Thursday, June 20, 2024

Things to Do in Seoul, South Korea for First-Time Visitors

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South Korea’s capital Seoul is a bustling, vibrant city and a top tourist destination with an incredibly rich culture, food and tourist attractions. With ancient palaces, modern skyscrapers, and an array of cultural and natural wonders, it will take days—if not weeks—to explore all the things to do in Seoul. Whether you’re visiting for a day or for a few weeks, here are the best things to see, do, and eat when you’re exploring Seoul as a first-time visitor.

Discover Seoul’s Top Attractions  

From ancient palaces to blockbusters K-Pop concerts, there’s something for everyone in Seoul. Here’s a look at some of the city’s top attractions that any first-time visitor should include on their list:

Gyeongbokgung Palace: Step back in time and explore one of the four great palaces of the Joseon Dynasty. Constructed in 1395, the palace was the home of the king and other ruling royals and was destroyed by fire in antiquity. After being rebuilt in 1867, the palace remains one of Seoul’s greatest historical attractions.

Seoul National University (SNU): Travel through time and explore the history as you traverse SNU’s grand buildings that feature neo-classical and Renaissance-style architecture. It’s the country’s oldest university and a great place to explore Seoul’s rich culture.

Itaewon: If you’re looking to explore the city’s modern side, Itaewon is a great place to start. This trendy neighborhood is where you can find hip cafes, bars, and restaurants, and it’s also one of the city’s most popular shopping destinations.

Cheonggyecheon Stream: Take a stroll down the Cheonggyecheon Stream, a peaceful oasis in the heart of Seoul’s bustling downtown. Built in the 1700s and later restored to its original beauty, its stone walkway, bubbling fountains, and lush greenery make it a must-see.

Myeongdong Shopping Street: Shop till you drop at Myeongdong Shopping Street, the city’s most popular shopping district. This shopping paradise has long been a must-visit for locals and foreign visitors alike, with its international boutiques, famous street food, and fashions that attract people from all walks of life.

Lotte World: Experience the world inside the world at Lotte World, a huge indoor theme park made up of four distinct areas. Its wide range of attractions, including roller coasters, water rides, and an ice-skating rink make it one of Seoul’s top attractions.

Experience Traditional Korean Culinary Delights  

Korean cuisine is one of the most popular in the world, and Seoul is one of the best places to try traditional dishes. Here is a list of local food items that you must try on your first trip to the city:

Kimchi: Kimchi is probably the most famous traditional Korean dish. It is a side dish made from cabbage and a variety of spices, and it’s considered an essential part of the Korean diet. It is usually served with every meal and is available in a variety of forms and flavors.

Samgyeopsal: This is a thick cut of pork belly that is grilled at the table and served with various sauces, vegetables, and side dishes. Considered to be a favorite among Koreans, this savory dish is a must-try for any first-time visitor.

Bibimbap: This is one of Korea’s most popular dishes and is composed of a bowl of rice topped with sautéed vegetables, meat, and a special spicy gochujang sauce. It is also likely to be one of the spicier dishes you’ll taste in Seoul.

Bulgogi: This is a dish that made of thin slices of beef marinated in a special sauce and then grilled. It is one of the most popular Korean dishes, and it is typically served with a variety of sides such as kimchi, lettuce, and rice.

Japchae: A popular Korean side dish, japchae is a combination of thin-sliced pounded beef that is stir-fried with vegetables and noodles. It’s a great way to taste a traditional Korean dish and a favorite of both locals and tourists.

Soondubu Jigae: A traditional hot and spicy stew, soondubu jigae is made with Tofu, assorted vegetables, and a variety of spices. It is a popular dish in Seoul and can be found almost everywhere.

Explore Seoul’s Nightlife  

Seoul’s nightlife is renowned for its lively bars, clubs, and rooftop venues. Here are some of the city’s top spots for a night out on the town:

Gangnam District: If you’re looking for the hottest nightlife in Seoul, the upscale Gangnam district is the place for you. It’s home to an array of bars, clubs, and lounges, as well as high-end shopping and dining.

Hongdae District: For a more relaxed night out, head to Hongdae, the hip area known for its cafes, clubs, and trendy bars. It’s also a great spot for street performance and live music.

Itaewon: If you’re looking for an international nightlife scene, visit Itaewon, a district filled with bars and clubs catering to an international crowd.

Namsan Tower: For breathtaking views of the city, visit Namsan Tower, a towering observatory that stands atop the lush Namsan Mountain. After dark, the tower is lit up with festive lights that make it a great destination for a romantic night out.

Sincheon Stream: For a taste of Seoul’s nightlife without the clubs, head to the Sincheon Stream. This pedestrian-friendly area offers a variety of restaurants, cafes, and bars, as well as a scenic view of the city’s nightscape.

Explore Seoul’s Natural Landscapes  

Most people think of Seoul as a modern city, but Seoul is also home to some spectacular natural landscapes. Here are some of the city’s most noteworthy outdoor attractions:

Seoraksan National Park: Visit Seoraksan National Park, a stunning natural terrain featuring steep cliffs, sweeping vistas, and low-lying valleys. The park’s trails range from easy to difficult, so even first-time outdoorsmen can find something to enjoy in nature’s splendor.

Bukchon Hanok Village: Explore the traditional Korean houses known as hanok in Bukchon Hanok Village, just north of the presidential palace in downtown Seoul. It is a great place to experience traditional Korean culture and architecture.

Namsan Park: Wander Namsan Park for a glimpse of Seoul’s skyline and a peaceful respite from the pace of the city. The park is known for its breathtaking views of the city, as well as its cherry blossom trees that attract visitors each spring.

Yeouido Park: Take in the city’s skyline from Yeouido Park, the first public park in Seoul. The park offers a peaceful getaway and a great spot to enjoy outdoor activities such as walking, cycling, and picnic.

Seoul Olympic Park: Explore Seoul Olympic Park, a sprawling green oasis that was home to the 1988 Olympic Games. The park offers nature trails, a lake, and a variety of sports and recreational activities for visitors.

Take to the Skies  

No visit to Seoul is complete without a visit to the top of the Namsan Tower. Here’s the best way to go the top:

Cable Car: The most popular way to get to the Namsan Tower is to take the Namsan Cable Car. The cable car runs every 20-25 mins from the Seoul Forest Transportation Center, and it takes about 20 minutes to reach the top.

Namsan Walk: If you’re looking for a more unique way to reach the tower, take the Namsan Walk. This is a scenic route that leads up the mountain and takes about 1.5-2 hours to complete.

Hike Up: For the more adventurous traveler, there are a number of hiking trails that lead up the Namsan Mountain. This route will take you around 3 hours to complete.

Try Traditional Korean Activities  

Seoul offers a variety of activities that are sure to make your trip memorable. Here are a few traditional Korean activities that you should try when you visit the city:

Korean Cooking Classes: If you’re looking to get a taste of traditional Korean cuisine, sign up for a cooking class in Seoul. These classes will teach you how to make classic Korean dishes, such as kimchi, bulgogi, and kimbap.

Traditional Korean Spa: Experience the traditional Korean Spa, known as jjimjilbang, for a relaxing and refreshing experience. Here, you can try a variety of saunas, pools, and other treatments in a warm and inviting atmosphere.

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