- Watch Korean culture come to life in Insadong (인사동), an animated walking street frequented by the tourists for its wealth of kitschy souvenirs and by the natives for its tasty street food
- Marking the city’s highest point and offering the most stunning views of Seoul in its entirety (esp. at sunset) is Namsan Seoul Tower (서울 타워), accessed by one of two ways: either cable car or a lengthy hike up
- Experience freedom the way crazed-university students do in Hongdae (홍대), the area surrounding Hongik University where every weekend is run amok with expats and undergrads alike looking for good times and the best thing is, the party never ends
- The partygoer finds paradise in the district of Gangnam, where the stylish go to be seen as it is the it-scene for people who insist that elite clubs should charge outrageous cover fees as to keep the common-folk out
- Take a step back in time when you visit Bukchon Hanok Village (북촌), where the clusters of traditional wooden homes of yore, also known as hanoks, make for a photoshoot-worthy backdrop amidst the modern architecture of present-day Seoul
- Feed your shopping addiction in Myeongdong (명동), a district dedicated solely to the capitalist enterprise of spending, a favorite pastime for all Koreans young-and-old
- Hidden away by stone walls is the ancient landmark of Gyeongbokgung (경복궁), a royal palace hailing from the Joseon Dynasty celebrated for its stately palatial grounds with elegant pavilions and gardens
- Longing for a taste of home? There’s no judgment in expat-friendly Itaewon (이태원) with international offerings catering to every palette under the sun so enjoy the burgeoning nightlife scene and end the night with good ol’ comfort food
IF YOU’VE MASTERED THE FOREMAN GRILL
- Grilled Salted Pork Barbeque (331-1 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Hongdae District) While there seems to be no shortage of barbecue joints in Seoul, this one in Hongdae does things a little differently. Instead of a classic grilltop fired by charcoal or heated by gas, this restaurant warms up smooth, flat stones that act as their grilling platform and juicy cuts of locally-sourced are cooked to perfection. Roast some vegetables (the mushrooms are best) to keep the meal balanced. Nothing enhances the grilling experience moreso than a couple of shots of soju, Korea’s number one liquor. Ask for kalmegisal, the most tender part of the pig.
IF ELBOW-TO-ELBOW MOMENTS DON’T DETER YOU
- Gwangjang Traditional Market (88, Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno-gu) Feast on an array of local favorites in Seoul’s oldest traditional market. In this arena, the best players have the most seats filled so “do as the Romans do” and you won’t regret it. Before you are intimidated by the maze-like food operation, a great starting point is at the stalls selling bindaeddeok, a deep-fried mung bean pancake paired with the local tipple, makgeolli, a bubbly rice wine.
IF “THE CATCH OF THE DAY” IS HOW YOU LIKE YOUR SEAFOOD
- Noryangjin Wholesale Fish Market (13-8 Noryangjin-dong, Dongjak-gu, off Subway Lines 1 and 9) Trust in your nose and let the overpowering scent of the ocean lead you to this giant seafood warehouse booming with activity, especially in the early hours of the day. Once inside the building, you’ll see row after row of freshwater tanks and tables topped with ice displaying every marine animal under the sea. The ajumas (old Korean ladies) compete with one another in intense yelling matches to sell their inventory. Compare and haggle – all your buys will no doubt be fresh, the more alive the better they say. Once you secure your desired items, head over to the second floor where restaurants will prepare your catch for a fee but be warned – it does get very pricey fast! A plate of delectable sashimi will never fail you.
IF YOU HAVE AN INSATIABLE SWEET TOOTH
- Sulbing (39 Insa-dong, Jongno-gu) While many places advertise themselves as “THE” Korean Dessert Café, no establishment warrants the definite article more than Sulbing. Here, the two highlights of the menu are patbingsu (shaved ice dessert) and injeomi toast. Their patbingsu is unlike any other: instead of using shaved ice, they use shaved milk, which creates a richer taste profile. A bowl usually starts at around 8,000 won but the portion is plentiful and the toppings are ornately, and gratuitously, piled on. Go for the Berry patbingsu: layers of sweet yogurt are interspersed in the icy goodness hidden under a luscious (confit) of cranberries, strawberries, and blueberries. They also give you a side of condensed milk to drizzle on.
- Wash every care away at Dragon Hill Spa, a mega-jimjilbang (Korean bathhouse), with soothing herbal waters to cure every ailment known to man and saunas filled with the energizing powers of different minerals such as jade, amethyst, and even Himalayan salt.
- Access an actual “no man’s land” and what Bill Clinton described as ‘the scariest place on earth’ under a guided tour to the DMZ (short for the Demilitarized Zone), the world’s most heavily armed border dividing North and South Korea. Make sure the tour schedule includes the Joint Security Area, where North and South Korean infantry are in a relentless visual standoff.
- Who knew themed cafes were even a thing? In Korea, coffee drinking has been transformed from mere necessity into an amusing outing where cats roam around at the Kitty Café, sheeps baaaa outside the Nature Café, and lovers are suited up for a mock wedding at Café Drama. You can even try your hand at jewelry making while sipping on a Café Mocha at a Ring Café.
- In the mood for love? Make a romantic gesture that speaks of permanence with your own Lock of Love and add to the ever-growing collection decorating the peak of Namsan Mountain or take a serene stroll besides the Cheonggyecheon Stream, which has an otherworldly ambiance due to its pseudo-subterranean setting making it the ideal place for every couple looking for a moment of privacy in a city with millions.
- Ihwa Mural Village, is one of the very few ‘daldongnae’ (달동네) or ‘moon villages’ left in Seoul. Painted across neighborhood buildings are beautiful works of street art. Don’t go searching for the famous fish and flower steps — they have sadly been removed due to misconduct by tourists.
- If you ever need a reminder on the current state of affairs, the War Memorial of Korea is a museum dedicated to Korea’s military enterprises both past and present and the graveyard of decommissioned tanks and ships is now, ironically, a children’s playground
- Did you know that Korea has over ten/eleven professional teams in its league? Share the stands with some of the world’s most hyped-up fans and by the end of the game, the catchy chants will be stuck in your head at Jamsil Stadium.
- Entertainment is done big here, quite literally. Seoul is home to a number of world record holders such as the world’s largest movie theater screen, Starium at Times Square Mall, and the world’s largest indoor amusement park, Lotteworld.
Seoul is teeming with fun things to do! Create your own bucket list while you’re there with help from these resources!
- 101 Things to Do in Seoul (The Bucket List)
- First Time in Seoul?
- Top 5 Things in Seoul
- 10 Best Things to Do in Seoul
- 60 Things To Do in Seoul
- CNN’s Top Things to Do and See in Seoul
- 20 Great Things to Do in Seoul
- 25 Thrilling Things to Do in Seoul, South Korea