10 Best Things to Do in South Korea
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10 Best Things to Do in South Korea

The explosion of energy at a K-pop concert can leave you hyped up and ready to embrace everything Korean. K-pop dancing, K-drama, K-magic – South Korean culture is hot right now in every way. That alone can make a journey to South Korea a must-do adventure.

But there are also innumerable other reasons to travel to Seoul – the trendy fashion districts, street food galore and the pulsating energy of the city. Plus, dotting the landscape are ancient palaces, quaint traditional Korean homes and other hidden gems. Seoul is truly a city where old meets new, creating endless opportunities for exploration.

While the activity options are vast, your time may be limited. So what are the “don’t miss” experiences? Here’s a look at ten of the best things to do while in the capital Seoul and beyond:

1.) Hike to N Seoul Tower

The N Seoul Tower is the highest point in Seoul and gives you a 360-degree panoramic view of the city. It was opened to the public in 1980 after being built as the nation’s first general radio wave tower in 1969. The tower was built on top of Namsan Mountain.

You can get to the tower by cable car, but the best way to reach it is by foot. Strap on a good pair of shoes, and walk up trails and steps through scenic Namsan Park. Depending on the path you take, it’s about a 1.5 kilometer or one mile walk. There are rest stops along the way where you can take pictures. You also can join in the tradition of buying a padlock to put on a park fence, symbolizing your love for someone.

Once you get to the tower you can enjoy restaurants, shops and an art exhibit, along with the observation decks that can be reached via elevator. At night the tower lights up in various colors, making it a spectacular centerpiece for the city.

2.) Dress in Hanbok & Visit Gyeongbokgung Palace

Another popular attraction is Gyeongbokgung Palace, which is the largest of Seoul’s five palaces built during the Joseon dynasty. It was first constructed in 1395 but was destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries. It was fully restored in the 1990s.

A visit to the palace isn’t complete without dressing up in traditional clothes called hanbok and maybe even getting your hair done. Then you can explore the expansive grounds and take in the colorfully vivid architecture in style. If you’re lucky, you’ll be at the palace during the changing of the guard ceremony. Overall, this is a must-see location while in Seoul.

3.) Eat Korean Fried Chicken & More

No trip to South Korea is complete without trying the many delectable dishes available in the country. One food you may not think about trying is Korean fried chicken. Surprisingly, it’s the #1 delivery item in Korea, so you need to kick back and get your hands greasy.

Of course, that’s not all you’ll want to savor while you’re in the country. Another popular choice is kimchi that’s made from a variety of fermented vegetables. There are about 250 different types of kimchi to choose from. Likewise, you’ll see options like mung bean pancakes throughout the country.

For drinks, coffee culture is quite important in the country, and flavored milk like banana milk is a popular menu item. For dessert, dig into some delicious tofu gelato.

4.) Shop Gwangjang Market

Speaking of food, the Gwangjang Market is one of the best places to go for authentic Korean street food. It was featured on Netflix’s Street Food series, and is one of the oldest and largest traditional markets in South Korea. Tens of thousands of people visit the market in Seoul each day.

In the booths you can find food ranging from fruits and vegetables to meat and bread. There are also many clothing and textile options, along with souvenirs.

This a great spot to try mung bean pancakes or other popular options like gimbap, which has ingredients such as vegetables and meat rolled in seaweed.

5.) Take a K-Pop Dance Class

Back to K-Pop, could there be a better place to take a K-pop dance class? You can put on some casual attire and learn famous K-pop moves in numerous studios in South Korea. Then you can dance along with your favorite group the next time you see a performance.

6.) Sing Your Heart Out at a Noraebang

To be a true K-pop star you of course have to be able to sing as well. To practice your vocals you can head to a singing room called a noraebang. One big advantage of the Korean version of karaoke is that the rooms are private. So if you make a vocal blunder, your audience will be limited – in most cases to just your friends or family.

7.) Walk Along the Han River

The Han River divides the north and south parts of the city of Seoul and snakes across 307 miles in the northern part of the country. It serves as a water source for more than 12 million South Koreans. The river is lined with walkways, parks and restaurants. The river is rather wide in the city – more than a half mile and played an important part in the history as various kingdoms fought to control it.

The river is a great spot to search for wildlife, including catfish and migratory birds. Along the river there are many locations where you can take a leisurely stroll, and get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

8.) Go Biking

South Korea has plenty of public bike rentals and miles of biking paths. Hopping on a bike is a perfect way to find hidden gems in Seoul and other parts of the country that may be off the beaten track. South Korea has become a bicycle-touring destination since it has paths nationwide for cyclists of all different ability levels. When the weather is nice, it’s a fantastic way to see the country from another angle.

9.) Visit a Traditional Hanok Village

A hanok village is one with traditional Korean architecture and culture. One of the most visited ones is Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul that’s surrounded by Gyeongbokgung Palace. Many of these hanok communities offer opportunities to immerse yourself in the village life by featuring cultural centers and tea houses. These charming communities will make you feel at home while you explore what makes South Korea unique as a country.

10.) Learn Some Korean

If you love languages, Korean is a fun one to learn. The Korean language was created by King Sejong the Great in 1443 to increase literacy in Korea. It’s a phonetic language based on the Korean alphabet that’s called Hangul. South Korea follows the Seoul dialect, which differs from the dialect in North Korea.

The language has 14 consonants (ㄱ ㄴ ㄷ ㄹ ㅁ ㅂ ㅅ ㅇ ㅈ ㅊ ㅋ ㅌ ㅍ ㅎ) and 10 vowels (ㅏ ㅑ ㅓ ㅕ ㅗ ㅛ ㅜ ㅠ ㅡ ㅣ).

Hangul groups syllables into blocks. The blocks are written left to right. Within each block you read the symbols left to right top to bottom. You’ll get the hang of it after a quick lesson. Then you can try your new skills as you explore South Korea!

This is just a taste of what you can experience while traveling in South Korea. To try all these activities, students ages 14-18 can register for the Seoul Searching: Modern Korea program. Designed by our Korean team, this program offers the best South Korea has to offer. Contact us for more details.

About the Author

Mary Rogelstad

Lead Editor

Mary is the Lead Editor at Rustic Pathways. She has been a writer and editor for nearly 20 years. Prior to covering student travel, Mary created content for the music education company J.W. Pepper & Son. She also was a writer and producer at CNN International and a communications director for a social service agency and a K-12 private school.