South Korea is a hodge podge of new and traditional tourist spots all within driving distance from one another, so it may be overwhelming to take it all in.
If it’s your first time in the Land of the Morning Calm, then these are the top 10 South Korea tourist spots that you should check out:
1. Gyeongbokgung Palace
As the residence of the royal family during the Joseon Dynasty, the palace was dubbed “a place where the new king can enjoy prosperity of great blessings.”
Visitors can stroll through the palace grounds and explore a myriad of buildings that were restored and maintained, each with its own unique purpose.
If you wear a Hanbok (traditional Korean dress), you may enter for free – making the palace an IG-worthy destination, as well.
- Location: 161, Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
- Operation Hours: 9 AM to 5 PM (November to February), 9 AM to 6 PM (March to May), 9 AM to 6 PM (September to October), 9 AM to 6:30 PM (June to August)
- Fees: 3,000 won (Adults) and 1,5000 won (Teenagers & Children)
- What You Need to Know: Guests can enjoy the Royal Guard Changing Ceremony which happens at designated times between 9:30 AM to 2 PM.
2. N Seoul Tower
If Taiwan has Taipei 101 and Malaysia has KL Tower, then South Korea has N Seoul Tower. A go-to tourist attraction, the tower’s been featured in K-dramas “My Love from the Star” and “Legend of the Blue Sea.”
Sitting atop Namsan Mountain, the tower offers a breathtaking view of the cityscape at night. Guests can enjoy the view from the observation deck, or from either one of the restaurants or cafes.
- Location: 105, Namsangongwon-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
- Operation Hours: 10 AM to 11 PM (Sunday to Friday), 10 AM to 12 MN (Saturday)
- Fees: 10,000 won (Adults) and 8,000 won (Children)
- What You Need to Know: The tower’s pillar lights up at night and actually indicates the level of micro dust in the air: blue means clear air with little dust, green means a moderate amount of dust and the red lights indicates an extreme amount of micro dust in the air.
3. Namiseom Island
Originally a hilltop, “Nami Island” was transformed to what it was during the construction of the Cheongpyeong Dam.
The island is small enough for guests to tour around in half a day and is a must-see for fans of the popular K-drama, “Winter Sonata.”
- Location: Namiseom Island is accessible via ferry from Namiseom Dock
- Operation Hours: 7:30 AM to 9:40 PM daily
- Fees: 10,000 won (Adults), 8,000 won (Teens), 4,000 won (Age 3 to elementary) and 8,000 won (foreign tourists)
- What You Need to Know: The Metasequoia Lane and Ginkgo Tree Lane are frequently featured in Korean dramas and movies, making this a go-to background for fans.
4. Lotte World
Editorial credit: Guitar photographer / Shutterstock.com
Open all year round, Lotte World is located in downtown Seoul making it easily accessible via public transportation.
The park boasts of both indoor and outdoor rides and attractions, with the Lotte World Tower Seoul Sky and Lotte World Shopping Mall close by.
- Location: Lotte World, 240, Olympic-ro, Songpa-gu, Seoul
- Operation Hours: 9:30 AM to 10 PM (Monday to Thursday), 9:30 AM to 11 PM (Friday to Sunday)
- Fees: 55,000 won (Adults), 48,000 won (Teenagers), 44,000 won (Children) and 14,000 won (Infants)
- What You Need to Know: Lotte World has a one-day “Magic Pass” that allows guests to reserve rides and to cut down on wait-time for attractions. Sounds good right? You can only use it three times a day though, so choose your rides and attractions carefully.
5. Bukchon Hanok Village
Just a stone’s throw away from Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace and Jongmyo Shrine, Bukchon Hanok Village was home to the relatives of the royal family.
The traditional houses, called hanok, now operate as cultural centers, guesthouses, restaurants and tea houses.
- Location: 37, Gyedong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
- What You Need to Know: Bukchon Hanok is a private neighborhood where people actually live. Therefore, keep your noise level to a minimum and be sure to dispose of all trash properly.
Editorial credit: Pius Lee / Shutterstock.com
Myeong-dong is the go-to for young Koreans and tourists looking for the latest trends and bargains in beauty and fashion.
The kilometer long stretch is lined with several department stores, duty free stores, various brand shops, food stalls and restaurants.
- Location: Myeongdong-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
- Operation Hours: Dependent on individual store hours
- What You Need to Know: Myeong-dong is also known as “Beauty Road” because of all the make-up brands that have set-up shop here such as Innisfree, Etude House, Sulwhasoo, and Skinfood. More often than not, the make-up brands offer great discounts, sales, and freebies with certain purchases.
7. Changdeokgung Palace
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997, the palace was built during the Joseon dynasty and served as the royal residence for several kings.
The buildings were designed and built to seamlessly blend in with the surrounding ponds, rock formations and greenery.
- Location: 99, Yulgok-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
- Operation Hours: 9 AM to 6 PM (February-May∙September-October), 9 AM to 6:30 PM (June-August), 9 AM to 5:30 PM (November-January)
- Fees: 3,000 won
- What You Need to Know: The palace has a garden built at the back where royal members would often come out to rest. Currently, it boasts of several plants, a 300-year-old tree, a small pond, and a pavilion. The best time to visit this is during fall when the foliage changes color.
8. The Garden of Morning Calm
Editorial credit: MyPixelDiaries / Shutterstock.com
The Garden of Morning Calm is a botanical garden that showcases the best Korea’s nature has to offer.
From themed gardens, a pine nut forest to flowerbeds and green pastures, the foliage is so breathtaking that this tourist spot has often served as the backdrop of several Korean dramas and movies.
- Location: 432, Sumokwon-ro, Sang-myeon, Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do
- What You Need to Know: The Garden is gorgeous to stroll through the during the day, but is equally gorgeous at night. Every year end to springtime, a lighting festival takes place – so this may be a romantic spot to take your date to in the evening.
Yeonnam-dong is the latest go-to in Seoul as the once “normal” neighborhood has become a hub for students, artists and designers. Lined with unique shops, chic restaurants, cozy cafes and trendy boutiques – there is so much for visitors to discover, explore and to buy.
There are also trendy alleyways with colorful murals that would be great for adding to your Instagram feed.
- Location: 11, Donggyo-ro 39-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
- Operation Hours: Dependent on individual store hours
- What You Need to Know: If you’re a fan of “Descendants of the Sun”, then you’d be happy to know that Kang Mo Yeon’s home is in the neighborhood. Her personal space was shot at the showroom of the furniture shop, B Plus M.
10. Museum Kimchikan
This is a unique museum dedicated to teaching guests about the process of making Kimchi which was designated as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Here, guests can get there hands dirty, go through the pickling process and bring home what they made. There are tours and classes available in English, Japanese and Chinese for international guests.
- Location: 35-4, Insadong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
- Operation Hours: 10 AM to 6 PM (Tuesday to Sunday)
- Fees: 5,000 won (Adults), 3,000 won (Elementary to HS Students) and 2,000 won (Children)
- What You Need to Know: For a fee, guests can learn how to make whole cabbage kimchi and white kimchi – both of which are essential side dishes for Korean meals.
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