We list some highlights below but for another perspective on Seoul and to get inspired by all that the city has to offer, check out the Lonely Planet page.
Seoul has been the capital of Korea for more than 600 years. Traces of the city’s ancient legacy can be found everywhere: at its five royal palaces, the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty, and at the Jongmyo Shrine. The careful preservation of Changdeok Palace – often featured in popular Korean historical dramas – along with the tombs and the shrine has earned all of them a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Seoul’s modern cultural scene is equally well represented, with a wealth of museums and galleries dotted about the city.
Five Royal Palaces
Visit Gyeongbokgung, the main palace, where affairs of state were deliberated as early as 1394. There you’ll also find the National Folk Museum, showcasing the everyday life of Koreans over the centuries. Explore Changdeokgung and its secret garden, Deoksugung and its colonial museum, or soak in the peace and tranquility of ancient times at Gyeonghuigung and Changgyeonggung.
Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty
As the final resting places for Korea’s last dynastic ruling family, the Royal Tombs are a place of great significance to the nation’s history. The well-preserved tombs, which honor the lives and achievements of these great historical figures, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009.
The primary place of worship for Joseon rulers, the Jongmyo Shrine and the rituals and customs traditionally performed there are so well preserved that the site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995. Regarded as the oldest complete ceremony in the world, visitors can witness the ancient spectacle annually on the first Sunday of every May.
A massively popular cultural district in downtown Seoul where the latest works of established and up-and-coming artists exhibit their wares. Here, you’ll also find stores dedicated to celadon and Korean craftware, making Insa-dong the ideal place to find that perfect Korean-themed gift.
This French town in Seoul was formed around the school set up by the French Embassy in Korea. Since nearly half of all French people in Korea live here, this village is known as Korea’s “Little France”. The French-named streets, parks and restaurants such as Montmartre Street and Montmartre Park will remind you of France. The restaurants in particular have become especially famous.
Namsangol Hanok Village
This village is home to five restored traditional Korean houses including both an aristocrat’s and commoner’s houses and living supplies. There is also a traditional wedding which takes place on weekends between 12pm and 1pm. At the Namsangol Hanok Village, you can get a sense of Korea's history by learning about traditional lifestyle arrangements.
Cheongwadae (Blue House)
This traditional royal palace-shaped building is the executive office and official residence of the President of the Republic of Korea.
N Seoul Tower
The Seoul Tower was built in 1980 and has since become a major tourist attraction. The tower, which is 236m meters tall, sits atop Namsan Mountain at 243m. The tower offers panoramic views of Seoul which allows visiters to grasp the astounding size of Seoul. In popular culture, this location is significant due to the "Love Locks" which are left by couples everywhere around the tower.
Hangang River Cruise
A cruise is one of the best ways to enjoy the scenery around the Hangang River. Cool winds from the river and the surrounding scenery, which gets even more beautiful in the evenings, are the rewards the ferry cruise can offer you.
Seoul City Tour Bus
With just one ticket, you can conveniently visit all the major tourist attractions in Seoul. The Seoul City Tour Bus is a hop-on, hop-off shuttle bus that circles around fixed routes, and you can use it as much as you want for one whole day.
Sinchon is a neighborhood situated in Seodaemun that is best known for its nightlife and shopping. There are three major universities nearby (Yonsei University, Ehwa Women’s University and Hongik University), making the area very youthful and energetic.
This trendy area situated south of the Han River is one of the most popular districts in Seoul. In many ways, it is the Time Square equivalent of Seoul, with its incredible nightlife and abundance of things to do in see. It also has alleyways full of delicious restaurants, and lots of shopping.
Myeongdong is one of the primary shopping districts in Seoul; over one million shoppers pass through this area each day. Unlike Namdaemun and Dongdaemun (two other shopping districts), you can shop for designer brands in Myeongdong. On top of this, every Korean cosmetic brand has a branch in Myeongdong.
Similar to Sinchon, this area thrives because of the numerous universities which surround it. It’s name - Hongdae - is derived from Hongik University (Hongik Daehakgyo →HongDae). While Gangnam is a lavish metropolitan nightlife location, Hongdae offers a unique, fascinating and youthful nightlife experience.
Gwanghwamun is the financial district of Seoul, which is made obvious by the numerous high-rises and luxurious restaurants. In addition to this, Gwanghwamun is historically significant. Here, you can visit the Gwanghwamun Square as well as Gyeongbokgung Palace, the largest and arguably the most beautiful of the 5 palaces.