Ever wondered which attractions got the most buzz in 2021? For those who are curious, VisitKorea has ranked the top ten most-searched attractions in order. This year’s most searched attractions revealed to be scattered across the regions of Seoul, Gyeonggi-do, Busan, and Jeju Island. These attractions are not only great on their own, but can also be organized into a perfect course-itinerary due to their inclusion of Korea’s rich history, tradition, shopping, nature, and fascinating nightscape. If your schedule allows, you can follow our tour courses. 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
• Traditional: Gyeongbokgung Palace or Changdeokgung Palace and Huwon → Insa-dong → Bukchon Hanok Village
• Healing: Nami Island or Hwadam Botanic Garden
• City: Namsan Seoul Tower or Busan Gamcheon Culture Village
• Nature: Jeollabuk-do Naejangsan National Park or Jeju Manjanggul Cave
• Day 1: Changdeokgung Palace and Huwon → Gyeongbokgung Palace → Insa-dong → Bukchon Hanok Village → Namsan Seoul Tower
• Day 2: Nami Island or Hwadam Botanic Garden
• Day 3: Jeollabuk-do Naejangsan National Park, Jeju Manjanggul Cave, or Busan Gamcheon Culture Village
No. 1 – Nami Island
Nami Island became a popular tourist attraction after appearing in the Korean drama “Winter Sonata (2002).” Originally just a hilltop, Nami Island became an island with the construction of Cheongpyeong Dam, which elevated the surrounding water level. The island is accessible by a boat and operated under the name “Naminara Republic” as a tourist attraction. Although it offers much to see, including the Metasequoia Lane, maple forest, and Winter Sonata statue, the island is rather small, allowing visitors to complete a full tour within half a day. If you want to add some adventure to your trip, take a ride on a zip wire, sky bicycle, UNICEF share train, or the motor boat.
- Address: 1, Namiseom-gil, Chuncheon-si, Gangwon-do (강원도 춘천시 남산면 남이섬길 1)
- Directions (Nami Island Dock): Take a taxi for approx. 5 min from Gapyeong Station (Gyeongchun Line)
* Nami Island is accessible via ferry from Nami Island Dock (open all year round)
- Operating hours (ferry): 07:30-21:30
* Intervals: 10~20-minute intervals; 30-minute intervals before 09:00 and after 18:00
- Admission: Adults 16,000 won / Teenagers & senior citizens 13,000 won / Children 10,000 won
* Adults (ages 19-69) / Teenagers (ages 13-18) / Senior citizens (ages 70 & older) / Children (ages 3-12)
* Admission includes round-trip ferry ticket.
- TIP) Souvenir photo spots: The best places to visit on Nami Island are Metasequoia Lane and Ginkgo Tree Lane. Frequently featured in dramas and movies, these two walking paths are at the top of the list when visiting Nami Island.
- Website: namisum.com (Korean, English)
- Nearby attractions: Jarasum Island, Jade Garden, Gangchon Rail Park, Gyeonggang Rail Bike, Nine Forest Ehwawon
No.2 – Gyeongbokgung Palace
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 every spring and fall, so don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy the evening atmosphere at the palace grounds if your schedule allows.
- Address: 161, Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 사직로 161)
- Directions: Walk for approx. 5 min from Gyeongbokgung Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 5
- Operating hours: November-February 09:00-17:00 / March-May, September-October 09:00-18:00 / June-August 09:00-18:30 (Last admission 1 hour before closing)
* Closed Tuesdays
- Admission: Adults 3,000 won / Children 1,500 won
* Adults (ages 19-64) / Children (ages 7-18)
* Free admission: Preschoolers (ages 6 & younger), senior citizens (ages 65 & older), visitors wearing hanbok, all visitors on last Wednesday of each month
- TIP) Where did BTS perform?: In 2020, BTS featured in an American television show “The Tonight Show” on NBC with a live performance at Geunjeongjeon Hall and Gyeonghoeru Pavilion in Gyeongbokgung Palace. They performed “Mikrokosmos” at Gyeongheoru Pavilion and “IDOL” in front of Geunjeongjeon Hall. Don’t forget to take a souvenir photo here if you’re an ARMY.
- Website: www.royalpalace.go.kr (Korean, English)
- Nearby attractions: Gwanghwamun Gate, Bukchon Hanok Village, Deoksugung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace, Insa-dong, Unhyeongung Royal Residence, Cheonggye Plaza, Jongmyo Shrine
No. 3 – Namsan Seoul Tower
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 popular for its love locks left by couples who bid eternal love. The tower also serves as a great place to spend an enjoyable evening with friends or loved ones while taking in the beautiful nightscape over a cup of coffee.
Namsan Seoul Tower
- Address: 105, Namsangongwon-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 용산구 남산공원길 105)
- Directions: Refer to the official website
- Operating hours (observatory): Weekdays 12:00-21:00 / Weekends 11:00-22:00 (Last admission is 30 min before closing)
- Admission (observatory): Adults 16,000 won / Children & senior citizens 11,000 won
* Adults (ages 13-64) / Children (ages 3-12) / Senior citizens (ages 65 & older)
- TIP) The secret of Namsan Seoul Tower’s color: The light on the pillar of Namsan Seoul Tower is not random; the light changes to reflect the concentration of micro dust in the air. A blue light indicates clear air with little dust, green indicates an average amount of dust, while a red light signals an extreme amount of micro dust in the atmosphere.
www.seoultower.co.kr (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
www.nseoultower.com (Korean, English)
- Nearby attractions: Namsangol Hanok Village, Myeong-dong, Sungnyemun Gate, Namsan Dulle-gil Trail, Namsan Park
No. 4 – Hwadam Botanic Garden
Hwadam Botanic Park is located next to Konjiam Resort, a popular ski resort in Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do. The park spans over 165,000 ㎡ and has roughly 4,300 floras throughout that change color according to the seasons. Visitors can admire the park’s beauty in comfort on a monorail that takes passengers all the way up to the park’s hilltop. Visitors who prefer to take a closer look at their own pace can walk along a 5-kilometer deck trail and may even get a sneak peak of the forest animals like squirrels and Korean salamander with some luck. After taking a look around the park, stop by a hanok jumak (traditional Korean tavern) by the pond for delicious Korean food.
Hwadam Botanic Park
- Address: 278-1, Docheokwit-ro, Gwangju-si, Gyeonggi-do (경기도 광주시 도척면 도척윗로 278-1)
- Directions: Take a taxi for approx. 10 min from Gonjiam Station (Gyeonggang Line) to Hwadam Botanic Park
- Operating hours: Weekdays 09:00-18:00 / Weekends 08:30-18:00 (Last admission 16:30)
* Operating hours subject to change depending on season; refer to website before visiting.
* Closed for the winter from November 29, 2021; refer to the website for reopening announcement
- Spring-Fall: Adults 10,000 won / Teenagers & senior citizens 8,000 won / Children 6,000 won (monorail charged separately)
- Winter: Adults, teenagers, & senior citizens 10,000 won / Children 8,000 won (monorail included)
* Monorail fare (roundtrip): Adults, teenagers, & senior citizens 8,000 won / Children 6,000 won
* To prevent the spread of COVID-19, Hwadam Botanic Park requires visitors to book tickets in advance online via official website before visiting (sign-up not required).
- TIP) Fireflies near Seoul: Fireflies have become a rare sight due to air pollution, even in Korea. Luckily, Hwadam Botanic Park has created a firefly-friendly environment that allow fireflies to light up the night sky every summer.
- Website: www.hwadamsup.com (Korean, English)
- Nearby attractions: Konjiam Resort
No. 5 – Bukchon Hanok Village
A representative attraction of Seoul, Bukchon Hanok Village shows the charm of Korea’s traditional buildings. A neighborhood where high government officials and relatives of the royal family lived in the Joseon period, elegant traditional hanok buildings are neatly clustered together 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. You can also take a look inside a 100-year-old hanok at Baek Inje House for free! Take a souvenir photo of yourself in a setting of the past.
Bukchon Hanok Village
- Address: 37, Gyedong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 계동길 37 북촌한옥마을)
- Directions: Walk for approx. 5 min from Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 2
- Operating hours (Baek Inje House): 10:00-18:00 (Last admission is 30 min before closing)
* Closed Mondays
- TIP) Respectful touring: Unlike Namsangol Hanok Village, Bukchon is a private neighborhood where people actually live. Therefore, it is important to respect the residents by not shouting or making loud noises.
- Website: hanok.seoul.go.kr (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
- Nearby attractions: Changgyeonggung Palace, Baek In-je House, Insa-dong, Changdeokgung Palace, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Unhyeongung Royal Residence
No. 6 – Insa-dong
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.
- Address: Area of 62, Insadong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 인사동길 62)
- Directions: Walk for approx. 5 min from Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 6
- TIP) Experience Korean culture in Insa-dong: In addition to things to see, Insa-dong offers enjoyable cultural experiences. Visitors wanting to try on hanbok can visit Insa-dong PR Center, and we recommend visiting Museum Kimchikan for tourists interested in Korea’s food culture.
- Nearby attractions: Changgyeonggung Palace, Cheonggye Plaza, Ikseon-dong, Bosingak Pavilion, Tapgol Park
No. 7 – Manjanggul Lava Tube
Manjanggul Lava Tube is part of the Geomunoreum Lava Tube system, a UNESCO World Heritage on Jeju Island. It is speculated to be formed naturally 8,000-10,000 years ago. The lava tube reaches 7.4 kilometers in length and 25 meters in height, and maintains its natural form and geographical features even to this day. Civilians only have access up to 1 kilometer from the cave’s 2nd Entrance, which takes approximately 40 minutes to explore. Oddly shaped lava rocks and columns created by lavas can be seen inside the lava tube, and the 7.6-meter tall lava column sitting at the end of the civilian access point is known to be the largest in the world.
Mangjanggul Lava Tube
- Address: 182, Manjanggul-gil, Jeju-si, Jeju Island (제주특별자치도 제주시 구좌읍 만장굴길 182)
- Directions: Take Express Bus No. 101 from Jeju International Airport Bus Platform 2 to Gimnyeong Transit (Gimnyeong Elementary School) Bus Stop and transfer to Bus No. 711-2 (Jongdalhang Port Bound). Get off at Manjanggul Lava Tube Bus Stop and walk for approx. 1 min
- Operating hours: 09:00-18:00 (Last admission 17:00)
* Closed on first Wednesday of every month
- Admission: Adults 4,000 won / Teenagers 2,000 won / Children 2,000 won
* Adults (ages 24-64) / Teenagers (ages 12-23) / Children (ages 6-11)
- Website: www.jeju.go.kr (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
- TIP! Take caution: The lava tube is dark inside so watch your steps. Entering the cave wearing high-heels is prohibited for safety reasons. Also, be careful not to get your shoes wet from water puddles and prepare an extra jacket as it can be chilly inside the cave even in summer.
- Nearby attractions: Gimnyeong Maze Park, Gimnyeongsagul Cave, Yongcheongdonggul Cave, Bijarim Forest
No. 8 – Busan Gamcheon Culture Village
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 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. If you want to really get to know the village, stop by the information center to receive a stamp map and collect stamps at designated attractions.
Busan Gamcheon Culture Village
- Address: Area of 203, Gamnae2-ro, Saha-gu, Busan (부산광역시 사하구 감내2로 203 일대)
- Directions: Walk for approx. 20 min from Toseong Station (Busan Subway Line 1), Exit 10
- Operating hours (Gamcheon Culture Village Information Center): March-October 09:00-18:00 / November-February 09:00-17:00
- TIP) Must-see scenery: Gamcheon Culture Village is famous for its charming scenery after sunset when the neighborhood lights up. We recommend arriving at the village no later than before sunset and admiring the nightscape after sun down.
- TIP) Related content: Starry Night in Busan: Must-see Night Attractions, Part 1
- Website: www.gamcheon.or.kr (Korean, translation available)
- Nearby attractions: Jangnimpogu Wharf, Dadaepo Beach and Nakjo Fountain of Dreams, Eulsukdo Eco-Park, Seunghaksan Silvergrass Colony, Nakdonggang Amisan Observatory
No. 9 – Naejangsan National Park
Naejangsan National Park boasts gorgeous fall foliage, making it one of the best fall destinations in Korea. In particular, the maple tunnel connecting the main entrance Iljumun Gate to Naejangsa Temple and 8.4-kilometer fall foliage road that crosses national roads to the park’s Information Center provide the perfect setting for souvenir photos. In addition to its reputation as a fall destination, the mountain is also remarkable in spring with its cherry blossom road, as well as in winter when Naejangsa Temple and Baegyangsa Temple turn into a picturesque winter wonder land.
Naejangsan National Park
- Address (cable car): Area of 1179-11, Naejangsan-ro, Jeongeup-si, Jeollabuk-do (전라북도 정읍시 내장산로 1179-11 일대)
1. Take Bus No. 171 from Jeongeup Intercity Bus Terminal to Naejang Terminal Service Area Bus Stop and walk for approx. 3 km to Naejangsan National Park Cable Car Entrance.
2. Take KTX Honam Line to Jeongeup Station, then take Bus No. 171 to Naejang Terminal Service Area Bus Stop and walk for approx. 3 km to Naejangsan National Park Cable Car Entrance.
- Tip) Get to the park’s observatory conveniently: If you want to see the mountain vista from the mountain top but save time and energy, use the cable car for your convenience!
* Cable Car operating hours: December-February 09:00-17:00 / March-November 09:00-17:30
* Cable car fare: Adults 4,000 won / Middle & high school students 2,000 won / Elementary School Students 1,000 won
- Website: www.knps.or.kr (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
- Nearby attractions: Naejangsa Temple, Geumseongyegok Valley, Pihyangjeong Pavilion, Jeongeupsa Culture Park, Naejangsan Sculpture Park, Baegyangsa Temple
No. 10 – Changdeokgung Palace and Huwon
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. The palace annually hosts Moonlight Tour, a popular event that allows visitors to see palace’s charming beauty at night.
- Address: 99, Yulgok-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 율곡로 99)
- Directions: Walk for approx. 5 min from Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 3
- Operating hours
Palace: February-May, September-October 09:00-18:00 / June-August 09:00-18:30 / November-January 09:00-17:30 (Last admission 1 hour before closing)
Huwon (Secret Garden): March-May, September-October 10:00-17:30 / June-August 10:00-18:00 / February & November 10:00-17:00 / December-January 10:00-16:30 (Tickets available until 1 hr 30 min before closing; online reservation advised)
* Closed Mondays
Palace: Adults 3,000 won / Children 1,500 won
Huwon (Secret garden) tour: Adults & senior citizens 5,000 won / Children 2,500 won
* Free admission to palace: Preschoolers, senior citizens, visitors wearing hanbok, last Wednesday of every month
* Free admission to Huwon tour: Preschoolers
* Visitors eligible for free admission must receive a free admission ticket after showing their valid identification card or passport
* Adults (ages 19-65) / Children (ages 7-18) / Senior citizens (ages 65 & older) / Preschoolers (ages 6 & younger)
- TIP) Huwon reservations: Huwon is open for limited time only and requires a separate admission ticket. The garden accepts walk-in visitors on a first-come, first-served basis and therefore advance reservation is advised. Guided tours in English, Chinese, and Japanese for international visitors are available; check the official website for details.
- Website: www.cdg.go.kr (Korean, English)
* Reservations can be made at the website above.
- Nearby attractions: Changgyeonggung Palace, Jongmyo Shrine, Bukchon Hanok Village, Naksan Park, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Unhyeongung Royal Residence, Insa-dong, Cheonggye Plaza
- 1330 Korea Travel Hotline: +82-2-1330 (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Vietnamese, Thai, Malay)
* This column was last updated in December 2021 and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details before visiting.