The absolute first site to visit when you’re in Seoul is the Gyeongbokgung Palace, arguably the most beautiful and grandest of the five palaces in the city. Built in 1395, it was the main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty, but the premises were destroyed by fires during the Japanese invasions in 1592. However, all 7,700 rooms in the palace were later restored under the leadership of Heungseon Daewongun. Translated in English as the “Palace of Shining Happiness,” it remains the largest of the five palaces. Walk around the enormous area to see stunning architecture and lovely gardens and ponds. While you’re there, witness the traditional Royal Guard Changing Ceremony, a rare and traditional scene filled with colorful and splendid costumes.
Bukchon Hanok Village
This may be South Korea’s best-kept secret. Just west of Gyeongbokgung is Bukchon Hanok Village - home to the largest cluster of hanoks, or traditional Korean wooden houses. Each is designed to maintain balance with its surrounding topography, with dark, curved roofs and decorative outer walls. The village boasts 600 years of history – providing visitors opportunities to experience, learn, and immerse themselves in traditional Korean culture. Enjoy the unique structural layouts, charming narrow streets, and stunning view of the modern city skyline. Stop by a traditional teahouse to try citron or omija “five-flavor berry” tea while you’re there, too!
N Seoul Tower
Don’t miss the N Seoul Tower! It’s the second highest point in the city, sitting on top of the 1,574 feet tall Namsan Mountain. The tower was first established as a broadcast tower, but since its opening in 1980, it has become a much-loved Seoul landmark. Ride the Namsan cable car up the mountain, walk up the tower, and enter the observation deck for stunning panoramic views of the city. There are also plenty of cultural spaces for performances, art and history exhibits, and restaurants on different floors. Even when you’re walking through the Seoul streets at night, you can see the multi-colored digital art projected onto the tower for miles.
This isn’t your ordinary amusement park, this is Lotte World! Lotte World is the world’s largest indoor theme park, filled with thrilling rides and various performances, parades, and festivals. It also has an outdoor amusement park called “Magic Island”, an artificial island inside a lake linked by a monorail, a large shopping mall, sport facilities, movie theaters, and a Korean folk museum. Lotte World is a top-notch entertainment hub where you will never be bored.
There’s no better place to go to help clear your mind than this 3.6-mile stream of natural beauty that runs through downtown Seoul. It was created as part of an urban renewal project to restore a neglected stream from the Joseon Dynasty. The stream is more than 15 feet below street level, and as you walk along it, you pass small waterfalls and 22 beautiful bridges, including the Narae Bridge, representing a butterfly in flight, and Gwanggyo Bridge, symbolizing the harmony of the past and future. There are also plenty of major attractions to stop at along the way.