109 Best Sights in Seoul, South Korea

63 Square and Art Gallery

Yeouido Fodor's choice

When the 63 Square building was constructed in the 1980s, it was the tallest building in Asia. While it no longer claims that accolade (it now belongs to Dubai's Burj Khalifa), the gold-tinted, 63-story skyscraper is Seoul's seventh tallest. The former observation deck on the 60th floor has been converted into the 63 Art Gallery, which claims to be the world’s highest art space. The modern, rotating installations are made all the more striking by the floor-to-ceiling windows with birds’ eye views of the skyline, the Han River, and N Seoul Tower as a backdrop. In addition to the gallery, there’s also a cafe on the 60th floor, while the 57th through 59th floors are home to high-end restaurants.

Baegak Trail

Jongno-gu Fodor's choice

Running through Bugaksan mountain, the Baegak Trail begins and ends at two minor gates of the Seoul City Wall, from Changuimun to Hyehwamun. The trail reaches a height of 342 meters (1,122 feet) and takes about three hours to complete. The trail has a lot of history: it's where North Korean Special forces infiltrated Seoul in 1968. As a result of this history, visitors to the area are required to bring identification in order to enter. Highlights of the trail include the January 21 Incident Pine Tree, a tree with traces of bullets fired during a gunfight with North Korean forces, and Malbawi Observatory, a scenic viewpoint from which both Seongbuk-gu and Jongno-gu are visible.


Gangnam-gu Fodor's choice

Situated just north of COEX Mall, this beautiful Buddhist complex is an oasis of tranquility in the amped up concrete and steel environs of modern Gangnam. Built in 794, the temple is home to 3,479 Buddhist scriptures, making it much more than a tourist attraction in the heart of one of Seoul's most modern and hectic districts. Bongeunsa is also part of South Korea's temple stay program, so it's possible to sleep overnight and experience life from a monk's perspective. 

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Bukchon Hanok Village

Jongno-gu Fodor's choice

With its labyrinthine street and rustic stone and clay houses, Bukchon is one of the few places to get a glimpse of old Seoul. This hilly neighborhood is one of the most picturesque and charming places in the city. Historically home to the upper crust of Korean society, in recent years Bukchon has become a cultural center for residents and tourists alike. Mixed in with the traditional Hanok houses are numerous galleries, cafes, small museums, and guesthouses. To best experience this area, visitors can stay at a traditional hanok guesthouse, such as Gongsimga. The top of the hill offers beautiful views of the city and palaces below, making it a great place to visit at sunset or sunrise. For rest and refreshment, stop by one of the many cafes along Samcheong-gil, which forms the eastern border of the neighborhood.

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Changdeokgung Palace

Jongno-gu Fodor's choice

If you only have time for one of Seoul's five palaces, Changdeokgung is the one to see. Built in 1405, it is the Joseon Dynasty's second palace and is now registered as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. Changdeokgung has an older, more historic feel than some of the other palaces and was designed to blend in with the natural landscape surrounding it. What truly sets it apart, however, is the Secret Garden, only accessible via a reserved tour. Nestled on a hill and featuring a lotus pond and 300-year-old trees, the garden follows the serene flow of the four valleys that divide it. Before you visit, check to see if the palace is offering its special nighttime hours, as the building is exceptional in the glow of lamp light. For guided tour times in English and for a roster of seasonal events, visit the palace website. 

Deoksugung Palace

Jung-gu Fodor's choice

Located next to City Hall, Deoksugung is an oasis in the heart of downtown Seoul. Originally built as a residence for the crown prince, Deoksugung was the only palace to survive the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592. Today, it is the most modern of the palaces, blending a European-style garden and fountain with traditional palace architecture. It is also home to the National Museum of Contemporary Art, which features rotating exhibitions of Western and Korean artists. While not as grand as Seoul's other four palaces, Deoksugung is notable for its contrast to the chaos and bustle of the surrounding downtown and makes an excellent stop after a day of sightseeing or shopping. At night the main hall and other buildings are illuminated, giving the palace a quiet, mysterious air.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)

Dongdaemun Fodor's choice

Ever since this massive, spaceship-like cultural center opened in 2014 it’s become a quintessential sight in Dongdaemun and is visited by an average of 30,000 people per day. The futuristic Zaha Hadid–designed structure is clad with 45,133 aluminum panels and hosts more than 100 exhibitions and events each year. There are also architectural tours, a rooftop garden, kids’ art classes, restaurants, cafes, and shops to keep you occupied for hours.

281 Eulji-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul, Seoul, South Korea
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Rate Includes: Free (fee for some events and exhibitions)

Gwangjang Market

Jongno-gu Fodor's choice

One of the largest traditional markets in the country, Gwangjang Market has become famous over the past few years for its restaurants and street food vendors. While locals go to the market more for the experience than the quality of food, the bindaetteok (fried mung bean pancakes), kimbap (seaweed rice rolls) and hotteok (sweet, sugar-filled pancakes) are snacks worth seeking out. Walk off the calories by browsing the hanbok vendors and vintage clothing shops on the second floor.

Gwangjang Market Food Alley

Dongdaemun Fodor's choice

This section of the sprawling Gwangjang Market is a food lover’s dream. The market’s history dates back more than 100 years and the bright, buzzing atmosphere remains the go-to place to sample Korea’s famous street food. Not to be missed are the bindaetteok (savory mung bean pancakes), mandu (meat or kimchi-filled dumplings), and tteokbokki (simmered rice cake in a spicy red sauce). More adventurous eaters can try san-nakji (raw, freshly chopped live octopus), jokbal (pig feet), and dakbal (chicken feet). Prices are inexpensive, and it’s possible to fill up with two or three items for less than ₩10,000 (more for the delicacies).

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Jongno-gu Fodor's choice

The oldest and most famous of Seoul's palaces, Gyeongbokgung means "Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven." Built in 1395, it served as the main seat of government throughout much of the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910). Destroyed in 1592, the palace was unused for nearly 270 years as the government moved its seat to Changdeokgung. In 1867 the palace was rebuilt on a grand scale, with 5,792 rooms in over 330 building in the sprawling complex which again becoming a self-functioning city within a city. Unfortunately all but ten buildings of this majestic complex were destroyed during the Japanese occupation in the first part of the 20th century. Adding insult to injury, the colonial powers built the Japanese Government General building directly in front of Gyeongbokgung's throne hall. Restoration of the palace began again in 1990, and though no longer the seat of government, the palace has been restored to some of its former glory. A must-see for anyone interested in history and architecture, Gyeongbokgung is the most visited tourist sight in Korea so crowds can be dense, especially in the warmer months and on weekends.   At the palace gate, Gwanghwamun Gate, you can see the Palace Royal Guard Changing Ceremony each day at 10 am and 2 pm except Tuesday. 

Gyeongui Line Forest Park

Hongdae Fodor's choice

Often likened to New York City’s High Line, the Gyeongui Line Forest Park is a narrow green space that stretches 6.3 km (3.9 miles) over train tracks that once led to North Korea. Train service was suspended in 1951 after the two Koreas divided and the area was mostly urbanized until 2009, when the idea to build the park was greenlit. Today, the park is divided into four main sections, with the section outside Hongdae Station Exit 3 being the most popular. In summer, buskers play guitar on one of the many benches and picnickers laze on the grass with drinks from nearby convenience stores, but the park is busy year-round as it’s surrounded by trendy restaurants and cafes. Venture outside the Hongdae Station area (further outside Exit 3 or Exit 2) for pleasant, little surprises: a row of bookshops, remnants of the old tracks, and meet-ups of neighborhood dogs.

Ihwa Mural Village

Jongno-gu Fodor's choice

The Ihwa Mural Village was created in 2006 when the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism invited more than 70 artists to paint or create sculptures for their “Art in the City'' initiative to revive the area. Formerly known as a Daldongnae, “Moon Village,” because of the unobstructed views of the moon seen from the hills, the village was home to the lower and working class, and Korean War refugees during the 1950s. 

The vibrant displays of artwork mixed with historic Seoul have revitalized the area, attracting locals and tourists. The most famous pieces are the Koi Fish staircase ( Ihwajang 1na-gil), Mosaic Flower staircase ( Yulgok-ro 19-gil), and Angel Wings ( 9-396 Ihwa-dong) where there is always a line for photos. In fact, the area has become so popular that the district has enforced a “Silent Campaign.” While you’re meandering the alleyways looking for the next masterpiece, remember to keep your voices low, respect the privacy of residents, and hold on to or properly dispose of your trash to ensure the continuity of the village for years to come.

Lotte World Tower

Jamsil Fodor's choice

Dominating the Jamsil skyline, Lotte World Tower represents modern Seoul perhaps more than any other building in the city. This impressive skyscraper tops out at 555 meters (1,820 feet) and is not just the highest structure in Korea, but also currently the 5th tallest building on the planet. Its design was inspired by Korean ceramics and writing brushes, and if you're anywhere in its vicinity, its sure to capture your attention. It's one of those rare high-rises that has managed to inspire awe. The top seven floors make up the Seoul Sky Observatory, which offers easily the best views in the city. In addition to observation platforms, there is a cafe, shop, lounge, and sky bridge linking the two halves of the building.

Museum Hanmi

Jongno-gu Fodor's choice

Established in 2002 by the Hanmi Pharmaceutical's foundation for arts and culture, this museum (which was formerly known as The Museum of Photography Seoul) is dedicated to displaying the work of prominent and up-and-coming Korean photographers, as well hosting international exchanges. It also aims to encourage and inspire those who wish to pursue photography as a career by offering classes and training through its academy. It relocated to a purpose-built building in central Seoul in late 2022.

Namdaemun Market

Jung-gu Fodor's choice

Seoul's oldest and second largest market is easily its most accessible and interesting for visitors to the city. Filled with vendors selling everything from clothing to cameras to food, this sprawling indoor and outdoor market is not only great for shopping, but it also makes a fascinating sightseeing destination in its own right. An estimated 500,000 people come to Namdaemun daily, making for an energetic and crowded but manageable spectacle. Established in 1414, the market has been destroyed any number of times, most recently after the Korean War, and again in 1968 and 1975. Yet after each setback, this market has rebuilt and prospered. While there is still much history to be found in Namdaemun, to see it now is to get a glimpse of the dynamism and spirit that has propelled Korea onto the world stage.

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Namsan Park

Yongsan-gu Fodor's choice

Seoul's largest park once anchored the southern end of the city. As Seoul grew southward, however, it soon became the city's most central park. Encompassing Mt. Namsan and the surrounding area, Namsan Park is crisscrossed with rubberized walking trails and full of trees, wildflowers, and—in the warmer months—swarms of pedestrians. Still, it is worth a visit to see some of the greenery and sites such as the old Fortress Wall, the botanical gardens, and the science museum. The highlight is definitely N Seoul Tower, a needle-like tower with excellent night views of the entire city.

National Museum of Korea

Yongsan-gu Fodor's choice

For anyone who wants to become better acquainted with Korea's unique history, culture, or arts the National Museum is the museum to visit. The sixth largest in the world, any of the 13,000 works of art permanently on display could stand impressively on its own. By following the chronologically arranged path, visitors get a sense of not only the depth and beauty of Korean culture, but also how it evolved over the centuries. In addition to the expansive permanent collection, the museum hosts impressive special exhibitions as well.  For those wanting more information about the works and periods of Korean history, the museum offers "smart curators" (digital tablets that offer audio explanations and more) and guided tours in English for groups.

Starfield COEX Mall

Gangnam-gu Fodor's choice

This sprawling complex is more than just a shopping destination: it's the mothership of trendsetting fashion, food, culture, and entertainment in Seoul. The largest underground mall in Asia, COEX is home to shops carrying national and international brands, as well as restaurants serving cuisine from around the world, plus a movie theater, an aquarium, and the Starfield Library, where you can browse through thousands of books or just relax under the skylight roof. It's a great place to lose yourself for a couple of hours, and when you feel like coming up for air, make sure to stroll along the grounds outside and check out the giant golden sculpture of Psy's hands as he does the "Gangnam Style" horse dance.

The Royal Tombs of Samneung Park

Fodor's choice

Both a much-welcomed swath of nature as well as one of the city's greatest historical treasures, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to the burial mounds of two kings and one queen from Korea's Joseon era. King Seongjongwidely considered to be one of Korea's great leadersis buried with his wife, Queen Jeonghyeon, in the park's west side, while the east side contains the tomb of King Jeongneung, their second son. While the history is impressive, the park also offers visitors a chance to unwind, exercise, and otherwise soak up fresh air in the midst of Gangnam's concrete jungle.

1 Seolleung-ro 100-gil, Seoul, Seoul, 06153, South Korea
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Rate Includes: Free

Yeouido Hangang Park

Yeouido Fodor's choice

The most popular park in Yeouido, and indeed perhaps all of Seoul, is Yeouido Hangang Park. Running parallel to the Han River for the full length of the island, the park is dotted with picnic areas, stages, bike paths, and convenience stores for grabbing a Hite beer on a hot summer’s day. Other highlights include a public pool with prime city skyline views and whimsical paddleboats shaped like ducks, but it's the statue of letters spelling out “I SEOUL U”  with a background of the river, the skyline, and N Seoul Tower that draw daily flocks of eager Instagrammers.

Amorepacific Museum of Art (APMA)


Both traditional and hyper-modern art is the focus at this museum, which showcases one topic or artist at a time. Past exhibitions have highlighted abstract expressionist Mary Corse, sculptor Lee Bul, and graphic artist William Kentridge. Located in Yongsan's striking Amorepacific Headquarters designed by architect David Chipperfield, the museum first began with the private collection of the conglomerate’s CEO, Suh Sungwhan. Also on the premises is a library called apLAP containing 10,000 catalogs of exhibitions from all over the world, plus a gift shop and a number of cafes and restaurants.

Arario Museum in Space


Founded by world-famous collector Kim Chang-il, this contemporary art museum is housed in a striking brick building from the 1970s. In addition to the rotating exhibitions, there are several dining options including the standout Fritz Coffee and Le Cochon, a French restaurant in the attached glass building.

ARKO Art Center


Designed by prominent Korean architect Kim Swoo-geun, the ARKO Art Center was established in 1979 under the direction of the Arts Council Korea, also known by its acronym, ARKO. Kim's goal was for his architecture to represent a poem written by light and bricks. He achieved just that, as the center's red brick is an iconic symbol of Hyehwa-dong. The building consists of an exhibition space, archive, cafe, and other facilities dedicated to showcasing Korean contemporary art and supporting emerging Korean artists. Most exhibitions are free.

Bangi Matgol (Food Alley)


Situated in Bangi-dong between the Lotte World Tower and Olympic Park, this several-block concourse is home to scores of eateries and watering holes. At lunchtime, office workers line up at the most popular spots, and at night, the place comes alive with Jamsil residents eating and imbibing beer, soju, and more.

Banpo Hangang Park


Though technically in neighboring Seocho District rather Gangnam proper, this large riverside park is close enough to warrant a visit. Lazily stroll along the river walk, check out the Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain (which, at 570 meters/1,870 feet long is the largest bridge fountain in the world), rent a bicycle, or picnic on the grass. In the warmer months (April through October) the park hosts the Bamdokkgaebi Moonlight Market every Friday and Saturday night from 6 to 11 pm. This popular event attracts people from all over the city to browse the artist's stalls and graze on food truck fare, featuring Korean classics such as tteokbokki (rice cakes in sweet spicy sauce), along with foreign favorites like tacos, hot dogs, and Cuban sandwiches. The trio of man-made floating islands known as Some Sebit are also not to be missed. Each features a building lit-up at night by multi-chromatic LED lights and are constructed to represent the three stages of the life of a flower. Inside you can find two restaurants, a cafe, and an outfit renting six-person "Tubester" boats.

Big Hit Entertainment (original building)


Seoul is home to a number of entertainment companies, but Big Hit Entertainment is known as the outfit that launched the careers of global K-pop mega sensation BTS. While they've since moved into a brand new headquarters (the 19-story HYBE Building in Yongsan), this much more humble structure where it all started still stands. The building has become a pilgrimage point for diehard BTS fans known as ARMYs, where thousands have scribbled words of dedication to the group on the outside of the structure. 

Bukhansan National Park

Only a short subway ride from central Seoul, Bukhansan is both the tallest and most beautiful of the city's many easily accessible mountains. The mountain and the surrounding 30-square-mile Bukhansan National Park is an ecological island in the city. In addition to fresh air, views of the city, and more than 1,300 species of plants and animals, Bukhansan is home to numerous historical and cultural sights. Of note are the Bukhansanseong Fortress and more than 100 temples scattered throughout the area. Hikers looking for solitude, however, are in for a disappointment. It is full of other hikers year-round and is listed in Guinness Book of World Records as the "Most Visited National Park per Unit Area."

San 1–1 Jeongneung-dong, Seoul, Seoul, South Korea
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Changgyeonggung Palace


Changgyeonggung stands out for its quiet beauty. Constructed in 1418, the palace was originally a residence for former queens of the Joseon Dynasty. Along with the adjacent Changdeokgung Palace, it was referred to as the East Palace. In 1762 the palace was home to one of Korea's famous royal murders. As the story goes, Prince Sado, the heir to the throne, was quite strange. Worried about what would happen should he take power, the emperor lured him into a rice casket in the palace, locking him in until he starved to death. Later, during the Japanese occupation, the palace was home to a zoo and amusement park which lasted until the 1980s. Today, Changgyeonggung has been restored to its former state and although the gate is a bit of a hike, it is well worth a visit to see one of Seoul's serenely landscaped palaces without the crowds of neighboring Changdeokgung.

185 Changgyeonggung-ro,, Seoul, Seoul, South Korea
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Rate Includes: ₩1,000, Closed Mon.

Cheong Wa Dae (Blue House)


You may know the White House, but do you know the Blue House? Officially known as Cheong Wa Dae, meaning “pavilion of blue tiles,” this striking former residence of the president in the Jongno-gu district was built on the site of a royal garden, dating from 1104. It’s beautifully backdropped by Bugaksan, one of the city’s most popular hiking mountains, the top of which makes for an excellent vantage point to observe Cheong Wa Dae, Gyeongbokgung Palace, and the entire city beyond. Free history tours are offered year-round in Korean only, but there’s an English audio option—be sure to book at least three weeks ahead of time.

Cheonggyecheon Museum


The Cheonggyecheon Stream is a manmade waterway and walking path stretching 11 km (7 miles) through central Seoul and is one of the city’s most popular attractions. The museum exhibits trace the history of the stream from its natural origins to pollution during the Japanese occupation, to being covered by a freeway overpass, to the 21st-century restoration project that revived it, transforming it into the peaceful oasis it is today.