Seoul tourist guide: top 5 things to see and do

After spending the week on the beach in Busan in the south of the country we made our way north to Korea’s capital for a five-day city break. Here are my top five things to see and do in Seoul…

Many of the best palaces and temples are located in Seoul city centre

1. Palaces and temples

There are many historical sites that you should see in Seoul but the following three temples and palaces are located in the city centre and easily accessible by subway or on foot. Take your time and enjoy the walks through the gardens…

  • Deoksugung Palace: walking distance from Seoul City Hall Station, subway lines one and two
  • Gyeonghuigung Palace: walking distance from Gwanghwamun Station, subway line five
  • Gyeongbokgung Palace: walking distance from Gyeongbokgung Station, subway line three
Cheonggyecheon Stream, Seoul, South Korea

Cheonggyecheon Stream

2. Cheonggyecheon Stream

Seoul is dissected by the Han River, but it is the Cheonggyecheon Stream that is the capital’s best water feature in my opinion. The 3.6-mile stream was restored in 2005 after years being hidden under concrete – since be restored the stream has become a focal point in the city and a great place to walk day and night. If you do take the walk at night not only can you picnic by the stream with locals and tourists, but there is a food market, live music and entertainment. For the best relaxation take off your shoes and socks and soak your feet in the cool waters. This was my favourite Seoul landmark.

Bukchon Hanok Village, Seoul, South Korea

Bukchon Hanok Village

3. Bukchon Hanok Village

Hanok are traditional Korean houses that date back to the Joseon Dynasty. Located near to the Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung palaces, you can make a day trip by visiting these three cultural attractions. The village is well preserved with most houses and buildings used for business and residential purposes. Anguk Station is only a five-minute walk away.

Seoul shopping, South Korea

You can shop day and night in Seoul

4. Get your shopping fix

Seoul is home to some of best shopping in Asia. You can buy food, local produce and unique items at the many markets in town, or visit high-end fashion boutiques in Seoul’s shopping districts or malls. The best markets to visit are Namdaemun Market and Dongdaemun Market. If you prefer to browse the shops then head to Myeong-dong, the top shopping district in Seoul. But if you prefer to do all your shopping under one roof then a visit to the COEX Mall will suit your needs – this is the biggest underground shopping complex in Asia. If crafts and art are your fancy then the areas of Insadong and Itaewon must be on your list.

5. Hang out with the cool kids

We stayed near to Hongik University, which is on subway line two. The university and its area attracts many art students and this is reflected in the  markets held near to the campus. The area around the university is also a hot-bed of shops, bars, cafes and clubs. Both day and night the area is very busy, yet feels very, very safe. If you are going out on the town don’t bother going before after midnight, this is when it really livens up – and don’t be surprised to see the clubs kicking out at breakfast time the next morning…

Travel details

Dates we travelled to Seoul: September 1-5, 2011

Where we stayed: Kimchi Hong Hotel, 448-6 Seogyo-Dong, Mapo-Gu, Mapo, Seoul. Phone: +827075246059. For directions and prices see here

How we got to Seoul: We took a KTX high-speed train from Busan Station to Seoul Station

Seoul tourist information:

Korea tourist information: and


7 thoughts on “Seoul tourist guide: top 5 things to see and do

  1. Interesting list. Honestly I never put South Korea as one of those countries that I want to visit the most. But this post of yours might help me think it over again.

    • I didn’t think it would be either, but having been I loved the culture, the people and also the diversity of things to do. There is something for everyone in Seoul, I would definitely recommend a visit. Fantastic photography on your blog by the way!

      • Thanks, Mike!
        Actually today I had a conversation with a friend of mine who would love to visit South Korea and she told me nice things about the country. So, I guess it’s in my radar now. :)

  2. I’ve passed through South Korea in transit (I must say, Incheon Airport is fantastic), but have yet to visit. Next time I transit through Seoul, I’ll definitely have to spend a day or two to look around the city. Thanks for the post!

    • I would definitely recommend a visit for a couple of days – while Tokyo is more of a trendsetter in terms of fashion, the pop culture and arts community in Seoul is worth experiencing

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