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35 Essential Places to See in Seoul

Seoul is a fascinating city, full of contrasts and full of life. It is the largest city and without a doubt, the most essential to see in South Korea.

In addition, it is a very populated city, with 10 million inhabitants. There is a lot of atmosphere and many places to see. In this post I talk about the 35 essential places to see and do in Seoul. At the end I add several links that can help you to organize your trip to South Korea, as well as advice on the best areas to stay in Seoul.


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35 ESSENTIAL PLACES TO SEE IN SEOUL


1. Start by doing a free tour of Seoul


The best opportunity to get to know the most emblematic places in Seoul is to do it with a local guide. In addition, you have the option of booking a guided tour with a guide in Spanish, English... This 2-hour guided tour offers you a tour visiting the Hogyesa Temple, the Insagong neighborhood, the Sik Mool neighborhood, the Unyeongung Palace... among several other places .



2. Visit Namsangol Hanok Village


Namsangol Hanok Village is a traditional village where you will find 5 hanoks, traditional Korean villas, a pavilion, a huge time capsule with 600 objects from traditional Korea and modern Korea, and a tea house, as well as traditional Korean activities and games. Admission is free and it is a must see in Seoul.



3. Visit Gyeonbokgung Palace, an essential place to see in Seoul


Gyeonbokgung Palace was the first Royal Palace to be built in Seoul in the year 1395. It is the most incredible of all the palaces to see in Seoul, but it is not the only one that you should visit, since they are all incredible.



The palace grounds are huge. It has several buildings, gardens, a lake, museums, traditional houses... I explain what to see in the post: What to see in Gyeonbokgung Palace, Seoul


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4. Changdeokgung Palace


The Changdeokgung Palace is located within an area full of beautiful gardens, various buildings and towers, lakes... In the same area is the secret garden, another essential thing to see in Seoul. To visit the part of the secret garden you must book a guided tour, since it is not allowed to go for free. But for the space of the Palace and buildings, if you can go for free, paying the entrance fee in advance.

It was established in the year 1395 and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. I explain what to see in detail in the post: What to see in the Changdeokgung Palace and the secret garden.



5. Changyeonggung Palace


It could be considered an annex to the Changdeokung palace since it is located in the same compound, although you will have to pay an additional entrance fee, although it is worth it. The Palace enclosure is made up of different buildings, ranging from the year 1104 to 1484, it has also undergone several renovations throughout history.


6. Deoksugung Palace and Daehan Empire History Museum

Deoksugung Palace is worth visiting for the changing of the guard. You can see it every day except Mondays, at 11am, 1pm and 3:30pm. You can even try on a suit like the guards while you wait for the ceremony to start.



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The enclosure is beautiful, it has several buildings of traditional Korean architecture. Within the same enclosure is the Daehan Empire History museum, a building that imitates the European neoclassical style (although it is a modern building).



7. Jongmyo Shrine, one of the best places to see in Seoul


Jongmyo Shrine is a space dedicated to all the ancestors of the Joseon Dynasty that maintains its original appearance from the 16th century. In this sanctuary, tablets with the teachings of all the kings throughout the centuries, as well as commemorative tablets, are preserved. On the first Sunday of May, rituals with traditional music and dance are held in honor of the kings.

You can only visit for free on Saturdays. It is closed on Tuesday and the rest of the days you have to join the free guided tours to see it.


8. Bukchon Hanok Village, one of the most beautiful places to see in Seoul


Bukchon Hanok Village is one of the best places to see in Seoul, it is a neighborhood where you will find a mix between modernity and tradition in Seoul. Bukchon was the area where members of the nobility lived for centuries in hanoks, the traditional Korean houses.




From the year 1920 the buildings began to be renovated, but respecting the traditional architecture. Many of these houses have been converted into small shops, cafeterias, fun photo-shops, restaurants... Although there are also many homes that are currently worth millions.

It is a very large residential area with a lot of alleyways to get lost in. You have to respect that it is a neighborhood and not make noise.


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9. Unhyeongung, the former residence of Prince Regent Daewon-gun


Unhyeongung is a must-see former Royal Palace in Seoul. It was the residence of Prince Regent Daewon-Gun, ruler of Korea during the Joseon Dynasty in the 19th century and father of Emperor Gojong.

The Palace dates from the 14th century, during the Japanese occupation, several of the buildings were damaged and later renovated. Among the buildings are Norakdang Hall, Noandang Hall, Irodang Hall, and Sujiksa.




10. Myeong Dong, the most fun neighborhood to see in Seoul


The Myeong Dong neighborhood is one of the most fun and lively places to see in Seoul. It is full of shops, restaurants, very photogenic places, shops where you can take photos dressed up, and you will even find a street market.


11. Ikseondong Hanok Village


Another of the traditional neighborhoods full of Hanoks (traditional houses) is the Ikseongdong Hanok Village. It is less popular with foreigners, which makes it much more authentic, since it is where the locals usually gather. Here in the afternoon, the neighborhood comes alive. It is full of restaurants where you can eat a Korean barbecue, cafeterias, small gardens and interior patios...



12. Climb Mount Namsan and view the city from N Seoul Tower


This viewpoint is one of the best things to do in Seoul. Mount Namsan offers an unbeatable view of the city. You can go up by cable car (9,500 won round trip) or by stairs in about 20 minutes. We walked up and halfway there is an observation platform with incredible views of the city.

At the top of the hill is the N Seoul Tower. Admission is 11,000 won. At the top there are also shops and restaurants. The best time to go is before dark so you can enjoy the sunset and have a bite to eat at the top.


13. Gwangjang Market, the biggest and most impressive food market to see in Seoul


Gwangjang Market is one of the most amazing food markets I have seen in all my travels in Southeast Asia. It is huge, with many aisles and stops. You can sit in the position that most attracts your attention and taste traditional Korean food. You can also stroll through the market, have a freshly made fruit smoothie, buy a fish-shaped cookie filled with whatever you fancy, the most popular being the sweet red bean filling, or even try the famous bow-shaped donut by the one that you will have to do even an hour in line.


Our hotel was only a 5-minute walk from the market and it was our point for breakfast every day and even dinner on several occasions.



14. Starfield Library, a very photogenic place to see in Seoul


Seoul has one of the most amazing bookstores in the world. Starfield Library commands attention by placing its books on soaring undulating shelves that reach to the ceiling. To move between the two levels, there are escalators that have become one of the most photographed spots in the bookstore. It is a fascinating place for book lovers. Although practically all the books are in Korean, there is also a space with books in English. It is located in the COEX Mall, and although it is a bit far from the city center, you can easily get there by metro.




15. Find the statue dedicated to Gangnam Style


The most danced in 2012 was the Gangnam Style song. The hit by South Korean Psy was so popular around the world that they even dedicated a statue to him in the Gangnam neighborhood. Now that you have arrived here, walk the streets of Gangnam, a fashionable, modern and luxurious neighborhood to see in Seoul.


16. Ihwa Mural Village, discover the urban art of Seoul


This small neighborhood of Seoul was a deteriorated and not very touristy area, therefore, instead of modernizing the area, they chose to make colorful murals on their walls representing. We liked the neighborhood very much, in it, you will also find small shops, cafes and very original pastry shops.


17. Visit the Dongdaemun Design Plaza


DDP is an amazing building to see in Seoul. It is an architectural marvel designed to have various uses. It is a very futuristic building made of meandering aluminum and concrete, the work of the prestigious architect Zaza Hadid.

It hosts cultural events and congresses, there are some design shops and it is a space where they put on a craft market some days of the week, a merry-go-round and games and shows for the little ones. There are various sculptures around the building.



18. Stroll along the Cheong-gye-cheon River


Parallel to Cheonggyecheon-ro avenue is a river with a beautiful promenade. It is a very popular place for locals to take a walk and despite being in the center, as soon as you go down, you find a great tranquility.



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19. The royal tombs of Seonjeongneung, an essential thing to see in Seoul


The Seonjeongneung Royal Tombs are considered the most important royal tombs in South Korea and are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The tomb complex belongs to two of the most important kings of the Joseon Dynasty, King Seongjon (ninth king of the dynasty) and his son King Jungjong (eleventh king of the dynasty) and Queen Jeonghyeon, wife of the King Seonjon and mother of King Jungjong.



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20. Go up to the Seoul Sky Observation Deck at Lotte World Tower


Seoul has the fifth highest viewpoint in the world and it is the Lotte World Tower. The tower measures 555 meters in total and you will find the viewpoint from the 117th to the 123rd floor.

Admission costs 27,000 won and it is advisable to book the ticket in advance online to save queues at the ticket office.


21. Enjoy the views from Naksan Park, one of the most beautiful places to see in Seoul


This park is one of the most beautiful in Seoul, as well as promenade and garden areas, you will find several viewpoints. Naksan Park has a part of the wall that protected the city in ancient times. It is a great activity to do before dark to enjoy the sunset.



22. Interesting museums to see in Seoul


There are many museums in Seoul and many of them are free. But since you won't be able to visit them all, the most recommended ones to learn more about Seoul and South Korea are:


The Korean War Memorial


In it you will find an exhibition to learn about the tragic past of South Korea and its present. Don't forget that South Korea is technically still at war with its neighbors to the North. Admission is free.


The National Museum of Korea


In it you will learn more about Korea, its history and its art. Admission is also free.


23. Myeongdong, the most incredible neighborhood to see in Seoul


Myeongdong is one of the most fascinating neighborhoods to see in Seoul. It is an area full of large Korean cosmetics stores, with large neon lights and its streets full of people throughout the day, especially in the afternoon. In addition, in the area there are also a large number of fashion stores, restaurants...


24. Seoul Buddhist Temples


In Seoul there are several Buddhist temples. On my trip to Seoul I visited quite a few, but the two biggest and most important are:


Jogyesa Buddhist Temple


It is the most beautiful temple to see in Seoul. It is full of colored lanterns and if you are lucky you will be able to witness a Buddhist ceremony. Admission is free.


Bongeunsa Buddhist Temple


This temple is located in the Gagnam district and in it is a huge statue of Buddha.


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25. Namdaemun Market


Namdaemun Market is another interesting and fun thing to do in Seoul. It is the largest traditional market in South Korea, with more than 10,000 stalls. In it you will find practically everything: clothes, accessories, things for the home, toys, bags, shoes, stationery, flowers... It is open every day, except Sundays.


26. Insadong, the most traditional neighborhood to see in Seoul


Another neighborhood that you cannot miss in Seoul is Insadong. It is a very traditional neighborhood, perfect for strolling in the afternoon. The neighborhood has a great gastronomic offer, several souvenir stalls and typical and traditional shops, cafes, places to eat a Korean barbecue...


27. Visit the beautiful gardens of Jogyesa Temple


In the heart of Seoul is the main temple for Korean Buddhism. Jogyesa Temple hosts major Buddhist events, including a festival to celebrate Buddha's birthday every May. Apart from the temple, which is beautiful in itself, you cannot miss walking through its gardens. In them you will find a lot of colored lanterns creating a beautiful and magical atmosphere.


28. Seoul City Hall


The town hall is a very modern steel and glass building that was inaugurated in 2013. The old town hall is still in its usual place, instead of demolishing it they turned it into a library with thousands of copies.


29. Go up to Jeongdong Observatory, one of the best things to do in Seoul for free


Next to the Seoul City Hall are other government buildings. One of them has a free public observation deck on the 13th floor. It's called Jeongdong Observatory and has a beautiful view of Deoksugung Palace, which is just below.


30. Bukhansan National Park


If you have time and feel like getting away from the urban environment of downtown Seoul and breathing fresh air, you can go to Bukhansan National Park. It is a national park full of routes of various levels. It is great to spend at least half a day. You should bring water, some food, sunscreen and comfortable shoes in your backpack.


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31. Visit Nami Island


The small island of Nami is a perfect excursion to visit a beautiful place on the outskirts of Seoul. It is about 60 kilometers from the Korean capital. It draws attention for its promenade full of trees whose leaves have pink tones in spring and orange in autumn.



32. Visit the Korean Demilitarized Zone


The Korean Demilitarized Zone is a must see from Seoul. It is the only country in the world that is still divided as a result of the Cold War. The area surrounding the border is inhabited and controlled by the military of both Koreas and the United States.



33. Pocheon Tour from Seoul


This incredible valley for unreal. It is a beautiful valley with impressive cliffs, surrounded by vegetation. With this excursion you will visit the well-known Art Valley, the lake surrounded by cliffs, Herb Island and you will also make a stop at a strawberry and apple farm.



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34. Excursion to Seoraksan and Naksansa Temple


With this excursion you will visit one of the most beautiful national parks to see in South Korea; Seoraksan National Park. During the tour, you take a walk through the park, visit the Naksansa temple, the seven-story Stone tower and the Uisangdae Pavilion.



35. Yacht ride on the Han River, one of the best things to do at sunset in Seoul


The yacht rides last 30 minutes and you will have another perspective of Seoul. The best time to do the cruise is at sunset, you will enjoy the city lights, at the same time, you will see an incredible sunset on the Han River.



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