Seoul is slowly but surely climbing up the list of most interesting destinations to visit, it might all be thanks to the current worldwide fascination with K-culture; from K-pop to K-dramas, to all that amazing Korean skincare, but whatever the motivation is behind your trip, the city has plenty to offer to all kinds of travelers.
So if you are planning a visit to the South Korean capital anytime soon here are 10+ best things to do in Seoul for a first-time visitor:
If there’s time in your itinerary for only one palace, the Gyeonbokgung Palace is definitely the one that you should visit.
The Gyeonbokgung Palace is one of the five palaces in the city, what makes this one special is that it is the largest of them all, as well as the most beautiful and well-preserved one. The grounds of the palace display some of the living accommodations of the Joseon dynasty, beautiful artificial lakes, and gorgeous traditional Korean houses, or hanoks.
To make the most of your visit make sure to check in at the information center at the entrance of the palace for a completely free English-guided tour.
Bukhansan National Park
Seoul is a buzzing metropolis with endless options for activities and entertainment, but if at one point what you need is a break from the city, the gorgeous Bukhansan National Park is just a train ride away.
The Bukhansan National Park is conveniently located within the city of Seoul and consists of beautiful forested areas, temples, and a range of peaks that attract the adventurous traveler.
The park is particularly mesmerizing during the fall when the trees change into all shades of bright red, orange, and yellow.
Bukchon Hanok Village
The Bukchon Hanok Village should undoubtedly be at the top of your list of things to do in Seoul!
The Bukchon Hanok Village is an area in the heart of Seoul that consists of stunning traditional Korean houses that remain the way they were hundreds of years ago, and what’s even better, regular people still live in them!
Walking through the streets of the Bukchon Hanok Village is by far one of my favorite things to do in the city and an unmissable experience for anyone visiting.
Make sure to check out our guide to visiting the Bukchon Hanok Village for more details on what to do and explore around the area.
Cheonggyecheon (Urban park)
If you are walking your way around the city you will inevitably come across Cheonggyecheon, Seoul’s urban park, but instead of just acknowledging and crossing it on your way to the city, I would recommend you to walk along it for a very relaxing experience in the middle of a buzzing city.
This urban park consists of a pedestrian path, one level down from the street, that follows a stream of running water surrounded by greenery, it is the perfect city escape without having to go too far, and it is also a great way to avoid all those busy pedestrian crossings.
Myeong-dong Shopping Street and Night Food Market
Myeong-dong is known as a great shopping area, here you will be able to find some of your favorite western brands, as well as local brands, and my favorite store of all time: ALL MASK STORY, a store that sells discounted sheet masks at seriously incredible prices!
However, my favorite part about Myeong-dong has to be the Night Food Market, which I consider to be one of the best things to do in Seoul.
At the night market, you will find all the Korean street food you can imagine, from savory cheese sticks, chicken skewers, Korean egg breads, and spicy dumplings, to sweet fish-shaped pastries filled with red bean paste, sugar-coated grapes, and so so much more!
Sinsa-dong Shopping Area with Great Coffee
Think of Sinsa-dong as a higher-end Myeong-dong, a less crowded and cleaner shopping street with all kinds of cool shops, from Arket and Patagonia to the Korean favorite makeup brand 3CE and the flagship store for Jung Saem Mool, as well as trendy coffee shops, and plenty of food options in the streets adjacent to the main one.
Sinsa-dong quickly became one of my favorite areas in the city to wander around, so I would highly recommend it as one of the main things to do in Seoul, especially for a stress-free afternoon of window shopping and coffee shop hopping.
Good coffee around Sinsa-dong:
Explore the Food Alleys of Ikseon-dong
If you are hungry and can’t decide where or what to eat, Ikseon-dong is basically a neighborhood-turned-food court, it really seems like there is an infinite amount of food options hidden in the small alleys of Ikseon-dong; from Italian pizza to French bistros, to some of the best dumplings I had in Seoul.
The area is incredibly cute at night, with fairy lights lit up and colorful umbrellas that decorate the tight alleys, perfect for a lovely night stroll!
Explore the Up-and-coming Seongsu-dong
Seongsu-dong has earned a reputation of being the Brooklyn of Seoul due to its industrial warehouse origins that have turned into roomy coffee shops and uniquely designed stores, that’s why visiting this up-and-coming area is one of the best things to do in Seoul.
Seongsu-dong consists of a spread out area with some of the most aesthetically interesting coffee shops I have found in Seoul, like NUDAKE where all the pastries look like a piece of art, unique shops like UPiNG in the ABCF Market which only sells black and white tops in all sorts of shapes and cuts, and some new trendy restaurants.
Some of the most interesting cafes in Seoul’s Seongsu neighborhood that are worth visiting:
N Seoul Tower
The N Seoul Tower is a landmark of Seoul and one of the main things you can see from anywhere in the city, that’s why visiting the N Seoul tower is one the must things to do in Seoul!
If you want to take the easy way up to the tower there is a convenient cable car option that you can take for 11,000 won, or around 9 USD, for one way, and besides saving your legs from all the stairs up you also get a beautiful view over the city, we did this during the fall and the view that you get over the changing foliage made the trip up to the N Seoul Tower so beautiful!
If you do decide to walk your way up, don’t worry, there are a few restaurants at the top of the hill where you can grab a bite to regain some energy for the way down.
Gangnam is the posh neighborhood where the rich and famous of Seoul live, and as the name suggests—Gangnam literally means “south of the river”—this neighborhood is separated from North Seoul by the Han river, which makes the tram ride there very scenic.
In Gangnam, you will find everything you need: great shopping, tons of restaurant options, and some of the best bars in the city, and particularly this area is known for its many aesthetic clinics where you can get quality facial treatments for very competitive prices.
Gwangjang Market is without a doubt one of the best things to do in Seoul for a first-time visitor!
At Gwangjang Market you will find all kinds of Korean dishes, and I mean ALL; from live octopus to tasty savory mung bean pancakes, to the most delicious cinnamon twists, and that hand-cut noodle soup lady from Netflix.
If you are not feeling too adventurous, the mung bean pancakes are a safe bet, they taste like some kind of veggie omelet, and when in doubt, you can never go wrong with dumplings!
Just walking through the market and seeing all the stalls is an experience in itself, so make sure that however tight your schedule is you fit this one location into your Seoul itinerary.
Hope you found our list of 10+ best things to do in Seoul for first-time visitors useful! Which one of these activities would be the one at the top of your list? Let us know in the comments.