There’s nothing better than planning a vacation, especially one that you’re really excited about. You buy your tickets, pack your bags, and then the best part: you begin to daydream about your trip as you plan your itinerary, making a list of the places you must see while you’re away from home. As the list gets longer, your excitement grows, and before you know it it’s time to go!
If you’re studying the Korean language, a trip to Korea is one of the absolute best things you can do for yourself. Not only will you get an unparalleled opportunity to practice the language skills you’ve acquired through your studies — you’ll also get the opportunity to dive deep into the culture, art, restaurants, and shopping that learning Korean gives you access to.
If you’re planning a trip to Seoul or another area in Korea, making an itinerary will be no easy feat! There are innumerable South Korea tourist attractions that you could include on your list of things to do, and depending on your interests, there will be a number of places or activities that are non-negotiable.
Read on for a list of our favorite tourist attractions in Korea, and be sure to let us know if you’ve had the chance to visit any of these amazing places!
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Insadong Shopping District (Seoul)
One of the best parts about visiting Seoul (aside from all of the delicious Korean food you’ll be eating!) is the seemingly infinite number of shopping possibilities. Whether you’re on the market for clothes, beauty products, or souvenirs for you to bring back home to your loved ones, there will be shops calling your name everywhere you turn. Make sure you bring an extra suitcase with you to bring back all of the great products that you find!
While pretty much all of Seoul is packed with a variety of stores, Insadong is special — rather than your typical Korean shops, you’ll find narrow streets full of antique shops and intimate Korean tea shops that are great to stop at if you need a break from all of your shopping. Insadong is always packed with locals and tourists alike, so you’re bound to see plenty of interesting people.
Show up early to get some shopping done, and stay after you’re finished to people watch and walk through the crowds for an authentic Seoul experience.
Seoraksan National Park
While you’ll of course want to spend most of your time in Korea in amazing cities like Seoul, make sure you also dedicate enough time to exploring all of the natural beauty that South Korea has to offer. Seoraksan National Park is home to Seoraksan, the tallest mountain in the mountain range that runs through the Eastern part of the country.
There’s no bad time to visit the park — regardless of the season you visit, it’s absolutely beautiful and has plenty of amazing hikes for you to take and views for you to take in. That being said, there’s something truly amazing about visiting this national park in the autumn months, because the trees change color and bring the landscape to life. If you visit the park after the summer is over and done with, it also means you won’t have to put up with the high temperatures that last through the end of August so being outdoors will be more enjoyable.
Whether you’re a fan of hiking, taking beautiful pictures, or picnicking, Seoraksan is a South Korea tourist attraction that should be on your list!
Underwater Tomb of King Munmu
Once you’ve gotten your fill of the city, head out to the ocean to check out the Underwater Tomb of King Munmu, a must-see tourist attraction in Korea. King Munmu was a ruler that lived almost 1,500 years ago, and he is very important to Korean history because he unified three different kingdoms, merging their power into one.
Why is he buried underwater, you ask? Believe it or not, he wanted it that way! King Munmu believed that if he were buried in the sea after his death, he would return as a dragon to guard the land he helped lead towards greatness.
Whether you’re a history buff or just a really big fan of Korean seafood, make sure the tomb is on your list of things to do while you’re on your trip. While it’s beautiful to visit year round, this is another site that is particularly special in the autumn months as the weather cools down and the leaves change color. Make sure to let us know if you see any dragons during your stay!
N Seoul Tower
No trip to Seoul is complete without a trip to the famous N Seoul Tower. N Seoul Tower was the first of its kind — no other tower-like tourist attraction had been built in Korea prior to its construction. The tower sits at 236 meters tall, which means that while you’re at the top, you’re at the second highest point in the entire city.
While you’re visiting the tower, there are a variety of activities that will keep you busy, so make sure you clear several hours for the trip. You’ll initially want to check out the observation decks, which give you an unbeatable panoramic view of Seoul that makes for absolutely perfect photos. While you’re on the deck, you’ll of course want photos of the city, but don’t forget to have a friend (or stranger/new friend) snap a picture of you with the city as a backdrop to show your friends back home!
After you check out the observation deck, there’s a restaurant that is technically an observation deck in and of itself. This is a great place for a last meal in Seoul or for a date, because the view of the city as you enjoy your meal is really special. You’ll also get to see the city from all angles, because the restaurant completes one revolution per hour.
If you ask the people you meet in Seoul what you absolutely must do with your time in the city, most will include Gyeongbokgung Palace somewhere on their list (for good reason). This magnificent palace was built in 1395, so not only is it one of the most beautiful man-made structures in the world, it’s also over 600 years old!
This palace is the largest of the Five Grand Palaces, and as such, it’s a quintessential piece of Korean history. The kings of the Joseon dynasty lived in this palace, and its design and architecture reflects that — it is very clearly fit for royalty.
A little over one hundred years ago, Imperial Japan destroyed most of the palace, which was devastating for Korea. While it is still being restored to this day, it is an absolutely amazing complex that will take you hours to see in its entirety. The complex is also home to two different museums, The National Folk Museum and The National Palace Museum of Korea.
Both museums are a lot of fun to see, but if you have a finite amount of time and need to choose between the two you should spend time seeing The National Palace Museum. It’s the type of museum that is interesting for all visitors, and not just history buffs. Try to check out the palace and the museums during the week — being a tourist destination, it gets pretty crowded on the weekends.
If you’ve made it to the end of your trip and you feel like you’ve gotten your fill of shopping, nature, and history (impossible, we know!), you should consider visiting Hongdae with the time you have left in Korea.
Hongdae is the area immediately surrounding Hongik University, so if you take time to check out the clubs and restaurants in the area be prepared to take a walk on the wild side! The younger crowd in Seoul frequently parties in this area, and if you spend your evening here you’re in for a night full of excitement and intrigue.
To properly enjoy all that Hongdae has to offer, make a full day of it: spend your day perusing the sidewalk art sales that are all over this part of Seoul, and then get dinner at a funky cafe followed by a night of dancing in a neon-lit nightclub. Just make sure you make it back to your hotel in time to get a couple of hours of sleep before making your plane the next morning!
Be sure to check out these spots on your next trip to Korea, and let us know what you think in the comments below! While you’re working on your itinerary, you may want to complete our 90 Minute Challenge to make sure you know the Korean alphabet and that your language skills are as ready for your upcoming trip as you are.
What’s your favorite place to visit in Korea? Let us know in the comments below!
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