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10 Cool Things to Do in Seoul

10 cool things to do in seoul, what to do in seoul, seoul trip planning

10 Cool Things to Do in Seoul

Seoul makes my blood race. Sometimes there’s an ongoing list of things of events taking place or sometimes, I just have to create my own ways of having fun.

People often ask me if traveling in Seoul is expensive. It doesn’t feel that way.  Gauged by the U.S. dollar, Korea is inexpensive.  But the great news is that there’s a lot of top attractions in Seoul that you can do for free or inexpensively.

Here’s 10 Cool Things to Do in Seoul:

1. Take the Seoul City Bus Tour

For a first timer to Seoul, this is my top recommendation for your very first day. Korea’s government-run city bus tours   make a budget tour and vacation possible, across the country. Starting with the Seoul City Bus Tour, it’s easy to get around and see the main sights within a day with this tour. And above-ground travel is a perfect springboard for getting your perspective of how the city spans

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The service is cheap, quick and the fastest way to see the city’s highlights. A hop-on/hop-off course tour, it hits almost every tourist area you’ll want to see from your guidebook. It offers a day, night and palace tour route. Best of all, it costs only 10,000W ($9 USD), which is cheaper than a cab. I threw my family on it– knowing my parents are old and don’t like walking much, the tour made their getting around more efficient and easy.

The entire course (without getting off) takes 2 hours. Buses run every 40 min and there are headsets aboard if you’d like a short summary (very short) of each place as you pass by.

Where to buy tickets:  At Donghwa Duty Free Shop in Gwanghwamun (Exit 6,  Gwanghwamun Station, Subway Line 5 ) . It’s also the start of the tour.

Recommendation:  The  last section of the tour, whizzes by the Blue House (aka the President’s House) near the Samcheondong district. You won’t actually see it, but you’ll see the guards standing outside the gate. The last tour will miss this section, so make sure you’re on one of the earlier tours.

 

2. Take the DMZ Tour

As the tensions between the North and South mount, why not take a DMZ (Military Demarcation Zone) Tour to understand the history (and occasional humor) of what goes on at the front line. I won’t lie, it’s pretty intensely cool and a bit haunting.

Tours range from full day and half and include lunch. Itineraries vary from DMZ line, Panmunjom/JSA, 3rd infiltration tunnel, Mt. Dora Observatory, Freedom Train, etc…

DMZ guards at the border
Best DMZ tour: The USO (working through Koridoors) offers a comprehensive and affordable tour package. Be sure to make reservations in advance.
Website: www.Koridoor.co.kr  Cost: Approx. $77 USD full day tour; $35 half day
Meet place: USO Camp Kim. A dress code and passport policy are in effect, so ask your agent.

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3. See Seoul from the back of a scooter.

I hear Seoul drivers are pretty crazy on the roads. But it’s actually the food delivery scooters, who literally make up their own rules at times. Nevertheless, Seoul is pretty impressive, when you’re viewing it from the back of a scooter, shooting over bridges and weaving through traffic.  You feel like you’re getting to understand a bit of that crazy local energy that Seoul is and you’ve got front row seats!

If you have a friend with a scooter, no other form of transportation will beat it!

riding a scooter in Seoul

4. Brush up on Seoul’s arts and festival scene.

While other cities and towns in Korea offer you a taste of  a “historical and traditional Korea”, Seoul is your gateway to more a modern, international and contemporary scene.  Check out the art museums and galleries.  Also, Seoul has festivals like Buddha’s day and an annual Hi Seoul Festival in October to kick off contemporary performance arts and artists around the city.

Check out a listing of gallery events, festivals and performances in the city, check out  Korea Tourism Organization.

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Media City Seoul exhibition at the Contemporary Museum (read  here)Hi Seoul Festival photos
Hi Seoul Festival (read here)
buddha day lantern festival seoul
Buddha’s day lantern festival

5. Shopping in Seoul

Cultural events or shopping… what is your thing? Seoul sprawls with distinctly different neighborhoods and eye-shopping (the Konglish term for “window shopping”) through Insadong, Apgujeong, Myeongdong, Dongdaemun, Itaewon Exploring what each neighborhood offers in entertainment, can make time pass quickly.

Are you a fan of Korean drama and K-pop? Seoul isn’t only the capital of Hallyu, but it’s got  paraphenalia to dress your Kpop fandom with. There’s the gift and souvenir shops in Insadong (on the main walking street) and Namdaemun Market, a small corner shop in Myeongdong’s subway near one of the exits (wish I could remember which one!). The latter you can even buy K-pop CDs and subtitled versions of the K-dramas or films for cheap.

Skin care shops are also popular with everyone. The skin care products in Korea are hitting their competition hard with great skin and naturally flawless beauty (with some BB cream help!). Generally, they’ll have posters of popular celebrities and a girl outside offering a nice package of freebies!

Read Top 5 souvenirs to bring home from Korea.

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Where to shop in Seoul for skin care and clothes: Myeongdong


Where to shop in Seoul for crafts and traditional souvenirs:  Insadong

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Where to Shop in Seoul for clothes: Migliore and Dongdaemun

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Where to shop for Korean drama and K-pop stuff: Namdaemun, Insadong.

6. Visit historical palaces, museums & villages

Seoul may look impressively modern on the outside, but the city is steeped in tradition. Take the Seoul City Bus hop-on/hop-off Palace tour route or take the normal tour route and visit the museums and villages and learn about Korea’s dynamic history. Some locations offer historical re-enactments to boost your cultural education.

Recommended: Take Seoul City Bus’ palace tour route if that’s your thing. If you want more general sightseeing, take the day tour. It also offers a stop at Namgansol Traditional Hanok Village, the Historical War museum, shopping spots and landmarks like Namsan Seoul Tower, where you can see the Locks of Love.

For another traditional hanok village in Seoul, check out Bukchon Hanok Village. It’s also a location for many Korean dramas.

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Top Attractions in Seoul: Gyeongbok Palace has historical reenactments  things to see in seoul, cool things to do in seoul, seoul trip planning hanok village in seoul,
Top Attractions in Seoul:  Namgansol Hanok Village in Seoul (one of the stops off the Seoul Tour Bus)

7.  Have a Goodwill guide show you around 

The Korean tourism organization offers a free service to travelers called goodwill guides. The guides are  local volunteers, who speak English.  They offer tips and recommendations to top attractions in Korea. Some will share  insight into the history and culture, which will be informative.

Recommended:You must apply for a guide  in advance. They volunteer to make your stay a welcome one, so please show them appreciation.

goodwill guides in seoul
Our Korean goodwill guide, Ken recommended eating at a restaurant in the traditional Korean market.



8.  Explore Korean Traditional Markets

If you’re feeling adventurous, you may want to pull away from the  bb cream and  bibimbap and start sampling traditional Korea. You can shop the markets for traditional Korean hanbok, ginseng and electronics, you name it.

There’s food stalls and restaurants to sample traditional Korean food, which may occasionally appear scary.  Blood sausage, bindaetteok (deep-fried korean pancakes), kimbapmaekeoli, etc…

Traditional Markets in Seoul:   Seoul Jungang Traditional Market,  Gwangjang Traditional Market, Dongdaemun Market, Namdaemun Market .

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9.  Spend a day (or night) at a Korean spa and jjimjilbang

If you’ve watched Korean dramas, you may already know that going to the bathhouse/spa is part of Korean culture. You can relax in one of the assorted saunas which bare crystals, jade, salts, charcoal, ice… and soak in the herbal waters which are said to help cure different ailments.

Best of all, you can spend a whole day there (even overnight) for under $13 (usually it’s more like $8, depending), making it cheaper than a hostel.

The drawback: Although the bathing sections are separated by sex,  westerners tend to be shy with nudity and that is unavoidable when showering. There are no private stalls as Korea is a community-oriented culture.  Just think of it this way…. you won’t be the only one naked.

Jjimjilbang recommendations in Seoul:Silloam Sauna, Dragon Hill Spa

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10. Take the Cable Car to Namsan Seoul Tower to see the Locks of Love

Namsan Seoul Tower is a must-see landmarks and is the best lookout spot to see all of Seoul. At night, it has a light show. For those who have big wallets and want to splurge on a  romantic affair, the tower also has a revolving restaurant.

Otherwise, it’s simply nice to take a cable car up and check out the city while pouring over the thousands of lockets left by couples and friends, engraved or written on with loving sentiments.

For directions: Finding Seoul: Namsan Seoul Tower and the Locks of Love

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More Seoul Travel Resources:

Download a pdf of the Seoul Metro map
download seoul metro mapDownload free Korea travel apps:4 Essential iPhone/iPod Apps for Korea
Need to rent a phone or use yours in Korea, read here.

Watch my Top 5 Tips on YouTube!


Read/Watch:  Top 5 Travel Tips for Seoul

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Read: Navigating Korean Culture

Top 5 souvenirs to bring back from Korea

 

More posts on Seoul:
9 Places to make you fall in Love with Seoul.
Visiting the Coffee Prince Cafe & the Korean notion of Breakfast
How to make your own Korean drama film tour
Hello Kitty Cafe in Hongdae and Seoul’s Funky Theme Cafes

What are your Top 10 Cool things to Do in Seoul? Share your favorite hot spots in this sparkling city.

46 Comments

  1. Tina says:

    Hi Christine, I will have a 12 hours stop over in Korea, I’m thinking of spending my time on the City tour and the bath spa. Thanks for the blog it really helps in the planning. , I hope you could tell me how does City tour works? Do we need to pay entrance to each stop over?

  2. Jewel says:

    Thank you! Your blog is really helpful!!! 😉

  3. Marc says:

    Great tips. Thanks, I am planing on going soon and this helped.

  4. SEOUL! I lived there for 3 years!!! 1. Get a toast sandwich from a toast cart lady. You won’t be sorry. 2. Noraebang. Go sing some karaoke. 3. Get an adult version of a capri sun in Hongdae. 4. Definitely check out random galleries. 5. Body scrub at a jimjilbang! 6. Underground shopping at Express Bus Terminal. So many cheap things that you never knew you needed. 7. Eat. Bibimbap. Kimbap. Beaf & leaf. Drooooool. 8. Go to Vatos Tacos. Again, you won’t be sorry.

  5. Dawn Tiffin says:

    I’m heading there in September–I’ve never been, so I’m suitably stoked!!

  6. Doeaah says:

    Omg what a terrible list. On the back of a scooter? Why would you recommend the emergency room????? Terrible.

  7. Your share bar makes it hard to read on the left edge. Just thought you should know 🙂

    • Thanks- I’ve found it usually depends on the width the browser is open at and whether it’s closer to full width or half. The fix is actually set at a reasonable and normal width.

      • France says:

        I also find it hard to read especially the first words. I think you need to put it on the right side instead.

  8. Mary Lynn says:

    Tracie Liller Brown

  9. On my bucket list!! 🙂

  10. Megan Indoe says:

    We loved getting fried chicken & coffee in buamdong behind the blue house and exploring the samchong dong area

  11. Love to go one of these days

  12. mytanfeet says:

    I’m checking out all your Korea posts right now – they are incredibly helpful! We just got to S. Korea yesterday and are staying Daehak-dong and love it so far. We’re going to explore Seoul tomorrow and had no idea about the city tour which we’re going to take. Love your blog and thank you!

    • Christine Kaaloa says:

      @mytanfeet:Thanks and hope you enjoy Korea! I think you’ll love Seoul and that city tour is my favorite recommendation for all friends and tourists. The value and convenience is unbeatable.Enjoy your trip and let me know if you have any questions.

  13. Kara B. says:

    Thanks for the tips! We’ll be visiting Korea this November and your blogs are helpful! =)

  14. James @ Boracay Island says:

    I would love to take the city tour and visit the historical palaces & museums, nice post.

  15. Carla says:

    The DMZ tour looks interesting to me; nice list of things to do in Seoul.

  16. April says:

    Hi, I was wondering how the scooter thing works.. How do I communicate with the guy and tell him that I’d like a ride on his scooter? I dont speak any Korean, just English.. Are the locals friendly and open to these kinds of things? How much does it usually cost?

    • @April: I probably should’ve clarified that a bit more… I have a friend with a scooter! If you can a friend or someone who you’re friendly with and would pack you on, then there’s nothing that compares to that. Although, you never can tell– maybe there are rentals somewhere or maybe a local might give you ride if you ask nicely? 😉

  17. anna says:

    I didn’t know that Seoul has the city-bus tour.
    I love the hop-on/hop-off.
    Must try on my next visit, in.. I don’t know when 🙂
    Thank you for the tips Christine 🙂

    • @Anna: Thanks for the RT and comment! Yes, the hop-on/off is an awesome deal if you’re visiting Seoul. It will be quicker than the metro and cheaper than a taxi! 😉

  18. Will Sabbia says:

    Can you please tell me about that dog cafe. Can I go to hang out and play with other people’s dogs. Since my pup is staying in USA, I know I will miss the affection of dogs

    • @Will: With the pet cafes (there’s a cat cafe in Hongdae too!) I’m pretty sure you don’t need a dog to enter but you may either need to buy a drink or pay a bit of admission if you want to sit and hang out there. Most of those cafes are attended by owners looking to give their pets a bit of an outing. However, you can also look into community dog walks or pet adoption agencies which handle fundraising… I know in Daegu there’s a animal community where you can show up and walk dogs that are without a home. 😉

  19. I vote for the back of scooter option. Nothing like discovering a city while speeding open air clutching to a stranger who is weaving in and out of a crush of traffic.

  20. Mich says:

    Those what I had in mind if I happened to visit Seoul. I will bookmark this. Thanks!

  21. Laura in Cancun says:

    I’m in love with that building in the last photo! Love the sound of all of these options 🙂

  22. Naomi says:

    HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA UR RETARTED

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