Seoul is an incredible city, brimming with mouth-watering food, exciting attractions and unforgettable shopping spots. The amount of things to do, see and eat in Seoul are endless, and unique experiences await you on every corner.
If you’re heading to Seoul for the first time, you are in for a one-of-a-kind adventure – just like the one I recently had. Not sure where to even begin? Try completing this checklist of 24 things to do in Seoul on your very first visit.
1. Explore Bukchon Hanok Village
The Bukchon Hanok Village is one of my favourite photo spots in Seoul. The traditional hanok houses found here date all the way back to the Joseon Dynasty, and people actually live in them! This picturesque residential area is nestled in the heart of the city between Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace, and from atop the hill you can see a background of modern buildings in the distance.
Getting there: Anguk Station (Subway Line 3), Exit 2.
Tip: Get a map at the Tourist Information Centre!
2. Buy cosmetics at Myeongdong
Myeongdong is a cosmetic-lover’s paradise. You can find all the popular Korean cosmetic brands in Myeongdong, from Innisfree and Etude House to Tony Moly and MISSHA. Look out for the 1+1 (buy one get one free) offers, and don’t be shy to go around collecting free samples! Before you go, check out my travel buddy Celine’s 10 tips for shopping in Myeongdong!
Confession: I went absolutely crazy here.
Getting there: Myeong-dong Station (Subway Line 4), Exit 5, 6, 7, or 8 / Euljiro Il-ga Station (Subway Line 2), Exit 5.
3. Catch the guard changing ceremony at Gyeongbokgung Palace
When visiting the Gyeongbokgung Palace, don’t miss out on observing the Royal Guard Changing Ceremony or the Gwanghwamun Gate Guard-on-Duty Performance. Either one happens every hour between 10am to 4pm at the Gyeongbokgung Palace, every day except Tuesdays.
Getting there: Gyeongbokgung Palace Station (Subway Line 3), Exit 5 / Gwanghwamun Station (Subway Line 5), Exit 2.
4. Put a gatekeeper costume on at Gyeongbokgung Palace
Right before and after the ceremonies mentioned above, visitors can don a gatekeeper’s costume at the Sumunjangcheong Building, located behind the Gwanghwamun Gate. You have no reason not to do this – the Sumungun (Gatekeeper) Costume Experience is absolutely free!
5. Buy snacks at Lotte Mart
Lotte Mart is the place to buy all the Korean snacks you can ever dream of. Bring a big bag along because you’ll need to fill it up with MarketO brownies, tteokbokki crackers, Lotte biscuit sticks and all the other delicious Korean goodies!
Want to know what else I bought there? Check out my article on the 12 must-buy food items from Lotte Mart!
Getting to Lotte Mart outlet at Seoul Station: Seoul Station (Subway Line 1 and 4), Exit 1.
6. Take the cable car up Mount Namsan
Home to the N Seoul Tower, Mount Namsan is a must-visit attraction in Seoul. While Mount Namsan is a mere 237 metres at its peak, the athletically challenged among us (like me) may not be so keen on climbing it. Fret not – there is a cable car to shuttle you there! At the top, enjoy the city views or go even higher up the N Seoul Tower’s observatory.
Getting there: From Myeong-dong Station (Subway Line 4), walk for about 15 minutes towards Pacific Hotel, and continue straight from there. The boarding point for the cable car will be visible.
7. Indulge in delicious street food
You should never go hungry in Seoul, especially when there’s plenty of yummy street food everywhere! Some must-try street food in Seoul include tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), hotteok (sweet pancakes), kimbap (seaweed rice rolls) and of course, the classic chicken skewers!
8. Have a photo-shoot at Common Ground
Common Ground is Seoul’s very own container park. It is essentially a shopping mall with trendy shops, and also a great place to just hang out or have a hipster-ish photo-shoot.
Getting there: Konkuk University Station (Subway Line 2 and Line 7). Exit 6.
9. Go shopping in an underground shopping centre
Seoul’s extensive underground facilities are really impressive, and a few times I emerged from the subway to find myself in a massive underground shopping paradise. Some of the best underground shopping spots in Seoul include the Express Terminal Underground Centre, Gangnam Underground Shopping Centre and Yeongdeungpo Underground Mall. Scour the labyrinthine alleys and you’re guaranteed to find great bargains!
10. Play with furry kitties at a cat cafe
While shopping at Myeongdong, I was lured into a cat cafe by a cat mascot. No regrets at all. JUST LOOK AT THOSE CUTE CATS! Need I say more?
Cat Cafe 고양이놀이터 Cat Playground, Myeongdong
Address: 3F, 37-14, Myeongdong 8-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
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