12 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Seoul

Jul 22, 2021

South Korea is one of the world's most dynamic, fast-paced, and interesting countries. It boasts an exciting mix of Western-style cities, ancient sites, natural beauty, and outdoor adventure. Seoul is the cultural center of this extremely interesting country. The country is also not known for being a vacation destination, so it is well worth your while to visit Seoul first to explore its culture, sightseeing, and nightlife.

My advice to first-time visitors to Korea would be to avoid the tour groups and focus on getting to know the unique culture, which isn't very touristy. It is after all the real "Korea," but most of the tourist sights can be seen on bus tours.

Some of the things to do in Seoul are walking through the Bukhansan National Park or taking a tour of Gyeongbok Palace and the Jogye Temple. Travel is well connected throughout the country, and travel within the Seoul area is quite easy, especially with one of the local budget airlines, which makes traveling to far away sights possible.

One of the best ways to see Seoul is by hojok (Korean word for traditional Korean city bus). With only a few stops, it offers the chance to get off the main tourist trails and see the real city. We have listed some of our favorite things to do in Seoul with bus routes.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Photo of Gyeongbokgung
Gyeongbokgung: en.wikipedia.org

The Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁) in Seoul, is the largest of the three palaces where the historic Silla (국일) dynasty was based. Although the palace was originally built as a royal retreat in the 10th century, it became the administrative center of the Goryeo dynasty (918–1392) before becoming a royal residence again. In 1984 the palace was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A large courtyard with hundreds of stone statues and a charming interior featuring frescoes, murals, and other artifacts, the palace has been restored by Seoul's Cultural Heritage Administration.

Seoul Tower

South Korea's tallest observation tower is a must for those visiting the country. There are several ways to access the tower, however; either take a cable car to the top, or take a glass elevator to the observation decks. At the top, the 47 meter-high tower provides some of the best views in Seoul. The tower is one of the main tourist attractions in Seoul, giving visitors an all-round view of the city.

Dongdaemun Market

Photo of Dongdaemun Market
Dongdaemun Market: en.wikipedia.org

Dongdaemun Market is the largest indoor market in Asia, with more than 2,000 stalls selling produce, groceries, clothes, and tourist souvenirs. Dongdaemun is something of an Asian New York, filled with 7-Elevens, supermarkets, restaurants, and Western-style shops. Although the market has the usual merchandise from Korea's fashionistas, you can also find a treasure-trove of gifts and fashion accessories from around the world at a great price. Dongdaemun is a fascinating place to spend a few hours, and it's a major tourist attraction in its own right. Most attractions are within walking distance, making it an easy day trip from Seoul.

National Palace Museum

Photo of National Palace Museum of Korea
National Palace Museum of Korea: en.wikipedia.org

The National Palace Museum in Seoul is one of Korea's most important museums. An amazing treasure trove, the museum holds one of the world's best collections of art from the Goryeo dynasty (AD 918-1392). The museum has a collection of more than 17,000 pieces and even includes a luxury Rolls-Royce from the Joseon dynasty (AD 1392-1910). The museum houses around 70 treasures, including paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and calligraphy. Some of the notable works on display include, a ceramics set from the Buddhist temple in Baedong-ni, one of the most famous treasures; and Jangjeon, the Seon Buddhist canon by the Chinese artist Wu Daozi. Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (free entry) daily, the museum is located within Seoul National University.

Deoksugung Palace

Photo of Deoksugung
Deoksugung: en.wikipedia.org

Deoksugung Palace is the main attraction in the heart of Seoul, South Korea. Established in the early 19th century, the palace is the largest and the most famous palace in the country. Filled with beautiful statues, expensive furniture and lavish gardens, it's a perfect place to spend some time exploring. The palace contains an art museum as well as interesting exhibition halls that showcase some of the main attractions in the Palace. If you have the chance to see the palace during a free guided tour, you will also have the opportunity to explore other parts of Seoul that are included in your guide's program. The palace is open from 9:00 to 5:30 and entrance is free for South Korean citizens.

Bukhansan National Park

Photo of Bukhansan
Bukhansan: en.wikipedia.org

Located in South Korea's mountainous southwestern region, the Bukhansan National Park (북한산국립공원) was originally established as a royal forest in 1783 and later developed as a national park. Its tourist facilities include the Bukhansan Temple, a 16th-century Zen Buddhist temple housing a large collection of traditional art, the Seoul Museum of History, and various theme-park rides and performances. Among the major sites in the park are Mount Bukhan, with a temple on its top, and Changsimni Peak, on which the Bukhansan Bukhansan Museum sits. The park includes dozens of hiking trails and a large variety of species.

Kimchi Museum

Photo of Museum Kimchikan
Museum Kimchikan: en.wikipedia.org

The culture and history of Korea (Korean: 韓国, p'unguk) are linked to kimchi, a staple food made of fermented cabbage. One of the five essential kimchi, it has a distinctive, peppery taste and is known to be popular worldwide. Kimchi Museum, located in Dongdaemun, Seoul, showcases many of the region's specialties including fermented cabbage, chili pepper, mandarin oranges, persimmons, chestnuts and black bears. The museum also houses a unique exhibition featuring everyday Korean artifacts and some thousand unique traditional kimchi serving utensils from Korea's rich history, helping to bring life to the beautiful country.

Myeongdong Shopping Street

Photo of Myeong-dong
Myeong-dong: en.wikipedia.org

Also called Seoul's "Times Square," Myeongdong is a bustling business district, lively on weekdays and a bustling weekend marketplace, filled with shops selling affordable or high-end electronics and clothing for all ages. Enjoy delicious coffee and snacks, and find bargains at Myeongdong's busy flea markets. Clothes and knick-knacks for the entire family and from many different places and styles are for sale at the flea markets, as are beautiful scarves and more. You can spend hours browsing the small streets, watching life go by, in the shadow of Korean hagwons (department stores). At night, this is a place to go to dinner and drink and socialize until the sun rises.

City Hall

Photo of Seoul City Hall
Seoul City Hall: en.wikipedia.org

Korea's capital, Seoul, has City Hall, a beautiful neoclassical building with a central colonnaded courtyard leading to the main rooms. It is the oldest building in Korea's modern history, built in 1890 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of King Taejo's unification of the three Korean kingdoms. It is popular with Koreans for its traditional Seon-dae (聖大) weddings, a series of special rituals that are held within the building, along with the famous Seoul Beer, using local water from a source called Cheonggyecheon.

Gwanghwamun Square

Photo of Gwanghwamun
Gwanghwamun: en.wikipedia.org

The location of Gwanghwamun Square, as its name suggests, is quite symbolic and seems to embody the majesty of ancient Gwanghwamun. It was a place where the most powerful King of Korea lived. In front of Gwanghwamun stands the Royal Secretariat building, the oldest structure in Seoul. It was built by King Taejo (1392-1419), the founder of the Joseon Dynasty. It is also known as Woljeongjeon (the Blue Dragon Hall), which is fitting as this was the Gwanghwamun of the Joseon Dynasty. The square itself is known as Gwanghwamun Square, because the northern side of the square is the original Gwanghwamun, the government buildings. The remaining three sides are modern buildings built as the government expanded.

Chapel of Sacred Peace

Photo of Myeongdong Cathedral
Myeongdong Cathedral: en.wikipedia.org

The Chapel of Sacred Peace is located in the Temple grounds of the Chung-Ang University, on the University's property at the top of Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul. Like the nearby grounds of the main temple of the university, the property is a serene and tranquil spot, a lesson in the calming power of trees and water. The three-story wooden Chapel, built in 1991, is a small and simple place, located on a level field between the Temple and a pond, surrounded by old trees and flowering plants. The building's architecture is striking, with a variety of angular shapes and surfaces at different heights. A gentle mist of water encircles the chapel and the large trees of the grounds and is believed to help revitalize the spirits.

Myeongdong and Namdaemun

Photo of Jung District, Seoul
Jung District, Seoul: en.wikipedia.org

Seoul is one of the world's great cities. Not only are the sights to see and the shopping incredible, but the nightlife and food are excellent too. I'm only giving you a brief description, since you can see all of this for yourself as you stroll the streets. With over 6 million residents and 15 million annual visitors, the city is a perfect place to spend your time. Don't forget that you don't have to stay in the center of town, either.