There’s so much to do in Seoul, enough to spend weeks in the city alone. However, what about if you are only in Seoul for a day? What are the top ‘must-do’ things in Seoul? These are the places to visit and things to do in Seoul that shouldn’t be missed! This is my list of 9 things everyone should do in Seoul!
Everything on this post is rather broad, and that is intentional. For example, I think that everyone should see one of the stunning views that Seoul has to offer. However, there are so many stunning views, and the exact place is up to you.
1. View the City From a Stunning Vista
The view from Namsan Tower!
City skylines. Many people love them, and many people hate them. But one thing is for sure, if you visit South Korea, you should add one of the many vista locations in the city to your bucket list.
There are many options you have to see a beautiful city view. For the more standard view, Namsan Tower is fantastic. Standing on Namsan (Nam Mountain), the tower provides truly breathtaking views of the city from a central location north of the river. Every direction has a different view, and each is as stunning as the last.
Other, less common views are also located all around the city, however. Eungbongsan has long been one of my favourite views and is by far one of my favourite places to visit in Seoul. The mountain stands next to the Han River and has one of the most unique city views in the world. The mountain is only a mountain by name, however, and takes only 15-20 minutes to summit.
A lot of people make a point of visiting the Namsan Tower or Lotte Tower when they visit Seoul. But the city has many more beautiful views to offer. If you visit Seoul, I think that this is one of the most unique, yet often overlooked things to do. No skyline is the same, and with Seoul being as big as it is, it is a stunning view that has to be seen to be believed.
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If this doesn’t inspire you to see a Han River sunset, then I don’t know what will!
Another fantastic location to see some of the stunning views is the Han River. Many of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen have been witnessed from along the banks of the river. I don’t know exactly what causes the sunsets in Seoul to be so breathtaking, but I have a feeling that it has something to do with air pollution. Whatever causes it though, I highly recommend watching at least one sunset while you are in Korea.
2. Have a Cultural Experience
Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul
Korea has a vast and rich history. There is so much that has gone into forming the Korean culture and making it what it is today. If you come to Korea, or Seoul, make sure that you experience some of the culture and history. Not only because it is something that is unique to Korea, but also because if you visit, it’s important to learn something about the local culture.
Korea has many different options for historical and cultural experiences. From the palaces such as Gyeongbokgung and Changdoekgung to the traditional villages such as Bukcheon Hanok village and Ikseondong. There are so many options, and I truly believe that even the most opposed person to history can find something to appreciate in Korea. If you are interested in a deeper experience, why not try a temple stay, or go to a tea ceremony? There are so many options!
One of the many palaces in Seoul.
These are by no means the only options for cultural experiences in Seoul. With such an old city, there are nearly limitless opportunities to experience the culture and history of this wonderful country. If you haven’t already planned some cultural activities on your trip, do so right now! Make sure that you leave Korea after having learned something about the country and its culture.
3. Visit a Market
The backstreets of Kwangjang market.
I added this to the list for a variety of reasons. Firstly, because they are some of the best places to shop in Seoul. Not only for souvenirs and gifts, but even for things such as clothes, cameras, electronics, and more! On top of that, they are also some of the best places in the city to experience authentic Korean cuisine.
While eating in markets isn’t for everyone – they can be rather busy and aren’t the cleanest, it is one of the best ways to try traditional Korean dishes. On top of that, they also offer great shopping, and this is a big reason that many people visit them. If you want nearly anything in Seoul, markets are the places to shop.
But which market should you visit? Really, it’s up to you. Kwangjang is my personal favourite, and it is particularly famous for its food. Namdaemun is another very popular market, and it is fantastic for both shopping and food. It is most famous for its camera market though (and this is why I usually visit!).
Namdaemun Market in Seoul.
Dongdaemun is the most famous market in Seoul and sells everything from textiles to clothes (which it is most famous for). Yongsan Electronics Market, on the other hand, is famous for… Well, you guessed it. Electronics. For everything from cameras to PC components to LEDs, Yongsan has everything you can imagine.
Which market you visit is really up to you. There are many more that I didn’t even mention above – Noryangjin Fish Market, Majang Meat Market, and more! Whichever market piques your interest, make sure that you visit at least once. Or two. Or three even! While your there, make sure to experience some of the food on offer!
4. Eat Korean Fried Chicken on The Han River
The view at Ttukseom at sunset.
The Han River has many different flavours, and this is exactly what makes it one of the best things to do in Seoul. On top of being accessible by everyone, centrally located, and free, it is also one of the most beautiful parts of the city.
The river itself snakes through the centre of the city and is located close to many popular areas (Hongdae, Jamsil, and Gangnam to name a few). It’s one of the most popular outdoor locations in the city, but due to its sheer size, it is rarely overly crowded.
Han river in Spring.
One of the most popular river activities is ordering Korean fried chicken and watching the sunset while drinking beer. If this doesn’t sound like you, never fear. Bikes can be hired and even walking along the river is very enjoyable. Not only this, but there are often events and activities going on, especially in the summer. If you visit South Korea, I would suggest the Han River as one place you cannot miss.
If you visit Seoul, make sure that the Han River is on your bucket list. Not only will it be one of the most beautiful places that you visit, but it’s a place that shows many of Seoul’s best aspects. It is for this reason that the Han River is one of the 5 things everyone should do in Seoul.
5. Experience the Cafe Culture
Iced latte at Cafe Seoulism.
I’ve mentioned this a few times in articles, and I still stand by it today. Seoul has one of the most interesting and thriving cafe and coffee cultures that I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. The cafes in the city can range greatly (to the point where some aren’t even really cafes!) And you can find anything from raccoon cafes to book cafes.
Not only this, but I’ve come across some of the coolest drinks at cafes in Korea – drinks that I could barely imagine, and have never seen before. Whatever the cause of the growing cafe trend in Korea, the outcomes are that there are so many cool places to visit and explore.
Korea has some very nice cafes. Image from Cafe DOCO.
If you are looking for some recommendations then I have many! Recently I visited Cafe Seoulism, a cafe famous for the views of Seoul that it offers. It was a great experience and somewhere that I can highly recommend (although it is a bit pricey and the drinks are mediocre – the experience is what you pay for). If you love animals, then consider checking out this post for some of the best animal cafes in the city.
Finally, if you prefer pretty cafes, Seoul also has you covered. There are many flower cafes, but the one that I prefer is Jeffrey Flower Cafe in Hyehwa. The drinks were delicious(ly photogenic) and the atmosphere was calming and lovely. Especially in summer!
6. Watch Some Esports
Maru, a Starcraft 2 player, wins the Global Starcraft League.
Esports has recently exploded in popularity. However, if you still don’t know what esports is then I recommend catching up on it. If you are interested in League of Legends, or Starcraft 2 then Seoul is as good as you can ever get. There are also a ton of other games that are played!
Even if you aren’t interested in esports or video games I would recommend visiting an esports event. Why? Because it’s a major part of Korean life and is a big part of modern Korean culture.
In Korea, famous esports players are celebrities. I once saw a video where a K-pop idol met Faker (the famous League of Legends player). She was the one freaking out (in the way you do when you meet your favourite celebrity). Not only that but playing video games is considered a viable career path.
While more countries are slowly catching up, esports doesn’t have such a major impact in any other society. There are even TV channels that broadcast video games all day!
Seoul is currently the world capital of esports and it has been for the past decade. For this reason, it’s something that everyone visiting Seoul should check out.
I recently published a guest post about the Starcraft 2 scene in Seoul. If you are interested in learning more about the scene of possibly visiting then check it out!
7. Explore the Parks of Seoul
The central lake at Seoul Forest.
People rarely visit Seoul for nature. Yet, the nature is quite fantastic. Even if you have a packed itinerary, taking some time out to enjoy nature can be a worthwhile way to spend your time.
The best part about the parks in Seoul is the variety. There is a little bit of everything. Would you like to sit on the banks of a lake while eating dinner and watching the sunset? Then visit Seoul Forest. Or would you prefer to see the stunning fall foliage? Then World Cup Stadium is fantastic!
Naksan Park is one of my favourites. Not only does it provide some beautiful views of the city, but the park makes for a great walk. With the Seoul Wall Museum, it’s also a great place to learn a bit of history about the city.
The parks are fantastic in any season. However, the best seasons are spring and fall. In spring, the cherry blossoms appear and brighten up the whole country after the winter months. In fall, the trees turn different shades of orange and red. While any month is great to visit the parks of Seoul, fall and spring are the best time to visit!
Seoul Botanic Park
Which park you visit is up to you. However, I am happy to give some recommendations! Seoul Botanic Park is located right outside Gimpo Airport. It also makes for a beautiful photo location!
World Cup Stadium is one of my favourite parks in the city. World Cup Stadium is a combination of smaller parks that are all located in the same area. Nanji Hangang Park is a great place to enjoy the river. Haneul Park is famous for its silver grass and beautiful sunsets.
There are a total of five parks within World Cup Stadium and they are all unique. For this reason, it is often my most recommended park.
8. Experience The Food Culture
Korean doughnuts at Namdaemun!
Korean barbecue. Kimchi. Korean fried chicken. Korea is most famous for a few things – K-pop, esports and food to name but a few. If you come to Korea, make sure that you get the chance to properly explore the food culture.
This means visiting markets such as Kwangjang. You can even learn how to make kimchi! There are a lot of great restaurants around Seoul, however, I always recommend the markets. Not only do you get to experience fantastic food, but you can also experience the fast and dynamic atmosphere of the markets.
There are a few areas famous for food. Majang Market is famous for meat. Noryangjin Fish Market is famous for… You guessed it! Fish. Kwangjang is perhaps the most famous food market, however. It serves a large variety of food and you can find any Korean food that you desire there.
Namdaemun Market is also famous for food. However, I don’t recommend it (for food) for a few reasons. It can be incredibly crowded, it’s very tourist-focused, and it is often over-priced. Kwangjang Market has recently become more famous. But, it still has a more authentic experience than Namdaemun.
There are so many unique Korean dishes to try.
If you are really interested in experiencing the Korean culture then you can even visit some of the tents you see on the side of the road that serve soju. These tents often aren’t very clean, but they are a true Korean experience!
What food you try when you come to Korea is your choice. However, some iconic Korean dishes are fried chicken, samgyetang (chicken ginseng soup), samgyeopsal (Korean barbeque), kimchi, bibimbap (a mixed rice dish), naengmyeong (cold noodles) and tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes).
There is a LOT more food to try, but these are some of the most famous dishes that you can try in Korea. If you visit a market such as Kwangjang, you can experience them all!
9. Go Hiking!
Namsan Tower has some stunning views!
This overlaps with the first point on this list. However, it’s also one of the most uniquely Seoul things to do so I wanted to discuss it more.
Sure, climbing a mountain might not sound very unique to Seoul. However, what is unique is that there are a TON of them. They also have stunning views of the city. If my counting is right, there are more than 40 mountains in Seoul alone!
Most of these mountains are located close to subway stations and hiking many of them isn’t really ‘hiking’. A lot of them are under 500 metres tall! However, they provide a great escape from the urban jungle and many of them offer unique sights at the top.
There are also some taller mountains, however. Bukhansan is one of these mountains and is over 800 metres tall. However, it’s still walkable in half a day depending on which path you take.
Mountains are located all over the city, and you can’t go wrong with any of them. Some of the most famous mountains are Namsan, Naksan, Bukhansan, Inwangsan and Eungbongsan.
If you are looking for a great view without too much walking Eungbongsan and Naksan are fantastic. They are both short walks (under 30 minutes). If you would prefer a mountain that doesn’t take you out of the way, try Namsan. You’ll probably be visiting it for Namsan Tower anyway!
If you are interested in a bit more of a walk then Bukhansan and Inwangsan are fantastic. Both are a little more difficult and require more time, but both are also great hikes and well worth it.
Other Things That You Should Do!
This list was quite hard to make. Not because I couldn’t think of five things, but rather because I had trouble picking the five most important things that everyone should do in Seoul. I truly think that everyone should experience the culture in Korea as much as possible, and you can see that reflected in this list.
Otherwise, I tried to include things that you might not find on other lists. These things (such as viewing the cityscape at night) are things that are very unique to Seoul, but you might not consider otherwise. The city is one of the most beautiful in the world (I’m sure it can’t only be my opinion?) and I hope that everybody can experience the beauty that it has to offer.
If you are looking for more things to do in Seoul (that are no less important than those on the list above) why not watch the sunsets from the most stunning viewing points in the city?
There are so many other things to see and do as well. If you want to find out even more things to do, why not check out what to do in Seoul.
What is something that you think everyone who visits Seoul should do?