So what you should do in Seoul really depends on what you like to do. If you like shopping, you should check out the markets/shopping areas (Myeongdong, Insadong, Namdaemun Market, Dongdaemun Market). If you like more historical stuff, you should check out the various palaces and museums. I can give more detailed info on anything below but I thought it might be most helpful to lay out some of the most famous neighborhoods in Seoul (they're usually known for something in particular so that can help you figure out whether you'd be interested in going to that area).
-Gangnam: I know it's hyped cause of the song “Gangnam Style,” but honestly there’s not much to see. It's famous simply because it's the most expensive place to live. If you want to go high-end shopping you should go but don't really see much of a reason otherwise.
-Hongdae: where the young college-aged people go to play. PACKED on weekend nights as there are tons of restaurants/bars/clubs. Also a lot of street buskers; it's a good way to see youth culture in Korea. My advice would be to eat there on a weekend night (go to Saemaul Shikdang, mentioned below) and walk around a little to see the buskers (but before the drinking crowd goes crazy).
-Insadong: Korea’s “traditional street”; sells a lot of traditional/crafted/handmade stuff, from tea sets to traditional Korean clothes. It’s a lot calmer than a lot of the other market areas and has a bit more of a high-class vibe.
-Namsan Tower: Korea's "high tower" tourist attraction (I feel like all major cities have one of these). You have to pay to go up: if you do, I would highly recommend going at night (you can see cars connecting all the various bridges across the Han); but also try to go on a less smoggy day, otherwise you might not see much.
-Myeondong: A famous area for shopping. It’s fun to see but a little overwhelming (mostly because of all the Chinese tourists and the people outside each store catering to the Chinese tourists). Mostly sells clothes, accessories, and cosmetics.
-Itaewon: Itaewon is known as the most diverse area in Korea; it’s where immigrants tend to settle, and there are a lot of ethnic shops or restaurants there that might not be anywhere else in Korea. Tends to have the most diverse cuisine; but not much there besides restaurants and Western stores.
-Dongdaemun Market is a shopping market (for clothes, but a) they are all Korean size, aka tiny, and b) prices are now overpriced b/c of all the tourists), so I wouldn’t really recommend.
-Namdaemun Market is another market that sells everything under the sun; unlike Dongdaemun, I would recommend a visit, as it’s a good place to just rubberneck at all the stuff/buy souvenirs. It’s also a good place try some of the street food from vendors.
-Gwangjang Market: I never actually went here but it's a massive food market that’s in all the guidebooks as a great place to eat.
In terms of planning your visit: I would recommend following either one or a couple of the following tour-type outlines along the lines of the places I outlined above that you’d wish to go.
1) The city of Seoul offers bus tours that go all around the city. I believe they're free, and there are several "courses" (aka tours). Website: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_4_10.jsp.
2) My personal recommendation if you have a whole day free and want to hit up some of the main sights of Seoul would be the following: Go to Gwanghwamun subway station, exit 4, which will bring you to Gwanghwamun Plaza. You'll walk past statues of Lee Sun Shin, King Sejong, and walk straight to Gwanghwamun palace (you can take a detour if you cross the street to your right to the Museum Of Modern Korean History). Wander palace grounds or watch changing-of-the-guards (@11am, 2pm, 4pm each day). The palace grounds are also connected to the Korea Folk Museum. If you walk out the Korea Folk Museum entrance and take a left, you'll hit Bukcheon Hanok Village (traditional houses turned into shopping area). The Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art is also in that area, which has great offerings from top Korean artists. If you walk through that area you can also reach Insadong, where they sell traditional trinkets/teasets/clothing/etc. You should also watch one of the traditional candy-maker demonstrations (they're in stalls across Insadong; it's kitschy but cool and I think the candy tastes good).
4. It's usually an all-day affair but if you have time you can schedule a tour of the DMZ (b/w NK and SK). Some are more legit than others. You want one that will take you to the bridge of no return, to the secret tunnels, and on an actual tour by the U.S. Military (since some areas are restricted to military-supervised-groups only).
Recent ActivityView all Asia activity »
- 1 Help with itinerary please, 10 days Japan
- 2 Three days in Siem Reap, Two in Phnom Penh
- 3 Bali & Flores or Sulawesi for first trip to Indonesia!
- 4 To see the Himalayas in 10 days?
- 5 Start in Tokyo or Kyoto?
- 6 Will 3.5 hours be enough for int’l to domestic transfer in Beijing?
- 7 Travelling in Japan for 3 weeks - advice.
- 8 Connection time in Bangkok on separate tickets
- 9 5 days in Davao or Osaka
- 10 Planning my Philippines trip
- 11 Trekking & Camping at Nagalapuram
- 12 Travelling the Silk Road - Trip Report
- 13 Across Uzbekistan with MIR
- 14 A week exploring Hong Kong & Shanghai
- 15 Kyoto airbnb/vrbo reco?
- 16 A hungry mouse's (very sweaty) adventures in the Land of the Rising Sun
- 17 Surgery at Bumrungrad?
- 18 The Best of Bagan - Travel Report
- 19 Japanese Alps, JR option, Kamakura - more advice gratefully accepted!
- 20 Train or Bus from Nikko, Hakone, etc
- 21 10 days in Sri Lanka - Travel Report
- 22 Sri Lanka planning - advice sought.
- 23 12 days in Thailand itinerary
- 24 November, March, June... Japan?
- 25 Itinerary Help Japan