Top five things for first-time visitors to do in Seoul

Top five things for first-time visitors to do in Seoul

Seoul is a safe city with a rich history and culture, but it’s also a city that’s constantly evolving. There are plenty of traditional attractions to see, but there are also plenty of unique and unusual things to do in Seoul that will give you a truly unforgettable experience. Currently, due to influences from social media, k-pop, and k-beauty, Seoul is a tremendous hot spot for the younger 20 something crowds.

Explore Bukchon Hanok Village.

This traditional Korean village is a great place to wander around and get lost in the past. The streets are lined with traditional hanok houses, and there are plenty of shops, cafes, and restaurants to explore.

Bukchon Hanok Village

A popular thing to do is to rent a hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) in the Bukchon Hanok Village and take photos.  You can rent a hanbok for a few hours, a half-day, or a full day. The price will vary depending on the length of time you rent the hanbok.

rent a hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) in the Bukchon Hanok Village

Visit the Gyeongbokgung Palace.

This is the most famous palace in Seoul, and it’s a must-see for any visitor to the city. The palace was built in the 14th century, and it’s a beautiful example of traditional Korean architecture.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

The palace is also conveniently located near the Hanok Village, so many tourist wearing traditional hanbok outfits will go to the palace to take photos. Many will congregate in the front part of the palace and never make it back to the beautiful lake and ornate buildings.  Make sure to explore for the best photos! There’s also a nice cafe and museum gift shop inside the Palace with unique gifts. Fun fact – if you wear your Hanbok outfit, you get into the palace for FREE!

Go shopping in Myeongdong.

This is one of the busiest shopping districts in Seoul, and it’s a great place to find everything from clothes and cosmetics to electronics and souvenirs. In addition to shopping, especially k-beauty, you will see many stores selling inexpensive hard case suitcases. Consider grabbing one to put all your new found loot in. If you have cash, definitely ask for a lower price. Another fun thing to do is to see how far you can go by using the subway and underground shopping paths. This is a nice thing to do when it’s very hot outside in the summer as the underground passageways are nice and cool. Finally, don’t miss the amazing street food vendors at night! There are tons of options that are fresh and inexpensive.

vegetarian Tteokbokki

Another fun thing to do if you are staying in Myeongdong is to see the fun NANTA show. Watch the talented troupe perform songs from traditional folk pieces to modern numbers. The entire fast paced fun ‘cooking’ comedy is not language specific, so anyone will enjoy this!

Try Korean food.

Seoul is a great place to try Korean food, and there are many different restaurants to choose from. Some of the most popular dishes include bibimbap, kimchi, and bulgogi. My favorite restaurant experience was making my own giant hot pot of vegetarian Tteokbokki, or simmered rice cake. The buffet-style set up allowed us to gather as many differently shaped rice cakes, veggies, tofu, and broths to make our unique soup. Fun and delicious! If you need a quick snack, make sure to stop by a Korean 7-Eleven or CU Store. They have wrapped kimbap ready to go that is tasty and fresh. Kimbap is made with cooked rice and ingredients such as meat and vegetables rolled in seaweed.

Myeongdong Kyoja noodles vegetarian
Myeongdong Kyoja, which first opened its doors in 1966, is known for its “kalguksu” or knife-cut noodles, which have been a part of Korea’s culinary landscape for more than a thousand years. The line is long, but it’s worth it! 

Cafe Culture.

If you love coffee and pastries, Seoul is a great fit for you. There are cute cafes and coffee shops everywhere!

cafe culture in seoul
Cafe Switch SOL

Some are themed, some are just beautiful and others are just a nice refuge from the crowds outside. Definitely visit as many as you can!

Explore the nightlife in Seoul.

Seoul has a vibrant nightlife scene, and there are bars and clubs open all night long. If you’re looking for a fun night out, then Seoul is the place to be. Hongdae is very popular with young people and is known for its trendy fashion, street art, and nightlife.

There are many clothing stores, cafes, and restaurants in Hongdae that cater to young people. The area is also home to a number of universities, which makes Hongdae a convenient merging place for many students. Remember soju is cheap, but too much soju can give you a zinger of a hangover!


Insadong is another popular spot for trendy shopping and cute restaurants hidden down corridors.  The focal point of lively Insadong is its pedestrianized main street, which is crammed with teahouses and Korean eateries, plus shops selling traditional goods like pottery, tea and handmade hanji paper.

Related Posts

My Favorite Activities on Jeju Island, South Korea

My Favorite Activities on Jeju Island, South Korea

We recently had the opportunity to add a quick trip to Jeju Island to our South Korea visit. Jeju Island is a volcanic island directly south of mainland South Korea and is accessible by a quick and inexpensive flight from Seoul in about an hour.

Kimchi Scrambled Eggs Recipe with Nasoya’s Vegan Kimchi

Kimchi Scrambled Eggs Recipe with Nasoya’s Vegan Kimchi

Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish made from salted, seasoned, and fermented vegetables.  During the fermentation process, lactic acid bacteria is produced and that gives kimchi its characteristic sour taste. Lacto-fermentation also helps to preserve kimchi and make it safe to eat. Kimchi is […]