If you’re visiting South Korea soon, this article will help you discover the top things to do in Seoul. This huge city has so many cool neighbourhoods and places to visit that you’ll need several days to explore every nook and cranny. Don’t worry, in this guide we’ll group Seoul’s attractions by area to make it easier for you to organise your daily routes. The city is huge, with around 10 million people, so you need to plan well and we’ve already done that for you!
Below you can see the table of contents that we share throughout this post. We recommend the restaurants by area, so stay tuned.
25 Top things to do in Seoul, South Korea
In this post we will mention you the top places to visit in Seoul by area with restaurants. We stayed in the centre, at the Ena Suite Hotel, the best place to stay in Seoul. From here we moved everywhere on foot or by metro with Naver Map. As we told you in our article about the places to visit in South Korea, Google Maps does not work in the country. Therefore, we are also going to mention the restaurants in Seoul recommended by our friend José, a Spanish friend who lived in the city for 10 years. We will put a link to Naver with the address because we know, from our own experience, that you will go crazy.
1. Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul, what to do downtown
Gyeongbokgung Palace is the largest and oldest royal palace to visit in Seoul (and in all of Korea for that matter). If you wear a traditional Korean ‘hanbok’ costume, admission is free. Otherwise, the entrance fee for an adult is 3,000 won (€2). It is generally open from 9:00 to 17:00, except from June to August when it is open until 18:30 (admission is allowed up to an hour earlier). Please note that it is closed every Tuesday.
2. Buckchon Hanok Village
Bukchon Hanok Village is located in the old town of Seoul. Here you can see the old traditional Korean houses called Hanok. Please note that access is only allowed from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm from Monday to Saturday. Likewise, you must be quiet to walk around the village so as not to disturb those who still live in the area.
🍽️ Restaurants Seoul, Anguk area: To eat nearby, we recommend the Vietnamese Nhahang Anguk, which is SPECTACULAR! This was one of the best restaurants in Seoul we tried. Also nearby is Oreno Ramen, with several restaurants in Seoul, which we visited in the Hongdae neighbourhood.
3. Insadong, Seoul places to visit in the old town
Insadong is a famous street in Seoul where you can buy traditional Korean handicrafts. The top things to do in Insadong are shopping and enjoy the good restaurants in the surrounding streets. In fact, we had a very good meal in one of the Insadong restaurants with typical Korean food recommended by our friend José.
🍽️ Seoul Korean restaurant: Gaeseong Traditional Dumpling House. We leave you the address of Naver maps in the link.
4. Jogyesa temple, things to do in Seoul at night
This Buddhist temple is one of the Seoul night activities we recommend, as it is full of different coloured lotus lanterns. Jogyesa Temple is the main temple of the Jogye Buddhist order, the largest in South Korea.
5. Palacio Changdeokgung y su Jardín Secreto, Korea tourist attractions in Seoul
Changdeokgung Palace and its Huwon Garden are a UNESCO heritage site and a beautiful example of traditional Korean architecture. This is said to be the most beautiful palace to see in Seoul. We decided to visit only one palace so as not to get “palace-crushed”. Note that it is closed every Monday. As a general rule, the opening hours are from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm. In high season (June-August) until 6:30 pm and access is only allowed until one hour before closing time. Admission costs 3,000 won if you go to the palace alone and 5,000 won if you want to visit the garden as well (about €3.70).
6. Myeongdong. The best restaurants in Seoul are in the street!
One of the best things to do in Seoul and South Korea is to enjoy street food. Myeongdong is a street food paradise and we recommend going at night, as we didn’t see the stalls at midday. We recommend the typical street food of Seoul: Hotteok Korean pancake and the Croffle (croissant + waffle). Below, you can see a photo we took while recording the video of the trip, which you can see soon at the end of this article. Our hotel was about 10 minute’s walk from this area, one of the best neighborhoods to stay in Seoul.
🍽️ Myeongdong restaurant: Din Tai Fung Seoul Myeongdong, Chinese restaurant with a great variety of dumplings, among other delicacies (recommended by José). There are also several typical fried chicken and beer restaurants in the area (with huge queues). Finally, it is also has good reputation the Kyoja Myeongdong.
Shopping in Seoul
This area is also famous for its wide range of Korean cosmetics shops. If you want to buy K-Beauty, stop by the Olive Young franchise. To buy gifts and different things at VERY good prices, we recommend you to visit the Daiso shops, there is one in this neighbourhood of Myeondong. It’s like an Aliexpress shop. We bought the typical little bottles of travel liquids, make-up items and some other gifts for the family. You’ll also see some huge shops called HBAF, which sell flavoured almonds (wasabi, honey, corn, garlic…), one of the best things in Seoul to enjoy as a snack.
7. Namdaemun, things to do in Seoul, Korea
Namdaemun Market is the largest market in Korea. Here you can find other things to buy in Seoul, from clothes to street food. We bought some souvenirs, like the typical big Korean visors and some Marvel stuff for the nephews and nieces. It was also walking distance from our hotel. That is why we think we were in the best area to stay in Seoul.
8. Seoul tower restaurants & views, Namsan Park
From the Namsan Park and its N Seoul Tower you will have panoramic views of the city. You can take the cable car or walk, we walked up and down, which we don’t recommend if it’s too hot. The price to take the lift up the N Seoul tower is about €15 per person (21,000 won), which we only recommend if it’s clear. It is open daily from 10:30am to 10:00 pm and on weekends and public holidays from 10am to 11pm. A short walk from the tower you can also visit the old Seoul city wall that runs through part of Namsan Park. Here it is also famous the Seoul tower restaurant, but we haven’t tried it.
We can say that this was one of the most expensive activities we did during the whole Korea & Seoul tour. For example, access to the Busan Tower costs 12,000 won (€9), so you can see the difference. By the way, if you are travelling to Busan, you can read our tips about the best things to do in Busan.
9. Itaewon, Seoul tourist guide
Itaewon is a must do in Seoul if you want to enjoy the best nightlife, bars and international restaurants. The atmosphere is touristy, though. By the way, this is where a tragic Halloween night “human stampede” took place and more than 150 young people died. There are other nice things to do in Itaewon such us shopping and enjoy the cool coffee shops. Have a look at our recommendations of Itaewon restaurants and cafes below.
☕ Café, we recommend Anthracite Coffee Hannam, on the main shopping street.
🍽️ Taiwanese restaurants Seoul: Itaewon Uyukmien. If you have never tried Taiwanese food, this option recommended to us by José seemed incredible. The fried chicken and pork are a must.
🍽️ Maple Tree House, Seoul Korean bbq. This is one of the best Korean Barbecue in Seoul, although we chose the taiwanese food.
10. Dongdaemun Design Plaza, best places to see in Seoul
The Dongdaemun Design Plaza is a futuristic design building where different art and design collections are exhibited. We recommend going at night, when it is illuminated.
🍽️ Restaurant Two two chicken. Here you will find one of the best fried chicken in Seoul with the local beer Terra. It is a franchise that you will find all over the city. You can order it with different levels of spiciness or just traditional fried chicken. This one is on Eulji-ro 20-gil street, we couldn’t find it on Naver maps either…. This Korean names and maps thing is a pain in the ass!
11. Cheonggyecheon Stream, what to see in Seoul
There are more places to explore in Seoul such as the Cheonggyecheon Stream a rehabilitated stream that is about 6 metres long and is very close to Dongdaemun Design Plaza, so you can combine it. It’s a great place to cool your feet and take a break from the hustle and bustle of Seoul.
12. Dongdaemon and Gwangjang Markets, Seoul top attractions
Just a few steps from the creek, there are more cool things to do in Seoul is to visit the Gwangjang Market with the best street food in Seoul. We didn’t have time to go, but it’s a must. In fact, there’s a Netflix series called Street Food that was filmed here. Another market relatively close by is Dongdaemon Market, dedicated to local wholesalers who want to buy textiles, which we were also unable to visit.
13. Hondae, tourism in Seoul, South Korea
If you’re planning your 3 days in Seoul itinerary, Hongdae is one of the neighbourhoods you should include. It’s packed with shops, themed cafes, karaoke bars and restaurants. Many compare it to Harajuku in Tokyo, but it’s nothing like it. One of the things to do in Hongdae is to enjoy a good ramen, we tell you about it after this photo of one of its main streets. This might also be the best location to stay in Seoul for tourist.
☕ Café Deus Ex Machina. Here you can visit one of the cafes of the famous Australian fashion shop Deus. We are geeks and went to the two shops they have in Seoul. If you’re short of things to see in Seoul and you’re as geeky as us, go to both of them, the design of the other one is crazy.
🍽️ Restaurants Hongdae: Oreno Ramen. They only have two types of ramen, the one we ordered was delicious (non-spicy option). This is one of the best restaurants in Hongdae (Seoul), also recommended in the Michelin guide of Seoul.
14. Seongsu dong, best places to visit in Seoul for shopping
Just a short walk from Hongdae is the Seongsu dong neighbourhood, which we liked much better. Here you’ll find numerous ultra-trendy pop-up shops doing collaborations with brands like Dior and cool cafes. One of the best things to do in Seongsu is to enjoy a Donkatsu or yummy desserts. Below we tell you where to eat and where to have coffee and dessert in Seongsu.
🍽️ Restaurant Oreno Katsu Seongsu. Here you can even put melted cheese on top of the Donkatsu, we ordered it plain. Without a doubt, one of the dishes to eat in Seoul.
☕ Coffe and dessert at Ongeundal, Seongsu: In South Korea there are no desserts in restaurants, so if you want to go to a typical cafe with thousands of cake and sweets options, we recommend this one in Seongsu. However, there are many cool cafés in Seoul and in Seoungsu.
15. Yeonnam dong, things to do in Seoul for young adults
As we see it, Yeonnam is also a Seoul must see and one of the best neighbourhoods to go out for dinner and drinks. It’s full of cafes, restaurants and super cool bars. We loved the atmosphere so much at night that we had a cocktail and stayed for dinner. It is one of the least touristy places to visit in Seoul, by the way.
🍽️ Yeonnam dong restaurants. If you want a restaurant nearby, we went to the Vietnamese Little Papa, very tasty and cheap.
🍽️ Plant Cafe Yeonnam. If you are looking for vegetarian food in Seoul, have a look at this option.
🍸 Heimish bar. We went here for a drink, it was quite cosy. We couldn’t find Naver’s address, so we’ll put it on Google maps. It’s two minutes from the Vietnamese.
16. Lotte Tower, top places to see in Seoul – 6th tallest building in the world
This is one of the Seoul tourist attractions, although it is a bit far from the centre. Lotte Tower is the 6th tallest building in the world and the tallest in South Korea. The skyscraper is 555 metres tall and has 123 floors. All the luxury brand boutiques are located in the area: Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, etc. You can also climb to the top to enjoy the views, although you know you have another option closer to the centre, the N-tower. Around the tower you will also find the Seoul theme park called Lotte World.
17. Gangnam Style statue, famous South Korea attractions in Seoul
If you plan to go to COEX mall, don’t miss the opportunity to have your photo taken at one of Seoul and Korea tourist spots: the Gangnam Style statue. This monument in honour of the famous Korean singer mimics the two large golden hands that mimic the dance of the Korean song Gangnam Style. You will find it in the Gangnam-gu district, one of the 25 “gu” districts of Seoul. To visit it, Naver map will give you the quickest option if you look for “COEX Mall”, it is in front of one of its main entrances.
18. Starfield Library, Seoul sightseeing
This two-storey library stands out because it has more than 50,000 books and shelves 13 metres high. It’s quite something. It’s also located inside the COEX Mall, Asia’s largest underground shopping mall. So, if you’re looking for things to do in Seoul in winter or when it is very warm, make a note of this plan.
19. Han river by bike, activities in Seoul
Another place to visit in Seoul is the Han or Hangang river. Given its length (it runs through the city), we recommend cycling along it. Bikes can be rented by the hour at different points in the city. There is also a bike path along the river, the only one we have seen that is safe in Seoul. If you want to picnic by the river, we recommend Yeouido Hangang Park. To see the sunset, we chose plan 20 on this list of top things to do in Seoul, South Korea.
20. Noduel island, unique things to do in Seoul
If you’re looking for sunset spots in Seoul where you can have a picnic and relax after a day of sightseeing, we recommend Noduel Island in the middle of the Han River.
21. Ihwa Mural Village, Seoul South Korea things to do
If you like street art, another of the places to go in Seoul is the Ihwa-dong neighbourhood, near Naksan Park (not to be confused with Namsan). In its streets you can see mural paintings by some 70 different artists.
22. National Museum of Modern Art (MMCA), best museums in Seoul
This is one of the things to do in Seoul when it rains, it saved our lives. Suddenly it started to rain and we visited one of the 4 exhibitions on digital art. You can pay the entrance fee per exhibition or hire a pack of the different exhibitions at a special price. We combined this plan with a matcha tea from Jeju Island, which we tell you about in our blog about the best things to do in Jeju island and explain briefly below.
☕ Coffee and dessert at Osulloc Tea house MMCA. This café is one of the best places in Seoul to enjoy Jeju green tea and you can’t miss their matcha latte and matcha cheesecake. Brutal. It’s right next to the museum. We visited the Osulloc museum in Jeju and we loved it.
23. Korean War Memorial, free things to do in Seoul
If you want to learn about the history of the war between North and South Korea, you can visit the Korean War Memorial Museum. It is one of the places to visit in Seoul for free. Outside there are several war planes and tanks, as well as a memorial. We just walked around the outside because we were exhausted from walking. We did 25-30 kilometres on foot every day.
24. Seullo 7017 / Seoul Skygarden / Skypark
If you want more options of places to go in Korea and Seoul, there is an old highway converted into a promenade next to Seoul Station called Seoul 7017. We have read in some blogs that it reminds us of the New York High Line (we didn’t think so hehe). We were staying nearby at the Ena Suite (the best hotel to stay in Seoul – South Korea), so we stopped by. In our opinion, it’s only a pleasant one kilometre walk which we recommend ONLY if you are looking for things to do near Seoul station.
25. Things to visit in Seoul – best day trips from the city
If you have a few days to spare and want to discover the best day trips from Seoul, Civitatis Seoul’s top-rated tours are as follows:
- Seoul to Nami island day trip, things to do in Seoul with family
- DMZ visit from Seoul, one of the best Seoul day trips
We hope that if you travel to South Korea and Seoul this guide to help you get to know the city on your own. If you have any questions, leave us a comment, we’re sure it will be useful to other readers.
Best places to stay in Seoul, South Korea
And if you don’t have a hotel in Seoul yet, we are super happy with our urban stay in Seoul at the Ena Suite Hotel. It had a 9.1 average Booking review (when we visited in 2023). As we told you before, we think it is in the best neighborhoods in Seoul for tourists. Concerning the room, they included tea, coffee and gave you two bottles of water a day with the room cover. It also had a separate shower and toilet, something to look out for when booking your hotel in Korea. We booked well in advance and for 5 nights, a double room with a king size bed cost us 500€. Anyway, you can check out other hotels and areas to stay in Seoul below.
Discover our South Korea & Seoul tour in video
Below we share with you the video of our trip with the essential things to see in Seoul where you will also see images of the restaurants we visited and tips. Gastronomy was a clear protagonist! You can subscribe to our YouTube channel to see all the videos of our trip, our stop in Busan, visit to Jeju, curiosities, gastronomy, etc. Please note that all content is in Spanish.
Travel Insurance to travel to Korean & Seoul
Finally, if you are travelling to Seoul and around South Korea and you still don’t have travel insurance to cover you for any illness, accident, flight delays, lost luggage, etc., We have a 5% discount on all IATI policies, with whom we book all our travel insurance. When you do the search from the link above, all policies will already have the price with the discount applied and you can also see the price without discount crossed out. For us for 13 days (including travel days) it cost us less than €60 per person.