Its journey from a modest low-income country 50 years ago to a high-income country is visible when you visit any of the thriving cities in South Korea. In many cities, centuries-old buildings, palaces, old alleyways, and residential areas co-exist with high-rise buildings and modern shopping malls. Whether visiting South Korea for business or to experience its culture, you’ll find plenty to do.
Incheon Airport is one of Asia’s busiest airports, with frequent flights from around the world. It will be your entry point into the country, with well-connected public transport to reach any corner of the country.
One common thing in most South Korean cities is the variety of natural, cultural and entertainment options close to where ever you are. Where else can you find national parks, mountain roads or beaches just a few hours away from almost every city? Surrounded by China, Japan and Russia, this tiny country has seen many wars and invasions but has always managed to preserve its culture.
To understand the uniqueness of South Korean history and culture, visit one of the many museums that showcase this. Your visit to this incredible nation will help you appreciate the delicious flavour of Korean barbecue and K-pop culture. Cherry blossoms in South Korea, or “beot-kkot”, are stunning in spring.
The government has been actively promoting the development of smart cities in Korea to improve transport systems, energy usage and better water and waste management. Cities like Seoul, Incheon and Busan have been leading the way in implementing innovative technologies and infrastructure by engaging citizens in actively participating and utilising these smart initiatives. Other cities aren’t far behind. Here are the best cities in South Korea to visit.
Cities in South Korea
20 South Korean Cities
Seoul is the heart of South Korea and a city that never sleeps.
Seoul tops the list of cities in South Korea to discover the polarising of local culture and futuristic facilities.
Skyscrapers surround historical buildings and temples; you’ll never know what you’ll come across when walking along a market.
From all-night saunas and exotic street food joints to animal cafes, hanbok rental shops, karaoke bars and quirky museums dedicated to poop, your trip will be more than just interesting.
Take a glimpse into Korea’s royal history in Gyeongbokgung Palace, Deoksugung Palace or Changdeokgung Palace, climb up the N Seoul Tower, or take a relaxing cruise on Hangang.
There are museums, cultural shows, quirky walking tours and night markets.
Visiting the trendy neighbourhoods like Hongdae and Insadong or go on a street food and souvenir shopping trip to Myeongdong or the busy Namdaemun Market.
Seoul has several innovative initiatives to make the city more liveable and even leverages Artificial Intelligence and IoT for maintenance, monitoring, and efficient public services.
Busan, the second-largest city in South Korea, is on the southern coast.
Whether it is panoramic views of surrounding areas and the sea from Busan Tower, Oryukdo Skywalk or Harbor Bridge, coastal hiking trails of Taejongdae, mountain trails of Geumjeongsan, or even a relaxing vacation and beach activities on Haeundae and Gwangalli beaches, you can dive into nature here.
If sun and nature is not the only thing you’re here for, there are colourful narrow alleyways, art installations and vibrant murals in Gamcheon Culture Village.
Enjoy local culture by watching a traditional performance at the Busan Cultural Center.
Explore Busan’s interesting history and cultural heritage by visiting one of the many temples, like the Beomeosa and Haedong Yonggungsa.
Busan is also an excellent city to taste authentic Korean street food like hoe-deopbap and spicy seafood stews like jjamppong at Jagalchi Fish Market or Gukje Market.
With innovative initiatives like Busan Eco-Delta City, Busan has an eco-friendly and sustainable living environment.
Recommended tours: Full-Day Busan City Tour / City & Yacht Experience Tour
Incheon is the entry point for most international passengers because of its busy well-maintained international airport.
Parks, islands, and beaches dot this city, and the city’s beach town vibe is enough to attract visitors to enjoy the coastal amenities and eat seafood.
One of the largest cable bridges in the world, the Incheon Bridge is a must-visit for its size and there’s also an observatory that allows you to see the Korean coastline from a unique perspective.
An hour away from Seoul, this port city was where American soldiers landed in 1950 during the Korean War.
The historic event is showcased at Incheon Landing Operation Memorial Hall.
Visit the beautiful Eurwangni Beach, immerse yourself in the local culture at Sinpo International Market and explore the colourful shops in Chinatown.
If you’re visiting Seoul, Incheon is a great option for a day trip.
Its futuristic skyline hints at intelligent city initiatives you’ll come across there, such as the Songdo International Business District and free public Wi-Fi hotspots.
Recommended tour: Layover Tour from Incheon Airport to Seoul
The friendly city of Daegu is a popular hotspot for its traditional Oriental medicinal treatments and practices.
The Daegu Yangnyeongsi Herbal Medicine Festival is where you can experience herbal remedies and healing through events, exhibitions, workshops and performances.
Just wandering around downtown is a pleasant experience in itself.
Drop into a museum like the Daegu National Museum, Daegu Art Museum, and Daegu Modern History Museum or enter one of the old temples and churches that dot the town to get a flavour of the local heritage.
In July, the Daegu Chimac Festival is perfect for those who crave chicken and beer, as the authentic flavours and fusions will clearly show you why Koreans love chicken!
With loads of scenic hiking trails and temples, Palgongsan Mountain is great for immersing in nature.
The 9th-century Haeinsa Buddhist temple in Gaya Mountains is a must-visit as it houses the Tripitaka Koreana, where you will find one of the most complete collections of Buddhist scriptures in the world.
The local government promotes digital healthcare initiatives like telemedicine services, digital health platforms, and healthcare data integration for efficient patient care.
Recommended tour: Daegu Hop on Hop off City Tour Bus Discount Ticket
Daejeon is where you can experience the best of technology, nature and hot springs.
Have a relaxing and therapeutic experience in a hot spring in the Yuseong district, and enjoy the beautiful autumn foliage on Bomunsan Mountain.
The pedestrian-friendly Daejeon Sky Road is the best place in the city to enjoy the local culture, cuisine and have a local beer.
Science enthusiasts should visit the Expo Science Park for its science and technology exhibits.
Children will love the National Science Museum and explore scientific principles through the museum’s interactive exhibits, educational displays, hands-on activities and the O-World theme park and zoo.
The city also has a comprehensive smart city platform that integrates various technologies and services that use technology to improve services provided to citizens and visitors.
Daejeon is the perfect place to get away from it all yet be within the comforts of an urban jungle.
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This quiet southeastern coastal city was Korea’s ancient capital during the Silla Kingdom for nearly 1,000 years and the historical city of Gyeongju is a museum without walls.
Visit the famous Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto, a granite temple containing a seated Buddha statue which is a great place to take in panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and coastline.
South Korea’s astronomy legacy is visible when you visit Cheomseongdae, the oldest astronomical observatory in East Asia.
The royal gardens around the Anapji Pond and scenic Boum Lake are a must-visit for colourful foliage during the autumn and spring seasons.
You can reach Gyeongju from Seoul within two hours by high-speed train and a weekend destination that lives up to its hype.
Gwangju holds significant historical importance as it was the epicentre of the 1980 pro-democracy movement, known as the Gwangju Uprising and is regarded as the birthplace of Korean democracy.
If you like art, Gwangju Biennale is when the city comes alive with art and cultural performances, and its museums and galleries are fully loaded with exhibits.
Mudeungsan National Park, close to the city, offers hiking trails that lead to scenic peaks, dense forests, and historic temples like the 6th-century Jeungsimsa Temple.
Just a short distance from Seoul, Suwon is a must-visit city if you love old forts, and beautiful sceneries and are curious about South Korea’s biggest technology company – Samsung.
The Samsung Innovation Museum is where you can learn more about this world-renowned technology company.
With centuries of history, Suwon also has impressive landmarks like the Hwaseong Fortress that houses Haenggung Palace.
You can enjoy Korea’s traditional performances like royal guards’ ceremonies, festivals and even martial art performances near the fortress.
A little further from the city, the Korean Folk Village is a good place to take in Korean culture and even participate in a few activities.
Being the home of Samsung, Suwon has adopted many smart city initiatives like Smart City Living Labs and a range of e-government services for tourists and residents.
Recommended tour: Half-Day Exploring the Beauty of Hidden City of Suwon Guided Tour
If you are in or near Busan, visit the nearby city of Ulsan.
The coastal city is a major industrial centre, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the range of activities you can do once you are here.
With a beautiful natural landscape, including mountains, beaches and jungles surrounding the city, you can also get into the sea and enjoy whale-watching and water-related activities.
Walk around Daewangam Park, explore Ilsan Beach, visit the Jangsaengpo Whale Culture Village and book an exciting whale-watching cruise.
A hike in the Yeongnam Alps will calm your soul.
The city also has a massive Hyundai Motors plant which you can tour if you’re an automobile aficionado.
- Full-Day Ulsan City Tour with the local guide
- 2-days: Mt Seorak, East Sea(Naksansa) & Nami or Ulsanbawi Hiking
10- Jeju Island
Jeju, the “Island of the Gods”, is a tropical paradise with everything you want on a tropical vacation: tranquil beaches, jungles, swaying palm trees, and even volcanic landscapes, along with all the beach-related activities you can think of.
The white sand and turquoise water at Hyeopjae Beach on the island’s west coast are perfect for relaxing.
If you never saw a waterfall that falls directly into the ocean, check out the Jeongbang Waterfalls.
O’Sulloc Tea Museum and Jeju Folk Village Museum offer a peek into the history and culture of the Jeju islands, where you can also enjoy tea-tasting sessions and a cup of traditional Korean tea.
Watch the panoramic vistas, especially during sunrise, over Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, a 5,000-year-old volcanic cone jutting into the sea.
You can also hike up Hallasan, South Korea’s highest peak, which is also an active volcano – and is on the bucket list for many tourists.
The quirky adult-themed Jeju Loveland raises a few eyebrows.
Recommended tour: Jeju Island West Bus Tour with Lunch included Full Day Trip Tours
Pyeongchang is the gateway to some of the best ski resorts in South Korea.
You can participate in winter activities like skiing, snowboarding, and sledding and even learn skiing here if you are new to it.
Some popular ski resorts are Yongpyong, Phoenix Park, Vivaldi Park and Alpensia.
Visit the 2018 Winter Olympic venues to learn more about the games.
During the Taebaeksan Snow Festival, you’ll get to see ice sculptures and ice fountain displays; during the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival, you can even try ice fishing.
Don’t miss the chance to visit the Woljeongsa Temple & Fir Tree Forest, where the scenery changes from a lush green forest trail to a snowy trail, depending on the season.
Visit the Bongpyeong Traditional Market and dip in one of the natural hot springs resorts for a refreshing experience.
Recommended tour: Odaesan National Park hiking day tour: Explore Autumn Foliage in Korea
Chuncheon is a popular destination for domestic travellers, surrounded by charming lakes and majestic mountains.
Check out the colourful Cheongpyeongsa Buddhist temple, the secluded Guseong Falls and the nearby man-made Soyangho Lake for a leisurely break.
Nami Island is a popular place to go walking along tree-lined paths, past lush greenery and to enjoy scenic views of the Han River.
Kids will love visiting Legoland Korea and the famous Soyanggang Skywalk.
Don’t miss the cycle tour over converted railroad lines in Gangchon Rail Park.
For a taste of local Korean street food, head over to the Chuncheon Romantic Market Chuncheon Dakgalbi Street and try the local specialty dakgalbi, a grilled chicken meal with spicy vegetables and rice.
Recommended tour: Nami Island with Garden of Morning Calm Trip
The laidback city in the country’s northeast corner is an excellent city in South Korea to rejuvenate in nature.
From its beach-studded coastline to its mountainous region with hiking trails, you can do a lot here.
The Seoraksan National Park is a must-visit if you love hiking, as it has long trails through jagged peaks, lush forests, river streams, waterfalls and past serene Buddhist temples.
It also offers some of the best natural scenery in the county.
Relax on the sandy shores of the Sokcho beach, and take a refreshing swim in the clear waters.
Stroll through the Abai village and taste the fresh seafood, or try the local signature specialty, “Abai Sundae”, a traditional Korean sausage.
You can also peek into North Korea from the Sokcho Expo Tower on a clear day.
Recommended tour: 3-Hour Self-guided Sokcho Tour with Private Transportation
The southern port city of Changwon is Korea’s first planned city, modelled after Canberra, Australia.
The city’s famous annual cherry blossom festival in Jinhae is a must-visit if you are near the southern coast during the season.
The Changwon National Maritime Museum offers an immersive experience for those interested in maritime history and culture.
Surrounding by mountains and the sea, Changwon has an orderly feel and the laidback pace of the residents adds to its appeal.
Stroll through the Changdong Art Village, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the colourful murals that line the houses here.
The Sangnam-dong area is popular for nightlife, restaurants and is worth visiting to enjoy Korean life.
This small but interesting city is worth exploring for the variety of things you can do here.
Visit the Uamsan mountain close to the city for panoramic views of the surroundings, and if you are lucky enough to visit during the cherry blossom season, you will have some of the best moments of your trip to South Korea here.
The Sangdang Sanseong Fortress is perched on a mountain is worth a visit for its historical importance.
Explore the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and the nearby Cheongju National Museum, which showcases ancient artefacts and relics and also has a children’s museum to entertain the kids.
If you’re interested in arts and crafts, visit the Cheongju Craft Biennale, held every even-numbered year.
If you want to savour authentic Korean street food, head to the Yukgeori Traditional Market.
This city is popular among South Koreans for its temples, old-city look and feel and incredible food scene.
The winding alleyways of Nambu Traditional Market are home to many traditional and decades-old restaurants and houses and fantastic street food.
Korea’s classic dish, bibimbap has its roots in Jeonju, and the locals are proud of their culinary traditions.
The old-fashioned Korean architecture in the Hanok Village, lined with traditional houses, restaurants and local artisan shops, is a great place to unwind and soak in Korean village life.
Climb the nearby Omokdae and Imokdae hills for picturesque photos of the Hanok Village.
Your trip will not be complete without visiting Jeonju National Museum, which features fine arts, archaeology exhibits and special local history and culture exhibits.
Recommended tour: Private 9-Days Tasty Journey Around South Korea Tour
Gangneung is a lesser-known city in South Korea that’s a great place to spend time away from the crowds elsewhere in South Korea.
The city is separated from the rest of the country by the Taebaek mountain range, rendering it its own distinctive culture, traditions and delicious local cuisine.
The fascinating Danoje folk festival captures the uniqueness of the region.
Visit the seaside museum of Haslla Art World, where the surrounding nature inspires art and creativity.
The historical Ojukheon Museum and the surrounding gardens and buildings are really beautiful in summer, while the Gangneung Olympic Park has various sports facilities like ice skating you can try your hand at.
The beautiful walking paths inside this park have many scenic buildings and sculptures, which will make you want to take out your camera.
The picturesque white sand beach of Gyeongpo and the busy Anmok beach is a must-visit.
Andong is an ancient city with a history of more than two millennia.
The “Capital of Korean Spirit,” Andong offers a glimpse into South Korea’s past through its well-preserved architecture, historic sites, and traditional practices.
Andong’s most famous attraction is the Hahoe Folk Village, where you can experience the charm of a traditional Korean village with old houses and cultural performances in beautiful natural surroundings.
Within the village, the Andong Hahoe Mask Museum is a great place to explore Korean mask traditions and pick up genuine hand-carved masks as souvenirs.
Foodies will love the authentic Korean cuisine in Andong, including local specialties like jjimdak, and also taste the traditional Korean alcohol, soju.
The peninsular city of Tongyeong is a beautiful and sleepy coastal city famous for its harbourfront and delicious seafood cuisine and also serves as a popular gateway for nearby islands.
A popular cable car ride on the Tongyeong Cable Car to Mt.
Mireuksan will reward you with breathtaking views of the city, mountains, and sea.
The colourful hillside neighbourhood of Dongpirang Mural Village will give you an insight into the daily life of Koreans, along with some camera-worthy vistas.
Take a boat tour and explore the Hallyeo Marine National Park’s islands and beaches for a memorable holiday trip to South Korea.
Recommended tour: Full-Day Tongyeong Tour from Busan
If you like coastal scenery and want to visit a lesser-known but equally beautiful South Korean city, head to Pohang.
Watch the earliest sunrise over Korea at the Homigot Sunrise Square, and relax on the sandy shores of Yeongildae Beach or the secluded Wolpo Beach.
Pohang Museum of Steel Art has interesting sculptures and artwork of metals, and the nearby Space Walk is worth visiting for its unique design and amazing views of the sea once you climb it.
The quiet and peaceful Oeosa temple is a beautiful temple with a relaxing atmosphere amidst mountains, and take a stroll along the Rocking Bridge over the lake.
Stroll through the Jukdo market and taste the fresh seafood dishes on offer.
The popular Pohang International Fire and Light Festival is a must-watch if you visit South Korea during the festival dates.
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