Seoul is the capital and largest city of South Korea and is home to some of the country’s most popular tourist attractions. The city offers something for everyone, from palaces and temples to modern-day entertainment districts. So whether you’re a history buff or just looking for fun, there’s plenty to explore in Seoul.
In this article, we will look at some of the most popular attractions to see in Seoul:
Gyeongbokgung Palace is an impressive and grand palace in Seoul and one of the most visited tourist attractions in South Korea. It was once the home of the Korean kings during the Joseon Dynasty and is now home to some of South Korea’s most important historical sites.
The palace grounds are expansive, with more than 300 buildings scattered over vast grounds that span some 42 acres (170,000 m²). Among these buildings are courtyards and pathways lined with traditional architecture, as well as several famous attractions, including:
- Gwanghwamun Gate – the main gate;
- Hyangwon Jeong, a two-story pavilion situated on an artificial island located in a picturesque lotus pond;
- Beobgojeon Hall – a throne hall used for important state ceremonies;
- Geumcheongyo Bridge – a covered bridge between Gyeonghoeru Pavilion and Honghwamun Gate;
- Woldae – a stone amphitheater for viewing performances;
- Bugaksan Mountain – offering visitors stunning panoramic views over Seoul city; and
- Shaesanggung Palace – where royal weddings took place.
Visitors can explore this historic complex by participating in one of many formal guided tours or strolling around at leisure. The palace also hosts several annual festivals, including making handcrafted fans during Korean Fan Day, Korean folk performances during the Korean Folk Culture Festival, and displays of floral arrangements during the Camellia Festival. Whether you’re a history buff or simply looking to explore something new while visiting Seoul, Gyeongbokgung Palace is not to be missed!
Bukchon Hanok Village
Located north of Gyeongbokgung Palace, Bukchon Hanok Village is a traditional village comprised of hundreds of hanok or traditional Korean houses. This conventional village allows visitors to explore the beautiful architecture and scenery that can be found throughout Korea’s history.
Bukchon Hanok Village dates back to the Josean dynasty and is one of many culturally unique neighborhoods in Seoul. The homes here are constructed with natural materials such as wood and stone, representing a mixture of both history and modernity. Visitors can observe how people used to live in South Korea while enjoying nature all around them.
The Bukchon Cultural Complex provides information about traditional Korean culture and activities such as kite-making, paper craft classes, and tea ceremonies which help preserve the traditions that thrive here. In addition to the various cultural experiences available, there are also plenty of shops selling local handicrafts, including tea ware, lacquerware, and pottery, that are perfect for souvenirs or gifts for the home.
The Bukchon Hanok Village has become increasingly popular over recent years due to its picturesque setting full of cultural experiences that can’t be found anywhere else in Seoul. So whether you’re looking for a place steeped in tradition or want to stroll through picturesque nature, there’s something for everyone here at Bukchon Hanok Village!
N Seoul Tower
N Seoul Tower is one of the most popular attractions in South Korea. The tower and observation deck offer spectacular views of the city and the Han River. It is located on Namsan Mountain and is a significant part of Seoul’s cultural landscape and skyline.
The tower was first opened to the public in 1980, making it one of Seoul’s oldest landmarks. The design is traditional; a 500-meter high steel pole topped with a pod cuddly referred to as the “UFO,” which houses several restaurants, souvenir shops, and exciting exhibitions.
High up at the top floor is Love Locks, where couples write their names on locks as symbols of eternal love before attaching them to safety nets secured along the tower’s walls. It has become an iconic spot for tourists, who have left thousands of locks throughout N Seoul Tower thus far.
Apart from the fantastic view that you get from up there at night time primarily, the complex also provides numerous other activities such as:
- Cable Car rides to and from Namsan Mountain
- One-of-a-kind performances (three-dimensional mapping shows) at 11 pm every night!
Jeju Island is a trendy destination in South Korea, with plenty of stunning attractions, including stunning beaches, magical waterfalls, and lush forests. It’s the perfect place to take a relaxing vacation or explore the unique local attractions. Here’s what Jeju Island has to offer:
Hallasan National Park
Hallasan National Park, located on the stunning Jeju Island in South Korea, is one of the most beautiful attractions in the country. The centerpiece of this park is the venerable Hallasan Mountain. It stands at 1950 meters above sea level, is the highest mountain in South Korea, and has been designated a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site since 2002.
The park offers many beautiful activities for visitors, including camping, hiking, and mountain biking. Hiking trails wind from the rugged coastline with coves and caves through the lush forested hills inland to Hallasan’s summit. Depending on your ability, there are options for light walks and more strenuous hikes that take up to 12 hours to complete depending on how long you spend up on top. It is also possible to take a cable car or an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) up or down some of the trails.
The park also has several picnic grounds served by restaurants, snack bars, and souvenir shops, so catering to thirst and hunger won’t be difficult during your visit here. Furthermore, primary camping grounds are available for those wishing to stay overnight inside Hallasan National Park, but they do fill, so bookings must be made well in advance! Lastly, when dusk blurs into the night, you can bask under star-filled skies in amazement amidst this age-old volcanic mountain creation!
Seongsan Ilchulbong, which translates to “Sunrise Peak,” is a remarkable tuff cone that rises unexpectedly from the island’s east coast. The entire formation was created by a volcanic eruption some 100,000 years ago. Its 180-meter-high summit comprises 99 sharp rocks that form a crown-like shape when seen from a distance.
Climb up to the top of this UNESCO World Heritage Site to witness magnificent views of Jeju Island, the East China Sea, and the North Pacific Ocean.
Whether you’re an avid hiker or just an avid sightseer, the Seongsan Ilchulbong is worth a visit for its unique formation and awe-inspiring views of Jeju’s rugged coastline. The Tuff Cone path features ancient lava benches that offer panoramic viewpoints on all sides. Its breathtaking crater rim is ringed with shrubbery and other foliage, and on clear days you can see far into the sea in all directions.
Nearby attractions include:
- The sunrise rows (a set of 99 steps that light up at daybreak)
- Seongeup Folk Village
- Manjanggul Cave
- Jeolmul Natural Recreation Forest
- Hallim Park
Jeju Folk Village
Jeju Folk Village is a living museum of traditional Korean life located in the heart of Jeju Island. This popular tourist attraction offers a glimpse into the life and culture of Korea’s olden days. The village is laid out just like it was in ancient times, with houses and granaries built around pavilions.
You can visit the schoolhouse, have fun watching traditional performances such as farming skills shows at the outdoor stage, or take part in activities such as farm experiences and making traditional food.
The village has over 100 historical structures spread across 50 acres. Visitors can explore traditional lifestyles, including hanok houses, a Confucian school, an entrance gate, and an old marketplace where goods are sold and purchased as they were in ancient times. There are also furniture and pottery studios showcasing traditional craftsmanship. At the same time, farmers grow crops on cultivated lands – allowing visitors an insight into the rural lifestyles of Jeju Island from more than 200 years ago. Nature trails allow visitors to take guided tours through forests to experience local flora, fauna, and wildlife up close.
Traditional costumes are also available for rent for those wishing to recreate ancient picturesque scenes, along with attendants who provide detailed information about customs, dances, and games that were popular during the Joseon Dynasty (18th-20th century), acting both as guides for foreign visitors but also giving locals access to their history in a much more immediate way than just reading about it from books or visiting a museum alone could do.
Busan is South Korea’s second-largest city and one of Asia’s most popular tourist destinations. Busan is a bustling metropolis with more than 3.5 million population, offering a mix of urban culture, attractions, and beautiful nature.
Visitors can explore various sites, including the Gamcheon Culture Village, the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, and the beaches of Haeundae. Given its rich history and diverse attractions, Busan can be an excellent destination for anyone looking to explore South Korea and learn more about its culture.
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is one of the most beautiful temples in South Korea. It is located in Busan and stands on a cliff overlooking the East Sea, with stunning views of the ocean and coastline. It was first built in 1376 but has undergone several renovations and expansions over the centuries. As a result, it is visited by thousands of visitors from all over the country and beyond each year.
The temple features several traditional Korean Buddhist structures, including five designed gates leading to its main hall. Inside, statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas can be seen along with vibrant colors from painted lanterns and murals depicting traditional Korean themes. In addition, visitors can observe conventional Buddhist rituals, such as monks chanting sutras or offering cakes to Buddhas. Special ceremonies will also occur here during major holidays like Buddha’s Birthday or Lunar New Year.
The temple also has numerous attractions within its grounds:
- Naksansaengmaengdaegi (measuring stone lantern)
- Hammingsa gate
- Standing stones around the pavilion site
- Oesamjeong project boardwalk
The area also houses a temple stay program, allowing travelers to experience staying at a real monastery while participating in various activities such as meditation sessions with monks or temple duty lectures on Buddhism. In addition, guests can also explore side activities such as beach trekking at nearby Jongno beach or Mudflat Hiking around Gahyonpogu Ecological Park located in the nearby Yeongdo-gu district, which is great for nature lovers looking for some outdoor fun!
Gamcheon Culture Village
Gamcheon Culture Village is one of the main tourist attractions in Busan, South Korea. The village is located on the foothills of a coastal mountain, and this former slum-like area was once home to refugee communities. However, a project led by the government transformed it into a vibrant and colorful urban neighborhood with over 200 houses painted in bright shades of pink, yellow and blue.
The cultural village contains winding alleys with exquisite traditional tile-roofed homes and murals inspired by coastal life. In addition, visitors can explore narrow alleys filled with shops selling artwork, handpainted ceramics, plants, and other artisan goods – all situated against stunning sea views.
Gamcheon Culture Village also features street art installations, public spaces for performances, and exhibits that showcase traditional Korean craftsmanship and modern lifestyle trends. Other attractions include vibrant cafés, sculpture parks, and observation decks perched at the top for stunning views of Busan.
Jagalchi Fish Market
Located in Busan’s Nampo-dong, the Jagalchi Fish Market is one of the largest fish markets in South Korea, and guests can find a wide variety of fresh seafood, which is caught daily from nearby waters.
The freshest local catches like hwangtae (Pacific herring), galchi (flatfish), saury, squid, mackerel, and eel are available for an unforgettable culinary experience. The market also offers an incredible array of sashimi dishes prepared with familiar fish species such as tuna, yellow croaker, cutlassfish, and flounder. Guests are also invited to try abalone and gejang (raw crab marinated in gochujang sauce) – if they dare!
Whether visitors purchase seafood at the lively stalls or enjoy a delectable meal at one of the restaurants within the sprawling complex, this lively attraction is sure to draw anytime, any time of year.
In addition to fresh seafood items available at Jagalchi Fish Market, customers can find a variety of nautical gift items such as:
- Small framed illustrations by local artists that capture marine life so vibrant despite its lack of color, it appears almost real!
Gyeongju is one of the most popular attractions in South Korea and is considered to be a “must-see” if you are visiting the country. Located in the country’s southeastern part, Gyeongju boasts a rich history and culture, which can be experienced in its many temples, palaces, and royal tombs. You can also explore the many shops and restaurants scattered throughout the city.
Let’s explore further to see what Gyeongju has to offer:
Bulguksa Temple is a magnificent example of Korean Buddhist architecture and artistry in Gyeongju, South Korea. Founded by the Silla Dynasty in 535 CE and modified during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), the temple comprises two main areas – Daeungjeon Hall, which houses five Buddhist statues, and Seokgatap, which contains three large stone pagodas.
The entire temple complex is surrounded by four ancient stone walls symbolic of the four-fold divisions of Buddhism – Earthly Desires, Form, Perception, and Consciousness.
The central part of the complex includes a creekside path featuring seven bridges spanning a serene pond called Anapji Pond, primarily used as an area for royal banquets during the Silla Dynasty. Inside the enclosure are several other buildings constructed mainly during the Joseon period, including Geukrakjeon, Jahamun Gate, Gwaneumjeon, and Josaegak Pavilion.
The original structure was destroyed by fire in 1238CE but reconstructed again soon after to its current form, with more restoration work done over time by several dynasties who occupied Gyeongju afterward. The combined effect of these efforts has given Bulguksa Temple its extraordinary beauty today, attracting people from around the world to appreciate its historical significance.
Seokguram Grotto is a priceless relic of Korean Buddhism that dates back to the 8th century. Located on top of Tohamsan Mountain and overlooking the East Sea, this man-made shrine features an intricately carved marble Buddha statue in its sanctum. The whole structure has been built into a circular dome and stands in line with the rest of Gyeongju’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites from the same era.
Seokguram Grotto is said to have been designed by Kim Daeseong – one of Korea’s famed master artisans at the time – and constructed between 751 to 774 CE during the reign of King Gyeongdeok of Silla. Its contrasting dimensions represent a balance between yin and yang, with abstract art covering domes, walls, and inside passages describing religious stories and ancient folklore.
The grandest feature in Seokguram is its centrally placed main hall which houses a 3-meter tall seated Buddha flanked by two enthroned Bodhisattvas (Akshobhya and Amitābha). This combination was traditionally used in unified Silla architecture to deepen its religious symbolism throughout Gyeongju City further. Inside, two inner chambers are filled with delicate goddess carvings as they radiate outward from the main hall.
Seokguram Grotto attracts thousands of visitors yearly despite seismic activity that recently affected its foundation stones.
The Cheomseongdae Observatory is one of the main attractions in the Gyeongju area of South Korea. Located near the top of a hill in the city’s center, this 9th-century observatory was used by astronomers to monitor astrological conditions and pass vessels on the sea. It is believed to be the oldest surviving astronomical observatory in East Asia and is recognized as a national Treasure by South Korea.
The Cheomseongdae Observatory consists of 362 granite stones set into a three-tiered structure that measures 7.5 meters wide and 7 meters high. Two windows face east and west, respectively, originally used to observe stars, gradations in night sky brightness, and star clusters.
Inside this ancient structure is a hollow cylinder that aligns with certain parts of Orion’s belt; it was thought to have been used to monitor when winter was about to begin based on the constellation’s appearance in the night sky. It’s also possible that after observing sunrises and sunsets during certain times of the year from this spot—as well as flight patterns, and ocean currents—the scholars living here created navigational maps and tidal charts using some primitive form of astronomy given their vast knowledge passed down through generations since its construction around 632 AD.
Despite its age (more than 1,400 years!) Cheomseongdae still stands today as a testament to a great civilization’s love for science and knowledge – visitors remain awestruck by this historical sight’s presence among numerous modern conveniences present-day Gyeongju has seen over millennia! The observatory is an easy 13-15 minute walk from Gyeongju Station or Express Bus Terminal – providing visitors with an opportunity to explore nearby attractions such as Gyerim Forest Park or Anapji Pond while admiring one of South Korea’s most impressive feats from days gone by.
There are numerous attractions in South Korea beyond traditional tourist sites. South Korea has something to offer everyone, from Gangwon Province’s mountains to Jeju Island’s beaches. In addition to the famous attractions, South Korea has many lesser-known and off-the-beaten-path destinations that offer unique experiences.
Let’s explore the many other areas in South Korea to explore:
Hahoe Folk Village
Hahoe Folk Village is a small village in the Andong region of South Korea. As it was built in the 16th century, Hahoe Folk Village has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO due to its traditional architecture and preserved Joseon-era culture. The village consists of houses built in a circular layout around Ryongcheonsa, the Confucian shrine at its center.
Hahoe Folk Village offers an array of unique experiences for visitors:
- Guided walking tours take travelers through the village’s many points of interest and attractions.
- Hands-on cultural experiences include performing traditional folk arts such as mask dancing, armor making, and kite flying.
- The village’s Ediya Tea House provides an opportunity to see a performance of Korea’s traditional tea ceremony.
Visitors can also explore nearby landmarks such as Byeongsanseowon Confucian Academy, Dosan Confucian School, Yangdong Market Street, Imsil Cheese Theme Park, Juwangsan National Park, and more. Other interesting activities nearby include playing at local golf courses and exploring historical museum installations dedicated to Hahoe’s past inhabitants. Finally, for those looking for something more adventurous, several rafting centers near Hahoe provide endless thrills on South Korea’s Yeongsang River.
Daegu Yangnyeongsi Herb Medicine Market
Daegu Yangnyeongsi Herb Medicine Market is one of the oldest and largest traditional herb medicine markets in South Korea, located in the city of Daegu. The market has served as an important economic center since its establishment during the Joseon Dynasty era and is one of the busiest traditional markets in South Korea.
This market stands out not only for its size – it consists of a 166,000 ㎡ area with around 500 shops – but also because it sells herbal medicine such as ginseng paste, ginseng powder, raw and dried herbs, as well as other medicinal items. In addition to these items, it also offers accessories, cosmetics, and health products.
The market houses various kinds of herbal medicines from regions all over South Korea. On top of that, there are many special services offered here in this market, such as health examinations or consultations from traditional Korean doctors (Oriental Medical Doctors). Furthermore, Daegu Yangnyeongsi Herb Medicine Market also consists of multiple restaurants where visitors can explore authentic Korean dishes prepared with herbal ingredients and medicinal food believed to be beneficial for health – visiting this traditional market is an educational experience for both locals and foreign tourists alike.
Jeonju Hanok Village
Jeonju Hanok Village is a traditional Korean village with narrow alleyways, lush courtyards, and distinctive roofed houses. Located in the North Jeolla province of South Korea, it was also listed among the 100 Tourism Cities announced by the World Tourism Organization. There are more than 700 hanok (traditional Korean houses) to explore in the village, making it one of the largest and best-preserved in Korea.
Visitors to Jeonju Hanok Village can enjoy traditional teahouses and experience ‘Hanji’ paper-making demonstrations. The village has many facilities, including museums, restaurants, and shops; some offer cultural activities such as tea ceremonies, folk music performances, folk games, and traditional wedding photo shoots.
Hiking trails lined with art installations wind their way through the forested area of Mount Maisan at the back of Jeonju Hanok Village. Streams run through Gingko Tree Lane along both sides of Gyeonggijeon Shrine Pavilion for visitors to appreciate its natural beauty.