Our insider shares exactly what to do in Seoul, South Korea. Take notes.
“Seoul is my favourite city. But of course, this is a biased statement considering it was my home for 4 years. It’s really not easy to describe the awesomeness of Korea’s capital city, but I’ll give it a try… So what does Seoul have to offer besides its historic palaces, traditional foods, and modern technology? While living like a local during my time as an English teacher in Korea, I definitely discovered what to do in Seoul.” – Sonya Sandhu
1. What to do in Seoul: Check Out The DVD Rooms
This is the coolest concept ever, especially if you’re a movie buff like me. You go in, pick from a range of movies (both English and Korean with subtitles), and watch it in a private room complete with big screen and comfy sofa. You can even bring in your own food. DVD rooms are known to be popular among young couples because of their privacy…but they’re also fun to visit with friends (and they’re cheap – $12 to $16 for two people).
2. What to do in Seoul: Go For A City Hike
Seoul is a city within a valley, so if you’re craving nature, hike one of its many peaks. There are small hikes in the middle of the city from where you get a great view (like Mt. Inwangsan, Mt. Ansan, and Mt. Samseongsan). Mt. Bukhansan is the highest peak in Seoul and you definitely feel it! My favourite mountain is Mt. Seoraksan in the north of the city. It gets a little tough at times, but the scenery is great, there’s a serene temple along the way, and you might even get a chance to see the rare leopard cat!
3. What to do in Seoul: Take A Stroll Through Hongdae
This is my favourite part of Seoul by far. Forget Gangnam Style, Hongdae is where it’s at. This area is named after Hongik University and you’ll see creative students performing in the park nearby. It’s a maze of colourful cafés, remarkable restaurants, busy bars, and stylish stores. Whether you want to chill with a beer on the street, party at a popular club, or get a trendy haircut from Johnny at Hair & Joy, go to Hongdae. P.S. Some of the best pizza I’ve had is in Hongdae, at Monster Pizza. Great for after a night out!
4. What to do in Seoul: Discover The Han River
In warm weather, the river that runs through Seoul is a great place for activities. Rent bikes for cheap and ride along the Han. Go day-camping at Nanji Campground with your friends (many Koreans and their families love doing this). Sit on the banks of the river and order fried chicken delivered to your spot (yes, you read that right). Or brave the crowd and attend an event, like the Seoul International Fireworks Festival.
5. What to do in Seoul: Relax At A Korean Spa (jjimjilbang)
After all the hiking, eating, and walking you do in the city, what better way to relax than by going to the spa? The Korean spa (jjimjilbang) is not exactly what you think of when you hear ‘spa’. The more common word to describe it is actually ‘sauna’, which, again doesn’t really refer to the traditional sense of the term. Basically, the Korean spa has a section with hot tubs, steam rooms, and massages all separated by gender (it’s a ‘no-clothing’ policy, if you know what I mean). Once you get over the awkwardness of walking around in your birthday suit with a bunch of strangers, the experience is quite refreshing and calming. There are green tea tubs, ginseng tubs, cold pools… And it’s way more affordable than a spa back home ($6 to $12). You are provided clothes for a unisex area that has therapeutic rooms like an ice room, a salt room, a jade room, etc. Koreans often use jjimjilbang as a place to stay the night, which is also an option!
Bonus Tip: Explore by Scooter!
One more thing: I think the most fun way to explore the city if you have a chance is by scooter. You have to be careful when you drive considering Seoul is a very busy metropolis, but you can also cut across traffic easier with a bike. Just hop on, pick a direction, and go get lost (don’t forget your helmet)!
I lived abroad in South Korea and Cambodia for 5 years and loved every minute of it! Now, I want to share what these amazing, undiscovered countries have to offer with other travelers. So, my partner and I created an adventure travel company, Building Adventure Minds Travels (BAMtravels) where we guide others around both destinations. We travel sustainably and support the local community for an adventure you won’t find anywhere else.