60) Seoul Station (New) / (새) 서울역
Seoul Station is a large, modern facility and a major transportation hub from the capital to the rest of the country. One cool thing you can do is catch a glimpse (or ride) one of the 300kph KTX bullet trains. You don’t even have to get a ticket to get some good views if you don’t want to ride. Recently, they have remodeled a lot of the interior and added a ton of restaurants. They have also streamlined the transfer from the Seoul Station subway station into the Arex airport train through an underground connection. Can you tell I f’n love train stations?
Pro Tip – You can access the newly built Seoullo from here, but I am not recommending it until the hype dies down as it is grossly underwhelming for the crowds. Nevertheless, it is a good place to get pictures of the station or the main road.
59) Unhyeon Palace (Unhyeogung) / 운현궁
Located near Anguk station, it is quite amazing how few people visit this tiny but delightful place. It was originally built during the Joseon Dynasty for the in-laws of the king to stay in Seoul without having them in the main palace which is across the street (I guess THAT tradition goes back generations). It is not very glamorous at all, but has a tranquility to it that is quite refreshing. Oh, and it’s free!
One pretty cool thing is that they allow wedding pictures to be taken here. From the signs within Unhyeongung, it also looks like full weddings are allowed under certain conditions. Who doesn’t want to get married in an actual palace?
Pro Tip – The area just outside of this palace is probably the absolute best place to stay if you’re looking to be as central as possible to most attractions. Plenty of hostels and hotels around.
58) Apgujeong Rodeo Street / 압구정
Apgujeong is a place where young people come together and shop till they drop. Dozens of boutiques and chain stores have anything your heart desires. If this is your thing, by all means, don’t miss out, but make sure you bring plenty of credit cards! If you stay late there are some nightlife spots here, too.
57) Lotte World / 롯데 월드
Lotte World is one of only two ‘world class amusement parks’ in Korea. Yeah, I didn’t know that classification existed either, but it does! While nowhere near the size, magnitude, or detail of Disneyland, Lotte World has its charms.
One of the things I like the most about this park is how efficiently it was built (what a nerd). Real Estate comes at a premium in such a small country, so the engineers managed to load up a bunch of rides in a 4-floor indoor complex and an additional outdoor adjunct which has parts of the park run underground! The rides are pretty fun even if the mascots are rather cheesy. Then again, who thought a mouse as a mascot would be a hit?
Pro Tip: Discounts are often offered with coupons at the airport so don’t be afraid to ask the information booths at Incheon.
56) Hangang Park (Ttukseom Resort) / 한강 공원 (뚝섬유원지)
Hangang Park is a name loosely applied to the entire recreational area north and south of the Han River, with about a dozen entry points and some parts more “park-like” than others. Ttukseom resort is one of the more popular spots, especially in the summer. You can rent bicycles, watch live performances, enjoy the public pool, or just take a stroll along the river. Another good spot is on the south side by the Banpo Bridge, where you can view the before mentioned Banpo Musical Fountain.
While Hangang park is busy all day long, it is especially enjoyable late at night when the crowds have dispersed. If you are comfortable ordering in Korean, delivery places are more than happy to bring you some chicken or pizza, riverfront!
Pro Tip – While places where you can rent a bike with cash still exist, the Seoul Bike share system is quickly taking over. Make an account and you can pick up and drop off a bike at different locations if you choose.
55) Everland /에버랜드
Everland is Korea’s best amusement park bar none. With a mixture of fantasy land reminiscent of Disneyland and more ‘adult level’ rides as well, it kind of has something for everyone.
Pro Tip – There are often employees outside of the gates who come off as scammers at first glance. If they have an official looking uniform, they could just be telling you about discounts.
54) World Cup Stadium /월드컵경기장
This is more of an event than the place, but if you get a chance, make sure to watch a game at Seoul’s (or any) World Cup Stadium. Built for the 2002 World Cup co-hosted by Korea and Japan, the World Cup Stadiums around the country currently host the Korean League and regularly host friendly as well as official matches between the national team and its neighbors. The energy of the stadium is pretty fantastic and tickets are usually pretty cheap.
Pro Tip – Most major cities including Daejeon, Busan, Incheon and even Jeju have a world cup stadium. It might be a good idea to check out the K-League’s schedule and plan accordingly.
53) Any Korean Department Store (Shinsegae, Hyundai, Lotte) / 백화점
Once you’ve seen one mall you’ve seen them all right? While a Korean department store is not particularly different from those in other countries, it is still interesting to see. Department stores have absolutely everything from higher end goods, to supermarkets, to incredible discount stores. Just browse around and give yourself plenty of time. It’s a great place to people watch too.
52) National Museum of Korean Contemporary History / 대한민국 역사 박물관
The National Museum of Korean Contemporary History was inaugurated on December, 2012 as a semi-interactive way to display the last fifty years or so of Korean history. It is conveniently located on Sejong-no, right in front of Gyeongbok Palace. If you are curious about how Korea developed after the Korean War to the creation of the Galaxy S3, this is the museum for you.
Pro Tip – Directly adjacent is the tiniest ‘park’ in the world, but right in front of Gyeongbokgung, so a nice place for a picnic or just to chill with a coffee after getting museumed out.
51) Dongwon Market / 동원시장
One thing you don’t see very often in guide books are town ‘markets’ outside of the very well known ones like Namdaemun. For a very local experience, roam around some of the smaller ones outside of the city center. You won’t find anything touristy here or even souvenirs and the like, but just older Koreans going about their day and buying their household necessities.
Pro Tip – Dongwon is my choice, mainly for a nameless restaurant (the sign literally just says ‘restaurant’) which has the best Jeyuk Bbeoggeum on the planet.
50) Sinsa Shopping District (Garosu Street) / 신사 가로수길
Sinsa is one of the major shopping areas of Seoul. Conveniently located between Gangnam and Apgujeong, Sinsa focuses on a more boutique-like feel, but also contains many chain-stores and fine dining options. Because if its fame and location south of the Han River, it carries a heftier price tag than other places in Seoul. Nonetheless, is a good way to spend an afternoon, even if you are just window shopping like me. I’m not gonna lie… I just come for the free samples.
Pro Tip – The colors of the fall really make this road look way better.
49) Seodaemun Prison / 서대문형무소역사관
During the Japanese occupation, Seodaemun Prison was used to lock up dissidents and pretty much anyone who refused to accept the new status quo. Those brave people who dared to stand up to the brutality that included forced prostitution, murder, and the destruction of anything culturally Korean (including all of the palaces) are honored in this preserved prison. Make sure to bring a Korean to translate as there are no English signs of any kind. You might also want to bring some tissues. You’ve been warned.
Pro Tip – It really helps to read up on the Japanese atrocities during the occupation to get the full effect.
48) Lotte World Tower and Mall / 롯데월드타워 + 몰
Currently the 5th tallest building in the world, the Lotte World Tower can be seen from virtually anywhere with a clear view in a 20 km radius of the building. Connected to it is the Lotte World Mall which is a very interesting and unusual mall complete with one day cooking classes, random parades, and a Lexus concept vehicle cafe.
47) Seongbuk-dong / 성북동
This is one of the wealthier districts of Seoul. It houses many bigger homes along with the residences of many foreign ambassadors. Lots of rather unique cafes, restaurants, and unusual attractions (such as the stone museum listed below) can be found as well.
46) Sinchon, Yonsei University Area / 신촌
In addition to being one of the top 3 universities in Korea, Yonsei also has one of the most happening areas right across its front gate. The Sinchon area is a great place for food, shopping, and nightlife. Be careful though… nah, what am I saying… go nuts!
Pro Tip – The area is particularly crackin’ during rivalry games with pesky Korea University.
45) Archaeological Findings of Jongno
This is probably my favorite new entry to the list. During the construction of the Grand Seoul Plaza in central Jong-no, workers stumbled upon what seemed to be ancient artifacts. Closer surveys proved it to be a massive area littered with Joseon dynasty pottery, weaponry, and building fragments. Instead of moving everything into a museum or making the area a museum itself, construction resumed but they made large parts of the ground level into glass so that visitors could get their shopping and history in at the same time. It is pretty amazing how so much history lay right below central Seoul for centuries without anyone realizing it.
Pro Tip – If you plan on visiting Jongno and Sejong-ro / Gyeongbokgung, instead of taking the subway, just walk and you’ll run into this on the way! It is a short walk and well worth it.
44) Itaewon / 이태원
Itaewon is one of the largest international neighborhoods of Seoul. You can find foods of all kinds here, from authentic Mexican to Paraguayan delights. As a long term critic of Itaewon, even I have come around and the Itaewon of 5 years ago is nothing compared to the Itaewon of today. While sure, dive bars, the red light district, and sketchy spots still exist, an enormous boom in dozens of quality restaurants from all over the world and good bars/clubs account for the big boost in this year’s list.
Pro Tip – Be mentally prepared that getting a cab from 12:30-4am is near impossible. Either that, or become familiar with Kakao Taxi because 90% of the cabs you see will say “reserved / 예약” and you’re just gonna get mad!
43) Dongmyo Market / 동묘 시장
Even a few years ago, this was nothing more than a local marketplace you only stumbled upon if you are already in the area (as I did back in 2012). It has been recently popularized by a few Korean shows and is definitely worth a look. It is less trendy and more of an old market with necessities but it changes every year. Antiques are the name of the game here, with anything from traditional Korean instruments to vintage US post machines available if the price is right.
Pro Tip – One question I often get is “What souvenir is unique to Korea?” My generic response is usually a hanbok, Andong mask, or name stamp. However, if you want something really unusual, look no further than a gayageum or gomongo, traditional Korean instruments. They can go for around 100,000 won in Dongmyo for second hand ones (but really, sky is the limit), which to me is kind of special because they carry a history.
42) Bukchon Hanok Village / 북촌
My first visit to Bukchon, I fell in love. This otherwise ordinary neighborhood is lined with some of the most beautiful traditional ‘hanok style’ houses still around. For those looking for a special kind of accommodation, Bukchon also has a number of hanok guesthouses, conveniently located walking distance from Changdeok Palace and Insadong. Come in the early evening, and you might catch a fantastic sunset, and then have dinner in one of the many excellent restaurants in the area.
41) Jong-no 3Ga / 종로 3가
This older part of Jong-no is located adjacent to the “music district” where you can find any kind of musical instrument you can think of at a reasonable price. While that’s kinda cool, the main reason I recommend it is the street food. Dozens of tents pop up from the late afternoon till the late evening serving skewers galore. All kinds of people show up from families with small children to old couples enjoying a few skewers over the fire. Since this isn’t a very touristy area, bring your translator app… or person.