25 of the best places to visit in Seoul
Welcome to our guide on the best places to visit in Seoul. A diverse city that’s unlike anywhere else in the world, South Korea’s capital features an endless number of things to see and do. It’s the number one spot to visit in the country and you’ll quickly find out that uncovering all its top attractions will take some time.
In this guide, we’ll share some of the best Seoul attractions; ones you simply cannot miss. We’ll also share places to visit away from the main tourist trail, where you’ll find a lot more locals than tourists. We’ve included historic attractions, trendy neighbourhoods, nature trails, parks, shopping and dining destinations, plus some unique things to do that you’ll only find in Seoul.
Continue reading for our full list of places to visit in Seoul, South Korea.
A trip to Seoul is not complete without visiting the top attraction, Gyeongbukgung Palace. The palace has a rich history dating back to 1592 and is one of the only royal residences in the city that has withstood the wars of the past few centuries. Whilst a lot smaller today than its original size, Gyeongbukgung is a marvel to explore.
Visit the palace to see the changing of the guard, the grand, ornate palace gates, and a nice lake area with traditional ginseng trees and outhouse buildings. The palace is full of tourists no matter the time of day, but the grounds are large enough for it to never feel too busy. If you fancy doing something unique, dress up in traditional Hanbok clothing for free entry to the palace grounds.
Bukchon Hanok Village
Bukchon Hanok Village is one of the best places to visit in Seoul to experience the traditional appearance of Korea, many years ago. Hanok villages are preserved areas that have retained houses, shops and other buildings that showcase traditional Korean architecture. Pointed rooves, wooden frames and narrow streets make up the labyrinth of Bukchon Hanok Village.
Bukchon is a tourist destination, but it’s also a real neighbourhood where people live. Walk through the narrow streets to see these quaint buildings, take some photos and soak in the rich culture.
Seoul Tower, Namsan Mountain and Namsan Cable Car
Seoul is a vast city with a population of 9+ million people. The number of skyscrapers, parks and neighbourhoods is a sight to behold! One of the best ways to capture the scale of the city is by heading up to Namsan Mountain. This instantly recognisable mountain sits in the centre of the city, providing stunning panoramic views of Seoul from above. You can either hike up the Namsan Mountain trail, or alternatively, catch the Namsan Cable Car to the top in only 5 minutes.
The top of Namsan Mountain has a nice collection of cafes and shops with a view, plus a number of viewing decks. If you want to go even higher, take the elevator to the top of Seoul Tower to be at the highest point in the entire city.
Can you remember the catchy song ‘Gangnam Style’ by Korean pop artist, PSY? The tune that took the world by storm is all about the life of the wealthy in Seoul’s Gangnam neighbourhood. This trendy business hub is located south of the river. It’s one of the most expensive places to live in the city due to its central location and ‘exclusivity’. It’s also home to a number of excellent restaurants, shopping malls and modern high-rise buildings.
Visit Gangnam to experience the modern, future-thinking hub of Seoul and its many bars, shops and restaurants. It’s also worth paying a visit to the ‘Gangnam style’ statue, which features the classic PSY pose of two crossed wrists.
Starfield Shopping Mall
In the Gangnam area, you have to stop by Starfield Shopping Mall. Seoul has many malls, but not many are quite as modern, large and packed full of attractions compared to Starfield. In this mall, you’ll find a countless array of dining options for all budgets, fashion and accessory stores for both designer and high street brands and one of Korea’s best cinemas. It also has a wide selection of cafes and restaurants.
Even if you don’t want to do any shopping, experiencing the regular events, eateries and design of this popular mall makes it one of the best places to visit in Seoul.
A place to visit in Seoul that has gained popularity as one of the world’s most beautiful libraries, Starfield Library is a grand, multi-floor library with an open plan layout, towering bookcases and a beautiful design. Tourists walk through to marvel at its façade and locals pull up a chair to read a book. It’s also a cool place to work.
You can visit Starfield Library at the same time as Starfield Shopping Mall. The library is nestled in the centre of the mall on the ground floor.
Another top Seoul attraction in the Gangnam area is Bongeunsa Temple. Dating back to the year 794, this long-standing temple is one of the most historic places to visit in Seoul. It was created for King Wonseong by a high-ranking Buddhist monk and has been a key worship and religious festival destination ever since.
Traditional pagoda buildings, rows of coloured lanterns and ornate Hangul artwork adorn the entire temple area. At its centre is a giant Buddha statue, which is 23-metres tall. Bongeunsa is one of Seoul’s must-see temples and it’s well worth stopping by when exploring the Gangnam area.
Seoul Forest is one of the best places to visit in Seoul for those that want a quiet nature escape away from the bustling city. Located to the east of the city centre, it’s an easy place to get to on the metro. It’s a large park with a number of shaded walkways, with tall leafy trees surrounding you as you go for a relaxing stroll through the forest.
In addition to the nice scenery on offer at Seoul Forest, it has a deer park, botanical garden, insect garden and butterfly garden. It’s a very pretty place to explore, especially if visiting in spring for cherry blossom season, or in autumn for the falling orange leaves.
Gwangjang Market is the go-to place to visit in Seoul for delicious street food. This giant market has countless rows of stalls, all dedicated to hearty, homemade Korean food. Visit the market any day of the week and you’ll find a bustling atmosphere of locals dining alongside tourists, the rich smell of spicy food and an endless number of dish options.
Some food stands specialise in particular dishes, whereas others serve a good variety of popular Korean dishes. The market and some of its stalls have been featured on Netflix and various TV shows, giving it a big boost in popularity. We recommend visiting for lunch. It’s slightly quieter than evenings and you stand a better chance of finding a table at a food stall.
Changgyeonggung Palace and Secret Garden
Another must-see palace in Seoul is Changgyeonggung. Located a short walk from the main Deoksugung Palace we mentioned above, this secondary royal residence is just as grand, and in our opinion, is more beautiful than Deoksungung. The palace has smaller courtyards and towering gates than the latter. However, it has a beautiful array of gardens, greenery and more intimate courtyard areas. Traditional palace buildings are surrounded by wooden sculptures, leafy trees and monuments.
Hidden in Changgyeonggung’s garden area is a tranquil forest area known as Secret Garden. In our opinion, this is one of the most beautiful locations in Seoul. It features rows upon rows of unique trees and plants, a lake area, shaded temple buildings and waterfall streams. It’s particularly impressive in the spring cherry blossom season, or during autumn when the leaves turn bright shades of orange.
Lotte World is one of the best places to visit in Seoul for theme park lovers! Completely unlike the theme parks you may have visited outside of Korea, Lotte World is a spacious park full of unique theming and quirky rides. It features classic rides you’d expect to see in an amusement park, but also a hot-air balloon ride, a haunted house and a selection of 3D attractions.
Lotte World has a whimsical fairy-tale theming and the food stalls in the park are very good. It’s also a cheap theme park to visit compared to other global parks.
Inwangsan Mountain Park
In a city of concrete, many buildings and lots of pedestrians, Inwangsan Mountain Park is a welcome retreat from city sightseeing. It’s a rocky hiking trail that sits along Seoul’s historic city wall, featuring stunning views of Seoul and the palace area below the trail. Inwangsan is a great place for a morning walk in nature when the weather isn’t too warm.
Walk along the trail to see various landmarks, bridges, wooden walkways, gardens, artwork and much more. Inwangsan Mountain Park is one of the best places to visit in Seoul for those that like scenic walks.
Cheonggyecheon river walk
Cheonggyecheon river walk is one of the top areas in Seoul for a sunset or early morning walk. Nestled between skyscrapers in the modern heart of the city, this scenic riverside area is a popular date spot. It even has a wall where locals famously propose to their significant other! Go for a slow stroll along the river, sit and enjoy the view on a park bench, or check out the latest art installations.
Itaewon is the hub of all foreigners in Seoul. A popular place to stay for tourists, but also expats who now reside here, Itaewon is an eclectic clash of shops, restaurants, bars and unique activities. It comes alive on an evening and is known to be one of the best nightlife spots in Seoul. Visit Itaewon during the day for a wander around the shops and cafes. The shops here sell larger clothing and shoe sizes that you won’t find in other areas of Seoul.
Venture to Itaewon on an evening to see this vibrant area lit up with neon lights and jam-packed streets of nightlife seekers. It’s a great place to enjoy Korean BBQ, a high end dining experience, or even no-frills street food. It also has a good line-up of bars and nightclubs.
Ikseondong Hanok Village
Bukchon Hanok Village (as featured above) is the most popular traditional Korean village in Seoul. However, there are many more villages to explore. We personally preferred the narrow streets and many shops, cafes and restaurants of the area known as Ikseondong Hanok Village. Situated right next to the Insadong area, this quaint collection of streets and buildings is a great place to explore on foot.
Ikseondong is home to some excellent restaurants, many of which have traditional floor seating and unique wooden décor. There are also many coffee shops, dessert parlours, boutique shops and photo booths. We personally bought some excellent homeware and had a coffee in a café with a train track running through it.
Right in the heart of the city, Myeongdong is one of the most popular places to stay when visiting Seoul. Its central location and good public transport connections makes it a great place for sightseeing. Even if you’re not staying here, Myeongdong is certainly worth a visit. It’s the shopping metropolis of Seoul, with countless shopping malls, high street stores, international brands and Korean fashion boutiques.
It’s also a top place to visit in Seoul for foodies. Every evening, the streets of Myeongdong come alive with street stalls. The Myeongdong Night Market is where you can sample some excellent traditional dishes, but also creative foods inspired by the younger generations in South Korea. It’s an affordable place to eat and we personally had dinner here 3 times during our visit.
Insadong is another bustling city centre neighbourhood, located just north of Myeongdong. It’s a busy area packed full of restaurants, shops and cafes, just like Myeongdong, but it has a more boutique and local feel to it. Shops here are independent over chain stores, there aren’t any big shopping malls and streets have small buildings compared to the skyscrapers of Myeongdong.
Insadong is one of the best places to visit in Seoul for authentic Korean restaurants. It also has some excellent handmade gifts and fashion stores and an array of themed cafes. The super-popular ‘Dong’ (poo) café is based here. The neighbourhood is full of artwork and colour; a clash of modern with tradition.
We’ve already mentioned some of Seoul’s best temples, but another you can’t miss is Jogyesa Temple. Paired perfectly with a visit to Insadong (it’s located here), Jogyesa is a traditional Buddhist temple. It’s instantly recognisable for its rows of hundreds of coloured lanterns at its entrance! Write a prayer or wish onto a lantern, hang it up, as is tradition, and then walk up to the grand temple entrance. The temple grounds have a selection of art exhibits, a traditional bridge and a temple interior full of golden Buddha statues.
Yeouido Hangang Park
Yeouido Hangang Park is the best way to experience the iconic Han River, which runs directly through Seoul. It’s a very popular spot for locals who want to go on a long walk or cycle, but it’s also becoming increasingly popular with tourists. It has a large ‘Seoul’ sign, perfect for capturing a tourist selfie. It also has some excellent walking paths along the bank of the river. The horizon of the city in the background is where you’ll take some of your best Seoul photos.
The best way to explore Yeouido Hangang Park is by bike. Rent a cycle from one of the park booths and proceed to peddle along the promenade at your leisure. It’s a fun activity for all ages and there are dedicated cycle lanes.
War Memorial of Korea
Built in 1994, the War Memorial of Korea was set up to commemorate the many military veterans and victims of South Korea’s wartime past. Whilst a sobering and saddening place to visit in Seoul, the memorial is also interesting to anyone that wants to learn about wartime events from a South Korean perspective.
The War Memorial of Korea features multiple indoor and outdoor exhibition areas, including a large memorial hall, decommissioned military equipment and aircraft, and old military weapons. A large section of the memorial is a museum of war artefacts. The collection is very interesting for anyone that’s fascinated by military history.
Hongdae has long been known as the ‘trendy’ neighbourhood of Seoul. A very popular chill-out spot for young people, the vibe in Hongdae is upbeat and welcoming. It’s a small neighbourhood to the west of the city centre, sitting just north of the Han River. Themed cafes, including the popular ‘Harry Potter’ and 2D-style ‘Greem Café’ are just some of the unique inceptions on offer in Hongdae. It’s a place where you can dine at one-of-a-kind restaurants and street food stalls or find the latest Korean fashion.
Hondae is also an increasingly popular place to stay for those who want a lively evening atmosphere with lots of bars and restaurants. We recommend visiting in the late-afternoon and staying until the streets get packed with people.
We’ve already listed some excellent shopping markets and street food spots in Seoul. However, if you want a more traditional local market, Namdaemun Market is the place to visit. It’s open all day, and even during the night until 4am. Locals stop by the market to buy cheap home, fashion, apparel, stationery, art, flowers and practically any other market-good you could think of. Businesses visit for the affordable wholesale offering. You then have tourists, who just want to soak in the atmosphere of this busy shopping destination. Add it to your list if you love a good market!
Banpo Bridge is a great place to visit in Seoul early-evening. A key crossing point for the Han River and an architectural wonder in itself, there’s always something going on near the bridge’s south river bank. When the sun goes down, 380 rainbow-coloured jets light up to create a waterfall that cascades from the bridge. It’s a very cool sight to see and is well worth checking out! The rainbow fountain show is actually registered in the Guiness Book of Records as being one of the longest rainbow fountains in the world.
In addition to the must-see evening show, Banpo Bridge hosts a number of different events. It’s often a venue for K-pop concerts and other music festivals.
Gotomall Underground Shopping Mall
Underground shopping malls are huge in South Korea. They perfectly utilise space in city centres that are extremely densely populated. They’re also known to be great place to shop for fashion, apparel and accessories, offering an affordable alternative to high street retail stores and department stores. Gotomall Underground Shopping Mall is Seoul’s answer to an underground mall, and boy is it a big one!
Situated south of the Han River, near Banpo Bridge, Gotomall is a great place to visit in Seoul for those who want to buy K-fashion clothing and accessories. It’s full of independent stores and has options for all budgets. It’s also has stores selling cute accessories, electronics and more.
Last but not least, Haneul Park is another excellent place to visit in Seoul. It’s a large nature reserve on the northern bank of the Han River, located on the edge of the city centre. Seoul has many excellent parks and relaxation spots, but the remote location and picturesque scenery at Haneul make it unlike anything else on our list. Tall grass, crops and flowers set the scene for a serene walk amongst nature…
Walk along the neatly maintained pathways and wooden bridges, stop at one of the exhibits or just soak in the peaceful atmosphere and views of the city. We personally love visiting Haneul Park for sunset. There isn’t a better place to be!
Thanks for reading our list of the best places to visit in Seoul. We hope we inspired you with attraction ideas and you can now explore this vast, impressive and charming city for yourself. Seoul is unlike anywhere we’ve ever been and the number of things to do is endless. Choose attractions that stand out to you the most, don’t miss the must-sees and be sure to plan an itinerary before setting off. If you have any questions about the Seoul attractions we’ve featured, be sure to post a comment below. 😊
Check out our other South Korean travel guides:
- South Korea Travel Tips: Things You Must Know Before Visiting
- 20 of The Best Foods To Try in South Korea
- One Day in Busan Itinerary
By RickyAuthor bio:
An adventurer at heart that loves anything outdoors. Beaches, mountains and amazing scenery is everything I love about travel! I also enjoy home comforts and need a nice place to relax and re-charge after every trip.