Getting to know Seoul means not being afraid to dive right in. You’ll get your fair share of culture shock while roaming the city streets, but if you want to truly fit in, you’ll have to go all night. And among all the chaos you’ll see beautiful temple palaces, a surprising amount of lush park space, and plenty of song and dance. Koreans are naturally curious and very welcoming, so when someone approaches you for a photo op, take it in stride.
Places to Visit in Seoul
- Bukhansan National Park
- Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung palaces
- Dongdaemun or Namdaemun markets
- Blue House (where the president lives)
- The War Memorial of Korea
Unique Things to See and Do in Seoul
- Take in the performers along Insadonggil Street
- Find a karaoke room and sing to your heart’s content
- Souvenir shopping at Bukchon Hanok Village
- Sample endless street foods
- Climb Bugaksan Mountain
- Bar hopping along Itaewon
- Stroll along Cheonggyecheon stream
- Spend time in Lotte World, the world’s largest theme park
- Take a tour of the Seoul Museum of Chicken Art (yes, really!)
Like South Korean culture, Seoul has its own particular rules to abide by. Although Seoul is very much a modern city with all the amenities of a sophisticated metropolis (efficient transit, high-end shops, restaurants, etc.), you might be surprised to learn that Seoul certainly beats to the tune of its own drum, and often it sounds nothing like westernized cities. Embrace it all.
First of all, while many Koreans study English, you’ll find yourself speaking the language with very few people while in Seoul. Koreans tend to be perfectionists, and if they can’t speak the language perfectly, they simply won’t speak it.
Since Seoul is such a big city, pushing and shoving is pretty common and nobody really seems all that bothered by it. Consider that Seoul has 20 million people in a very small land area, and you’ll understand why everyone competes so hard for personal space.
When it comes to dining, Koreans take the informal approach, and meals are very relaxed. You will, however, have to learn how to use chopsticks. Often your seat will be on the floor at the table. And by the way, loud belching and slurping is actually considered a compliment to the cook, and not rude at all. That takes some getting used to. When drinking alcohol, never pour your own drink – wait for someone else to do it, and if you see an empty glass, you do the same. Always give and receive drinks with both hands! Finally, many people in Seoul are heavy smokers… even inside restaurants. It takes some getting used to but don’t let it discourage you from a good meal.
You absolutely can’t return from a trip to Seoul without having joined in on some karaoke fun in a norae bang (song room). If a new Korean friend invites you along, you must graciously accept! And even if you’re not much of a singer, it’s better to sing anything at all rather than bow out entirely, otherwise you’ll come off as rude. Yes, there are many rules in Seoul.
Did you know…?
The number four is considered the unluckiest number in South Korea. It’s so unlucky, most buildings in Seoul (and elsewhere in Korea) don’t have a fourth floor.
Did you ALSO know…?
Restaurants, clubs, and cafes stay open as late as 4 AM in Seoul! Sometimes even later.
Getting Around Seoul
Seoul’s transit system is excellent, especially when it comes to its subway system. It’s regularly voted one of the best subway systems in the world thanks to being efficient, easy to use, and clean – and you can get just about anywhere via the subway. There’s also an extensive bus system that will take you all over the city.
Taxi services are among the cheapest in Asia, and you’ll have no trouble flagging down a driver from just about anywhere in the city.
Best Time of Year to Travel to Seoul
When it comes to visiting Seoul, spring and fall are the best seasons, especially from March to May and then from September to November. During these months, the weather is mild and the off-season prices are much cheaper for travel. If you visit in spring, you’ll get to see the stunning cherry blossoms in bloom. There will even be cherry blossom festivals with food vendors, street music, dances, events, and more.
Winter can be extremely cold, but if you enjoy outdoor sports, you’ll want to take advantage of the ski hills.
Ready to plan your visit to Seoul? Check out these popular guides and trips.