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What to do in Seoul: 10 best activities for the full experience

Besides their hugely popular Korean dramas, such as the recent Descendants of the Sun which sparked a huge craze around the world, Korea is also well-known for many of its other sights and attractions. What better way to explore this country than to dive head first into its cultural, financial and political capital: Seoul. Between the food, the locals, and the celebs, this fabulous city is sure to dazzle and delight its visitors. However, with so many choices, it can be tough to decide where to start. Let Skyscanner take you by the hand and lead you through Seoul, Korea’s city of dreams.

1. Lotte World

Did you know the world’s largest indoor theme park can be found right in the middle of Seoul? Lotte World is a family-friendly attraction that will keep you and your family occupied for days. It consists of several districts, each with tons of exciting rides and other fascinating attractions. It also houses a hotel, shopping mall, ice skating rink and much more. Located in downtown Seoul, Lotte World is accessible from Jamsil station on Lines 2 and 8. Take exit 4. The park is opened from 9:00 to 22:00 on Mondays through Thursdays, and 9:00 to 23:00 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

 

Amusement rides in a colourfully lit-up area of Lotte World.

Lotte World, in the heart of the city, is calling. Photo credit: The work n play

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2. Myeongdong

One of Seoul’s premier shopping destination, Myeongdong is a bustling and happening district, which is also home to many popular tourist attractions, such as the historical Myeongdong Cathedral. Of course, with shopping being the main attraction in Myeongdong, be sure to load up your wallet with extra cash before you shop till you drop! Shopping options range from big high-end department stores to trendy boutiques with exclusive items. To reach Myeongdong, head to Euljiro 1-ga station on subway line 2, or Myeongdong station on subway line 4.

Neon lights of stores light up the streets at night in Myeongdong

Leave some room in your luggage for a shopping excursion to Myeongdong. Photo credit: koreanmate

3. Insa-dong

For a taste of Seoul’s historical and cultural side, head over to Insa-dong! Centrally located, Insa-dong is where you will find all the traditional clothes and souvenirs you could possibly want, from hanbok to hanji, tasty teas to pottery and folksy arts and crafts. The alleys that line the main road of the district are where you’ll find the best souvenirs for those you love (or just for yourself!). Ssamziegil mall contains dozens of these stores in one convenient location, and you’re sure to find exactly what you’re looking for without leaving the building. Afterwards, be sure to drop by the Beautiful Tea Museum for a taste of Korean tea culture, which has a long and distinguished history. You’ll get to sip on some delightful brews and sample some snacks while you’re there. A taste of those will definitely leave you clamouring for more. To get here, jump on subway line 3 and hop off at Angkuk station. If you’re closer to line 1, then you’ll use Jonggak station instead.

Some traditional-looking cafes and store fronts line up the streets of Insadong

For traditional culture, you cannot miss Insadong. Photo credit: Sweet and Tasty TV

4. Dongdaemun

Dongdaemun has been one of Seoul’s famous shopping scene for over a century. The Dongdaemun market first opened back in 1905, and has since grown rapidly. Now, it encompasses over 20 shopping malls. This is the go-to place for fab fashions at unbelievable bargain prices. One benefit of shopping here is that the staffs generally speak English, so bargaining will be an easier task for you. Another benefit is that the markets open till late hours. Fancy a midnight shopping spree? Dongdaemun will still be humming even in the wee hours of the morning. Access is a snap; from subway line 2, head to Dongdaemun Stadium station, or Dongdaemun station on Lines 1 and 4.

Dongdaemun design building and the streets of Seoul are lit up at night

_Dongdaemun is the place for late night shopping sprees. Photo credit: Seoul Selection_

5. Namsan Park/ N Seoul Tower

Located just south of Myeongdong lies the peaceful and tranquil Namsan Park, a perfect complement to the bustling shopping district. It is filled with hiking trails and tourist attractions, such as the iconic N Seoul Tower, giving you an Instagram-worthy panorama view of Seoul’s skyline. Check out Mongmyeoksan Beacon Hill Site, an ancient warning system to protect the city from invaders, and while on the way, be sure to stop by Locks of Love, a popular destination for lovebirds as the wall of locks symbolizes the eternal love of those who place their locks there.

N Seoul Tower is lit up at night at Namsan Park

_Namsan Park is the placid yin to Myeongdong’s bustling yang. Photo credit: Visit Korea_

6. Jimjilbang/ Korean spa

For the quintessential Korean experience, soak in one of the country’s ubiquitous Jimjilbang, the world-famous Korean spa. This is a large and segregated bath house with a full array of services for both pre and post-soaks. It also serve as de facto community hubs for local people, where they often visit with their friends or family to release the stress of daily life. After you emerge from the waters of Jimjilbang, you will feel reinvigorated, with very smooth and radiant skin. Definitely a must-go for an unforgettable bathing experience!

Some people are relaxing and laying down at a Korean spa

No trip to Korea is complete without a visit to a local spa, or jimjilbang. Photo credit: Arnablog

7. Makgeolli

The humble Makgeollli, a.k.a. “Farmer’s booze”, is a delicious milky concoction which is easy to drink yet curiously strong, making it a perfect complement for all the wonderful Korean dishes you will get to enjoy during your trip. It’s the perfect go-with for savory dishes such as pajeon (Korean pancakes), and takes the edge off powerful spices in some of the spicier dishes. In addition to the taste, Makgeolli also has some health benefits. It’s nutritious and the healthy bacteria in the drink will boost your digestive and immune systems. No wonder Makgeolli remains as one of Korean’s most favorite drinks.

A golden cup of makgeolli

Wash down your next meal with a bowl full of delicious and nutritious makgeolli. Photo credit: Daegu

8. Street food

No trip to Korea would be completed without sampling the local Korean cuisine. If you’re in the Namdaemun district, you will have access to some of the city’s best food at the Namdaemun market (accessible from Hoehyeon station on subway line 4), like japchae hotteok (something like a donut, but with savoury options), ramen hot dogs on a stick, and sweet red bean cakes. For a more traditional fare, head down to Gwangjang market (accessible from Jongno 5-ga station on subway line 1), where you’ll find top favourites like the bindaetteok, tteokbokki and kimbap.

An assortment of Korean street food

When in Seoul, you gotta eat, and street food will definitely hit the spot. Photo credit: Korean Street Food

9. Bukchon Hanok Village

In an ultra-modern city like Seoul, you might be surprised to stumble across a place like Bukchon, which appears to have been magically transported from a remote area. Bookended by two palaces (Gyeongbok and Changdeok), a stroll through this historical district will take you back to a time long ago. This quaint urban village is filled with hundreds of traditional houses, known as hanok, and still retains the vibes of the old days. These days, it has modernized a bit, and is now home to many points of interest for tourists, like guesthouses, cultural centres, restaurants and cafes (or rather teahouses, a specialty of old Korea). The alleys that cut through the neighbourhood should not be overlooked, as they contain many shops that will definitely appeal to you. For access, take subway line 3 to Anguk station, and proceed to exit 3.

Traditional homes and buildings in Bukchon Hanok Village

Bukchon Hanok Village is a slice of history in the middle of ultra modern Seoul. Photo credit: rok-on

10. The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

A short drive north to the border of Seoul will give you a fascinating glimpse of the Korea Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a buffer zone between North and South Korea which was established at the end of the Korean War. However, the only way to be part of this unique experience is to join a tour group, as individual trips to the zone are strictly forbidden. There are a variety of tours to choose from, which will introduce participants to the history of the place. Some tours will even get you into North Korea itself, so you can get a photo or even pick up some cool souvenirs produced in the North. Access and itineraries are subjected to changes based on the ever-shifting political situation.

Soldiers in front of the DMZ building

_Hit the north at the DMZ, and pick up some souvenirs from Pyongyang while you’re there. Photo credit: DMZ Memories of a No Man’s Land_

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Ready to conquer Seoul? Book cheap flights, hotels and car rental via Skyscanner today, or download our free mobile app for easy browsing and booking on the go.

Originally published on 22 April 2016 and updated on 2 Jan 2017. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.

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