Seoul..you want to go to Korea? Great choice my friend. You are in for an amazing experience! Being the capital city, Seoul is naturally the top choice for any first time visitors to Korea. And the attention is well deserved. Seoul has a lot to offer, from its rich colourful culture, to delicious cuisine, to world class shopping, to lively night life…gah the list goes on! All the flashy lights and herds of people on the street can be overwhelming on the senses. Lucky for me, on my first ever trip to Seoul, I had some local friends who gave me insider tips on the ins and outs of this wonderfully crazy city. In this post, I’m sharing some of my favourite experiences in Seoul to help you narrow down the can’t miss activities for first time visitors. Here are 10 things you absolutely must do in Seoul Korea!
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Visit a royal palace
There are five grand royal palaces in Seoul and every one of them is majestic AF. The Gyeongbokgung palace is the biggest and arguably the most beautiful. Visitors can watch the royal guard changing ceremony in front of the main gate every hour between 10 am to 3 pm. The Changdeokgung palace is also a worthy visit. It is the most well-preserved of the remaining royal palaces of the Joseon dynasty and a recognized World Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO.
Wear a hanbok
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One of our favourite ways to experience the culture of a country is trying on their traditional clothing. In Korea’s case, it’s a beautiful hanbok. You can rent hanboks in many places around the city. The prices can be very reasonable starting at 15,000 korean won for 4 hours. Aaaand BONUS! If you visit a royal palace while donning a hanbok, you don’t have to pay entrance fee! Yes that’s right, it’s FREE! Who dares to charge you when you resemble a Korean royalty? 😉 Also, be warned that people may mistake you as an attraction and request to take photos. That’s just how the royalty life goes.
Where is the best place to rent hanboks, you ask? Jasmine from My Suitcase Journeys shares her recommendation here.
Explore Bukchon Hanok Village
Another place to soak up some cultural historical goodness is the Bukchon Hanok Village. Located near the royal palaces, it’s an area with hundreds of traditional Korean houses that date back all the way to the Joseon Dynasty. Here makes a perfect back drop locations for taking some gorgeous photos in your hanbok. Ooh that Instagram be lit!
Shop in Myeongdong and get Korean cosmetics
You cannot visit Seoul and go home empty handed as the city itself is pretty much a big shopping mall. There are so many places to shop in Seoul, and the Myeongdong district is one of the most famous. Be dazzled by hundreds of stores selling the latest in Korean fashion, cosmetics and souvenirs. And in case you don’t know yet, Korea is very famous for their beauty cosmetic industry. Myeongdong is where you can find all the goods.
5. Pig out on delicious food
This had to be a whole other post in itself. There are seriously too much food to talk about! Head over to my post 10 Delicious Food To Eat in Seoul, Korea to see what I mean.
Check out an exhibition at Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)
The DDP was said to be the most Instagram tagged location in Korea in the year 2015. It’s no surprise as the architecture is stunning! Located in the center of the Dongdaemun area, the DDP is a key venue for design-related shows and conferences, exhibitions, and other events and gatherings. In stark contrast to the traditional landmarks in Seoul, the DDP is very futuristic. My first impression was that it looks like a giant spaceship. If you get lucky like I did, you can catch a cool exhibition like the DDP LED Rose Garden.
Get scandalous at the Love Museum
Warning, this is not a place to take your kids. *Cough If you are traveling with a partner or with friends who love a good laugh, head to the Love Museum for some adult only fun. No it’s not a strip club! To quote the museum’s eloquent description, it’s “an unique art space that allows you to experience the fantastic magic between eroticism and art in an interesting way.” To give you more ideas, the section themes of the exhibition include, Erotic Garden, Fun & Sexy and Dream House. Um I think you get the gist. The scandalous schemes are set up for you to take pictures with. Not photos you can send home to your mother though…
Extra Tip: The Love Museum is located in the same building as The Trick Eye Museum, which is an alternative optical illusions experience that is kids friendly!
Have some fun in Lotte World
Ok, now for a place where you CAN take your whole family phew! Kids will especially love Lotte World. Kind of like a mini Disneyland, Lotte World is the largest indoor amusement park IN THE WORLD! It has rides, an ice rink, parades, shops and so much more. When I went there around Halloween, the outdoor section of the park, Magic Island, was transformed into a zombie zone, where park staff dressed as zombies and chased screaming visitors around. Just your usual fun stuff.
Check out the view on top of Namsan Seoul Tower
The Namsan Seoul Tower is an iconic symbol in Seoul. It is located on Namsan Mountain, which you can get up to by cable car. The tower marks the highest point in Seoul. Bring your camera and enjoy a panoramic view of this beautiful city.
Stroll around Hangang Park
I absolutely adore this beautiful space of greenery in Seoul. Located along the Hangang river, the Hangang Park is a place where many Korean dramas and movies are filmed. My Korean friends told me that it’s the most popular date spot in Seoul. It’s not hard to see why as the park got such a romantic vibe at night time. Lit up by lights from the city and modern public art displays, it looks like a total dream!
If you are wondering about the best way to get around Seoul, check out this comprehensive Seoul public transport guide by my friend Brooke, from Roamscapes. It contains great tips on how to travel like a local.
Where to stay in Seoul
Whether you are a solo wanderer looking for budget-friendly hostels, or couple travelers wanting something luxurious, the bountiful accommodation options in Seoul will not disappoint you. Find the perfect place to stay here:
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