Seoul is more of a business hub than a leisure city. It’s a progressive, modern city with a towering skyline and busy highways. Yet, despite Seoul’s 21st-century aura, the city has managed to preserve its historical and cultural identity. You can see centuries-old houses, grand palaces and mansions. There are festivals celebrating culture and history. Of course, Seoul has its fair share of historic palaces. While Korea has no royal family, the annual Jongmyo Jerye (royal ancestral rite) is a colourful celebration that is led by the descendants of the last royal line and the festivities are embraced wholeheartedly by the public. Here are places to visit and 10 things to do in Seoul.
Things to do in Seoul
1- Visit Gyeongbokgung Palace
Of all the things to do in Seoul, visiting a palace is a must.
Gyeongbokgung Palace is the grandest of the five surviving Joseon Dynasty palaces. This was the former seat of power during Korea’s past dynasties is the most famous palace in the country.
Located at the northern end of Sejongro, Seoul’s main boulevard, it’s near the Blue House (Official residence of the South Korean president) and the US Embassy.
Built during the late 1300s, the palace has been repaired several times. There are daily tours and English-speaking guides are available also.
2- Eat Kimchi
Kimchi is South Korea’s comfort food. The spicy dish can be tasted in any restaurant and comes in different varieties.
You can learn about Kimchi at the Kimchi Field Museum, which has displays that spells out the different ways kimchi can be prepared.
You can even join a kimchi making lesson at the museum. Compared to other things to do in Seoul, making Kimchi is fun and informative.
3- Explore Changdeokgung Palace
Another palace worth a visit is the UNESCO World Heritage Changdeokgung Palace, which is a 15th-century palace with a rich history.
It’s one of the more serene things to do in Seoul. Discover the palace’s secret garden, with its tranquil pavilions and ponds. It’s a tranquil spot to soak up some history.
4- See the DMZ
The Korean Demilitarized Zone is sometimes called the scariest place on earth, due to its proximity to the border of North Korea. You can feel the tension at the border.
The DNZ draws significant numbers of tourists who go to get an eyeful of the military on both sides. This has got to be one of the more unusual things to do in Seoul.
5- Discover Bukchon Village
If you want to experience life in a Korean village during the medieval days, head to Bukchon Village.
The village has a cluster of privately owned traditional Korean wooden homes. It’s a culturally preserved village in one of the most highly advanced cities in the world.
It has alleys and beautifully maintained architectural designs, including courtyards, decorated outer walls and dark tiled roofs.
This village also has traditional cafes, art galleries and restaurants.
6- Bugaksan Mountain
Hiking enthusiasts should head to Bugaksan Mountain, which is the mountain behind the Blue House.
There are several trails on the mountain. You can visit the century-old gates and to Seoul’s ancient fortress walls. There’s a lovely view at the top.
7- Shop in Itaewon
Itaewon is a quaint neighborhood packed with bars, clubs and restaurants that dish up traditional Korean food at reasonable prices.
Itaewon also has shops that sell just about everything, from custom-tailored suits to jewelry, Korean pottery and furniture.
This is where you’ll find a thriving club scene so plan a good night out.
8- Escape to Cheonggyecheon Stream
There are still some tranquil spots in Seoul and Cheonggyecheon Stream is one of them. Walking at night is particularly picturesque.
The city lights give out a magical glow as you walk past mini waterfalls and across bridges.
9- Korean War Memorial
South Korea has a history of war and conflict. To commemorate soldiers who fought for their country, the South Korean government built the Korean War Memorial.
It has a decent museum with displays about South Korea’s long history. There are tanks, aircraft and guns on display.
10- Namdaemun Market
Wind through the streets of Myeongdong to get to the massive Namdaemun market.
The market has myriad vendors selling clothes, shoes and accessories. You could spend the entire day shopping. Don’t forget to haggle.
The three-storey Starbucks Café is an icon in Myeongdong occupying some of the most expensive real estate in downtown Seoul.
It’s a popular central meeting spot for groups of all ages from teenagers to retirees. Tuck into green tea frapuccinos and sweet potato cake while surfing the net using their free wireless internet access.