Having transformed magnificently over the years, Seoul is now the capital and largest city in South Korea. The history of the land goes back over 2,000 years, and it is still rich in tradition and culture. Visitors will enjoy experiences the bustling yet historic feel of the city, and they will have an opportunity to visit some amazing attractions.
There are five UNESCO World Heritage Sites that must be visited by those interested in better understanding Seoul’s past. Other attractions include the world’s second largest indoor theme park, Lotte World, the world’s longest bridge fountain, Moonlight Rainbow Fountain, and the iconic N Seoul Tower.
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Bongeunsa is a Buddhist temple that was founded in the year 794 by the Monk Yeon-hoe, who was then the highest-ranking monk of one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, which was ruled by King Wonseong.
What visitors see now is a temple that has undergone many renovations and repairs but still features the beautiful elements that were originally found there, including a wooden carving of the Flower Garland Sutra by monk Young-ki. One of the unique aspects of the temple is that it offers visitors a chance to participate in their “Temple Stay Program,” which lets them live the life of a monk for a few hours.
531 Bongeunsa-ro, Samseong 1(il)-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Phone: +8-22-32-18-48-00
2.Bukhansan National Park
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Going through Seoul and Gyeonggi-do, the 30 square mile Bukhansan National Park is popular with locals and tourists because of its close proximity to the city. The name Bukhansan itself translates to “mountains north of the Han River,” and rightly so as a short hike into the park will give visitors a stunning view of the river and its surroundings.
Hikers, bikers, and nature lovers will enjoy spending a day exploring the trails and the beautiful temples and granite peaks found inside the park. One of the most popular trails is the 70-kilometer long Dulle-gil Trail, which will take visitors through forested paths, foothills, and secluded villages.
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Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Changdeokgung Palace, also called East Palace, is one of the five grand palaces of Korea. The palace, which was one of the favorite places of Joseon princes, can be found in a park in Jongno-gu, Seoul.
Like many other structures around South Korea, much of the palace was damaged when the Japanese occupied the country between 1910 and 1945, but visitors can still see almost 30% of the original structure today. Visitors are free to walk around and explore the buildings and pavilions that remain on the 110-acre palace grounds, which include what used to be the king’s private residence, the main hall, a conference hall, and living quarters of many members of the Royal family.
99 Yulgok-ro, Waryong-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Phone: +82-27-62-82-61
4.Things to Do in Seoul: Changgyeonggung
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Built by King Sejong for his father Taejong in the mid-15th century, the original name of the Changgyeong Palace was Suganggung. The current name came to be in the year 1483 when King Seongjong renovated the palace complex. Visitors can explore some of the oldest buildings and structures in the complex, including Honghwamun Gate, Myeongjeongjeon Hall, and Myeongjeongmun Gate.
There are many historic events that took place since it was the residence of numerous princesses and concubines and because the murder of Crown Prince Sado took place there. Visitors can spend the day relaxing or taking part in tea ceremonies in the surrounding cherry tree and botanical garden.
185 Changgyeonggung-ro, Waryong-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Phone: +82-27-62-48-68
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For the longest time Cheonggyecheon Stream was a neglected waterway that was kept hidden and disregarded. It was restored in 2005 and now offers a beautiful garden and many works of art in the heart of Seoul. There are over twenty bridges that cross the stream, each of them with a different design. One of the examples includes the Narae Bridge, which represents a butterfly in flight.
The Rhythmic Wall Stream runs alongside the stream and is lined with sculptures and fine marble. There are also many fountains, wishing wells, and other sites to see. Visitors can go to the nearby Cheonggye Plaza to get an amazing bird’s eye view of the stream and the beauty that surrounds it.
Cheonggyecheon-ro, Sangwangsimni-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Phone: +8-22-22-90-71-11
6.Children's Grand Park
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Consisting of a zoo, a botanical garden, an amusement park, multiple playgrounds, and a newly opened Children’s Museum, the Children’s Grand Park in Seoul is the ultimate place for visitors with children to spend the day. Families can hang out in a fun environment, have a picnic lunch, go for a nice walk, watch the water show at the Music Fountain, and just let the children play and have a great day.
The attractions appeal to children of all ages, especially the zoo where they can see tigers, elephants, bears, and kangaroos. There are some great restaurants and food stalls in the park for families to have a meal and re-energize themselves during their exciting day.
216 Neungdong-ro, Neung-dong, Gwangjin-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Phone: +82-24-50-93-11
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Sometimes called Gyeongun-gung or Deoksu Palace, Deoksugung consists of many palaces that are found in a walled compound in Seoul. The compound has an interesting history reflected in the architecture of the buildings that can be seen there, as it has been the home to many members of Korea’s royal family.
One of the Five Grand Palaces built during the Joseon Dynasty reign, the palace buildings display various architectural styles and vary in their use of natural wood, painted wood, stucco, and stone. Other than the great design and architecture, visitors will also enjoy exploring the forested gardens, statues, fountains, and the National Museum of Art, which houses a great collection.
99 Sejong-daero, Sogong-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Phone: +82-27-71-99-51
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8.Things to Do in Seoul: Dongdaemun
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Dongdaemun is a large commercial district in Seoul, South Korea that is popular for its many markets and shopping centers. The shopping destination is almost always overrun with tourists finding a great deal on clothes, electronics, accessories and other items.
The area has been marked a Special Tourism Zone and has developed quite a bit over the years; now, it is separated into five shopping districts with over twenty-six malls in a ten-mile radius. Other than getting some great deals on souvenirs and other purchases, visitors can also have their palm read by one of the many fortune tellers in the area or try some of the delicious street foods and Korean snacks that they're known for.
Euljiro 6(yuk)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Phone: +82-32-13-44-48-88
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Gwanghwamun Square is a tourist attraction in Seoul that is filled with many landmarks that take visitors on a journey of the historic events that took place there. One of the main ones is the Gwanghwamun Gate, which used to be the main entrance to Gyeongbokgung Palace and now symbolizes the time Seoul was the capital city during the Joseon Dynasty.
Visitors can explore the many statues and fountains in the square and gain a better understanding of the history behind them. A number of sculptures and a flower carpet are other popular attractions. The statue of King Sejong in the square’s center is surrounded by many items that were invented during his reign such as a sundial and a celestial globe.
161 Sajik-ro, Sejongno, Jongno-gu, South Korea, Phone: +8-22-37-00-39-00
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The largest of the Five Grand Palaces that was built in South Korea, Gyeongbokgung Palace was the main royal palace. It was built in 1395 and served as the home of many of the kings in the Joseon Dynasty.
Hands down one of the most beautiful palaces in all of South Korea, the complex in which the palace resides is also home to the National Palace Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum. Voted one of the most scenic locations in Seoul, the palace is a great place for visitors to spend the day; after exploring the museums, visitors can walk around the stunning traditional Korean gardens.
161 Sajik-ro, Sejongno, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Phone: +8-22-37-00-39-00
11.Hangaram Art Museum
© Hangaram Art Museum
A part of the Seoul Arts Center, the Hangaram Art Museum is a three-story building with nine galleries of creative works from all genres. There is tons of visual and formative art to capture the interest of all types of art lovers. The gigantic scale paintings go from floor to ceiling, and visitors can spend hours examining them and getting lost in their beauty.
Visitors of all ages can take part in the many educational programs on offer, which are available for everyone from toddlers to the elderly. Participants can build skills using watercolors, oil paintings, ink paintings, and textiles, for example. Visitors can also explore the many outdoor sculptures and live performances that are housed there normally.
Seoul Arts Center, 2406 Nambusunhwan-ro, Seocho 3(sam)-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Phone: +82-25-80-13-00
12.Things to Do in Seoul: Jogyesa
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First established in 1395 during the Joseon Dynasty, Jogyesa is the chief temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, and it still plays an important role in South Korea’s Seon Buddhism community.
Visitors can explore the beautiful architecture of the structures on the temple grounds; Daeoongjeong, or the Main Buddha Hall, for example, was built in 1938 from pine wood that was brought down from the Baekdusan Mountain in North Korea. The chanting that can be heard from the hall will put visitors in a calm state of mind as they sit under the Chinese Scholar tree or 500-year-old White Pine tree in the temple courtyard.
55 Ujeongguk-ro, Gyeonji-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Phone: +82-27-68-86-00
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Identified as one of the oldest preserved royal Confucian shrines, the Jongmyo Shrine is one of the few of its kind that has remained intact. During the Korean Joseon Dynasty, traditions and ceremonies were established to commemorate the kings and queens that passed away. Since 1995, the shrine has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visitors can learn about the historical events that took place there. Currently, there are rituals and celebrations held in the ancient court throughout the year, and visitors can see various musicians and dancers perform at certain times.
157 Jong-ro, Jongno 1(il).2(i).3(sam).4(sa), Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Phone: +82-27-65-01-95
14.Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art
© Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art
Run by the Samsung Foundation of Culture, Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art houses contemporary and traditional Korean art. The two parts, named Museum 1 and Museum 2, were designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta and French architect Jean Nouvel.
Many of the pieces of art on display are designated national treasures, including folk paintings and traditional porcelain and ceramics. Visitors will also get a chance to see Buddhist art, sculptures, and paintings dating back to the 14th century. The modern and contemporary art found in Museum 2 includes the works of famous artists such as Warhol and Yves Klein, which are on display in the permanent exhibition.
60-16 Itaewon-ro 55-gil, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Phone: +8-2 2-20-14-69-01
15.Lotte World, Seoul, South Korea
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Visitors can head to Lotte World for an exciting and fun-filled day in Seoul. Proudly housing the world’s largest indoor theme park, the recreation complex has been catering to visitors of all ages for over thirty years.
A monorail links guests to the outdoor park, artificial island, manmade lake, shopping malls, museum, restaurants, luxury hotel, sports facilities, and movie theaters that can be found within Lotte World. Some of the exciting attractions include 3D Desperados, an IMAX theater where visitors sit on “horses” and go along for the ride, a high-octane indoor roller coaster, and live magic shows featuring illusionists and magicians from all over the world.
240 Olympic-ro, Jamsil 3(sam)-dong, Songpa-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Phone: +82-16-61-20-00
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The primary shopping district in Seoul, Myeongdong offers an all-day shopping experience, unlike Namdaemun or Dongdaemun. Whether visitors are looking for clothes, shoes, accessories, or other fashionable goods, they’re bound to find it here and at a reasonable price.
Better yet, there are many family and fast food restaurants sprinkled throughout the district, giving visitors the opportunity to try some authentic Korean food during their shopping spree. One of the Myeongdong specialties is the dongaseu, or pork cutlet, but if visitors aren’t feeling too adventurous with their meal, there are many Western dining options as well.
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17.N Seoul Tower
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The N Seoul Tower, more popularly known as the Namsan Tower, is an observation and communication tower located in central Seoul. Visitors will be able to take some stunning pictures from the top of the tower, which at 236 meters is the highest point in Seoul. Other than panoramic views, the national landmark also has many gift shops, bars, cafes, restaurants, and terraces.
There are four observation decks on the tower, and visitors can go as high as they choose, the highest point being the revolving restaurant at the top. There is also a digital observatory on the third floor that lets visitors see what the surroundings looked like in the past.
105 Namsangongwon-gil, Yongsan 2(i)ga-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Phone: +8-22-34-55-92-77
18.Namsan Park, Seoul, South Korea
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Home to the N Seoul Tower as well as the Mongmyeoksan Beacon Tower, Namsan Mountain also offers visitors an opportunity to explore the surrounding Namsan Park. Visitors can go hiking, have lunch in the designated picnic areas, or take panoramic pictures of Seoul’s downtown skyline.
The park is very popular with visitors and residents for an early morning or evening jog, as the jogging course also leads to the many exercise areas scattered throughout the area. Nature lovers will enjoy the many flora and fauna scattered across at the park, as there are over sixty species of trees there. Other places of interest within the park include the National Theater, the Namsan Botanical Gardens, a pavilion, and an aquarium.
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19.National Folk Museum of Korea
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Visitors who want to get an idea of what traditional life was life for Korean people in the past and the present will learn so much from visiting the National Folk Museum of Korea. The museum is located in the same complex as the Gyeongbokgung Palace so visitors can go to many other attractions during the same trip.
The National Folk Museum was established in 1945, and the artifacts had been housed in many places before their move to their current location in 1975. Visitors can explore the three many exhibition halls which comprise over 98,000 artifacts and replicas.
37 Samcheong-ro, Sejongno, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Phone: +8-22-37-04-31-14
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20.National Gugak Center
© National Gugak Center
The base of the National Gugak Center dates back to the 7th century, and throughout the years the institute has been solely dedicated to preserving traditional Korean music and promoting it with courses, studies, research, ensembles, and performances.
Visitors will learn so much about traditional Korean music and the practices that accompany it, and they can watch many performances, even learning to perform some of them on their own. Some of the unique aspects of the institute include its dedication to preserve the ritual music that was performed at shrines years ago as well as aak, the ancient court ritual music. Younger visitors will love being able to play traditional games or try their hand at the instruments set out on the center’s courtyard.
700 Seocho-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Phone: +82-25-80-33-00
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21.National Museum of Korea
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One of the most visited art museums in the world, the National Museum of Korea is the place for visitors to learn about and experience the beauty the country’s art offers. The museum was established in 1945 and has three floors of artifacts, with the ground floor housing a park, waterfalls, pagodas, and a garden of indigenous plants.
Some of the works include ancient royal ornaments, sculptures, and crafts. There are rooms dedicated to calligraphy, traditional paintings, and Buddhist paintings, as well as a Scholar’s Studio. Some of the country’s national treasures can be seen at the museum, including the Silla Golden Crown, the Pensive Bodhisattva statue, and a ten-story pagoda that was once erected in the Gyeongcheonsa monastery in 1348.
137 Seobinggo-ro, Seobinggo-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Phone: +8-22-20-77-90-00
22.Seodaemun Prison History Hall
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A former prison, the Seodaemun Prison History Hall was once a jailed home to liberation activists in the Colonial period. It is now a part of Independence Park, and seven out of the fifteen buildings are preserved as historical monuments.
The memorial hall showcases the many people that were imprisoned during the Japanese Colonial Era, including Kim Koo, a famed nationalist politician, and Yu Gwansun, revered for organizing the March 1st Movement against the Japanese colonial rule. Other than the historical exhibition hall, visitors will also be able to see the jail cells, an execution room, watchtowers, and a basement jail cell most likely used for solitary confinement.
251 Tongil-ro, Cheonyeon-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Phone: +82-23-60-85-90
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23.Seoul Museum of History, Seoul, South Korea
© Seoul Museum of History
Depicting the evolution of the Joseon Dynasty from the prehistoric period to its current place, the Seoul Museum of History aims to increase awareness of Seoul’s rich history and culture. The museum has many permanent, temporary, and special exhibitions dedicated to the cause and uses interactive methods to make learning fun for all ages.
The City Model Image Hall is one of the most visited exhibition spaces and is used as an educational tool for people to understand where the city is headed. Visitors can participate in a learning program that includes in-depth explanations of certain exhibitions as well as craft-making activities so visitors can get hands on experience.
55 Saemunan-ro, Sajik-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Phone: +82-27-24-02-74
24.War Memorial of Korea
© War Memorial of Korea
Located on a former army headquarters, the War Memorial of Korea was established in 1994 and has exhibits dedicated to the military history of Korea. There are six indoor exhibition rooms with over 13,000 items under six themes: Memorial Hall, Korean War, War History, Expeditionary Forces, Large Equipment, and ROK Armed Forces.
The exhibition halls have equipment and weapons from prehistoric times to modern times. Visitors can explore an additional outdoor exhibition hall that is filled with military equipment and war memorabilia such as the Curtiss C-46 Commando aircraft and a replica of a PKM-357 patrol boat.
29 Itaewon-ro, Namyeong-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Phone: +82-27-09-31-39
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25.Yeouido Hangang Park, Seoul, South Korea
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Having undergone a major renovation in 1997, Yeouido Hangang Park is a great place for families to spend the day. The park is divided into sections, each with its own theme: the Traditional Korean Forest, Culture Square, Grass Square, and Nature’s Ecosystem Forest.
There’s everything from a pond to an elegant Korean garden, grass fields, a swamp area, and a forest – all filled with flora and fauna. Visitors can hike or jog through the many trails, have a stroll, play a number of sports, or attend the many cultural events and performances that are held there. Visitors who are there during spring are in for a special treat as they will be able to witness six kilometers of stunning cherry blossoms.
120, Yeouigongwon-ro, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Phone: +8-22-26-70-37-58
25 Best Things to Do in Seoul, South Korea
- Bongeunsa, Photo: Courtesy of siraphol - Fotolia.com
- Bukhansan National Park, Photo: Courtesy of tawatchai 1990 - Fotolia.com
- Changdeokgung Palace, Photo: Courtesy of orpheus 26 - Fotolia.com
- Things to Do in Seoul: Changgyeonggung, Photo: Courtesy of trofoto design - Fotolia.com
- Cheonggyecheon Stream, Photo: Courtesy of Freedom Man - Fotolia.com
- Children's Grand Park, Photo: Courtesy of carolinemaryan - Fotolia.com
- Deoksugung, Photo: Courtesy of vna_sinsy - Fotolia.com
- Things to Do in Seoul: Dongdaemun, Photo: Courtesy of nuchie - Fotolia.com
- Gwanghwamun, Photo: Courtesy of R.Babakin - Fotolia.com
- Gyeongbokgung Palace, Photo: Courtesy of Olga Khoroshunova - Fotolia.com
- Hangaram Art Museum, Photo: Hangaram Art Museum
- Things to Do in Seoul: Jogyesa, Photo: Courtesy of fdsmsoft - Fotolia.com
- Jongmyo Shrine, Photo: Courtesy of amadeustx - Fotolia.com
- Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Photo: Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art
- Lotte World, Seoul, South Korea , Photo: Courtesy of SqweezeLand - Fotolia.com
- Myeongdong, Photo: Courtesy of orpheus 26 - Fotolia.com
- N Seoul Tower, Photo: Courtesy of gjeerawut - Fotolia.com
- Namsan Park, Seoul, South Korea , Photo: Courtesy of tuomaslehtinen - Fotolia.com
- National Folk Museum of Korea, Photo: Courtesy of panyajampatong - Fotolia.com
- National Gugak Center, Photo: National Gugak Center
- National Museum of Korea, Photo: Courtesy of danielteodorescu - Fotolia.com
- Seodaemun Prison History Hall, Photo: Courtesy of Rob Luzecky - Fotolia.com
- Seoul Museum of History, Seoul, South Korea , Photo: Seoul Museum of History
- War Memorial of Korea, Photo: War Memorial of Korea
- Yeouido Hangang Park, Seoul, South Korea , Photo: Courtesy of lisur - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Atakorn - Fotolia.com