109 Best Sights in Seoul, South Korea

Leeum Samsung Museum of Art

Yongsan-gu

Operated by the Samsung Foundation of Culture, the Leeum Museum is named after Lee Byung-chul, the conglomerate’s founder. With the stated goal of becoming a museum where “we ponder the future based on our understanding of the past and present,” Leeum has two main sections, one devoted to traditional Korean art and another devoted to contemporary, international artists like Damien Hirst, Andy Warhol, and Donald Judd. The buildings, designed by Mario Botta and Jean Nouvel respectively, are both architectural marvels. Also on the premises are a cafe, gift shop, and an education and culture center for children.

Itaewon-ro 55-gil, Seoul, South Korea
02-2014-6900
Sights Details
Rate Includes: ₩15,000, Closed Mon.

Lotte Museum of Art (LMOA)

Jamsil

Opened in 2018, this relatively new museum is dedicated to introducing new waves of modern art from around the globe. From paintings to immersive installations, LMOA is curated with any eye on quality work that also pushes boundaries, with exhibitions of work by artists such as Shepard Fairey, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scharf, and others.

300, Olympic-ro, Seoul, 05551, South Korea
02-1544–7744
Sights Details
Rate Includes: ₩19,000 (early bird ₩9,500)

Lotte World

Jamsil

If you're looking to unleash the kid in you, plan a day at Lotte World. Opened in 1989, this complex contains one of the world's largest indoor theme parks, an outdoor amusement park, and oodles of other attractions. Major rides include the Gyro Swing, a Viking ship called "The Conquistador," a giant loop rollercoaster, "Jungle Adventure" water ride, "French Revolution" roller coaster, and the "Aeronauts Balloon Ride" that spans the whole of the park and offers visitors an eagle's eye perspective of the complex. There are also movies, magic performances, parades, a Korean folk museum, restaurants, a duty free shop, and much more. 

Recommended Fodor's Video

Lotte World Aquarium

Jamsil

This aquarium located in the Lotte World Mall complex is one of Korea's biggest, boasting 55,000 different marine creatures spanning some 650 species. This includes seals, sea lions, penguins, piranhas, sharks, rays, and Beluga whales. The aquarium is kept in immaculate condition, and its underwater tunnels make for perfect viewing of the fascinating, multi-chromatic sea life swimming above and around you.

Mangwon Market

Hongdae

Even though it boasts a forty-plus year history, Mangwon Market is one of the lesser known marketplaces in the city. In recent years, it’s become a favorite of many locals in the area for its affordable produce and wide array of delicious, cheap eats. Here you’ll see neighborhood grandmas carrying home dozens of cucumbers or apples, depending on what’s in season, and out-of-town customers lined up at one of the market’s well-known stalls. Look out for these stalls when you visit: Mangwon Sujae Gorokes for Korean-style croquettes, Gyodon Gangjeong and Mangwon Gangjeong for boneless, marinated fried chicken and Mangon Market Kalguksu for a hearty bowl of knife-cut noodles.

Marronnier Park

Jongno-gu

This small park right outside Hyehwa Station Exit 2 is the heart of Hyehwa-dong. Named after the Marronnier (horse chestnut) trees that are planted there, it was once a part of Seoul National University’s former campus. Today it’s where people come to stroll around before performances or to watch street performances. The park transforms into an open-air stage in the evenings and on weekends during the warmer months. Unlike the street performances in Hongdae that lean more toward the K-Pop genre, here you’ll find mimes, magicians, and acoustic guitar performances. 

Despite its size, there are a handful of landmarks within the park, including ARKO Arts Theater, ARKO Art Center, and sculptures, including a large statue of Kim Sang-ok, a political activist who died fighting for Korean independence. At the center of the park, there’s a Seoul National University monument, a miniature recreation of the university that once occupied the area. From May to June, the Marrionner trees are in bloom, showing off vibrant red and white flowers while offering much needed shade and in the fall, the foliage turns amber. It’s an excellent place to sit within nature and people-watch any time of year.

104 Daehak-ro, Ihwa-dong, Seoul, South Korea
02-2148-4158

Museum Kimchikan

Jongno-gu

At this institution for learning about and making kimchi, visitors can take a self-guided tour of the museum’s exhibit highlighting the history and significance of the beloved fermented cabbage dish via a free audio guide. They can also reserve one of two kimchi-making classes four days in advance. A 40-minute kimchi making class focuses on seasonal kimchi recipes, and while it is quite introductory, beginners can go home with five pounds of the delicious dish for ₩20,000. There is also a do-it-yourself, one-day kimchi program for visitors who want to take home almost a pound of red cabbage kimchi.

My Art Museum

Gangnam-gu

This small gallery located in the basement of the Textile Center building next to Samseong Station features an exhibition space shop, cafe, and education zone. They tend to display foreign artists with an emphasis on modern painters.

Myeongdong Cathedral

Myeongdong

One of the best-known religious sights in the country, this cathedral opened its doors in 1898 despite political opposition, on the site where Korea's first Christians gathered as early as 1784. More recently, it played an important role in safeguarding human rights activists during labor protests of the 1970s and 1980s. Catholics continue to attend mass here while visitors come to observe the history and the architecture, especially notable as it is one of the first brick, Gothic style buildings in Korea. The Cathedral has an annex with several cafes that are open to members of the congregation and visitors alike.

74 Myeongdong-gil, Seoul, South Korea
02-774–1784
Sights Details
Rate Includes: English Mass Sun. at 9 am

Myeongdong Shopping Street

Myeongdong

More of a shopping district than a shopping street, Myeongdong has dozens of small boutiques selling everything from skincare to women's wear and more. These shops often have a small selection of cheaper items set up outside that invite you to come in. While bargaining used to take place years ago, most shops stick strictly to the tag price since a crackdown on price gouging took place around 2014. Unlike similar shopping districts in the city, the vendors in Myeongdong are more likely to speak English (and Chinese and Japanese for that matter) and understand a tourist's shopping needs such as tax-free shopping and bulk purchases for souvenirs.

Myeongdong-gil, Seoul, South Korea

N Seoul Tower

Yongsan-gu

One of the most recognizable landmarks of Seoul, the N Seoul Tower is a 777-foot tower that opened to the public in 1980. Also known as Namsan Tower for its location atop Namsan mountain, the cultural complex can be reached by bus or via a relatively easy hike up the mountain. The Tower includes a French restaurant called n.Grill that rotates, an observatory with panoramic views of the city on the 4th and 5th floors, and a few cafes and souvenir shops. Highlights of the space include a site for "love" locks (padlocks placed here by couples for good luck) in the outdoor space surrounding the Tower, signs on the observatory glass that point you toward cities across the world, and two digital telescopes that allow you to zoom in at 36 times strength.

Naksan Park

Jongno-gu

Located on Naksan, one of the four guardian mountains of Seoul, Naksan Park is perched on top of the hill and offers stunning views of the city. The park and mountain are named after the camel’s hump, nakta (Korean for camel), and san (Korean for mountain). The natural area, including the solid granite bedrock of Naksan, was destroyed during the developments made under Japanese occupation. To restore and preserve the remaining green belt, the Seoul Metropolitan Government established Naksan Park in 2002. Today, Naksan Park features a traditional Korean pagoda with colorful, ornate painted details, several observation decks, badminton and basketball courts, an exhibition hall, and a small convenience store.

Namsan Cable Car

Jung-gu

The only cable car in the center of the city is known for its panoramic views and its history dating back to 1962. As such, it’s been featured in a number of popular K-dramas such as Boys Over Flowers and is often a favorite destination of drama watchers. The glass cable car, which fits as many as 48 passengers, stretches approximately a third of a mile from its entrance in Hoehyeon-dong to Namsan’s peak. Try to visit the cable car on weekdays as you can expect to wait as long as one hour for the three-minute ride on the weekend, and you may have to stand up during the ride if all 48 passengers are packed into the car.

83 Sopa-ro, Seoul, South Korea
02-753–2403
Sights Details
Rate Includes: ₩13,000 for round-trip ticket

Namsan Park

Yongsan-gu

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 Namsan mountain 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 Seoul Science Center. The highlight is definitely N Seoul Tower, a needle-like tower with excellent night views of the entire city.

Namsangol Hanok Village

Jung-gu

Namsangol gives visitors a chance to see what a Joseon-era village would have looked like. Through reproductions of old hanok houses, Namsangol manages to avoid kitsch and focuses on recreating the mood of an old village and teaching about village life in Korea. The five main buildings are beautiful examples of the type of Korean wooden hanok houses once owned by high-ranking officials. The village also hosts events for Korean holidays like Chuseok and Lunar New Year, making it a great place to visit when many other venues in the city are closed. See the village's website for a variety of traditional experiences you can reserve in advance.

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National Assembly Building

Yeouido

The dome-topped National Assembly Building is the home to the legislative branch of the Republic of Korea’s government. Tours of the capitol, including the Plenary Chamber and Memorial Hall, are offered six days a week and must be scheduled three days in advance. For a last-minute visit, stick to the charming grounds filled with evocative statues depicting various moments in Korean history.

National Folk Museum of Korea

Jongno-gu

The Gyeongbokgung Palace grounds are home to this museum dedicated to the traditional and present-day lifestyles of the Korean people. It's a great introduction to the culture and history of the country for first-time visitors, especially the captivating permanent exhibition that covers daily life in villages from the 17th to 20th centuries. There's also a rotating special exhibit; its past subjects have included folklore, makgeolli, and the history and development of towns such as Busan and Incheon. Although there is no daily tour in English, groups of 10 can reserve English tours in advance at least five days before arriving, and audio guides can be rented at the information desk. A cafe on site sells snacks and sandwiches.

National Hangeul Museum

Yongsan-gu

Located on the National Museum of Korea grounds, the National Hangeul Museum opened in 2014 with the aim of promoting the Korean language, often thought to be the country’s most prized cultural asset. The museum’s permanent exhibition is devoted to the Hunminjeongeum, a document drawn up by King Sejong in 1446 detailing the script for the language. Past special exhibitions at the museum have covered everything from calligraphy to women’s songs. Although it may seem a bit dry, the museum has many visual and interactive elements to keep visitors interested. Explanatory text is generally available in English and Korean. Guided tours of the museum take place on Wednesday at 2 pm and 3 pm. 

National Museum of Korean Contemporary History

Jongno-gu

Located across from Gyeongbokgung Palace, this free history museum not only displays documents and photos that chronicle the recent past of the city but also has some stunning views of the Gwanghwamun area from its 8th floor rooftop garden. The museum has several permanent exhibitions spanning the years 1894 to the present day and is a good place to go to begin to understand the city's modernization, independence, and shift to democracy. English language guided tours are available for groups of five or more with advance reservation.

National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul

Jongno-gu

Arguably the best known institution of contemporary Korean art, the MMCA has four branches; this location opened in 2013 as its headquarters. Spread across four stories, its facilities include a media lab, digital library, and outdoor courtyard in addition to several galleries. Past exhibitions include a retrospective on Lee Kyungsung, collected works of Duchamp, and a curation of films by Guy Maddin. The museum is a co-sponsor of several prestigious art awards, including the annual Korea Artist Prize for innovative, visual artists addressing social issues, and the museum frequently hosts exhibitions gathering works of such artists. Don’t forget to stop by the museum’s book shop and gift store for souvenirs highlighting contemporary Korean artists. 

30 Samcheong-ro 5-gil, Seoul, South Korea
02-3701–9500
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Closed Jan. 1, Lunar New Year’s day, and Chuseok

Oil Tank Culture Park

Hongdae

One of Seoul’s finest examples of urban regeneration, the Oil Tank Culture Park is an art complex built in five former oil tanks. The oil depot, which originally opened in the mid-1970s, was shut down in 2000 ahead of safety concerns, and after being abandoned for more than a decade, its current iteration was decided on by a public idea contest. Art exhibitions, concerts, and theatrical performances are often held here, but regardless of the park’s schedule, the venue is worthwhile for its unique atmosphere. Take time to explore the outdoor theater built behind T2 tank and don’t miss the chance to take artsy photos at the rooftop opening of T6, a tank that was built from steel plates found on T1 and T2.

Olympic Park

Jamsil

Built for the 1988 Seoul Summer Games, this expansive park is still home to a handball gymnasium, a gymnastics arena, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, tennis courts, and a velodrome. It's most impressive as a destination for strolling, walking, or cycling, however, with acres of paths winding through some beautiful nature. At the entrance you are greeted by the winged World Peace Gate, an impressive structure designed by architect Kim Chung-up to promote international harmony and cooperation. The park is definitely worth an hour or two of your time.

Philippine Market

Jongno-gu

On Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm, the street in front of the Hyehwa Catholic Church transforms into Little Manila with a lively open-air market with Filipino vendors selling traditional foods like baked bananas and balut (fertilized duck egg), hard-to-source produce, toiletries, and more. The church holds mass in Tagalong on Sunday afternoons, so the market also serves as a gathering place for the Filipino community in Seoul.

Piknic

Jung-gu

Located at the foot of Namsan mountain, Piknic is an art space that also houses a cafe and bar. Past exhibitions have highlighted immersive visual experiences and include works highlighting Ryuichi Sakamoto, Saul Leiter, and Goo Gi-jeong, to name a few. Exhibitions here are often accompanied by a film in the small in-house theater. Those with tickets to an exhibition can also check out the rooftop for mountain views, though the space’s other facilities are open to the public, regardless of paid entrance. For a splurge, you can combine your art trip with a lunch at renowned French fusion restaurant, Zero Complex, on the third floor.

30 Toegye-ro 6ga-gil, Seoul, South Korea
070-8821–6374
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Closed Mon.

SeMA Bunker

Yeouido

With an entrance resembling something from a spy movie, this unique underground museum is set in an abandoned 1970s military bunker that was rediscovered in 2005 during work on a new subway line. Reached via a glass-covered stairway emerging from the side of a multi-lane road (there’s also an elevator), the bunker is now a satellite gallery of the Seoul Museum of Art. The space features a permanent gallery relating to the bunker’s history and an exhibition hall showcasing a rotating array of contemporary art.

76 Basement Yeoui-daero, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
02-2124–8944
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Free, Closed Mon.

Seochon

Jongno-gu

Becoming ever more trendy, Seochon is the neighborhood to come for fine dining and a glass of wine. Vintage shops, traditional hanok houses, and an art museum, Park No-soo Art Museum, can be explored along its streets, which lie just west of Gyeongbokgung Palace. Traditional food can be sampled at Sejong Village Food Street.

Seodaemun Prison History Hall

It's worth the hike just west of Jongno-gu in the district of Seodaemun to explore this former prison built in 1908. It once imprisoned Korean independence activists who were pro-democracy during the Japanese occupation; today it houses history exhibits and various prison rooms documenting their suffering and honoring the lives lost on the road to Korean independence. English tours can be booked a week in advance.

Seokchon Lake Park

Jamsil

This little park behind Lotte World Tower and Mall is a perfect spot to slow down and enjoy a breath of relatively fresh air. There are actually two lakes (East Seokchon Lake and West Seokchon Lake), both of which are ringed by walking and cycling paths. In spring the park hosts the Seokchon Lake Cherry Blossom Festival, which includes performances by singing and dance groups.

Seoul Book Repository

Jamsil

Opened in 2019, this massive bookstore was put together by the Seoul city government in order to help small, independent used book shops by giving them a big, central space to sell their wares. While most of the books are in Korean, it's still worth a visit if you have a love for books and the places selling them. The layout of the bookstore is extremely photogenic as well, so it's a nice place to wander around and snap a few pictures.

Seoul Central Mosque

Itaewon

Of the sixteen mosques in South Korea, the Seoul Central Mosque is also the only mosque in the capital and the best-known in the country. Built in 1976, the mosque is home to the Korean Muslim Federation and is a great resource for Islamic living in Korea. In addition to the unique architecture of the building, which is visible from a distance, visitors who venture inside will see the mosque's several rooms for worship, prayers, and meetings. There are official prayer services held throughout the week. The Mosque is open to visitors, but visitors must wear ready-made coverings available in the lobby and refrain from taking photos inside the prayer room.