Seoul alternatives: the highest issues to do within the South Korean capital

Seoul is an ultra-modern metropolis crammed with modern high-rises and time-tested palaces, tempting road meals vibrant procuring districts and far more. 

Whether or not you need to see the most recent Ok-pop sensation, take a late-night foods and drinks tour, or discover serenity in a spa or temple, South Korea’s capital has one thing to supply 24/7. Listed below are the most effective issues to do in Seoul.

Style the road meals at Gwangjang Market

Road meals in Seoul is beloved for its spice, selection and affordability, and there’s no higher place to attempt it than at Gwangjang Market. Relationship from the early twentieth century, this lined market has gained a repute amongst foodies for having among the nation’s greatest road snacks. 

Begin with an order of tteokbokki (stir-fried rice truffles in a brilliant orange spicy sauce), adopted by a few mandu (Korean dumplings) and a pajeon (savory inexperienced onion pancake). For dessert, attempt hotteok (a pancake crammed with brown sugar and cinnamon) or bungeoppang (a fish-shaped pastry crammed with candy pink bean paste). Then do it once more.

Time your go to to Gyeongbokgung Palace to catch the altering of the Royal Guard ceremony © Alarax / Shutterstock

Step again in time at Gyeongbokgung Palace

In the event you solely have time to see one sight in Seoul, make it the sumptuous structure, serene pagodas and maze-like grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace. Initially constructed in the course of the reign of the highly effective Joseon Dynasty within the 14th century, the palace was destroyed in the course of the Sixteenth-century Imjin Struggle, then rebuilt within the 18th century. Gyeongbokgung is the most important and most elegant of Seoul’s 5 royal palaces. 

Take within the ceremonial altering of the Royal Guard in entrance of the huge Gwanghwamun Gate earlier than strolling the grounds to admire placing hip-and-gable buildings, tranquil ponds and delicate cherry timber. Wrap up your go to with a cease on the Nationwide People Museum of Korea, which sits on the palace grounds and options reveals on conventional Korean tradition.

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Stroll alongside the Cheong-gye-cheon Stream

Within the warmth of summer time, nothing beats a stroll alongside Cheong-gye-cheon Stream. A stunning oasis that unfurls for practically 11km (7 miles) by means of the towers of central Seoul, this picturesque waterway is lined with strolling paths, timber and bridges. The unique stream was lined with an elevated freeway after the Korean Struggle, however in 2005 the town undertook an urban-renewal venture to refresh the realm and reintroduce the stream, higher than ever. Since then, it’s been a well-liked spot for locals and vacationers seeking to cool off or take a leisurely break from the town’s hustle and bustle.

Store for the most recent traits in Myeong-dong

You’ll need to escape the bank card for a day of spending in Seoul’s most well-known procuring district. Myeong-dong is famend for stylish vogue labels, deluxe department shops and beauty boutiques full of famed Ok-beauty merchandise. When you’ve sufficiently stocked up on masks sheets and moisturizer at Olive Young, innisfree and Etude House, try the Myeong-dong Evening Marketplace for quirky souvenirs and conventional road meals. 

The realm can be house to a few of Seoul’s cutest cafes, with the Pink Pool Cafe on the Stylenanda Pink Lodge flagship retailer being the final word eye sweet. This confectionery-colored spot has an ice-cream-parlor vibe, indoor decorative pool and sweet-as-sugar artwork decor, making it a well-liked place for picture shoots.

Go for a dip in a jjimjilbang

Greater than only a strategy to get clear, bathing in Seoul is a full-fledged social exercise. Koreans collect at bathhouses (jjimjilbang) with family and friends usually as soon as per week. Jjimjilbang can vary from an institution with simply a few small dipping swimming pools to huge aquatic palaces with a number of swimming pools, water options, cafes, saunas, leisure rooms, gyms, spas and arcades. 

First-timers ought to know that bathhouse etiquette requires bathing within the nude, and a few bathhouses don’t enable patrons with tattoos. When you’ve bared all of it, take a dip in the cold and hot swimming pools, adopted by a stretch within the sauna, then go for a conventional full-body scrub to emerge child comfortable out of your bathhouse expertise. 

Dragon Hill Spa is understood for its big selection of distinctive leisure areas, resembling a meditation pyramid and a “jade vitality” room, whereas the female-only Spa Lei attracts patrons for its elegant environment and invigorating massages.

An aerial view of two hikers on a rocky outcrop overlooking cloudy mountain peaks at Bukhansan National Park, Seoul, South Korea
Magnificent Bukhansan Nationwide Park lies inside the metropolis limits of Seoul © Inventory for you / Shutterstock

Take a hike in Bukhansan Nationwide Park

Bukhansan Nationwide Park is listed within the Guinness Ebook of World Information as “probably the most visited nationwide park per unit space” – which is simple to know, because it’s set inside the metropolis limits and simply reachable by public transportation. You’ll usually see athletic Koreans in colourful mountain climbing gear using the subways on weekends. 

Bukhansan covers 80 sq km (31 sq miles) and options jagged peaks, mountain climbing trails, dozens of storied temples and 1300 species of crops and animals. The 5-hour round-trip hike to the 836m (2744ft) summit of Bukhansan is effectively value it to see Seoul unfold out earlier than you in all instructions.

Belt it out in a noraebang

Stroll down any busy road within the college districts on a Friday or Saturday night time and also you’re prone to hear distant singing wafting by means of the air. Likelihood is it’s not an errant Ok-Pop band however the raucous merriment of karaoke at a noraebang (singing room). This well-liked late-night exercise entails non-public rooms with big-screen TVs, phone-book-sized lists of songs and even disco balls or musical devices to accompany the singalong. High it off with room service bringing snacks and cocktails and it’s a recipe for doubtlessly horrible singing … and a good time.

Sip on soju and makgeolli

The standard Korean drinks soju and makgeolli have been respectively distilled and brewed because the thirteenth century and are probably the most beloved drinks on this thirsty nation. Soju additionally has the stunning distinction of being the world’s best-selling spirit, maybe helped out by the truth that a regular bottle usually prices lower than a bottle of water.

Whereas such upmarket small-batch distilleries as Samhae Soju and Hangang Brewery create artisanal varieties, the most typical labels resembling Jinro and Seoul Makgeolli may be fortunately imbibed on the picnic tables dotting sidewalks exterior of comfort shops throughout the town. These new to the Korean alcohol scene can try the Sool Firm, which provides tasting excursions, brewing lessons and particular occasions.

Make like a monk at a temple keep

The enduring picture of a colossal Buddha statue wanting over modern high-rises may be seen on the Eighth-century Bongeun-sa Temple in Gangnam. Though most vacationers come simply to snap a photograph or two, you’ll be able to really take part in temple life with the monks. Over a weekend, take part vegetarian meals, morning chanting, meditation and even the 108 every day prostrations, all meant to clear the thoughts and convey you nearer to attaining inside peace. Temple-stay applications are supplied not solely at Bongeun-sa, however at varied temples all through Seoul.

A GangnamDol cartoon bear sculpture along K-Star Road in Gangnam, Seoul, South Korea
On Ok-Star Highway, a procession of GangnamDol cartoon bear sculptures salute favourite Ok-pop acts © ARTYOORAN / Shutterstock

Star-search on Ok-Star Highway

You’re most likely accustomed to Hollywood’s Stroll of Fame, however do you know Seoul’s glamorous Gangnam district has its personal boulevard devoted solely to Ok-pop artists? As an alternative of stars on the sidewalk, Ok-Star Highway options 3m-tall statues of cartoon bears referred to as GangnamDols, every embellished to signify a distinct Ok-pop singer or band, together with Tremendous Junior, Ladies’ Technology and BTS. 

After taking just a few selfies along with your favourite bears, pop into the GangnamDol Haus close to the Apgujeong Rodeo subway station to select up just a few mini bears as souvenirs.

Spend the night time in Bukchon Hanok Village

Swish sloping roofs, ornate tiles and colourful dancheong portray come collectively to create the Korean conventional home, referred to as hanok. Tucked between the Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung palace complexes lies Bukchon Hanok Village, a historic district crammed with a whole bunch of charming hanok that’s usually used as a backdrop for interval films and tv exhibits. 

Whereas the village has cafes, teahouses, museums and boutiques, it’s additionally house to a handful of hanoks-turned-guesthouses the place guests can sleep on conventional ondol heated flooring, stroll by means of kimchi pot–crammed courtyards and usually get a style what life was like in previous Seoul.

Get a hen’s-eye view at N Seoul Tower

On the prime of Nam Mountain sits N Seoul Tower, a broadcasting construction courting from 1969 and rising 239m (784ft) into the sky above the town. The tower nonetheless has lively transmission antennas, although as we speak it’s higher identified for an commentary deck that gives 360-degree views of the capital. The highest of the tower additionally provides just a few eating choices, together with a swanky rotating restaurant serving French fare. To achieve the tower itself, you’ll be able to journey the Namsan Cable Automotive aerial tramway or hike the meandering trails to the highest by means of Namsan Park.

A South Korean guard in sunglasses and a helmet stationed at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) at the border of South Korea and North Korea
A go to to the North Korea–South Korea border close to Seoul is an expertise you received’t quickly neglect © Anthony Plummer / Lonely Planet

Take a day journey to the DMZ

One of many prime day journeys from Seoul, a go to to the northern border might be probably the most uncommon 24 hours you’ll spend on the Korean peninsula. The 250km (160-mile) border between North and South referred to as the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is likely one of the world’s most carefully guarded borders. 

Varied outfits resembling the favored DMZ Excursions firm take curious onlookers from central Seoul to the border space to catch a glimpse into North Korea from Dora Observatory, discover the Third Infiltration Tunnel (initially dug by North Korean troopers) and even step into North Korea within the Joint Safety Space. There’s additionally the touristy DMZ Peace Train operated by KORAIL, which whisks passengers from Seoul Station to Dorasan Station, the final cease to the north earlier than crossing into the Hermit Kingdom.