Seoul, South Korea is a vibrant and exciting city, which skillfully combines ancient history with state-of-the-art design and technology.
Seoul is also a city of palaces, with five huge palace complexes located across the city and now restored to their former glory. Of course, it’s also known for its food, with a mouth-watering array of street food, Korean specialties like barbecue, and fine dining. With our list of Seoul’s top tourist attractions, discover the best things to do in this exciting city.
1. Seoul Tower
Rising nearly 500 meters above the city, this communications and observation tower offers spectacular views of the city from its perch on the side of Mount Namsan. A cable car takes you up the side of the mountain to the base of the tower. From there, you can climb up the tower and visit one of the four observation decks, one of which is a rotating restaurant.
There are two restaurants in the tower and, of course, several gift shops. There’s even a digital observatory, where people with height issues can enjoy a 360-degree live view through the use of 32 LED screens and cameras mounted on top of the tower.
The views from the tower are great, but so are the views from the tower of most parts of the city. On the exterior of the tower, computer-controlled LED lighting provides a visual and digital cultural experience of Seoul with themed lighting presentations.
2. Bukchon Hanok Village
For a taste of traditional Korean culture and architecture, travel to Bukchon Hanok Village. This unspoiled area of several old neighborhoods gives you an idea of what it was like to live in Korea 600 years ago. It is located right in the center of Seoul, in the area between Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace.
The neighborhoods feature hanoks or traditional Korean houses. It is a unique place, because it is a historic district, very popular with tourists, but it is also a real district because the houses are all occupied. Some of the hanoks are now guesthouses and bed and breakfasts, and a few are museums and can be visited. Others are cultural centers showcasing traditional crafts and other historical aspects of Korean life.
It is a fun place to spend an afternoon and really gives visitors a feeling of being in ancient Korea due to the historic architecture and narrow streets.
3. National Museum of Korea
The museum, one of the largest in Asia, is located in the Yongsan district of the city (near Itaewon). It focuses on archeology, history and art and includes an extensive collection of works and objects dating back over a million years. There are ancient and prehistoric artifacts, sculptures, paintings and other works of art as well as a large collection of artefacts and antiques.
Head to Yongsan Family Park, before or after your museum visit, a beautiful outdoor space to relax. Another important museum, the War Memorial of Korea, is also nearby.
Address: 137 Seobinggo-ro, Seobinggo-dong, Yongsan-gu
4. Lotte World Tower
One of Seoul’s newest attractions is the Lotte World Tower skyscraper. It is 500 meters above the ground and one of the tallest buildings in the world (currently the fifth). There are several indoor and outdoor viewing areas (called Seoul Sky) at the top of the 123rd floor. The views are spectacular day and night and you can see 360 degrees around the city.
On the 118th floor there is the Sky Deck with the tallest glass floor in the world. As if by magic, the floor turns opaque to clear, terrifying unsuspecting visitors. Even getting to the top is fun, and the trip is via super fast double-decker elevators, with windows on one side and LED screens on the other three and on the ceiling.
Inside the tower are offices, a hotel and luxury residences. There is also an aquarium and a large shopping center. The tower houses a concert hall and a state-of-the-art 21-screen MoviePlex.
Address: Songpa-gu, Jamsil 6 (yuk) -dong, Olympic-ro, 300, Seoul