The capital of South Korea is also the largest metropolis in the country and is the heart and "soul" of the Seoul Capital Area, which includes Incheon and the Gyeonggi province. Officially called Seoul Special City, the history of Seoul began more than 2,000 years ago when the Baekje peoples founded the area in 18 BCE as one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. Seoul is surrounded by mountains, but the coast is not far away. The capital city is home to five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, palaces and fortresses, ancient royal tombs, as well as many modern attractions.
1.Ansan Multicultural Food Street
Ansan is a multi-cultural city that is home to much of the migrant working-class families in Korea. Immigrants make up less than 1% of the Korean population and two-thirds of those immigrants live in Ansan. Most of the immigrants are South East Asia and China thus the city feels more like those areas than Korea. Street signs and storefront signs are even written in Vietnamese or Chinese instead of Korean.
Ansan Multicultural Food Street is where all of these different immigrant communities come together to offer food from their homelands. The street is in the Wongok-Dong district adjacent to the Ansan Station, so it is easy to find. Food vendors, as well as restaurants, set up booths and offer various foods even in the wintertime when the temperatures can get below freezing. Visitors from Seoul can reach Ansan is one to two hours.
2.Bukhansan National Park
Bukhansan National Park is the Most Visited National Park per Unit Area and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for the achievement. The park receives five million visitors per year and is the most popular hiking and nature area in the Seoul mountain area, and perhaps the entire country. The park is easily accessible using public transportation from anywhere within Seoul, and the journey takes only twenty-five to thirty-six minutes.
The highest peak at Bukhansan National Park is Baegundae Peak, which tops at 836.5 meters. Mangnyeongdae Peak is also very tall at 799.5 meters. The National Park is known for its gorges and granite mountains, spectacular fall foliage and crystal clear streams and waterfalls. There are three different park entrances, and each has amenities and restaurants serving traditional Korean meals.
262 Bogukmun-ro, Jeongneung-dong, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Phone: +82-29-09-04-97
People love to spend the day shopping and visiting tourist attractions when they spend a day in Busan, Korea's second-largest city. Busan is home to numerous streets lined with boutiques, department stores, and specialty shops, as well as the largest department store on earth--Shinsegae Centum City. Another popular place to visit in Busan is Jagalchi Seafood Market where visitors can get incredibly fresh seafood for low prices and watch it prepared right there on the street to be ready to eat. Gukje Market is also popular but is more traditional with vendors and merchants selling wares in booths along the street. The number one tourist attraction in Busan is the Nampo-dong, where the Pusan International Film Festival takes place annually, and dozens of street food vendors are available.
The lakeside city of Chuncheon is a great spot for romantic getaways and just one hour from Seoul when using the ITX Train. The city's name means "a stream that flows when spring comes," and is known for its beauty is both the spring and the fall. Visitors can spend a full day in Chuncheon, but a two-day itinerary is recommended to get the full experience for a relaxing trip to recharge and reconnect.
Namiseom Island is a popular attraction in Chuncheon and is also the site of the film "Winter Sonata." The island was not always an island, however, and was formed due to the creation of the Cheongpyeong Dam. There are many walking trails on the island that usually takes a half-day to explore. Other popular attractions on the island include several picturesque roads, the UNICEF Hall, and Song Museum. In Chuncheon, visitors can stroll Jade Garden Natural Arboretum, the Gyeonggang Rail Bike, Myeongdong Street, and the Chuncheon Romantic Market.
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Daecheon Beach is found on the west coast of South Korea and open during summer months, usually from mid-June through mid-August. Thousands of visitors come to the 3.5-kilometer beach featuring white sands and a private 100-meter sunbathing zone. Daecheon Beach never charges admission and is just a five-minute walk from bus stops.
There are many places to get food and drink along the beach, as well as stands to rent tubes. The most popular time to visit Daecheon Beach is during Mudfest, Boryeong Mud Festival, which is held in July each year. The festival brings more than two million people to Boryeong and Daecheon Beach. The mud is trucked up from the Boryeong Mud Flats and is said to be rich in minerals. Many cosmetics companies use this mud in their products. The two-week festival culminates in a huge final weekend party.
123, Meodeu-ro, Boryeong-si, Chungcheongnam-do
North Chungcheong is home to Danyang, a lake resort community surrounded by forested national parks, mountains, and caves as well as ancient temples. The town is considered the top attraction in North Chungcheong but is a new town in South Korea, established in 1986. The site was built where an old city is submerged beneath the manmade Chungju Lake. Danyang is accessible by bus from Seoul, as well as trains, boats, and planes.
Most of Danyang is best explored by foot; however, there are many taxis that can take visitors to the main attractions. Gosu Cave is one of the main attractions of Danyang and is one of the most famous caves in all of Korea. The cave features limestone caverns, 1.5km of walkways, and narrow tunnels. Ondal Fortress is another great attraction, though it is a reconstruction of the original.
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The DMZ refers to the Korean Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea and stretches for 248 kilometers, going from the Yellow Sea to the East Sea of Japan. The zone is also 4km wide with the border between the two countries running directly down the center. The DMZ was created in 1953 at the end of the Korean War as part of the armistice agreement. Either side of the DMZ is highly militarized, and there are few civilian activities that happen in the DMZ, which has turned the area into a natural haven for migratory birds and other animals. There is a current call to action to preserve the DMZ as a national park and wildlife sanctuary.
Visitors to the DMZ usually visit Panmunjom, where the unresolved peace talks occurred, and the remnants of the Dorasan Korail Station near Paju that used to take passengers to North Korea from South Korea although the train has not run since 2008. The railway connects Seoul and Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. Other great attractions are Imjingak, a four-story museum with an observatory on top, and the infiltration tunnels that North Korea dug to secretly enter South Korea.
8.Gangchon Rail Park
Gangchon Rail Park is built over the Mugunghwa railway that once connected Seoul and Chuncheon. The Gangchon Rail Park is a pedal train that allows visitors to sit back and pedal leisurely together long the discontinued railroad along the Bukhangang River. The attraction is open year-round but operates more frequently between March and October. Parking is available at the stations on both ends of the track and is free for the first three hours. Visitors who wish to use the Gangchon Railbikes can book either a two-seater or four-seater.
Along the route, visitors will see the Kim You-Jeong House of literature, Gongjicheon Recreation Resort and sculpture park, Samaksan Mountain, and KT&G Sangsangmadang Chuncheon. Opportunities for shopping and dining area also abundant.
1383, Gimyujeong-ro, Chuncheon-si, Gangwon-do
Ganghwa Island is a rural county that is made up of several islands, including some with notable historical landmarks. The islands are separated from the coast of Korea by a narrow channel and two bridges that cars may travel on. Directly across the channel is North Korea.
The islands are home to many archaeological sites and architectural buildings and are the most western-tourist friendly place in that area. The islands have a high military presence, but the people of Ganghwa Island are welcoming. It is a good idea for non-Korean people to keep their passports handy if they visit the islands and should be aware that no English is spoken on the islands except at the tourist information center located in the Oepo-ri ferry terminal.
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Gapyeong is one of the top 100 Must-Visit Tourist Spots in Korea and is best known for Nami Island and the nearby attractions of The Garden of Morning Calm, Gapyong Rail Park, and Petite France. Gapyeong is just under two hours from Seoul and accessible by car, subway, or train. Visitors will then take a ferry to Nami Island.
Some other places to visit in the area include the Sky-Bike, Electric tri-way, UNICEF Charity Train, Story Tour Bus, Forest Adventure, and motorboat rentals. Petite France is a cultural village in rural South Korea that houses a French theme park. The Garden of Morning Calm is the oldest privately-owned garden in Korea and is more than 330,000 square miles. The garden is home to more than 5,000 plant species and is divided into 22 different themed garden areas that can be enjoyed all year round.
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The ancient capital of South Korea is Gyeongju in the North Gyeongsang Province on the southeast coast. Taking a day trip to the town is one of the best ways to experience Korean culture and history, including monuments and buildings dating back to the Silla Dynasty that ruled from 57 BC to 935 AD. Gyeongju was bombarded by assaults in the 13th century by the Mongols and Japanese, and many of the ancient sculptures were destroyed by Neo-Confucian radicals in the early Joseon period.
There are several archaeological sites that began excavations in the 20th century that visitors can see today at the Gyeongju Historic Area, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can see displays of Buddhist art, pagodas, and what remains of the ancient palaces and temples built in the 7th to 10th centuries. Visitors can also visit one of the dozens of fresh seafood restaurants that line the coast, especially just up the road in Gampo-eup or visit the Gyochon Traditional Village, Daereungwon Tomb Complex Cheomseongdae Observatory, Donnung Palace, or the Seokguram Grotto.
Hwaseong Fortress is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site that was created during the late part of the Joseon Dynasty in 1794 and is Suwon-si, Gyeonggi-do's official fortress. The walls of fortress stretch 5.52km and feature unique military facilities, including a gate facing each of the four cardinal directions and a pavilion. The fortress is made from brick with small holes between them to stick guns, arrows, or spears through if attacked; however, the great fortress was damaged badly during the Korean War and has not yet been completely restored.
Hwaseong Fortress is host to special events and performances daily as well as the annual Suwon Hwaseong Cultural Festival in the autumn. The site is open all year and includes a tourist trolley to make exploring easier. The fortress is also handicap accessible.
910, Jeongjo-ro, Paldal-gu, Suwon-si, Gyeonggi-do, Phone: +82-3-12-90-36-00
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Incheon sits on the northwest coast of South Korea directly west of Seoul and is an important location both economically and historically in the country. Incheon is where the American troops landed during the Korean War, but today is a thriving metropolitan city with a population of nearly three million. The city is also a major transportation hub with a large harbor and the finest international airport in the world.
One of the best places to visit in Incheon is Bupyeong, where many dining and shopping opportunities exist, including the largest underground shopping center in Korea. The nightlife in Bupyeong is also very lively. Chinatown is the only official Chinatown in Korea and features Chinese food restaurants, souvenir shops, and Chinese schools for the immigrant population. Liberty Park is right next to Chinatown and is where General MacArthur's statue is displayed as well as the memorial to honor the United States and South Korea relationship.
Jeonju is a city with a small-town feel in the heart of South Korea. There likely isn’t a better city to better understand the culture of South Korea. Deokjin Park is a popular place to relax and take in the gorgeous surroundings, where walkways wind through massive lotus flower gardens. The Jeonju Zoo features plants and animals from all over Korea. Dreamland Amusement Park is right next to the zoo, where rides, shops, games, and all kinds of other fun activities are available.
The Jeonju Hanok Village is the historic part of the city filled with historical sites and traditional Korean Hanok homes and museums to explore. Just to the south of Jeonju Hanok Village is the Jeonju Nambu Traditional Market and Night Market that provides everyone with Korean food, clothing, jewelry, accessories, and local items only found in Jeonju.
Lotte World in Seoul, South Korea, is one of the largest amusement theme parks in the world. There are over 50 rides and attractions to experience, not including all the shows and other entertainment provided. Visitors can find some rides that are common in most theme parks, like roller coasters and rides designed to thrill, but most of the park is unique to Lotte World, making it a unique experience. There are a few adventures that offer advanced technology to amaze people, like virtual reality world and space exploration, flying simulators on Earth and in space, a 4D shooting theater, and a dynamic theater.
There are also many adventures for smaller kids, like slow-moving rides, a traditional Korean fairytale theater, trains, boats, and an enormous play place called Lotty’s Kidstoria. There are so many other adventures for people of any age to explore all year round.
16.Mangwolsa Mountain Temple
This ancient Buddhist Temple sits on Mt. Namsan, next to the Sambulsa Temple, which lies just west of the Gyeongju National Park. The area is surrounded by forests and trails that provide amazing views of the landscape. Upon entering the temple, visitors can see traditional Korean art within the architecture that is simple, but elegant. Large painted guardians stand watch on the gates to ward off evil spirits. Large Shimu-do murals can be seen on the walls of the different buildings, including the barracks, the prayer hall, the facilities buildings, and on the walls that surround the temple itself.
In the center of the temple, an ancient pagoda marks the entrance to a small lily pond, where there is a small path around to see the area. Beyond the pond is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine and a memorial hall for the dead.
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Mt. Seorak is located within the Seorak National Park in the Gangwon-do Province. The mountain is around 2 ½ hours away from the center of Seoul. Buses are also available to travel to the mountain from Seoul. Like most mountains in South Korea, it has a ton of hiking and biking trails along with rest areas with wonderful views.
At the foot of the mountain, near the entrance to the park, there are many vendors selling gifts and souvenirs, food, trinkets, and other things used in the great outdoors. Visitors often use the Seoraksan Cable Car to view the mountain from up high. The cable car begins just a few minutes’ walks from the entrance to the National Park and takes visitors 2,300 feet up to see the mountain range from a bird’s eye point of view. Tickets sell out fast, so advance purchase is highly recommended.
Just a little way from the coast of the Airport Island is a secluded island with sandy beaches, hiking trails that aren’t congested, great fishing spots, and even a few local restaurants. Muuido Island is a tourist-friendly island where many of the locals speak English; however, there is not much to do other than relax and enjoy the beaches and eat some amazing local Korean food.
Visitors to Muuido Island often rent beach huts to enjoy the experience of sleeping on a beach. These huts are rather economical and won’t provide a hotel experience but are perfect for overnight by the water. The flooring in the huts is heated, and blankets are provided. Each hut can sleep two to four people.
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Located less than two hours from Seoul, Kami Island is the perfect place to visit to indulge in beautiful landscapes full of flowers and gardens. The island features European-style buildings that are brightly colored and reminiscent of France in the neighborhood of Petite France, and the location has been a popular filming spot for Korean television dramas.
Visitors can access Nami Island by using the ferry at the Gapyeong Wharf. A zipline can take more daring visitors to the island. The Garden of Calm is another popular attraction as well as the Gapyeong Rail Bike Park on the mainland. There are also ostriches on the island and trees that are hundreds of years old, making it one of the most beautiful islands to visit in the fall.
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One hour northwest of Seoul is a town full of culture and arts called Paju. The town is known for its dozens of local coffee shops, art galleries, restaurants, and boutique stores that attract visitors from around southeast Asia. The island is nicknamed “The Village,” after Provence, France, which the town is modeled after in architectural design. The town is also a popular location for filming Korean Soap Operas and dramas.
Some of the best places to visit in Paju include the Heyri Art Valley, which was established by creative people such as artists, writers, actors, and musicians to celebrate the arts. Many of the towns' museums are located in the valley, including the ByeokBong Korea Jewellery Museum, Museum of Musical Instruments of the World, and the Bohemian Sculpture Gallery. Provence Village district is full of high-class restaurants and boutiques.
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21.Pocheon Art Valley
An old, abandoned granite quarry was transformed into the Pocheon Art Valley that celebrates history and culture as part of Pocheon’s environmental restoration project. The valley is open all year round with seasonal operating hours and offers crafting and artisanal experiences such as soap making, inlays, woodworking, stone crafts, and aromatherapy.
Some of the other great attractions at the Pocheon Art Valley include an observation deck at the Sky Garden of Hope, Cheonjuho Lake, Sculpture Garden, and the Stone Culture Exhibition Center. Leaflets are available in Korean, English, and Chinese for self-guided tours. Visitors can also see the Pocheon Sansawon, which is a museum dedicated to Korean liquor, and the Unaksan National Recreational Forest. Small dogs and service dogs are allowed on the grounds but not in the buildings.
Giji-ri, Sinbuk-myeon, Pocheon-si, Gyeonggi-do, Phone, +82-3-15-38-34-83
22.Seoraksan National Park
The Seorak Mountain district became a Natural Monument Preservation Area in November of 1965 and a Biosphere Preservation District by UNESCO in August of 1982. The park covers four Korean cities from Sokcho to Yangyang, numerous valleys, and streams, waterfalls, and several peaks. Pets are not permitted; however, admission is free year-round, though hiking may be closed due to the weather.
Some of the best places to visit at Seoraksan National Park include Manhae Village and Inje Hwangtae Village. The park also offers abundant outdoor activities such as hiking to the Baekdamsa Temple, which was built between 647 and 654, or trekking to the waterfalls in Baekdamgyegok Valley and Tangsudonggyegok Valley.
Buk-myeon, Inje-gun, Gangwon-do, Phone: +82-33-8-01-09-00
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Suwon is a UNESCO site just thirty minutes from Seoul that holds great historical significance in Korea. Tourists should plan to spend at least a full day, but ideally up to three days in Suwon. Bus tours of the city are available to make seeing all the main attractions easy and convenient.
Some of the popular sites to visit in Suwon include the Paldalmun Gate, which is the former ancient entrance to the city, walk along the ancient fortress walls, and Hwaseong Haenggung Palace. The palace is found within the fortress walls and was once a summer house palace for kings to use for retreats and relaxation. Visitors can also practice archery, visit the Suwon Hwaong Museum, and a unique Toilet Museum. The Royal Tombs can also be visited by hiking through the wooded park.
Yeongjongdo Island became popular after the Incheon International Airport Island was established. The island is most famous for the ancient Yonggungsa Temple and Baekun Mountain, which sits in the center of the island. A zelkova tree that is more than 1,300 years old sits in front of the temple, and the mineral water springs are said to have great wellness properties.
Some of the main attractions on Yeongjongdo Island include Yeongjong Sky Park and Gliding Range, where visitors can go hang gliding and learn to fly small airplanes. There is also a public bathhouse for up to 3,000 people on the island shores that are fed by the mineral hot springs.
100, Unnamseo-ro, Jung-gu, Incheon, phone: +82-3-27-45-02-11
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Visitors looking for action and adventure in Korea can visit Yongin, a town centered around amusement parks, theme parks, resorts, the Korean Folk Village, and also a ski resort. Yongin is found just outside of the Seoul city limits and is even home to the MBC Television Studios, where many Korean television dramas are filmed.
Some of the most popular attractions in Yongin include Everland & Caribbean Bay, Korean Folk Village, Daejanggeum Park, the Yongin Agricultural Theme Park, Yongin Recreational Forest, a botanical garden, temples, museums, art centers, and resorts. There are also great cafes and places to eat within the resorts, which also provide overnight accommodations.
25 Best Weekend Getaways and Day Trips from Seoul
- Ansan Multicultural Food Street, Photo: Kenishirotie/stock.adobe.com
- Bukhansan National Park, Photo: kampon/stock.adobe.com
- Busan, Photo: aaron90311/stock.adobe.com
- Chuncheon, Photo: SiHo/stock.adobe.com
- Daecheon Beach, Photo: Mykola Mazuryk/stock.adobe.com
- Danyang, Photo: unununius/stock.adobe.com
- DMZ, Photo: Mattis Kaminer/stock.adobe.com
- Gangchon Rail Park, Photo: poteco/stock.adobe.com
- Ganghwa Island, Photo: photo_HYANG/stock.adobe.com
- Gapyeong, Photo: Sergey/stock.adobe.com
- Gyeongju, Photo: Joshua Davenport/stock.adobe.com
- Hwaseong Fortress, Photo: Phuaorneer/stock.adobe.com
- Incheon, Photo: CJ Nattanai/stock.adobe.com
- Jeonju, Photo: Keitma/stock.adobe.com
- Lotte World, Photo: yooranpark/stock.adobe.com
- Mangwolsa Mountain Temple, Photo: dohee/stock.adobe.com
- Mount Seorak, Photo: Keni/stock.adobe.com
- Muuido Island, Photo: Tawanboonnak/stock.adobe.com
- Nami Island, Photo: Photo Gallery/stock.adobe.com
- Paju, Photo: jipen/stock.adobe.com
- Pocheon Art Valley, Photo: Phuaorneer/stock.adobe.com
- Seoraksan National Park, Photo: 501room/stock.adobe.com
- Suwon, Photo: Wagner Christian/stock.adobe.com
- Yeongjongdo Island, Photo: photo_HYANG/stock.adobe.com
- Yongin, Photo: Sanga/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Sanga/stock.adobe.com