Seoul is the capital of South Korea and is a huge metropolitan city that combines modern skyscrapers, state-of-the-art subway and pop culture with old palaces, temples and street markets. I have been three times to Seoul and in total I have spent seven weeks in Seoul. Looks like I like that city 😉 Friendly people, great food (especially Korean BBQ), the biggest and best Couchsurfing community I know so far and crazy parties.
The city has so much to offer and I have tried to list some of the best and most interesting places, attractions and areas on my Seoul City Guide. I recommend to stay 7 days in Seoul.
Things to do in Seoul
- City Hall and Seoul Plaza
- Cheonggyecheon Stream
- Gyeongbokgung Palace
- Gwanghwamun Square
- Deoksugung Palace
- Bukchon Hanok Village
- Namsan Hill, N Seoul Tower
- Dongdaemun Desgin Plaza
- Dongdaemun Market
- Banpo Bridge
- Seonyudo Island
- 63 Building
- Lotte World Tower, Amusement Park and Mall
- Seoul Floating Island
- Techno Mart Gangbyeon
- Watch a Football Game
- DMZ Tour – Day trip
- Couchsurfing meetups
- Changdeokgung palace
- Olypmic Park Seoul
- Mapo bridge, Seoul Color Park
- Bukhansan National Park
Hongdae has without any doubts the liveliest atmosphere in Seoul. The area around Hongik University is full of shops, restaurants, coffee shops, street artists, bars and nightclubs.
You can spend hours just strolling around this hip student district. During the weekend you will see some live singing or dancing performances on the street. Hongdae is the never sleeping part of Seoul. There is 24/7 something going on. If you want to party on a Tuesday morning until 6am or eat Korean BBQ at 8am in the 24hours BBQ place, you get it all in Hongdae. It is full of people both day and night. Hongdae is as well popular among trend-setters, because there are various fashion stores which selling the latest trends. For me it’s the busiest and best neighborhood.
Itaewon is known as the western neighborhood. Many tourists stay there, expats live there and the US army base is close by.
The narrow Gyeongnidan-gil road in Itaewon has become a hot place and melting pot. Along the road you will find uncountable restaurants, pubs and cafes that are visited by many people and are known for their delicious food. The prices are higher than in Hongdae.
Gangnam is the more upscale and expensive district in Seoul. There are many big and fancy night clubs as well as classy shopping areas. Besides the nightlife and shopping, you can visit the Samsung D’light show room to see the newest innovation from Samsung.
City Hall and Seoul Plaza
Visit the modern Seoul City hall and Seoul Plaza which is lovely decorated.
Cheonggyecheon is a man-made stream through a part of the city. It’s beautiful to walk along the stream or sit down on a bench and forget the bustle from the city.
South Korea’s most famous palace is the Gyeongbokgung, which once had more than 7000 rooms. I recommend to plan at least 2hours to wander around the entire palace complex. Check the opening hours before heading there and if you are lucky they are offering free English tours.
Gwanghwamun is the largest entrance gate for the Gyeongbokgung Palace.
Gwanghwamun Square is located in front of the Gyeongbokgung Palace. The square is often considered as the center of Seoul and on the square are 2 statues from where you see the Palace in the background.
Bukchon Hanok Village
Bukchon Hanok Village is a nice place to get to know the traditional side of Korea. It’s well worth seeing the Korean culture and historic houses and it is also possible to rent traditional Korean clothes here, in case you want to take a real tourist picture.
Insadong is another crowded area in Seoul, packed with tourists and locals strolling along the narrow and endless streets. There are many traditional tea houses where you should have a sip on a locally brewed tea. There are as well some art museums to visit.
Namsan Hill, N Seoul Tower
The N Seoul Tower is a television tower which is 236 meters high and stands on Mount Namsan. Local people called it also Namsan Tower.You can either hike up the mountain or take the cable car from the northside, which leads directly to the bottom of the N Seoul Tower.
There is a restaurant and two observation decks on top of the tower.
Yet another big shopping area.
Dongdaemun Desgin Plaza
The appearance of the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) is eye-catching and is one of the places where the night view of Seoul is the most beautiful. At night the lights of the surrounding shopping centers are reflected on the building. On the rooftop is a park where you can walk around and relax. Many cultural events take place at the DDP.
Outside of the Dongdaemun Desgin Plaza is the LED rose garden, where approx. 25000 roses are lightened up to make it a wonderful night.
Close to the DDP is a little hill, from where you have a great view down to the Plaza and to Seoul.
Dongdaemun Market is a shoppers paradise, especially for ladies 😉 You will find all kind of useful and useless things for almost no money. And it is nearly open 24hours, 06:45am until 03:15am! So in case you are bored at night, go shopping at the Dongdaemun Market.
Visist the Banpo Rainbow bridge to certain hours to se the colorful rainbow fountain. Operating Hours, April-October: Weekdays: 1200, 2000, 2030, 2100 // Weekends: 1200, 1930, 2000, 2030, 2100. For more information visit the official VisitKorea website. While you are in that area, visit as well the Banpo Hangang Park.
Seonyudo Island is accessible from the Yanghwa bridge
A great spot to see Seoul by night from above is the 63 building, one of Seoul’s landmarks. Unfortunately it was closed when I went there. On the 60th floor is an art gallery which also serves as a viewing platform with a breathtaking view in all directions. Friends told me that you can see in the northeast the Namsan Seoul Tower, in the southeast the Lotte World Tower and of course down to the river.
Lotte World Tower, Amusement Park and Mall
The Lotte World Tower is a 555 meters tall skyscraper. If you like tall buildings as I do, you will like it.
Next to the Lotte World Tower is a beautiful Lake and green area where you can walk around. Many locals are exercising there. From the lake you have a great view to the tallest building from South Korea.
Up for some more action? Visit the Lotte World Park and mall, it is located directly at Jamsil Subway Station. Thrilling rides, an ice rink, a cinema, an aquarium and much more awaits you.
Techno Mart Gangbyeon
All about electronics. If you want to spend a day shopping electronic stuff, at the Techno Mart Gangbyeon you will not get border for sure.
Seoul Floating Island
Watch a Football Game
Yes, they do play football (for Americans: Soccer) in South Korea and they are not too bad. So in case you want to see some sports, head to one of the local football teams and watch their game. Their fans are very enthusiastic and it is fun to watch 😉
DMZ Tour (Day trip)
Check my detailed DMZ Tour Guide for more information.
Attend the Couchsurfing meet-ups in Seoul. Tuesday evening is the more “formal” one in Itaewon and on Friday evening is the big crazy amazing Friday night party Couchsurfing meetup in Hongdae. Seoul has for me so far one of the best and biggest Couchsurfing communities. A lot of fun!
Other places to visit in Seoul
- Changdeokgung Palace
- Olypmic Park Seoul
- Mapo bridge, Seoul Color Park
- Bukhansan National Park
What and where to eat & drink in Seoul
- Korean BBQ and Korean BBQ with egg ring
- 24h Korean BBQ in Hongdae (my favorite Korean BBQ place in Seoul (Eoulmadang-ro street, very close to Hongdae station exit 7))
- Korean BBQ all you can eat in Gangam for only 10’000 Won. It is right after you come up from exit 3.
- Andong Jjimdak (braised chicken of Andong).
- Fried chicken & beer in Sangsu
- Bibimbap (in Hongdae is a cheap all you can eat Bibimbap place for 5$ (at Wausan-ro 27-gil street))
- Japanese rice beef
- Monster Pizza (if you want to have a slice of Pizza in between partying, head to Monster Pizza in Hongdea)
- Soju, Soju and again Soju
Places to party in Seoul
- Thursday Party
- Mikes Cabin
- Wolf Hound
- Dillinger’s Bar
- Gold Bar
- Thursday Party
- Grand ole Oprey (for a real american feeling haha)
- Club Meca (electronic music and one hip hop floor)
- Octagon (famous from the Gangnam-Style-Video)
Where to stay in Seoul
Hongdae is one of the craziest and best areas I have stayed in all the cities I have been! I simply love it. If you want to have a younger, hip and local crowd, then Hongdae is the area to stay. Hongdae never sleeps!
If you want to have a more international feeling and people then I recommend to stay in Itaewon. Itaewon is in average more expensive than Hongdae.
Transportation in Seoul
The subway “MRT” system in Seoul is massive, fast, arrives on time and the underground station can be huge. Even you are at the same subway station, it can take you easily 10 minutes walking to change between two different subway lines.
If you stay close to a subway station, which I recommend anyway, it is faster to most places by subway rather than taking a taxi.
As soon as you arrive at Incheon Airport I would buy a T-Money Subway card which you can top up whenever you need more money on the card.
Always remember, it can take a lot of time to go from one corner to another in the city.
- Curious about the DMZ tour? My post about the DMZ tour will give you some useful advice.
- Curious about whole South Korea? My post about the Things to do in South Korea will give you some useful advice.