Lists are always popular, so I thought I’d start by giving a list response to the question I receive most often, “When I come to Seoul, what should I see?” To be perfectly honest, this is a loaded question. In my experience, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and when traveling, that is never truer. What one may find beautiful and insightful; someone else may find boring. After all, how many times have I heard people say, “Why should I visit the Grand Canyon? It’s just a big hole in the ground!”
Therefore, when building my list, I tried to include places that represent not only Seoul, but also Korea. It’s not meant to be the definitive list, but give those visiting the capital a good place to start.
Number One: Gyeongbokgung
Why: Korea has an impressive royal history; in fact, Seoul has five “Grand Palaces” and this is the best of them all. Gyeongbok Palace offers some of the most beautiful areas for photography, has excellent tours, and changing of the guard ceremonies.
Operating Hours March to October 09:00-18:00 / November to February 09:00-17:00
* Admission is available until one hour before closing time.
* Closed Tuesdays
Admission Fees Adults (ages 19-64) 3,000 won / Group 2,400 won (10 or more people)
Youths (ages 7-18) 1,500 won / Group 1,200 won (10 or more people)
※ Age 6 and under are free.
Interpretation Services Offered
* In front of information center, Hongryemun Gate (main gate)
Tours depart in front of the Information Office inside Heungnyemun Gate. Tour takes approximately one hour.
* English: 11:00, 13:30, 15:30
* Japanese: 10:00, 12:30, 14:30
* Chinese: 10:30, 13:00, 15:00
* Reservations are required for groups of 10 or more.
For group reservations, call: +82-2-723-4283
For reservations in Chinese, call: +82-2-732-4268
1. Use exit #5 of Gyeongbokgung Station (Subway Line #3),
2. From Exit #2 of Ganghwamun Station (Subway Line #5), walk 400 meters
Number Two: Bongeunsa
Why: Roughly a third of those living in Korea report practicing Buddhism as their religion. Throughout Korea’s long history, the teachings of Buddha and the temples have played major roles. They are also some of the most beautiful places to explore. Bongeunsa is especially so, since it’s located across the street from the COEX shopping center and is home to one of the largest Maitreya (Buddha) statues.
Operating Hours 03:00~22:00
Admission Fees Free
Interpretation Services Offered English, Japanese, Chinese
1. By Subway:
- Exit #6 of Samseung Station (Seoul Subway Line 2), walk 100m toward Asem Tower, then turn left and walk through the Bongeunsa Temple trail. Beongeunsa Temple is located on the right. (10 minute walk)
- Exit #2 of Cheongdam Station (Seoul Subway Line 7), walk 150m toward Gyeonggi High School and turn right.
2. By Bus:
Take bus # 361, 680, 2225, 2411, 2413, 3411, 3415, 4411, 4428
Number Three: National Museum of Korea
Why: It’s the largest museum in Korea and home to many historical and cultural artifacts. In addition to these treasures, many rotating and special exhibits pass through these magnificent halls. Probably the best feature of the museum is that admission to most exhibits is free. Only special exhibits charge admissions, making a day at the museum affordable and enjoyable. An entire day can be spent exploring its seven floors and more than 15,000 pieces on display.
Foreign Language Interpretation Services prior reservation required:
English, French, Spanish, Italian: +82-2-2077-9685
* Subway: Ichon Station, Seoul Subway line 4 & Jungang line, Exit #2
* Bus: Take the bus #502, #0018 >> Get off at National Museum of Korea
Web: www.museum.go.kr (Korean, English, Chinese, Japanese, German, French, Russian, Vietnam, Spanish, Thailand)
Number Four: Cheonggyecheon
Why: I included this trickling stream through the heart of Seoul for a number of reasons. First, it is visually stunning during the day. As the brook cuts through the cement on all sides, it magically transports visitors away from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding vibrant city. At night, it also comes alive with music and light shows. With its five separate zones, it offers a little for everyone.
Subway Line 1: City Hall Station, Jonggak Station, Jongno 3-ga Station, Jongno 5-ga Station, Dongdaemun Station, Sinseoldong Station
Line 2: Euljiro 1-ga Station, Euljiro 3-ga Station, Euljiro 4-ga Station, Sindang Station, Sangwangsibni Station
Line 3: Jongno 3-ga Station
Line 4: Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station
Line 5: Gwanghwamun Station
Exit towards Cheonggyecheon Stream
Number Five: Han River
Why: The Han River has everything. With amazing parks that span more than 20km on either bank, biking trails, river cruises, and floating islands there is no better place to come and enjoy the beauty of Seoul. Several festivals and concerts also take place along this powerful waterway, making it one of the best places in the capital city to people watch.