South Korea has something for everyone! Perhaps most famous for the high-tech capital city Seoul and the fact that it shares one of the world’s most heavily militarized borders with North Korea. There are so many amazing things to experience in South Korea, from admiring the cherry trees (that are everywhere) to exploring small coastal fishing villages and ancient Buddhist temples. So here is what we consider to be the top things to do in South Korea, worthy of being on your east Asia Bucket List anyway.
Here’s our pick of the top things to do in South Korea
Jogyesa Buddhist Temple
As the main temple as well as the district head temple of Jogye order in Seoul, Jogyesa Temple is the center of Korean Buddhism. Since 1936, Jogyesa is the chief temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. This Zen Buddhist temple is located in the urban business district of Seoul and usually swarming with tourists and locals passing in and out of its doors. Don’t miss the 500 year old ancient trees lining the compound.
The Olympic Park
Located in Songpa-gu, Bangi-dong, Olympic Park, also known as Olpark, was originally built for the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games but these days it is where Seoulites come to relax and unwind. It also has a modern art gallery and a museum on the history of the Baekje Dynasty. The remains of Mongchon Fortress, a fort surrounded by a moat, constructed in the 3rd century AD during Baekje dynasty also stands tall in the park. The two nearest subway stations are Mongchontoseong and Olympic Park.
Head to the main street in Insa-dong, which is packed with teahouses and Korean eateries, plus shops selling traditional goods like pottery, tea and handmade arts and crafts. Leafy Tapgol Park has a massive stone pagoda. Ssamziegil complex has cute little cafes and mural-lined stairwells leading to a roof terrace. Insadong is where you can get a glimpse of the ancient Korean culture and its artistry. If you want to take home some souvenirs from the country, Insadong is the perfect place to buy them.
Seoul is sometimes referred to as the City of Palaces with five located in the capital city Seoul. Gyeongbukgung is by far the grandest. Prepare to spend half a day to cover the entire cultural park and museum. A world heritage site and considered the most beautiful palace is the Changdeokgung. The other three are Cheonggyeonggung, Deoksugung, and Gyeonhuigung.
Visit the DMZ
A visit to South Korea is not complete without paying a visit to the place that separates North Korea from South Korea. The Demilitarized zone (DMZ), region on the Korean peninsula that separates North Korea from South Korea is heavily guarded and a visit to this uptight frontier is an unforgettable experience. Some tour operators offer trips to the Demilitarized Zone, a few even take you inside the well-known ‘Blue Room’ which is the only place where you are in North and South Korea at the same time.
Visit the National Museum of Korea
The National Museum of Korea is the flagship museum of Korean history and art in South Korea and is the cultural organization that represents Korea. The National Museum of Korea is the ninth-largest art museum in the world by gallery space (27,090 square meters). Visit this vast and impressive building that showcases Korea’s past from pre-history to the Korean Empire Period (1897-1910). If you ‘re short on time, make sure that you visit the Joseon Dynasty Gallery, Golden Treasures from The Great Tomb of Hwangham and the Baekje Incense Burner depicting the artistry of the 6th and 7th century.
The Seoul Norimadang is a performance venue for Korean folk art at Seokchon Lake Park. At the open-air theatre of Norimadang, you can experience Korean culture at its finest. Nori Madang is a blend of traditional music and dance and colorfully displays the Korean culture to those who do not have time to explore it more deeply.
YTN Seoul Tower aka N Seoul Tower
Also known as the Namsan Tower or Seoul Tower, is a communication and observation tower located on Namsan Mountain in central Seoul, South Korea. At 774 ft high, this is the second highest point in Seoul and an opportunity to get an incredible view over the entire city. You can reach the tower via a cable car or by hiking up the mountain. There’s museums, stores, and restaurants here but don’t miss the locks of love where couples hang padlocks symbolizing their love and devotion to each other.
This refreshing stream is a popular hangout spot in Seoul. With beautiful landscapes, waterfalls, footbridges and public artwork locals come to escape the city’s hustle and bustle. Sit under one of the twenty-two bridges or dip your feet in the cool water. It’s also a good way to avoid traffic when traveling around downtown as you pass by the highlights of the city like the Dongdaemun, Gwangjang Market and Insadong.
Noryangjin Fish Market
Noryangjin is the largest fish market in South Korea. All the fish used in restaurants, shops and by the general public comes from this market. Originally built in 1927 but relocated in 1971 to its current destination. It was further renovated in 2016, and now it is a multi-story complex with about 700 stalls and a large number of restaurants providing the perfect photo opportunity for fish and selfie lovers.
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Other than these top things to do in South Korea, there is so much more to see and experience in this amazing country. Plan ahead so that you can take your time exploring and be prepared to be flexible. Sometimes travelers you meet along the way will have the best suggestions for undiscovered gems and awesome things to to do.
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