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Seoul Travel Guide: What To Do and Must-Visit Attractions

Jason Park
Published by: Jason Park
Last updated:

With airports opening back up and tourism increasing in the past year, there’s plenty of destinations for you to choose from.

One of those places is Seoul, South Korea, which is home to brilliant exhibits of culture and art. What is there for you to do in Seoul, and is it worth it?

Seoul, South Korea is a large city filled with culture and tourist activities that make it worthwhile. Not only is Seoul a very safe city to visit, but it is rising in popularity due to the impacts Korean culture, entertainment, and business has had on the rest of the world. Seoul is among the most visited cities in the world. 

The rest of this article will cover what to do in the city, where to stay, what Seoul is known for, and a brief conclusion.

What To Do In Seoul

Seoul (서울) is a vibrant city with gorgeous sights and culture you have to see. But before we get into that, we have to talk about one of the most important parts of South Korean culture: the food. Between side dishes, street food, and stews, South Korea has a versatile cuisine!

Side Dishes

A staple of Korean culture are the side dishes served with each meal. Called Banchan (반찬) by Koreans, side dishes is an idea that dates back to the Korean royal court cuisine, which consisted of anywhere between 2 to 12 side dishes.

Cheaper restaurants tend to serve less, but each side dish is tasty and compliments the meal. Banchan arrives before meals, but don’t confuse them with an appetizer. 

They are included in the cost of the meal, and the best part: they have free, unlimited refills!

Some common side dishes are: kelp noodle salad (cheonsachae salad or 천사채), spicy Korean coleslaw, sweet and salty soybeans (kongjabean or 콩자반), sweet and salty lotus roots (yeonkeun jorim or 연근조림), and Korean style sausage stir fry.

Street Food

If you’re looking for an alternative to dine-in restaurants, street food is just for you! Street food is ready-to-eat food you can buy from local vendors. 

Even better: vendors are easy to find and are lined up and down the Seoul streets, all you have to do is find the one that suits you!

There are plenty of foods to choose from, so get your chopsticks ready. For starters, you have to try Korean style fried chicken. It’s a must when you’re in Seoul. 

Street vendors will absolutely sell Korean fried chicken, and you should at least try them while you’re there!

There’s also bibimbap (비빔밥). Bap (밥) in Korean literally means rice, or meal. Therefore, bibimbap translates to mixed rice. 

Bibimbap has warm rice and sauteed and or seasoned vegetables. A raw or fried egg and sliced meat, normally beef, are included as well.

Korean dumplings (mandu or 만두) are another commonly served street food dish. There are many different types of dumplings you can get such as vegetable dumplings, beef dumplings, and or pork dumplings. These foods are all super tasty and super affordable!

Stews

With Seoul having a cool climate, soups and stews are a significant portion of a Korean’s diet. One popular stew is known as Army stew. 

This stew has American processed meat such as Spam, ham, bacon, and hot dogs. Those meats are mixed into a Korean stew with kimchi.

Kimchi-jjigae (김치찌개) is a stew made with kimchi and various other ingredients such as pork or seafood, scallions, onions, and diced dubu. This stew is a popular choice in South Korea, and it’s a common stew to find in Seoul.

Lastly, another popular stew is Korean crab stew (kkotgetang 꽃게탕). This stew is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a stew with a flower crab as the primary ingredient. 

There’s also Korean radish, garlic, dried anchovies, and other ingredients that vary by the recipe.

The Sights In Seoul, South Korea

Seoul itself is an architectural landmark. There are specific sights in Seoul that are places you have to visit while you’re there. 

A few of those places are: N Seoul Tower, the Ansan Starlight Village, and the Jogyesa. There’s also entertainment like underground shopping.

N Seoul Tower

The N Seoul Tower is famous for its location and height allowing access to the gorgeous skyline of Seoul. 

Back in 1969, it was utilized as Korea’s first general radio wave tower. TV and radio broadcasts would play from the N Seoul Tower to the surrounding metropolitan area.

This tower is 236 meters high and is the second-highest point in Seoul. It is a communication and observation tower on Nam Mountain. 

The N Seoul Tower is in the center of Seoul, which is why the height and location is so perfect for tourists looking to get amazing pictures.

Ansan Starlight Village

Perhaps the brightest pick on this list, the Ansan Starlight village is a radiant garden along the expressway of Ansan. 

It is known for being festive and romantic all-year-round, and displays of over 200 animals are there. These animals include: owls, cranes, swans, elephants, and more.

Not only does it provide an astonishing atmosphere for relaxation and Instagram posts, but it’s also an area that sparks romance. 

Marriage proposals are a common occurrence there due to the perfect lighting and activities.

Jogyesa

The Jogyesa (조계사) is a Korean Buddhist temple. It is the chief temple of the Jogye Order. The building itself dates back to the 14th century, becoming the chief temple in 1936. It is located in central Seoul, and it is known for its zen environment.

Not only is the architect magnificent, but the nature surrounding it is fresh and preserved, just like the temple. 

The Jogyesa is a common tourist site for experiencing royal palace life. You can tour the building with a guide and see all the history and architecture with your own eyes.

Underground Shopping

A famous activity in Seoul is underground shopping. Two examples of underground shopping areas are the Express Bus Terminal Underground Center and the Gangnam Underground Shopping Center. 

These shopping areas are perfect for good finds, even on a rainy day.

Many of the shopping centers, both above ground and underground, are located in Myeongdong, the shopping district of Seoul. 

Underground shopping centers don’t risk putting a large dent in your budget. They’re cheap yet fashionable and useful.

Some tips for underground shopping are to bring cash with you and check out the trendy stores. Some items require cash, no credit. 

As for the trendy stores, you can find the latest fashion trends at underground stores for more affordable prices, so be on the lookout for that!

Where To Stay In Seoul

When it comes to the size of South Korea, it’s not as large as other countries like America. So, their compromise was to build their buildings upwards to make more space, not side-to-side. This means there are many apartment buildings and hotels all around Seoul.

There are 5 main districts in Seoul you should consider staying near: Myeongdong, Hongdae, Gangnam, Itaewon, and Jamsil.

Myeongdong

Prices and quality depends on which area you choose. There’s Myeongdong (명동), which is known for being a huge shopping district. 

The Westin Josun Seoul Hotel is only a 5-minute walk away from the bustling life of Myeongdong. It’s a highly rated hotel with many activities inside.

The shopping district has everything you’ll need from body care items you misplaced to trinkets and K-pop albums. There are department stores, shoe stores like Adidas, perfume shops, skincare stores, H&M, and many more for all your traveling and souvenir needs.

Hongdae

Hongdae (홍대) is for those craving an adventure more indie and fashionable. It’s a creative district with plenty of cafes and Korean BBQ. Mono House Hongdae is a minimalist housing property that’s affordable and only 5 minutes away from the Hongik University Subway Station.

The entertainment value at Hongdae is incredible. The Tricky Eye Museum Seoul relies on visual tricks to keep you on your toes and show you various art. There’s also clubs for dancing and music. Hongdae as a whole values urban arts, indie music culture, and entertainment.

Gangnam

Gangnam (강남구) is a wealthier district of Seoul, meaning higher quality living, but at the cost of much higher prices. The Park Hyatt Seoul is an expensive 5-star hotel that has a relaxing spa and gorgeous views of Gangnam. It’s worth the price for the views alone!

There’s also the Aloft Seoul Gangnam. This is a cheaper, 4-star hotel that’s the better option for those wishing for a taste of the high life without losing a significant amount of money in the process. It includes business services, an on-site restaurant, free Wi-Fi, and a lounge.

Itaewon

If you were called the life of the party growing up, Itaewon (이태원) is for you. It’s nicknamed the “Western Town” of Seoul due to the variety of international cuisine and entertainment offered there. It has multiple unique bars, restaurants, and activities around town all worth visiting.

The Grand Hyatt Seoul is a 5-star hotel with over 600 rooms and over 50 suites. It’s close to both Itaewon and Myeongdong, but it is expensive. However, it may be worth it since some amenities include an on-site restaurant, an indoor pool, and free Wi-Fi.

Jamsil

Jamsil (잠실동) is the best spot for families. It’s also great for those who love sports. Jamsil is home to not one, but two professional Korean baseball teams: the LG Twins and Doosan Bears. It’s rich with K-pop culture, and it’s also home to Lotte World, an amusement park.

The Lotte World Hotel is right beside the amusement park of the same name, and it is a 5-star hotel that also sits on top of Jamsil Subway Station. 

It’s the perfect hotel for your family to travel across Seoul and Jamsil, experiencing the amusement park as well as the culture.

What Seoul Is Known For

It would be impossible to talk about Seoul without mentioning the entertainment industry that has brought us popular K-dramas such as Squid Game, and the K-pop industry that brought us the worldwide superstars BTS. Seoul is overflowing with creativity and art.

Fun fact: Seoul is the birthplace of K-pop. Although the term wasn’t coined until 1999 by Cho Hyun-jin, Korean music groups rose from Seoul. 

History and culture is thriving in the city, and that’s what tourists go to visit. Places like the Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁) are famous destinations.

One of the most famous aspects of Seoul is the street food. Street food is cheaper than restaurant food and it still tastes yummy. It’s a perfect alternative to when you don’t want to spend a lot of money, and you want to wander around the streets of Seoul while eating.

South Korea is known for its beauty standards and skincare. Koreans use natural ingredients to keep their skin clean and smooth. In the west, Korean skincare products and routines are popular because of the glowing skin they cause. Many of these products come from Seoul.

Lastly, Seoul is known for the preserved royal temples around the land. There are more than 900 traditional Buddhist temples that are centuries old. In total, there are over 20,000 temples in Seoul.

Conclusion

Seoul is a beautiful and safe city for tourists that has grown in popularity over the years. It is known for its rich culture, entertainment, skincare, K-pop, and preservation of traditional Buddhist temples.

The food is a must-have. There are various types of food such as side dishes, street food, and stews that will keep you invested in the culture surrounding you. There’s also the sights of Seoul like the N Seoul Tower, and those sights encourage you to snap countless pictures.

Lastly, the 5 main districts of Seoul you should consider visiting are: Myeongdong, Hongdae, Gangnam, Itaewon, and Jamsil.

Each individual place has its own lifestyle and culture. There’s the shopping, the indie culture, the wealthy, the partying, and the amusement park.

Don’t forget to check out Ulsan, Sejong, and Daejeon.

About The Author

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Jason Park

Jason has been living in Seoul over 4 years and during that time, he has experienced a lot of the city's quirks and charms. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others who are interested in learning more about South Korea.

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