Seoul, the bustling capital of South Korea, is a mesmerizing blend of ancient traditions and modern marvels, and one of our latest destinations! From awe-inspiring palaces to bustling markets, from serene temples to neon-lit streets, Seoul offers a myriad of experiences that captivate visitors from all corners of the globe. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a shopaholic, a food lover, or an adventure seeker, this dynamic city has something to offer for everyone. In this blog post, we will delve into the best things to do in Seoul, unveiling its hidden gems and must-visit attractions that will make your trip an unforgettable experience.
Volunteering in Seoul
Whilst you may not think of South Korea as a developing country, there are many areas of poverty, and this includes the capital Seoul. House prices are extremely hight and the covid pandemic has only made the situation worse. People are struggling with rent and homelessness is a problem.
Our projects in Seoul focus on community, from homeless support, soup kitchen, rehabilitation of parks, and caring for abandoned animals.
See our projects in Seoul here: https://www.volunteering.org.au/projects/volunteer-in-south-korea
Explore the Historic Majesty of Gyeongbokgung Palace
Kickstart your Seoul adventure by immersing yourself in the grandeur of Gyeongbokgung Palace. Built in the 14th century, Gyeongbokgung Palace is the largest and most iconic palace in South Korea, a testament to the country’s rich cultural heritage. Step through its majestic gates and be transported to a bygone era. Marvel at the intricate architectural details of the palace buildings, stroll through its vast gardens, and witness the mesmerizing changing of the guard ceremony, which takes place multiple times a day.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the National Palace Museum, located within the palace grounds. The museum houses an impressive collection of artifacts and historical treasures, providing insights into the lives of the Korean royal family. From ornate royal costumes to ancient manuscripts, the museum offers a glimpse into the opulence and significance of the palace during its prime.
To enhance your experience, consider renting a hanbok, a traditional Korean costume, and wandering the palace grounds in regal attire. This allows you to immerse yourself in the ambiance of ancient Korea and capture stunning photographs that will be cherished memories of your visit to Gyeongbokgung Palace.
Wander Through the Enchanting Neighbourhood of Bukchon Hanok Village
Step back in time as you meander through the narrow alleyways of Bukchon Hanok Village. Nestled between Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace, this well-preserved traditional Korean village showcases beautifully restored hanok (traditional Korean houses). As you explore, you’ll be captivated by the harmony between the traditional architecture and the surrounding natural landscape.
Admire the unique architectural designs of the hanok, characterized by their tiled roofs, wooden beams, and tranquil courtyards. Many of these houses have been transformed into cultural centres, guesthouses, and cafes, providing visitors with a chance to experience traditional Korean customs firsthand.
Take the time to visit the Hanok Conservation Centre, where you can learn about the efforts to preserve this historic neighbourhood. The centre offers various programs and workshops that delve into traditional Korean crafts, such as calligraphy and traditional knot tying.
For art enthusiasts, Bukchon offers a plethora of galleries showcasing contemporary and traditional Korean artwork. Don’t miss the opportunity to view traditional crafts, paintings, and sculptures created by local artists, giving you a deeper appreciation for Korean artistic expression.
As you wander through Bukchon Hanok Village, you’ll encounter picturesque viewpoints offering stunning panoramas of Seoul’s cityscape juxtaposed with the traditional hanok roofs. It’s the perfect place to capture breathtaking photographs and immerse yourself in the serene atmosphere.
Experience the Vibrant Atmosphere of Myeongdong
For shopaholics and fashion enthusiasts, Myeongdong is a paradise that must not be missed during your visit to Seoul. This bustling district is known for its vibrant energy, endless shopping opportunities, and diverse street food scene. As you step into Myeongdong, you’ll be greeted by a symphony of sights, sounds, and tantalizing aromas.
Explore countless shops offering fashion, cosmetics, and accessories from both global and local brands. From high-end luxury boutiques to affordable street markets, Myeongdong caters to all budgets and tastes. It’s the perfect place to update your wardrobe or discover unique fashion pieces that reflect Seoul’s trendy and innovative style.
In addition to shopping, Myeongdong is renowned for its street food stalls that offer a mouthwatering array of delicacies. Indulge in Korean favourites such as hotteok (sweet pancakes), tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), and gimbap (seaweed-wrapped rice rolls). Don’t forget to sample the famous Korean fried chicken, which comes in a variety of Flavors, each one more delicious than the last. As you navigate the bustling streets, let the aroma of sizzling food guide you to the most tempting stalls and embrace the lively culinary culture of Seoul.
The vibrant nightlife of Myeongdong offers a range of entertainment options, including street performances, live music, and themed cafes. Marvel at talented buskers showcasing their skills or enjoy a live K-pop performance that showcases the infectious energy and passion of Korean pop music.
Immerse Yourself in Traditional Korean Culture at Insadong
Insadong is a cultural haven where you can immerse yourself in traditional Korean arts, crafts, and cuisine. Located in the heart of Seoul, this vibrant neighbourhood preserves the essence of Korea’s past while embracing contemporary creativity.
Stroll along the main street lined with art galleries, antique shops, and tea houses. Discover traditional handicrafts such as hanbok (Korean traditional clothing), ceramics, and calligraphy. The Ssamziegil shopping complex is a must-visit, renowned for its independent boutiques and creative spaces. Here, you’ll find a treasure trove of unique souvenirs and artistic creations made by talented local artisans.
Indulge your taste buds at the countless traditional Korean restaurants, teahouses, and street food stalls in Insadong. Sample a wide array of traditional snacks, such as bindaetteok (mung bean pancakes), jeon (Korean-style Savory pancakes), and sikhye (sweet rice punch). Enhance your culinary experience by sipping on fragrant Korean teas, such as green tea, citron tea, or barley tea, at a traditional teahouse.
If you’re interested in delving deeper into Korean culture, consider participating in a traditional art workshop. Learn the art of traditional calligraphy or try your hand at creating intricate Korean paper crafts. Many studios and workshops in Insadong offer immersive experiences where you can learn directly from skilled artisans and gain a deeper understanding of the rich cultural heritage of Korea. You can also take part in our week long cultural orientation!
Witness the Serenity of Jogyesa Temple
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and find tranquillity at Jogyesa Temple, the headquarters of Korean Buddhism. Located in the heart of Seoul, this serene temple offers a peaceful sanctuary amidst the busy cityscape.
Admire the stunning architecture of the temple buildings, characterized by their vibrant colours and intricate details. Jogyesa Temple is particularly enchanting during Buddha’s birthday celebrations, when the entire complex is adorned with thousands of colourful lanterns, creating a mesmerizing spectacle. Join the festivities and witness the vibrant lantern parade, traditional performances, and spiritual ceremonies that showcase the deep-rooted Buddhist traditions of Korea.
Take a moment to explore the tranquil temple grounds, which feature beautiful gardens, serene pagodas, and statues of Buddha. Experience the calming atmosphere as you stroll along the pathways lined with fragrant flowers and towering trees. Consider participating in a meditation session or engaging in a temple stay program to gain a deeper understanding of Buddhist practices and philosophy.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Dharma Hall, where Buddhist ceremonies and rituals take place. Observe monks in their vibrant robes engaging in prayers and chanting, and learn about the significance of these rituals in Korean Buddhism. The temple also hosts cultural events and exhibitions that offer insights into the history and teachings of Buddhism.
Before you leave, visit the temple’s gift shop, where you can find Buddhist artifacts, traditional crafts, and books on Buddhism. It’s an excellent place to find meaningful souvenirs and delve further into the spiritual aspects of Korean culture.
Seoul, the vibrant capital of South Korea, is a city that seamlessly blends the past and the present, offering a unique experience for travellers. From historical landmarks like Gyeongbokgung Palace and Jogyesa Temple to cultural enclaves like Bukchon Hanok Village and Insadong, there is an abundance of incredible experiences to be had in this dynamic city.
Whether you find yourself immersed in the grandeur of ancient palaces, indulging in the vibrant shopping districts, or exploring the depths of traditional Korean culture, Seoul promises to captivate and inspire. Its rich heritage, modern innovations, and warm hospitality make it a destination that leaves a lasting impression on all who visit.
So, embark on your journey to Seoul and discover the best the city has to offer. Let its captivating blend of tradition and modernity, the mouthwatering flavours of its cuisine, and the warmth of its people create memories that will stay with you long after you leave this remarkable city. Seoul awaits, ready to unveil its treasures and offer an unforgettable experience that will leave you yearning to return time and time again.