From quirky handicraft markets and traditional hanok buildings, to luxury shopping and bustling nightlife, there’s an endless array of Seoul-stirring things to do in this intriguing city.
Seoul’s vibrant cityscape has perfected the art of blending historic charm with sparkling modernity. Strolling through the quiet streets of Bukchon, you'll be mesmerized by the masterfully preserved traditional hanok houses, while the century-old Gwangjang food market will transport your taste buds back in time. Yet, towering skyscrapers and grandiose luxury shopping complexes stand as a testament to the city's ultra-shiny advancements. With a tapestry of unique things to do, Seoul’s diverse character is undeniably cool.
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Live your foodie dreams at Gwangjang Market
There’s nothing quite like smelling the new aromas and tasting the whirlwind flavours of a new city. Opened as the country’s first in 1905, the Gwangjang Market has stood the test of time, becoming Korea’s oldest and largest food market. Despite its fame, each vendor has retained its authenticity, serving an exceptional range of street food central to Korean culture and full of unpretentious charm. Come hungry and fill your plate with mung bean pancakes and tteokbokki – a dish of chewy rice cakes in spicy sauce, loved by tourists and locals alike – or broaden your palette to some delicious Korean staples like Ssoondae (blood sausage) and chicken feet.
Uncover the charm of Bukchon Hanok Village
After fast-paced days in the busy metropolis, escape to the heritage-rich village of Bukchon, a dreamy village dating back 600 years to the Joseon Dynasty. The 900 traditional hanok houses, many of which are still privately owned, are reminders of a time of nobility, flanked by two palaces and host to a wealth of time-honoured cultural experiences, ancient tea houses and eateries. One of the last remnants of ancient Korean architecture and culture, the residential village is a passionate preservation of Korea’s regal past – learn about its lasting history at Bukchon Traditional Culture Centre and take your time strolling through the pristine streets.
Marvel at the historic Gyeongbokgung Palace
Meaning 'palace greatly blessed by heaven', the Joseon Dynasty-era Gyeongbokgung Palace, originally built in 1395, sits dreamily surrounded by Mount Bugaksan and Mount Namsan in the heart of Seoul. The palace is enjoyed by both tourists and locals, many of whom will dress in traditional hanbok, making the whole experience all the more special. Watch as the traditionally robed guards change over in a striking ceremony at Gwanghwamun Gate and be transported to a regal time in Korean history while wandering through the enchanting Hyangwonjeong Pavilion – built in the middle of a lilypad-strewn pond. Walk away with greater knowledge of the traditional lifestyles of Korean citizens past and present with a visit to the National Folk Museum of Korea where over 4,000 artefacts are on display.
Explore electrifying Gangnam
With its pulsating nightlife, grand shopping centres, and celebrity hotspots, Gangnam is an unmissable stop on an action-packed journey through Seoul. Indulge in an unrivalled shopping experience at the colossal COEX mall, a subterranean haven boasting four floors of retail therapy, the towering bookshelves of Starfield Library, and a large-scale aquarium. Or, pamper yourself with a touch of opulence at the upscale Cheongdam-dong shopping district, home to designer labels such as Chanel, Burberry and many more, where the architecture of the shopfronts is as impressive as the goods inside.
Your visit to Gangnam wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Olympic Park where you can take in a sporting match or, if you’re lucky, a K-pop concert at Olympic Stadium, immerse yourself in the history of the Olympics and South Korea’s star athletes at the dedicated museum, and relish a steaming cup of java at one of the park’s cosy cafes. Don’t miss the stunning wildflower gardens that come to life each season with a dazzling display of blooms – be sure to bring your camera.
Visit Seoul's cultural heart, Insadong
With traditional hanok houses converted into quaint cafes and charming tea houses, vividly painted alleyway art and striking handicrafts spilling onto each treasured street, Insadong has been coined the cultural heart of Seoul for a reason. A stroll down the main street is met with dozens of art galleries, showcasing everything from traditional Korean fine art to contemporary installations. And for those looking to pick up an eclectic souvenir, the Ssamziegil complex boasts four floors of quirky goods and crafts, with stunning art installations winding around the staircases and a rooftop garden waiting to showcase sweeping views of the neighbourhood. For afternoon tea steeped in history, the wood-trimmed interior of Shin Old Teahouse offers a warm sanctuary to recharge after browsing the bustling streets.
Soak up the arty vibes of Seongsu
Seongsu boasts a unique blend of industrial-chic and lush natural surroundings. Originally an industrial area, this Seoul neighbourhood has transformed into a space bursting with street art, boutiques housing the wares of local and independent designers, and a cool cafe culture. Some warehouses have been converted into huge art spaces or aesthetic cafes and restaurants – or all three, in the case of Daerim Warehouse which occupies six warehouses, and still features the original walls and exposed beams so your coffee comes with a side of retro ambience. Seongsu is also home to the Amore Pacific Art Museum and its skincare showroom, allowing you to try the very latest Korean skincare from its suite of top-rated brands. Finally, a trip to Seongsu isn’t complete without a visit to Seoul Forest – an expansive collection of five public parks with plenty of space for a picnic, and a true feast for the eyes no matter which season it happens to be. You might be treated to some of the most spectacular cherry blossoms in spring, or the magical golden hues of falling leaves in autumn – definitely put a visit on your list of things to do in Seoul.
Admire the views from the N Seoul Tower
Soaring atop Namsan Mountain, N Seoul Tower stands tall as an iconic landmark of the South Korean capital. The tower's graceful, spire-like structure reaches towards the sky, offering panoramic views of the city's dizzying network of streets and towering skyscrapers. In Seoul for a romantic escape? Leave a padlock on Love Lock Bridge at the base of the tower to symbolise your eternal love. While you’re at the base, you might be lucky enough to take in a traditional Korean dance performance. Inside the tower, visitors can indulge in a variety of cultural experiences, including art exhibitions, or dine at one of many restaurants with stunning views as the backdrop. As the sun sets, the exterior illuminates as a vibrant beacon against the city skyline. Whether by day or by night, a visit to N Seoul Tower is a must-do experience for anyone seeking to immerse themselves in the city’s vibrant culture and storied beauty.
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