With its bustling streets, beautiful palaces, delicious cuisine, and rich cultural heritage, Seoul — the capital of South Korea — offers a huge range of experiences for first-time visitors.
In fact, If you ask travellers who have been to both Seoul and Tokyo, most would say Seoul is the cheapest East Asian capital with the most unique feel.
Whether you’re planning a solo trip to this captivating city or have a travel buddy in mind, here’s the ultimate Seoul bucket list of must-see signs that will supposedly leave you in awe.
Ready? Let’s go!
1. Step into History at Gyeongbokgung Palace
Once you have arranged your South Korea visa and booked your flights, begin your itinerary by immersing yourself in the grandeur of Gyeongbokgung Palace, the largest and most iconic palace in South Korea. Built all the way back in the fourteenth century, this architectural marvel showcases the opulence of the Joseon Dynasty.
Ensure that your belongings are inside your accommodations to maximise the enjoyment of your stroll through the vast courtyards. Admire the intricate details of the buildings and catch the mesmerising changing of the guards ceremony before moving on to the next attraction.
If it’s too early to check in to your hotel or they’re unable to store your luggage in the meantime, you may opt to find luggage storage near your location to enjoy a hands-free adventure!
2. Admire the Timeless Charm of Bukchon Hanok Village
Visit Bukchon Hanok Village and experience the charm of traditional Korean architecture. This neighbourhood is a delightful blend of hanok (traditional Korean houses) nestled amidst modern surroundings.
Take a leisurely stroll along the narrow alleyways, soak in the serene atmosphere and be delighted by the traditional tea houses and art galleries throughout the area.
3. Enjoy a Panoramic View at Namsan Seoul Tower
For breathtaking and unforgettable panoramic views of Seoul, head to Namsan Seoul Tower. Located atop Namsan Mountain, this iconic landmark offers some of the most stunning views of the city skyline and is a must-have on your Seoul bucket list.
Take a ride on the cable car to the observatory deck, where you can capture Instagram-worthy photos and even leave your mark by attaching a love lock to the fence.
4. Shop Around Myeongdong
Indulge in a shopping spree at Myeongdong, Seoul’s premier shopping district. This busy, bustling area is packed with trendy boutiques, international brands and street vendors selling everything from fashion and beauty products to mouthwatering street food.
Don’t miss out on the chance to sample some of the local favourites like tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) and hotteok (sweet pancakes). Yum.
5. Explore the Secret Garden at Changdeokgung Palace
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city by visiting Changdeokgung Palace and the gorgeous Huwon, or “secret garden.” This UNESCO World Heritage Site offers a tranquil retreat with its serene ponds, hidden pavilions and lush greenery.
Embark on a guided tour to learn about the palace’s history and revel in the harmony between nature and architecture.
6. Immerse Yourself in Culture at Insadong
Explore the cultural scene of Seoul at Insagong, a neighbourhood renowned for antique shops, art galleries and traditional teahouses. Browse through the stores to find extraordinary souvenirs such as hanbok (traditional Korean clothing), handmade crafts and calligraphy brushes.
Don’t forget to savour a cup of traditional Korean tea and try some delicious street snacks.
7. Wonder at the Architectural Marvel of Dongdaemun Design Plaza
Another item on your Seoul bucket list should be visiting the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) for a taste of Seoul’s modern architectural marvels. Designed by Zaha Hadid, a renowned architect, this futuristic landmark hosts various exhibitions, fashion shows and cultural events.
Wander the innovative design stores, catch a fashion show or simply marvel at the stunning exterior of this iconic structure.
8. Find Spiritual Peace at Jogyesa Temple
Experience the serenity of Jogyesa Temple, the main centre of Zen Buddhism in Seoul. Admire the bold colours of the lotus lanterns that adorn the temple during the annual Lotus Lantern Festival, a celebration of Buddha’s birthday.
You can also take a moment to sit in quiet contemplation, participate in a meditation session or learn about Buddhist teachings from the friendly monks.
9. Enjoy a Creative and Lively Atmosphere at Hongdae
Head to Hongdae for a taste of Seoul’s vibrant youth culture and artistic energy. This neighbourhood is known for live music performances, trendy cafes, street art and bustling nightlife.
Check out the quirky shops, catch a street performance and indulge in the vibrant atmosphere that makes Hongdae a favourite amongst tourists and locals alike.
10. Enjoy a Scenic Escape at Han River Park
Rent a bike or take a leisurely stroll through Han River Park, a stunning oasis located in the heart of Seoul. With sprawling green spaces, pretty walking trails and amazing river views, it’s the perfect place to escape the city and spend some time relaxing and unwinding.
You can also rent a picnic mat and enjoy a picnic with friends or take a scenic cruise along the river.
11. Immerse Yourself in Traditional Shopping at Namdaemun Market
Step into the bustling Namdaemun Market, one of the oldest and largest traditional markets in Korea. Here you will find a huge variety of goods available to buy, from clothing and accessories to fresh produce and souvenirs.
Bargain with the friendly vendors, sample scrumptious street food and soak up the lively atmosphere of this fabulous historic market before ticking it off your Seoul bucket list.
12. Commemorate History at the War Memorial of Korea
Pay tribute to Korea’s rich history at the War Memorial of Korea, a museum that showcases the military history of the country and the sacrifices made. There are a vast extensive collection of artefacts, military equipment and interactive exhibits that provide insight into the nation’s past.
Don’t miss the outdoor exhibition to check out aircrafts, tanks and monuments dedicated to the fallen soldiers.
13. Enjoy Culinary Delights at Gwangjang Market
Indulge in a gastronomic adventure at Gwangjang Market, a paradise for food lovers. This bustling market is famous for its array of street food stalls and traditional Korean dishes.
Make sure you go with an empty stomach so you can feast on tasty treats like bindaetteok (mung bean pancakes) bibimbap (mixed rice with vegetables and meat) and gimbap (Korean rice rolls).
14. Enjoy a Retail and Entertainment Extravaganza at COEX Mall
For a one-stop destination for shopping, dining and entertainment, visit CEOX Mall. As one of Asia’s largest underground shopping malls, it offers a wide range of international brands, luxury boutiques and entertainment options.
As well as covering the expansive shopping complex, you could catch a movie at the multiplex cinema or visit the COEX Aquarium for a fascinating underwater experience.
Final Thoughts on This Seoul Bucket List
With a distinctive blend of traditionalism and modernity, Seoul offers a myriad of experiences for first-time visitors. From exploring grand palaces and traditional neighbourhoods to savouring delicious cuisine and indulging in vibrant street markets, the city has something to captivate everyone and give them a good time.
Is there anything else on your Seoul bucket list? LMK!
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