Namsan Tower, Lotte World, Han River and Gyeongbokgung, these are the places that every visitor to Seoul hears about. But what about Seoul’s secrets? The places that aren’t so close to the normal travelling path.
Seoul is so big and houses so many cool, unique, and interesting places within its borders. Most people never get a chance to experience most of these areas though, even the locals. When you have such a large city it’s bound to happen. These places aren’t secret, but they are places that are generally overlooked by many people – especially tourists. These are my favourites of Seoul’s secrets.
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Kwangjang Market – A market with character.
Namdaemun and Dongdaemun are by far the most popular markets in Seoul. For good reason too, they are easy to access and have an incredibly large variety of goods. However, if you are looking for a bit more of an adventure then Kwangjang is the place to be. The market has a more accessible front area (which is very popular and often visited), however, there is a lot more to the market. If you explore a bit around the area you will find hundreds of small maze-like streets that house almost anything you can think of. I’ve never purchased anything here, but you don’t have to. It’s an amazing place just to explore.
If you plan on visiting there are a few things to keep in mind. Many people think that it doesn’t feel very safe, however, it is just as safe as the other markets around Korea. Seoul, in particular, is an extremely safe city and I’ve never had a bad (criminal) experience. It’s probably best to take a phone with data also, as this place is quite literally a maze. It’s easy enough to find your way out, but it’s probably not going to be the same place you entered!
Kwangjang Market is truly maze-like. I’ve loved exploring it in my spare time!
Eungbongsan – The best view in Seoul?
Okay… If you follow me, this place definitely isn’t unknown. However, I’ve also found that almost no-one knows about it. Eungbongsan is a mountain located right next to Seoul Forest on the Han River. The mountain itself is only a mountain by name, and the short walk is easily worth it for the breathtaking views you will find at the top. What makes Eungbongsan such a beautiful place to visit isn’t only the stunning views, but also the diversity of them. Southern, Eastern, Western, and Northern views are all covered!
Many of the other views in Seoul are harder to reach, and that is one of the reasons Eungbongsan is so fantastic. It’s easy to reach and is close to public transport. If you are looking for some accessible yet stunning (and rarer) views of Seoul, then this is the mountain to check out!
These are just two of the views from Eungbongsan! There are even more stunning views from the top.
Naksan – History and nature.
Keeping with the mountain theme I wanted to quickly slip in one more! Naksan is a more known mountain, but it’s by no means popular with tourists. Located right next to Dongdaemun and Hyewha, it’s almost weird how Naksan isn’t a main tourist location. The mountain is also home to part of the Seoul wall, a wall which encompassed old Seoul. If you are interested in learning more there is a museum located near the bottom of the mountain.
Walking up the mountain will provide you with some stunning views and the walk isn’t too difficult. You can either choose to follow the road or to follow the wall. A bus even goes to the top of the mountain! Often there are performances at the summit and you can usually witness some cultural shows.
One of my favourite views from Naksan!
Hyehwa – Hongdae without crowds!
Hyehwa is known by just about everyone who lives in Seoul, but somehow it often escapes the gaze of tourists. Maybe because it just isn’t as big as the other popular areas such as Myeongdong, Hongdae and Gangnam, or maybe just because it’s a little harder to reach. Hyehwa is similar to Hongdae in many ways, but it is also smaller, less crowded, and possibly more trendy. It’s super close to Dongdaemun and that means it is also easy to visit on the same day!
Hyehwa has many cafes, restaurants, and shops. If you want to visit somewhere for shopping, but also want somewhere that has character, then Hyehwa is the place to visit!
Hanuel Garden – Where garden meets the sky.
Haneul is another place that most people in Seoul know about, but somehow it’s still overlooked by people visiting the city. Hanuel in Korean literally means ‘Sky Garden’ and that is the perfect description of Hanuel. The garden is located at World Cup Stadium, a place which houses many different themed gardens. The whole World Cup Stadium complex is worth visiting if you have time – there are some very stunning gardens there!
Hanuel Garden takes about 30 minutes to reach (as it is on top of a hill), but it is well worth it. The gardens at the top are beautiful and fantastic for photos. Not only that, but you also get some nice views of the city itself, as well as the river.
If you get the chance to visit at sunset definitely do!
Sungshin Women’s University Rodeo – Activities galore!
Sungshin Women’s University area is gradually becoming more popular, and while not quite a Hongdae or even a Hyehwa, it still has a lot to offer. The area has a CGV (cinema), VR cafes, animal cafes, bowling, and so many more activities. The best part? It’s all compact. The Rodeo street isn’t very long and it means that all of the activities, shops, and the food is closely packed. It is especially great if you are shopping for women’s clothes (since it is right next to a women’s university nearly all of the clothing stores are women’s also). I love Sungshin because it has some unique bars and cafes that cover all kinds of atmospheres, from calm to serious to crazy.
Sungshin Women’s University has a lot to offer and a lot to explore!
Where to Stay
If you are interested in checking out some of the attractions above – or even if you aren’t, I personally recommend Dongdaemun as a good location to stay. It is central to most of Seoul’s attractions (as the northern area of the Han River tends to hold the most popular tourist attractions). It is within 30 minutes of all of the above attractions, with the exception of Haneul Garden.
On top of this, it is an area with lots of its own attractions. If you want to shop for clothes, Dongdaemun can’t be beaten. Naksan Mountain, DDP and Cheonggyecheon are all located within walking distance, and the area isn’t overly crowded.
A map of accomodation located around Dongdaemun.
There is a lot more to do in Korea that I haven’t been able to list here. If you are interested in the more weird attractions of Korea you can always check out Loveland (NSFW)!
This concludes my list of the best things to do in Seoul that most visitors don’t know of. Is there anywhere that you experienced on your travels that you would add to the list?
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