you’re in town for a few days and want to learn all about Korea’s drinking culture, or you’re an expat hoping to get a crash course in the city’s history, rest assured that there is a unique guided tour in Seoul for you. Here are some of the best.
Everyone knows that Koreans love to drink, but few outsiders truly understand the history, culture and traditions that are associated with the country’s distilled spirits and brewed rice wines. Which is exactly what Veronica of Gastro Tour Seoul is hoping to change. On her Brew Master Tour, she takes visitors through the winding alleys of the city’s oldest neighborhoods and introduces them to the few remaining master artisans who brew and distil according to the time-honored methods passed down through the generations.
In addition to learning about their methods, visitors can enjoy a traditional Korean spread at one of the Brew Master’s restaurants, which includes a few bowls of home-brewed makgeolli (rice wine).
Meeting a makgeolli Brew Master with Gastro Tour Seoul | © Mimsie Ladner
The Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, is a 250-kilometer-long, four-kilometer-wide stretch of land that serves as a buffer zone between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). A visit to this destination is a highly informative, if not unnerving experience that won’t soon be forgotten.
While there are many DMZ tours available, with each offering insight into different parts of the area, perhaps the most unique is the Panmunjom Tour with the Panmunjom Travel Center. On this tour, visitors have the opportunity to visit the closest point a tourist can get to North Korea with a North Korean defector. By listening to the guide’s story and having the opportunity to participate in a Q&A session, visitors can attain a better understanding of the political situation between the two countries.
Panmunjom Tour | © Clay Gilliland / Flickr
Fish Market Tour
Surrounded by water on three sides, the Korean peninsula is famous for its seafood. From simple recipes like fish stew and grilled shellfish to bizarre dishes such as live octopus and fermented skate, there’s plenty to please the seafood-loving foodie, and there’s no better place to experience the best the country has to offer than at a traditional seafood market.
Navigating a traditional market for the first time can be confusing, if not intimidating, but Delectable Travel’s Fish Market Tour ensures that visitors have a hassle-free, fun experience. Knowledgeable guides lead participants through the lively Mapo Fish Market and help them pick out a selection of sashimi, giant crab, or, for the more adventurous eater, live octopus. Guests are then brought to a restaurant where they can have the dish prepared according to their preferences.
Mapo Fish Market, 674 Nodeul-ro, Noryangjin 1(il)-dong, Dongjak-gu, 서울특별시 South Korea
Bukchon Hanok Village Walking Tour
This free walking tour takes visitors around the area of Bukchon Hanok Village, one of the few districts in Seoul where Korea’s traditions and contemporary life coexist. Marvel at the neighborhood’s hanok, traditional architectural structures, as a Seoul Cultural Tourism Volunteer Guides leads you through enchanting alleys that seem frozen in time.
You’ll also have the opportunity to peek inside the area’s cultural centers and historical attractions such as the Bukchon Museum and Jeongdok Library. There’s no better way to experience, learn and immerse yourself in traditional Korean culture!
Gye-dong, Jongno District, Seoul, South Korea
Korean cuisine, is vibrant, flavorful, and, above all, diverse. For gastronomes eager to sample Korea’s tastiest cuisine in a limited amount of time, O’ngo Food Communications offers a number of food tours that take all the guesswork out of the search for the city’s best restaurants. It’s most popular is its Night Dining Tour, which takes guests into the heart of Seoul’s Jongno district, an area often overlooked by tourists but perfect for getting a glimpse into the life of a local.
On this tour, visit a renowned Korean BBQ restaurant, Gwangjang Market and a pojangmacha, or food tent, among other foodie hotspots. Knowledgeable guides add to the fun by offering interesting insights into Korean culture, such as local eating and drinking customs. Be sure to inquire about Korean hangover remedies, as you may need one or two the following morning.
Trying Korean BBQ on O'ngo Food Communications' Night Dining Tour | © Mimsie Ladner
Murder! Ghosts! Sex! The city’s scariest tales are all unveiled during Korea Food Tours’ Dark Side of Seoul tour. This evening walking tour takes horror lovers down the dark alleys of the city’s forgotten 600-year history of bloody massacres, seedy hideaways, and mourning ghosts. Stops on this tour include the site of a gruesome massacre, the bridge whose stones tell a dark story of revenge, and a neighborhood known to be occupied by the spirits of prostitutes who met terrible ends.
Clairvoyants on past tours have reported sightings of ghosts along the walk, some curious enough to join the group. Fortunately enough, the guides offer female participants a protective talisman to ward off evil on their journey.
Seoul's Changdeok Palace at night | © Adam Nicholson / Flickr
If you have some time to kill during your stopover at Incheon International Airport, consider signing up for one of the exciting Transit Tours to experience some of the popular sights and sounds of Korea. The five-hour Seoul City Tours offer a wide variety of activities that appeal to just about every interest. Opt to visit Seoul’s historical treasures or go shopping in some of the city’s trendiest districts. What’s more is that each tour is led by an English-speaking tour guide, and they are all free of charge!
Downtown Seoul | © Mario Sánchez Prada / Flickr
Discover Hallyu in Gangnam
This private tour operated by OnedayKorea is a must for any Hallyu fan. Beginning at the Hallyu Experience Zone, the tour takes visitors through the glitzy neighborhoods of Gangnam, the K-pop capital of South Korea. Check out K Star Road, where you can see the country’s top entertainment agencies such as SM Entertainment, Cube Entertainment and JYP Entertainment, and snap a photo with the statues that represent idols such as Psy, EXO and 4minute. Afterward, takr the opportunity to chow down at idol-owned restaurants and purchase Hallyu memorabilia. You might even catch a glimpse of your favorite celebrity!
K Star Rd, Dosan-daero 89-gil, Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea