Whether it is your first time in Korea, or your hundredth, a trip here wouldn’t be complete without visiting one of the attractions on this list. These top ten attractions were the most searched for on the VisitKorea website in 2019 and are perfect for adding to your tour schedule! If you only have a short amount of time, you can select a themed course of similar attractions. If your schedule allows, you can follow our three-day tour of all 10 attractions. No matter which option you choose, keep reading to find our travel tips for each attraction to make your visit much more enjoyable.
TIP) Recommended Tour Courses
1-day Theme Trip
Gyeongbokgung Palace was the main legal residence of the royal family during the Joseon dynasty. Carrying the meaning of “a place where the new king can enjoy prosperity of great blessings,” this was the first palace built during the Joseon dynasty. The palace is unique for its layout of buildings over a vast area, and is the only palace to have all four major gates still remaining to this day.
Within the palace grounds, you can see a multitude of restored buildings. Visitors will enjoy looking at the variations among buildings, each serving a unique purpose. Of course, even before entering the palace, tourists enjoy gathering at Gwanghwamun Gate to watch the Royal Guard Changing Ceremony; be sure to time your visit to include this cultural performance in your tour. Gyeongbokgung Palace also offers special evening admissions occasionally, so don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy the evening atmosphere at the palace grounds if your schedule allows.
Seoul’s landmark attraction is none other than Namsan Seoul Tower, located atop Namsan Mountain in the center of the city. The tower draws in visitors year-round, and is most famous for its nightscape view of the city. For hallyu fans, the tower is a must-visit attraction, having been featured in dramas like “My Love From the Star (2013)” and “Legend of the Blue Sea (2016).”
The tower features not only an observation deck, but also atmospheric cafés and restaurants among other facilities. Namsan Seoul Tower is a great place to spend an enjoyable evening with friends or loved ones while taking in the beautiful nightscape over a cup of coffee.
A representative attraction of Seoul, Bukchon Hanok Village shows the charm of Korea’s traditional buildings. Previously being the neighborhood where relatives of the royal family lived, the hanok here are grand, providing beautiful scenes down every lane. To make the most of your visit, we recommend finding the “Eight Scenic Spots of Bukchon.” These eight locations are each unique but share the similarity of offering breathtaking views. Your souvenir photos will turn out great with these spots in the background!
Namiseom Island became a popular tourist attraction after appearing in the Korean drama “Winter Sonata (2002).” Originally just a hilltop, Namiseom Island became an island with the construction of Cheongpyeong Dam, which elevated the surrounding water level. The island is rather small, allowing visitors to complete a full tour within half a day. The island’s effort to preserve nature and reuse recyclable items is quite noteworthy.
If you are looking for a fun place to spend a whole day, check out Lotte World! This amusement park is open all year round, filled with dynamic events and performances. Even better, the park is located in downtown Seoul and is easily accessible via public transportation. The park is largely divided into two areas: Adventure located indoors, and the outdoor section of Magic Island. Adventure includes a plethora of attractions, including a carousel, Spanish pirate ship, flume ride and more, while Magic Island has big thrill rides like the Gyro Drop and Gyro Spin. Lotte World Tower Seoul Sky and Lotte World Shopping Mall are located nearby so make sure to take a look around while you’re here.
Changdeokgung Palace was built in the early Joseon period and, of all the palaces, served as the royal residence the most. The palace boasts a majestic harmony with the surrounding nature as each building was built with careful consideration of geographical and environmental features within the area. In particular, the matching beauty of the palace’s pavilions, ponds, and rock formations is quite a scene to behold. Changdeokgung Palace’s magnificence was recognized internationally and became designated as a UNESCO World Heritage in 1997. If you’re looking for a charming and nature-friendly palace, head to Chandeokgung Palace!
A cultural hub of youthful energy, Hongdae refers to the area near Hongik Univ. Station (Seoul Subway Line 2). Streets lined with cafés, restaurants, bars, and shops are filled with youth and the region is full of exciting vibes given off by live cafés and clubs clustered within. Its influence has recently expanded to include Yeongnam-dong’s Gyeongui Line Forest Park, providing visitors with a relaxing walking path and unique shops inside the urban neighborhood. Many tourist attractions including Trick Eye Museum and KT&G Sangsangmadang are also located here.
Insa-dong is often referred to as the “Street of Traditional Korean Culture.” The main thoroughfare is lined with shops selling traditional crafts and souvenirs, while the many side-streets feature restaurants and cafés serving traditional foods and teas in hanok buildings. There is an endless number of things to see here, but Ssamzigil tops the list. The structure of the building itself is unique, built in a square shape symbolic of the Korean letter ‘ㅁ’ with a single continuing pathway slowly winding up the building from the basement level to the fourth floor. Along the path, you can see art galleries, shops selling traditional handicrafts, furniture, and more. The fourth floor opens up into a sky garden which offers a bird’s-eye-view of the streets of Insa-dong.
Gamcheon Culture Village is built in a stair-step fashion on the side of a hill in Busan, and is often called the “Santorini of Korea.” The narrow alleys hug the curves of the hillside with random twists and turns taking you further into the village, leading many to refer to the streets as a maze. The entire village is a kaleidoscope of color with bright murals decorating the houses and alleyways, with every spot being perfect for photos. The most popular is with the statue of The Little Prince, looking out over the village below. Every year in April, the village hosts a variety of culture and art programs during the Gamcheon Culture Village Alley Festival.
Busan Gamcheon Culture Village
The area of Myeong-dong is filled with unique street foods and plenty of things to see! A district of fashion and shopping, many young Koreans and international tourists seek out great deals and the latest trends. Myeong-dong stretches for approximately 1 kilometer from Myeong-dong Station (Seoul Subway Line 4) to Eulji-ro Avenue and Lotte Department Store. The streets are lined with department stores, duty free stores, and various brand shops. Even if shopping isn’t really your thing, you can still enjoy Myeong-dong by trying out the street foods and many famous restaurants in the area!
* This column was last updated in May 2020, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details before visiting.