In our (not so) humble opinion, Seoul is one of the most underrated capital cities in the world. When you think of South Korea, you may think of cheesy K-pop, wonderfully ridiculous K-drama, shopping, and skyscrapers. But there’s another side to South Korea, one that involves palaces, enchanting side streets, gorgeous national parks, traditional villages, and delicious food markets.
With so many exciting things to do in Seoul, it really is a glorious city! We love exploring a city and visiting the iconic hotspots, but we’re also keen on discovering the hidden gems and off-the-beaten track experiences that a place has to offer! Seoul is the perfect city for those with a hunger for discovery. And speaking of hunger, with so many culinary delights and delicious dishes to try, you better bring an appetite to Seoul and be prepared to eat your way around the city! We’re here to show you the best things to do (and the best things to eat) in Seoul.
What to eat in Seoul:
1. Order Some Chimaek aka Chicken-Beer To Go
Finger lickin’ chicken 📷@gleam59
Nighttime views from Banpodaegyo Bridge!
Chimaek is a glorious Korean dish consisting of man’s favorite ingredients – chicken and beer. Koreans have mastered the marriage of chicken and beer, frying the chicken to perfection and serving it up with an ice cold bev. But Hostelworld, where can I purchase these wonderful delights you speak of? Well my friends, that is the beauty of food delivery in Korea! In Seoul, you can have Chimaek delivered to you anytime, anywhere! You don’t even need to provide an address, just explain where you are to the delivery guy and soon enough a steaming box of chicken and chilled beer will be on it’s way to you! Talk about eggcelent service!
Our fave spot to enjoy a Chimaek delivery is Banpodaegyo Bridge Viewpoint. Watch the incredible rainbow fountain show while you munch on that deep-fried goodness.
2. Eat Korean BBQ (duh!)
Delicious meat at Korean BBQ
Korean BBQ, or KBBQ for the lazy readers, is obviously one of the best things to eat in Seoul. Now a popular restaurant fade around the world, authentic Korean BBQ is a little different to what you might expect at home. When we say there are lots of ways to do Korean BBQ in Seoul, we’re not kidding – take a deep breath before you read this out... You can order thick meat, thin meat, minced meat, pork, beef, you can grill it yourself, someone can do it for you, you can get it on a grill, or get it on a stove. The options are endless! No matter how you do your KBBQ experience in Seoul, all of the side dishes are free, and you can get endless refills! Just try and go with your older friends as in Korean it’s customary for the oldest person to foot the bill!
3. Try traditional home-style Korean food
There’s no such thing as too much food! 📷@Saecham Gwangjuri
Seoul locals are keen to point out that Korean BBQ is not the only traditional cuisine! For authentic Korean cooking head to Saecham Gwangjuri, where they prepare home-style Korean food. Since the entrance is a little hidden, dining here makes you feel like you’re someone in the know! We recommend ordering doenjang jjigae – a traditional dinner of soybean paste stew, bulgogi and side dishes.
4. Sample ALL of the street food
Grilled cheese lobster tail YES PLEASE 📷@karend7
Tteokbokki looking tasty
Seoul has many delicious street foods. You can find them at markets like Namdaemun market – the largest market in Korea, or Gwanjang market. Our top three Korean street food must-trys are hotteok, bindatteok and tteokbokki. Hotteok is a delicious sweet pancake with brown sugar, honey, pine nuts, and cinnamon. Bindatteok is a savoury pancake with a mung bean base, mixed with vegetables. Tteokbokki is sticky rice cake cooked in a spicy red sauce, and you can find this one everywhere! Tuck in, you won’t be disappointed!
5. Pay a visit to the doctor and drink coffee at Café General Doctors
Is this cat waiting in line for an appointment? 😹
Apparently, South Koreans drink twice as much as Russians, but there’s more than soju and beer! Korea has a huge coffee culture, which we’re buzzing about. Seoul has some seriously quirky cafes: there’s a raccoon café, and even a poop café – trust us, it’s the shit!
Perhaps the kookiest cafe of them all is Café General Doctor. It is a fully functioning doctor’s practice and cute café in one, and for some reason, it’s also home to a handful of cats! You can order your Cappuccino and Hepatitis B vaccine at the same time, with a side of cake too if you like! Although you’ll need to book a doctor’s appointment in advance, you can always pop in for a coffee, or say hey to the kitties anytime you like! How purr-fect!
Things to do in Seoul:
1. Enjoy some beers in Gyeongui Line Forest Park
A peaceful reading spot 📖
Look at those daffodils! 📷@banatoffe
Yes, there is more to Seoul than soju and beers, but that doesn’t mean you have to skip them all together! Of course, you can enjoy soju and beer with your Korean BBQ, but make sure to visit Gyeongui Line Forest Park for a drink. Grab your favorite tipple from the liquor store and head to the park. With its charming railway tracks, expensive green space, and abundance of flowers, Gyeongui Line Forest Park in Hongdae is the perfect place for an al fresco bev!
2. Chill out at the Cheonggyecheon stream
Beautiful stream running through an urban jungle 🏙
The Cheonggyecheon steam is a gorgeous artificial stream that flows through Seoul. You can spend a hot day strolling alongside the stream and cooling off under the bridges on the way. At night, the stream turns into an entertainment hotspot with musicians and impressive water light shows. Admiring this wonderful stream is definitely one of the best things to do in Seoul, plus it’s totally free!
3. Spend a day visiting a free museum
Seoul Museum of Art
Seoul has over a hundred museums, and some of them won’t cost you a penny! The four most popular free museums are the Agricultural Museum, National Folk Museum, National Museum of Korean Contemporary History, and National Museum. During summer, you can also enjoy the Seoul Museum of Art for free. Korean summers are hot and humid, and so the museum offers free entrance so people can come inside and cool off. The Seoul Museum of Art is great, with lots of cool exhibitions to wander through. The National Museum of Korean Contemporary History is definitely worth a visit for travelers keen to get an oversight into Korea’s fascinating past.
4. Cool off in the pool at the Seoullo
Dare to take a dip? 😉 📷@fachmy_pradifta
Seoul’s brand new Highline is called the Seoullo. The Seoullo is a rooftop sky garden located next to the Seoul station elevated above a highway! The Seoullo has 24,000 different Korean plant species, a foot pool, and boasts stunning views of the city. We recommend wandering The Seoullo just before sunset to admire those beautiful amber skies casting a warm glow over Seoul. You can also dip your feet into the sky garden foot pool to cool off during the hot summer months.
5. Participate in a workshop at Bukchon Hanok Village
You can see why this lovely village is so popular! 📷@danielmourinho23
Bukchon Hanok Village is a traditional Korean neighbourhood and also a popular tourist attraction. Here, you can learn arts and crafts from locals and even learn to play a traditional Korean instrument. On Saturdays, there’s an awesome market on Samcheong-dong Culture Street which is definitely one of the great places to visit in Korea!
6. Become a street artist
Seoul has many places for street artists – both locals and travellers, with Insa Dong Street being one of the most popular spots. In case you’re in need of some extra cash, try your hand at street art and realise your hidden talents. We met the Polish traveller slash performer Criz, who gave a spectacular performance blowing bubbles! There’s a creative artist hiding within us all.
7. Be wowed by the palaces whilst wearing Hanbok
Changdeok Palace looking breath taking! 📷@madame_abbiewanders
Seoul has five big palaces: Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, Deoksugung, and Gyeonghuigung, each one unique and glorious in its own way. These palaces are already incredible to visit but it is much more fun to dress up in traditional Korean clothing – Hanbok – and visit the palaces for free! Entrance to these palaces is free for those in traditional dress. We did the math… The entrance to these five palaces will cost you 14,000 won, while you can rent a Hanbok from 13,000 won. It’s a no-brainer! You’ll have to be a speedy visitor, however, as Hanbok rental is typically only for four hours.
8. Take a stroll through Dongjin Market
Market this way!
This market runs all week long and sells all sorts of items. On Saturdays, Dongjin Market turns into a market specialising in traditional Korean delights. Locals sell their own products: vintage clothing, homemade jams, cookies, and different kinds of crafts are among the treasures found here.
About the authors:
Lesbian travel couple Roxanne Weijer and Maartje Hensen met in Amsterdam and discovering world travel together was inevitable. Last March they left their home behind to travel full time. Travelling on a budget allows them to see the world through local’s perspective, a view they love to share. They are the writers and photographers behind the Instagram @onceuponajrny and you can read more on their website www.onceuponajrny.com