25 Fun Things to Do in Seoul on Your Very First Visit

25 Fun Things to Do in Seoul on Your Very First Visit

From buying cosmetics at Myeongdong to café-hopping at Garosu-gil, here are the things you MUST do when in Seoul for the first time.

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 25 things to do in Seoul on your very first visit.

1. Challenge the limits of augmented reality at the Trick Eye Museum

Image credit: Trick Eye Museum

“Seeing doesn’t necessarily have to be believing”.

Indeed, that’s exactly what the Trick Eye Museum is all about! As the world’s first augmented reality museum, the Trick Eye Museum is an absolute must-do for all visitors to Seoul. Be blown away by multiple 3D optical illusion art exhibits, where you can shrink to the size of a hobbit or tower like a giant.

Ice Museum | Image credit: Trick Eye Museum

The Trick Eye Museum complex is located in Hongdae, in the heart of Seoul’s indie culture and art scene. What’s exclusive to the flagship Trick Eye Museum is that you stand to enjoy multiple museums within the same complex!! Check out the different exhibits that include Trickeye itself, Trick Adventure (virtual reality zone) Ice Museum (which is made of real ice!) and the Love Museum. Plus, use the Trick Eye app to experience the effects of augmented reality. Top off your experience by dressing up in a Hanbok (traditional Korean attire) or getting lost in the mirror maze.

Visit Trick Eye Museum’s official website and Facebook page for more information.

Getting there: Hongik Station (Subway Line 2), Exit 9. Cross the first traffic light towards SPAO and continue towards Hongik University, make a right turn at Tonymoly corner and continue into the alley until you arrive at the museum.

Tip: Charge your phones or bring along a power bank because you’ll need a smartphone to fully enjoy the AR Museum’s augmented reality effects.

2. 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!

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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!

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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! 

9. 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.

10. 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!

Also Read: 7 Shopping Places in Seoul You Might Not Know About

11. 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

12. Buy traditional souvenirs at Insadong

If you’re planning on buying traditional goods, head to Insadong! There is one main road in Insadong lined with booths, shops, galleries, teahouses and restaurants. Be sure to wander into the alleyways to discover hidden charms and unexpected gems.

Getting there: Anguk Station (Subway Line 3). Exit 6.

13. Drink tea at a teahouse

I really wanted to experience a traditional teahouse in Seoul, so I hunted down Insadong Chatjip, a hanok teahouse. The cup of homemade Jujube Tea I had was absolutely delicious! Seoul has many fantastic teahouses, so forget Starbucks and go traditional instead.

Address: 33-1, Insadong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul

14. Try the Korean fire noodle challenge

Have you seen the videos of people taking on the Korean fire noodle challenge? There’s no better time to hop on the bandwagon than when you’re in Seoul! Run off to the nearest convenience store, grab a cup of spicy noodles and prepare it in your hotel room. Kick it up a notch and gobble it down as fast as possible (or add a dash of chili powder, if you’re crazy).

15. Shop at Ewha Women’s University Shopping Street

Attention, ladies! The area near Ewha Women’s University, also known as Edae, is a heaven for shoppers. Wander where your feet take you and shop alongside fashionable Korean women. Buy clothing, cosmetics and shoes, pop by a salon for a makeover and when you’re tired, take a break in one of the many cafes around.

Getting there: Ewha Womans University Station (Subway Line 2), Exits 2 and 3.

16. Drink the famous ginseng chicken soup at Tosokchon

To have a taste of Seoul’s famous ginseng chicken soup, also known as Samgyetang, drop by Tosokchon. There might be a queue if you come during lunchtime, but the ginseng soup will definitely be worth the wait!

Address: 5, Jahamun-ro 5-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Getting there: Gyeongbokgung Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 2. Go straight about for 170 metres and turn left into Jahamun-ro 5-gil Road. Tosokchon (토속촌) is located 10 metres ahead on the left.

Also Read: How to Travel Seoul on a Budget

17. View an exhibition at Dongdaemun Design Plaza

The Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) is a new attraction in Seoul and it is a venue for events, exhibitions and shows related to the design industry. When I was there, the “Andy Warhol Live” exhibition, which features about 400 of Andy Warhol’s artworks, was ongoing. On your visit to Seoul, be sure to check whether there is anything happening in DDP that suits your interests!

Getting there: Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station (Subway Line 2, 4 and 5), Exit 1.

18. Feel like a K-Pop star in [email protected]


Image Credit: Jin-gook

If you’re a big fan of K-Pop, head to [email protected] to feel closer to your favourite stars. Not only can you buy K-pop merchandise in SMTOWN, but you can also view SM-related exhibits or watch a live performance. Be an artiste for a day at SMTOWN STUDIO, which offers vocal lessons, photo-shoots and even music video making sessions.

Getting there: Samseong Station (Subway Line 2), Exit 6.

19. Dip your feet in Cheonggyecheon Stream

Just a short walk from DDP is the Cheonggyecheon Stream, which provides an easily accessible retreat from the surrounding city. On hot summer days, locals gather under the bridges to enjoy the shade and dip their feet in the cool water. It is actually possible to walk along the length of the stream, which spans 10.9 kilometres. Along the way, you can make detours to visit the many attractions nearby.

20. Have a walk around Namdaemun Market

Located within walking distance of Myeongdong, Namdaemun Market is a traditional market that sells all sorts of things – clothing, bags, accessories, cosmetics, textiles, kitchenware, ginseng and even buns! This market is definitely worth a visit because the prices of the goods found here are very competitive.

Getting there: Hoehyeon Station (Subway Line 4), Exit 5.

21. Go café-hopping at Garosu-gil

Cafe-hopping in Seoul is an easy affair; just make your way to Garosu-gil, where you can find a large selection of cafes for your choosing. Indulge in delectable tarts from Deux Cremes and then hop over to O’Sulloc Tea House to try all sorts of green tea desserts. If you’re in Seoul in summer, then hunt down a bowl of patbingsu (Korean shaved ice dessert). Or just go without a plan and wander into any random cafe in sight – that’s alright too!

Getting there: Sinsa Station (Subway Line 3), Exit 8. Go straight for 250 metres and turn left.

22. Finish a bottle of Milkis

Milkis is that one non-alcoholic drink you must try when in Korea. This carbonated drink has one special ingredient: milk! The combination of soda and milk might sound weird, but this drink is perfect in its own right.

23. Try the Korean-style braised chicken

I could easily fill this checklist with the different foods you simply have to try in Seoul, but I shall limit it to one of my favourites: Andong Jjimdak (braised chicken of Andong). What’s there to love about this? The Andong-style chicken is soft and tender while the soy bean-based sauce is sweet and savoury. Slices of potatoes, carrots, and onions are thrown into the delicious mix, and starch noodles complete the dish. Yum!

24. Lick 32 centimetres’ worth of twist ice cream

When you see an ice cream stand in Myeongdong, don’t just walk past it! For 2000 KRW (SGD 2.40), you can get yourself a 32 cm twist ice cream cone. If you’re having this on a hot day, share it with a friend because speaking from experience, the ice cream melts really fast!

25. All-night shopping at Dongdaemun

Seoul is truly where you can shop till you drop… asleep. Dongdaemun, one of Seoul’s biggest shopping districts, comes alive at night (10pm to 5am, to be specific). There are two districts in Seoul – one for retail shopping and the other for wholesale shopping. Some of the most popular shopping malls here include Doota, Migliore, Hello apM and Good Morning City.

Getting there: Dongdaemun Stadium Station (Subway Line 2) / Dongdaemun Station (Subway Line 1 and 4)

Before you go and have the time of your life in Seoul, be sure to download the extremely useful Visit Korea app which will help you with information, navigation, travel planning and so much more!

Once you’re done with all these awesome activities on your first trip, come back a second time to complete these 24 fun things to do in Seoul on your SECOND trip! I will see you there!


After Seoul, I hopped on the K-Shuttle to discover some of the best attractions in the different provinces of Korea, and spent a few days exploring the city of BusanThe directions in this article are taken from VisitKorea, and my wonderful first trip to Korea was made possible by Korea Tourism Organisation (Singapore Office).

About Author

Dina Malyana

Dina is one who is constantly dreaming of elsewhere. Her favourite days are those spent traversing across the globe with a backpack, chasing every sunset. Find her on Instagram @dinamalyana.

CLICK TO SEE MORE ARTICLES BY Dina Malyana

Comments


Related Posts