Exploring the Vibrant City of Seoul: 10 Unforgettable Experiences

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The heart of Seoul is the Gyeongbokgung Palace, one of the most iconic sights in all of the nation. Here, where the modern city meets the cultural history of South Korea, visitors are always greeted with a vibrant and eye-catching changing of the guard performances happening regularly. Time your visit to come by the palace for one of these stunning and memorable events. The people responsible for these shindigs have been doing these types of performances for more than 700 years! The legendary Bukchon Hanok Village is yet another way to put yourself in the middle of another Korean cultural era. The village, right in the center of the city, is known to have the largest group of privately owned traditional Korean wooden houses, which are 600 years old or so. Walking along the streets of the village will take you back in time where you can wander, zooming in on the alleyways, with a huge variety of unique shops, cafes, and restaurants. Flag down a local expert to fully appreciate all that this district has to offer and gain an insightful look into Korea’s rich history. Are you staying in a hotel or hostel outside of the area? No worries! It is a must-see when visiting Korea. Despite the huge volume of tourists who visit the area, local people still reside here as well. The lack of tourist-oriented atmosphere provoked many of the local South Koreans who need to go about their daily chores, a justifiable level of inconvenience. Keep this in mind when visiting, travel here on foot, and not in a group if at all possible. The village is just a few steps away from both Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung Palaces.

A visit to Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is to come to a meeting of traditional and ultra-modernity, reflecting the people of South Korea themselves. The culture of this extremely advanced nation has a deeply rooted history, which is reflected in both the people as well as the way they design their lives, even in this sprawling urban metropolis. It is truly an East Asian city like no other. With all it has to offer, it is easy to see why this is one of the most visited cities in the world. Here are ten things to do in South Korea, outside of the must-see sights.

Historical Landmarks and Cultural Gems

All artifacts in the museum are the results of the Korean people’s practical wisdom in their everyday lives in unforgiving natural conditions. Through the displays, visitors learn about the domestic and agricultural lifestyles, as well as Korea’s cultural beliefs. Highlights include the huge millstone used for hulling rice, storage jars with ropes, and an ox-hide dance mask used in the exorcism of evil spirits.

While the chaos of modern-day Seoul has resulted in the removal of many of its historical sites, visitors can still find, standing among the skyscrapers, numerous buildings and landmarks that provide a fascinating insight into Korea’s unique past. To explore Korea’s ancient history, tourists need go no further than the heart of the city. Located right in front of Gyeongbokgung Palace is the National Folk Museum. With some 98,840 artifacts that fall into three major categories: folk life, social customs, and traditional arts, the permanent exhibition introduces visitors to the traditional life of the Korean people. According to his faithfulness to the traditional values, the Savior controlled lights of the Academician’s hall and developed “Obsolete style.”

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Seoul has a range of fantastic attractions and activities to offer visitors, so it’s no surprise that it’s one of Asia’s most popular travel destinations. Located in South Korea, this vibrant and cosmopolitan city is home to music, fashion, and street food, providing an experience like no other. With its unique blend of modern architecture, historical monuments, shopping destinations, and evening entertainment, there’s something here for every traveler. Whether you want to explore the beautiful Gyeongbokgung Palace, relax in the Supyogyo Bridge Park, or visit the famous Namsan Seoul Tower, you’ll find everything you need in this traveler’s guide to Seoul!

Gyeongbokgung Palace during your stay in Seoul, embarking on a tour of the Gyeongbokgung Palace is a must. Built in 1395, this structure was once the main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty. Surrounded by Mount Bugaksan, Mount Namsan, and Mount Inwangsan, the architecture of the building, with its colorful columns and books, is an extraordinary example of traditional Korean design. The attractive entrance to the palace is noted for its colorful Dancheong paintwork, creating a truly captivating first impression. As you pass through the Gwanghwamun Gate before exploring the gates and throne hall, make sure to take a moment to watch the traditional Changing of the Guard.

Bukchon Hanok Village

The village covers around 11-12 square kilometers of land and was set up as the wealthy and influential families of the time wanted to be within close proximity to both the Gyeongbokgung Palace and the Changdeokgung Palace. The area once had over 2,000 houses, but this was reduced as an increasing number of modern high rises were being built throughout Seoul. Today, Bukchon Hanok village has been restored to show its former glory, and it is possible for visitors to experience the history and culture of the area. Travelers will find a mixture of free and paid entry to the houses within the village, with free maps available for those who wish to explore the area.

Bukchon Hanok Village was established during the Joseon Dynasty. The village, which is home to hundreds of traditional wooden homes known as hanoks, is completely residential. This allows tourists, living museums, and art centers to easily view what the village would have been like during the Joseon dynasty. This neighborhood is also popular for short tours as home stays can be easily arranged.

Culinary Delights and Street Food Adventures

There appears to be quite a healthy eating trend occurring with many restaurants and street vendors all making healthy and appealing eating easy. Every food item is fresh; there are lots of vegetables, some of which are not seen and/or eaten back in our own countries. You will find that when dining during the piquant experiences you have in South Korea, Seoul, and on your travels around the country, that vegetables are gently steamed, sautéed, served pickled, or made into healthy salads, and not smothered in mayonnaise or where the fat content is substantially enhanced. Another unexpected surprise is the many varieties of meals, side dishes, snacks, and desserts available, which include a vegan diet (no animal products). On either side of a plate of grilled/hot pot seafood are vegetable and fruit dishes. All meals are steamed or served with raw vegetables, fruits, and sauces such as ganjang, a fermented soy sauce, gochujang, a hot pepper paste, or tangy kimchi. Additionally, you’ll find a good selection of vegetable-only side dishes served with every meal. Towns, large or small, have restaurants and food stalls as eating is an integral part of Korean life.

Seoul is a food lover’s delight. It offers an array of restaurants and street food on every corner. In this chapter of the eBook, you can look forward to and start preparing your taste palate for tasty culinary delights. No exploration of a city nor introduction to Korea and the local culture would be complete without discussing the country’s food. Korean food offers a plateful of surprises, especially to expats visiting for the first or second time. First, it is delicious and seemingly addictive whether we’re eating at a fine dining restaurant or off the streets from countless food stalls. Secondly, it is always well presented, be it in a restaurant or on the street.

Gwangjang Market

When you’re ready for a break from the endless gastronomic delights, head over to the upper floor of the market, where thousands of fabric stalls are filled with various silks, laces, ramies, socks, blankets, and bedsheets. You can find everything from hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) to traditional Korean textiles, such as machil, andarakdae, and hanjji. To give a more historical tour of the market, Gwangjang Market was formed as Dongdaemun Market and Namdaemun Market had been the centers of businesses for clothes and bedding until the early 20th century. It has since become a linchpin market to the modern-day Dongdaemun fashion district.

This market is one of the oldest and largest traditional markets in Seoul and a place where many wear task-specific attire for their job, whether it be slicing noodles or frying crispy snacks. Most of the stores in Gwangjang Market sell fabrics, bedding, hanbok, or kitchen supplies, but the place is also famous for its culinary specialties. Among the many food vendors that sell food in the market, the most famous include bindaetteok (mung-bean pancakes), mayak kimbap (small sushi-like rolls that are allegedly addictive), jorigugsu (noodle soup), bibimbap (a rice dish mixed with vegetables and chili paste), and kalguksu (flat, hand-made wheat noodles in hot soup). Not to be missed is also the market’s famous sundae (blood sausage). Make sure to try the cuisine at different food stalls to enjoy the variations in flavors and recipes of the region’s dishes.

Bibimbap at Jeonju Jungang Hoekwan

A trip to Seoul wouldn’t be complete without trying to taste the respective dishes of the region that have stood the test of time. One dish that is particularly popular and uniquely Korean is Bibimbap. The best place to experience Bibimbap is in the city of Jeonju where it was founded. There are a few well-known restaurants in Jeonju which serve delicious Bibimbap but one of the most popular and renowned places is Jeonju Jungang Hoekwan where you can expect a peek into the old-style Korean house setting while savoring the dish. At Jeonju Jungang Hoekwan, they serve Bibimbap consisting of rice mixed with namul (sauteed and seasoned vegetables) in a hot stone bowl. You can either have it with a raw egg which will cook as the stone bowl is hot or you can have it with meat if you are not a fan of raw eggs. Before enjoying the dish, a Korean server will assist in mixing all the ingredients in the stone bowl as per your liking and preference which makes for a full-on food-sharing experience. For an added kick, there are a variety of Gochujang (chili paste), Doenjang (fermented bean paste), and Sujeongga (five-seasoned vinegar) available on the table that you can mix into your dish. This way, you get to customize the Bibimbap the way you like, adding as much flavor and spiciness as desired. Jeonju Jungang Hoekwan is sure to please both Bibimbap lovers and newcomers to the dish, giving you a traditional and authentic Korean dining experience. It is conveniently located in the heart of Jeonju Hanok Village, so if you are planning to spend a day or two in Jeonju exploring its history, you should definitely plan your sweet escape to this place.

Modern Marvels and Technological Wonders

Great new chapters are being written every day in the remarkable story of Seoul’s architectural transformation and modernization. Its skyline is now dominated by the tallest building in Korea, Lotte World Tower, and another towering giant, the futuristic DDP (Dongdaemun Design Plaza). These, along with the engineering marvel that is the sleek, state-of-the-art KTX bullet train and self-driving SRT trains, are symbols of modern Korea. Unmanned mini supermarkets, interactive holographic guides, and virtual reality cafe gaming and entertainment centers reflect the advancement of Korea as a nation. The era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution has come. Are you ready to experience it?

Unmanned convenience stores and high-speed, self-driving KTX trains… The future is here for the exploration in many wondrous ways in Seoul and throughout Korea. In this chapter, I’ll give you a taste of some of these places, from Lotte World Tower and DDP to Dongdaemun Design Plaza and KTX’s new SRT bullet train.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza and Park

The Dongdaemun Design Plaza and Park, designed by world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid, houses various fashion businesses, residences, as well as fashion design alliance offices. The Plaza is comprised of five halls: Art Hall, Museum, Design Lab, Design Market, and Dongdaemun History and Culture Park. The facility holds various design and fashion exhibitions, conferences, and other domestic and international cultural events, as Seoul’s new landmark. Dongdaemun History & Culture Park has been reborn as Seoul’s modern cultural space, offering a range of various facilities with a unique cultural and historical character. The park plays a role as the central axis of the surrounding area, combining the western and eastern areas of Dongdaemun with the naturally breathing Cheonggyecheon stream.

Weaving together history, modernity, and culture, Seoul is a city with well-preserved palaces such as Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, and Deoksugung, alongside the futuristic Dongdaemun Design Plaza and the color-changing façade of the Seoul Colors building. In recent years, Korean popular culture, including K-pop, has been turning the spotlight on the city, while its cuisine continues to influence gastronomy around the world. This article brings 10 experiences, ranging from a day at the museum to experiencing a traditional tea ceremony, whether this is your first time in Seoul or if you have been to the shopping districts housing numerous retail and wholesale shopping areas, as well as a bustling nightlife scene in a downtown area.

Starfield COEX Mall

If Korea’s exhibition and conference facilities are anything to go by, then we can deduce that the country is dedicated to leaving a lasting impression on the world stage. Starfield COEX Mall, alongside its primary business of shopping and dining, is focused on carrying out a multi-complex endeavor as a leisure and culture center. These facilities include Starfield Library, COEX Artium, SMTOWN, and Seven Luck Casino. Managed by Shinsegae Property, the mall prides itself on being a place of communication and interactive participation – frequently offering cultural spaces, services, and contents that facilitate cultural communication. As a leading exponent of global MICE, revival of traditional cultural assets, and comprehensive exhibition and conference facilities in South Korea, the future of the Starfield COEX Mall is a modern treasure trove whose reward is the endless consumption of historical and future content.

Seoul is the capital city of diverse experiences – a vast array of attractions, cultural landmarks, and entertainment options to satisfy every kind of traveler. In the heart of this bustling metropolis stands the Starfield COEX Mall, one of Korea’s largest underground shopping centers. If it’s shopping you’re looking for, the major compound houses over 300 retail outlets and is home to leading global brands. For those wanting to indulge in Korea’s food and shopping culture, the compound has a diverse collection of dining places, thematic showrooms, and a 16-screen cineplex. The highlight of the mall is its MICE facilities and large aquarium attractions such as COEX Exhibition Hall, COEX Conference Room, and COEX Artium. These world-class facilities – with exceptional hospitality and services – host over 200 exhibitions, 3,000 conferences, and 4,000 cultural events every year. Starfield COEX Mall is located in the district of Coex, Gangnam-gu, in Seoul.

Natural Escapes and Scenic Views

The main avenue of Bukchon Hanok Village covers eight beautiful traditional hanok houses. The Bukchon Hanok Village was founded around the Joseon Dynasty. In decline for many years, it is finally being restored to its past. The amazing thing here is that the locals are living, and their spirit can still be felt in their rooms. Just be sure to respect them while walking around taking pictures. Despite the success of the tallest structures and the most modern facilities, the Namsan Seoul Tower offers the best views of the city. This view deck can make you feel different about the buildings below. Access to the tower has five routes, so choose what suits you best.

Aside from being an incredibly bustling metropolis with a population of over 10 million people, Seoul also offers some lush greenery and scenic spots where visitors and locals can take a breath of fresh air. If you want to escape Times Square or Myeongdong, walking along the Cheonggyecheon Stream gives you not just some quiet and peace, but a bit of local culture. It is a 5.8-km modern stream that starts from Taepyeong-ro to the Hangang River. A man-made stream, restoration started in July 2003 and the stream has become an important local attraction. Expect to come upon events and festivals as many are held in different locations along this 10-mile stream.

Namsan Seoul Tower

Namsan Seoul Tower has become a symbol of Seoul and has taken the lead in becoming one of the must-visit tourist attractions in Seoul for locals and international visitors alike. Perfect for both the day and night, come here to catch breathtaking views of the city with a backdrop of the beautiful sunset while the city comes alive with a mellow glow. Dubbed as the most prominent landmark in Korea, visiting the Namsan Seoul Tower is a must that should be included in the itinerary of those who are traveling to Korea. These days, Namsan Seoul Tower is more than just the point where you get a panoramic view of the city. Many children grew up visiting the place, and the cable cars, Teddy Bear Museum, love locks, and of course, you can’t forget our 1997-born Korean drama, “Namsan Seoul Tower’s secrets.” There are tons of things to see on Namsan, so you can always plan to stay a little longer during your trip to the iconic landmark.

For those wanting the best views of Seoul, one option is to climb to the top of Bukansan, but there is a more convenient choice. Namsan Seoul Tower – Namsan, meaning “South Mountain,” is located right in the heart of the city. The tower stands on Namsan Mountain, so from here, you’ll get to see Seoul in all directions. It’s not just a viewing platform. There’s also a restaurant, café, and a gift shop. For those with a sweet tooth, there’s the additional attraction of the Teddy Bear Museum. The area near the base of the tower is called Namsangol. Here, there are a number of traditional Korean houses and the city’s botanical gardens. It’s a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city down below. The best way to get to Namsan Seoul Tower is to take the Namsan cable car up the mountain.

Bukhansan National Park

Part of the pleasure of Bukhansan National Park is in the visual drama of the terrain. Rock formations, with contours shaped from past volcanic action, reach skyward beside deep ravines. Visitors might be inside other mountain parks celebrated for their vertical rock faces, like El Capitan in the United States or Yorkshire in England. The rocky terrain attests to the word “bukhansan,” which translates as “big tigers mountain,” because people once believed the rocks looked like the shapes of tigers. These days, climbers of all descriptions can be seen. Principally, many are Seoul city dwellers who have taken up the sport in the surrounding for its popular rock climbing action, as a way to escape the confinement in front of a computer, but also for the chance to encounter nature.

For travelers who realize how quickly Seoul is changing – and who want a breath of fresh air – there is Bukhansan National Park, just 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the city, with 79 kilometers (49 miles) of mountain trails. This place is alive with nearby families who have prepared a colorful picnic lunch. This feature is one of the delights of the city. It is easy to see nearly 6 million people per day in Seoul, yet surprising shortly afterwards to be walking along a fortification made of large strong blocks of stone, in place since the late 14th century and early 15th Japanese invasions. From the top ridge, there are stunning views of the city. The entire scene is like a painting of traditional life, the predictability and familiarity of the mountains and of life in the city, in striking contrast to the high-tech capital close by.

Festivals and Events to Immerse Yourself in Seoul’s Culture

Although Seoul hosts many festivals, few of them operate business on such a large scale. The Seoul International Tourism Industry Fair and the National College Festival are good examples of extravagant festivals that have developed, based on the festival activities that were launched as part of a national holiday event. Many traditional markets are offering incentives such as free tarot readings, drawing tickets and free restaurant coupons as part of their promotion devices. Additionally, they often conduct a special lottery event. Festival activities provide excellent opportunities for visitors to experience local culture at a traditional market while enjoying foods from reputable hideaway restaurants.

Festivals and events have become occasions for unique cultural experiences. As with the rest of the city, Seoul offers numerous and diverse tourism festivals. As expected in a capital, these events frequently reflect historical and cultural features or focus on politics or rights. Each festival is characterized by its unique, inspiring or passionate ambiance, implanting a dazzling and memorable experience in visitors. Religion and culture, crops and fish, politics and rights are all reasons for people who have been swept together by grand festival parades, folk games, traditional market events, theater festivals, dance performances and contests to join in a wonderful celebration.

Seoul Lantern Festival

The Seoul Lantern Festival doesn’t require any entrance fees, so anyone can join in on the experience. Every year, there is also a theme for both the competition and the exhibition sections, which are focused on eliciting the various social, cultural, and environmental issues that can affect both Korea and the world at large. If you are lucky enough to encounter Seoul Lantern Festival cell phone photographers, you may even get a portrait-photographer level shot of yourself, free of charge! All the same, feel free to stop by and snap a picture of one of the many beautiful lanterns installed along the Cheonggyecheon Stream as a keepsake of one of your most unforgettable experiences in Seoul!

The Seoul Lantern Festival is one of the most fascinating festivals held in Seoul every year. During November, the streets along the Cheonggyecheon Stream are adorned with enormous LED lanterns in different shapes, sizes, and colors. This festival encompasses an environmental theme, with all its lanterns using LED lights powered by solar energy. Taking a walk around the Cheonggyecheon Stream during the Seoul Lantern Festival is one of the best ways to immerse oneself in the true vibrancy of the entire city.

Cherry Blossom Festivals

Seokchonhosu Lake located right by Lotte World has cherry trees which provide picture-perfect photos of their cherry blossoms reflected on the lake. Another popular outdoor springtime activity is to be found at Seoul’s many Han River parks. At Yeouido, the cherry blossom-shaded drive along the bike path on the southern bank of the river is particularly popular. Pack a picnic and visit one of the many riverside parks to enjoy a day out under the softly swaying blooms.

The annual fall foliage period you can plan around, but the cherry blossoms, being of a more delicate nature, take a little more guesswork. The best time to visit Korea to view the cherry blossoms is generally from early to mid-April, when the soft pink blossoms are in full bloom. Most cities in Korea have extensive cherry blossom lanes, populated by the soft pink blooms of the cherry trees. A popular choice in Seoul for this spring activity is the Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival, which sees around 1.5 million visitors annually.