Seoul Searching: 10 Things to See and Do in Seoul, South Korea

Seoul, South Korea’s capital, is the largest, most populated city in South Korea and home to half of the South Korean population in the metropolitan area. With high rise buildings dominating the city’s skyline and untouched mountains, Seoul has the best mix of city and nature for the perfect getaway.

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Seoul, South Korea

1. Visit Seoul’s Shopping Heaven

Shopping in Seoul is a never-ending mission. From high-end fashion to local entrepreneurs, you can find everything, anything and things you didn’t know you needed. It might be useful for you to bring a large reusable bag as local stalls give out small and flimsy plastic bags. A number of places worth visiting are:

Myeongdong

Myeongdong is the best place to go for any first-timer’s trip to Seoul. On every street you will be overwhelmed with fashion, makeup and skincare stores. Don’t worry about getting hungry while you shop as the streets have street food stalls and restaurants in abundance. South Korea has become world famous for their top skincare products which are highly raved about by bloggers and celebrities. Korean fashion has taken the world by storm. Everyone wants to be wearing the same outfit as the actors and actresses in K-Dramas and the K-Pop idols. The fast fashion in South Korea makes this easily accessible and affordable to the average joe. As well as the street shopping in Myeongdong, there are many indoor malls that you can explore. Most notably, Migliore and Lotte Department Store.

Bustling streets of Myeongdong

Migliore

  • Opening Hours: Everyday, 10:30 a.m. – 5 a.m.
  • Great for: Fashion

Migliore mall: 263 Jangchungdan-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Lotte Department Store

  • Opening Hours: Everyday, 10:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.
  • Great for: Other big Korean cosmetic brands and international brands. 
  • Tip: Ask for tax refunds as tax can be up to 10% in South Korea.

Lotte Department Store: 30, Eulji-ro 11-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Ewha Women’s University Fashion Street

Right next to this university campus, there are streets of shopping similar to the streets of Myeongdong. It is filled with young and trendy styles to cater to the students who attend the university nearby. It is definitely worth checking out as you will find some bargains in these stores.

  • Opening Hours: Everyday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
  • Great for: Fashion, accessories and cosmetics. 

Ewha Women’s University Fashion Street 52, Ewhayeodae-gil, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, South Korea

COMMON GROUND 

Since opening in 2015, COMMON GROUND has become a must-stop place in Seoul for people to see. COMMON GROUND is a unique creatively design complex made out of 200 shipping containers This makes COMMON GROUND the largest shipping container mall in the world  and in each container there is a small business or entrepreneur selling products you can’t get anywhere else, adding to the flair of this mall. In addition, the containers have been painted a bright blue colour with white writing making it the perfect place for people to take “that instagram picture.”

  • Opening Hours: Everyday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
  • Great for: Quirky items you can’t find anywhere else

COMMON GROUND 200, Achasan-ro, Gwangjin-gu, Seoul

2. Pose in Instagrammable Cafés

There are cafés for every type of person in Seoul: anime-themed cafés, Line and Kakao friends cafés and chic floral cafés. The best cafés on everyone’s Instagram are:

943 Kings Cross Harry Potter Café

  • Opening Hours: Tues-Fri, 11:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. and Sat-Sun 9:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. 

943 Kings Cross Harry Potter Café 417 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul

Decoration inside 943 Kings Cross Harry Potter Café

Photo spot inside 943 Kings Cross Harry Potter Café

Floral Flower Café by Lovin’ Her

  • Opening hours: Everyday, 10:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.

Floral Flower Café by Lovin’ Her, 22 Sinchon-ro 6-gil, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Selection of drinks served in Floral Flower

Zapangi

  • Opening hours: Everyday, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
  • Zapangi is hidden behind the pink vending machine that acts as the entrance.

Zapangi entrance, 400-2 Mangwon-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea

The speakeasy of cafés

3. Eat Authentic Korean Food

The Korean Wave (or Hallyu) has made Korean cuisine more readily available in different countries, you may find in cities with a large Korean population will have their own Koreatown. Street food is the most efficient way to try a large amount of different dishes as it is inexpensive and usually in small portions so you can have a variety for one meal. Great street food markets that are loved by locals are Namdaemun market, and Gwangjang market.

Namdaemun

  • Opening hours: Everyday, 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. Most vendors close on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month.
  • Must try: Hotteok, mandu, tteokbokki.

Namdaemun Market, 21 Namdeamunsijang 4-gil, Hoehyeon-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Savoury Hotteok, also comes in a sweet version – Korean stuffed pancake/donut.

Fried and steamed Mandu – Dumplings.

Tteokbokki – Korean spicy rice cakes.

Gwangjang market

  • Opening hours: Everyday, 8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. Some stalls are closed on Sundays.
  • Must try: Bindaetteok, Sundae, Sannakji.

Gwangjang Market, 88 Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Bindaetteok – Mung bean pancake with meat and vegetables.

Sundae – Korean blood sausage.

Sannakji – Korean delicacy of live baby octopus tentacles.

4. Experience Korea’s Drinking Culture

According to a 2014 study, South Koreans drink 13.7 shots of liquor a week, this is more than double of Russians who drink 6.3 shots of liquor a week. These statistics make South Korea the booziest country in the world. Soju and makgeolli are the most famous Korean alcohols amongst foreigners. There are some flavours of soju such as blueberry and banana that can only be found in the country so don’t pass on the opportunity to try these exclusive flavours. Hotspots for nightlife are Gangnam, Hongdae and Itaewon. Do note that the legal drinking age in South Korea is the year you turn 19 years old. For example if you are born in December 2000 and it is January 2019 and your birthday hasn’t passed, you are legally allowed to drink alcohol.

Soju

Makgeolli

Gangnam

Hongdae

Itaewon

5. Sing Your Heart Out at Noraebang

If you want to experience Korea like a local, one thing you must do is take a trip to a noraebang (karaoke). They are private singing rooms equipped with all the karaoke equipment you need (even instruments and costumes) and they have become part of the Korean lifestyle. You will even find these establishments in Koreatowns across the world. One hour at Noraebang will usually cost you between ₩6,000-₩30,000 depending on how nice the place is. Noraebangs can be found all over Seoul but they are more prominent in the nightlife places such as Gangnam, Hongdae and Itaewon.

Noraebang, private karaoke room

6. Unwind at a Jjimjilbang

A jjimjilbang is a 24-hour public gender-segregated bathhouse. In a jjimjilbang you will find: hot and cold soaking baths, bathing area, massage area, saunas, sleeping area and a communal area with a tuck shop selling Korean goodies. A favourite past-time amongst Koreans to de-stress.

Jjimjilbang entrance

Hot room

Pools

Communal entertainment area

7. Theme Park Day

Adrenaline junkie? Not to worry, there are two major theme parks in Seoul. Lotte World and Everland will give you the thrill you’re looking for. 

Lotte World

  • Opening times: Mon-Thurs, 9:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Fri-Sat, 9:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.
  • Entrance fee:

1 DayAfter 4pm
Adult (18+) ₩54,000₩43,000
Senior (65+) ₩45,000₩34,000
Youth (13-18) ₩48,000₩38,000
Child (3-12)₩45,000₩34,000
Baby (0-2)₩14,000₩14,000

Lotte World, 240 Olympic-ro, Jamsil-dong, Songpa-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Indoor area of Lotte World

Lotte World entrance

Everland

  • Opening times: Everyday, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
  • Entrance fee:

1 Day4pm onwards2 Day
Adults₩56,000₩46,000₩87,000
Children₩44,000₩37,000₩69,000

199 Everland-ro, Pogog-eup, Cheoin-gu, Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea

Everland, Seoul, South Korea

8. Discover the City’s Landmarks

Discover Korea’s rich history with this combination of these historic and modern landmarks in Seoul. It is amazing to see how these palaces and villages have been preserved over the years. Landmarks are easy to get to via the metro and you don’t have to leave the city to see them!

Gyeongbokgung Palace

  • Opening hours:
January-February9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
March-May9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
June-August9 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.
September-October9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
November-December9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

*Last entry one hour before closing and closed on Tuesdays

  • Entrance fee: Adults ₩3,000 Children (7-18) ₩1,500

Gyeongbokgung Palace, 03045  161 Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul  

Inside Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Namsan Tower

  • Opening hours: Monday-Friday/Sunday 10 a.m. – 23:00 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. – 12 a.m. 
  • Entrance fee: Adult ₩10,000, Child ₩8,000 

Namsan Tower, 105 Namsangongwon-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea

View from Namsan Tower

Bukchon Hanok Village

  • Opening hours: Mon-Fri, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Sat-Sun, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Entrance fee: Free

Bukchon Hanok Village, 37, Gyedong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Bukchon Hanok Village, 37, Gyedong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Ihwa mural village

  • Opening hours: All day, everyday.
  • Entrance fee: Free

Ihwa Mural Village, 49 Naksan 4-gil, Ihwa-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Ihwa Mural Village

Ihwa Mural Village

9. Visit the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

The DMZ stands for Demilitarized Zone and was created in 1953 following the Korean War. It is the buffer zone at the border between North and South Korea.  Visitors are free to show themselves around however the best way to understand the history is through a tour. There are half day and full day tours that take you to the main sites and give you information on these places. Do note that if you plan on going to the Joint Security Area (JSA) this part of the tour carries a risk of being cancelled and you may be required to comply with a certain dress code such as no ripped jeans so check with your tour operator before you go!

Odusan Observatory, look into North Korea

 Imjingak Station aka Bridge of Freedom

Third Tunnel of Aggression

Joint Security Area (JSA)

10. Challenge Yourself on a Mountain Hike

Seoul has more to offer than food, shopping and sightseeing. Despite being a city swarming of almost 10million people, Seoul has preserved some of the most beautiful mountains and nature parks in the middle of the concrete jungle. One of the best things to do in Seoul is to hike on one of these trails and get a spectacular view of Seoul. Hiking is loved by locals and foreigners alike and it is a great way for the elderly in Seoul to keep fit. There are outdoor gymnasiums scattered throughout the trails for people to do extra exercise during the hike. Don’t fret if you think you can’t do strenuous hikes. There are shorter and less steep trails for people who still want a view from the mountains but don’t want to hike for hours.

Bukhansan

Gwanaksan

Hanyangdoseong

Related: 10 Things You Must See and Do in Bangkok, Thailand

10 Things You Must Do in Phuket, Thailand

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5 Comments

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