I am obsessed with Korea and have been for most of my life. From binge watching Korean dramas with English subtitles to dancing along to K-Pop, I am a huge fan of Korean culture and history. All that craziness aside, it should come as no surprise that I had to include Seoul as part of our first trip to Asia.
Below is my list of the Top 20 Things to do in Seoul. If you’re planning a trip to Seoul, let me know in the comments below what you are looking forward to the most.
Top 20 Things to do in Seoul
Eat Chimeak – Korean Fried Chicken
Korea has mastered their fried chicken game, chimeak. Chimeak is often double fried for that perfectly crunchy batter. When you bite into Korean fried chicken, your eyes might water at how good it tastes. There are a variety of flavors to choose from wherever you go. Don’t worry they’re all delicious. I always order original or yangyum, a sweet and spicy sauce. If you order original make sure to dip it in a little bit of salt to bring out the flavor of the chicken. And don’t forget, you can’t have chimeak without Kass beer or soju. I’m not even a beer drinker, but I still enjoy having a cold glass of Kass with Chimeak. Please drink responsibly.
Eat Naengmyeon – Cold noodle
Korean cold noodles are the best on a hot summer day. It’s refreshing and quite flavorful. I didn’t know what to expect when I ordered my first bowl. Finely shaved ice in a clear broth covered the thin buckwheat noodles and vegetables. I took my first slurp of noodles and was hooked. The broth was much more savory than I had anticipated. Such a great dish and like nothing I’ve ever eaten before.
Hotteok is fried dough with honey or brown sugar on the inside. Careful not to burn your mouth on the first bite. The filling will be extremely hot and oh so gooey. Get your wet naps ready because your fingers will get sticky, but your taste buds will thank you. Hotteok is delicious street food at a great price. Just follow the smell of caramelized sugar.
Visit a Convenient Store
Visiting 7-Eleven’s during our trips has become a tradition we look forward to when visiting any country. You’ll be surprised at the quality and varieties of food these stores have to offer. We always try to pick up new drinks and snacks to take back to back to our room when we get the munchies.
Eat Korean BBQ
You can’t visit Korea without having BBQ. I LOVE eating Korean BBQ, and I’m from Texas. That says a lot. You cook the meat at the table over coal, gas or fire grill depending on where go. It’s a great experience to sit back and enjoy great food with friends and family. If you want to look like a pro, make yourself a saam bap. Take a lettuce leaf to add a little bit of ssamjang sauce, BBQ, and kimchi, wrap it up and shove the whole thing into your mouth all in one bite. It’s my favorite way of eating K BBQ. You get all the different flavors and textures in one delicious bite. The correct way to eat saam bap is to eat it in one bite, so don’t get carried away and overstuff the lettuce.
Eat at Isaac Toast
I know you might be thinking, what is the big deal with toast and why should I try it. Don’t knock it till you try it. Isaac Toast is simply delicious. Isaac’s was our first real meal in Korea. They have a variety of sandwiches, and I recommend the Bulgogi MVP, Bulgalbi MVP, Bacon Best, Hot Ttoekgalbi and Ham Special. Yes, we did order this much for two people and ate every bite of the yummy goodness. A must try when visiting Seoul.
Myeongdong was by far my favorite place to visit in Seoul. So much so that we went there two nights in a row. I recommend visiting after 5 pm when the street food vendors begin to set-up, and the streets come alive. It’s a bustling area but worth fighting your way through the crowds. Myeongdong has everything you need all in one place, skincare, makeup, clothing, food, unique cafes and so much more.
Hongdae is near Hongik University and has a much younger and trendier vibe. No matter what time of day you visit there’s a crowd. If you are looking for something stylish, look no further as there a ton of urban clothing shops. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a dance battle performance by the local university students.
Filled with culture, art and twisting food alleys, Insadong has a much more traditional vibe. I recommend trying a bearded dragon treat, Jeju tea and eating at any of the many delectable restaurants that fill the back alleys.
Wear a Hanbok
Hanboks are traditional formal attire. You can rent one for a few hours or the day, while you explore Insadong. If you have more time, you can even set-up a photo shoot.
Explore the Imperial Palace
About a 10-minute walk from Insadong is Gyeongbokgung Palace. The grounds are massive. You get a chance to see what it was like living in the palace during the Joseon Dynasty. You can also enjoy traditional afternoon tea at the palace. It’s a great place to wear a Hanbok and take Instagram worthy photos.
Visit Namdaemun Market
A traditional market filled with local foods, affordable clothing, jewelry, fabrics and much more. There are alleys upon alleys of shops both indoor and outdoor. We were surprised at how many shops there were. I recommend finding food alley, grab a seat and try some delicious Bibimbap or Naengmyeon, cold noodles, perfect on a hot day.
Visit Dongdaemun Market
This market comes alive at night and is more of a local spot. Regardless of what time of day you visit, it will always be busy. Pick up a few souvenirs while you are here.
Visit Noryangjin Fish Market
A traditional fish market with hundreds of stalls and vendors selling fresh seafood, some of which are still alive. The best part of Noryangjin is that you can have your fresh seafood prepared at one of the restaurants on the second floor.
Go Shopping at Lotte Mart or EMart
We have a deep fascination with grocery stores and make it a point to visit at least one grocery store while traveling. It’s always nice to see how locals’ shop, eat and pretend as if we live there. It’s also a great way to save money if you’re staying at an Airbnb. Stock up on the essentials to make your stay more comfortable.
We wanted to try fast food while in Korea and Lotteria can be found just about everywhere. The local burgers include bulgogi and shrimp. We had both and recommend trying them to get a taste of Korean fast food.
One thing we noticed right away while traveling via bus around the city was the number of people in hiking attire with backpacks and trekking poles. There are so many beautiful hiking trails in Korea that I wish we had more time to experience it all.
Visit a Unique Café
Seoul is filled with unique cafés. Depending on where you go, you can choose to play with goats, cats or even owls. We found a meerkat café in Myeondong, and it was such a wonderful experience. The one we visited was clean, and it was obvious they genuinely care about the animals. All the animals had a caregiver with them at all times making sure both the animals and guest were safe.
Shop at Lotte Department Store
I love Korean Fashion! Lotte Department Store offers such a wide array of options from luxury brands to trendy boutique shops. My favorite thing about going to department stores is exploring the lower level grocery store and food courts. The Lotte Department Store did not disappoint. We got a chance to see how expensive fruit can be in Korea, visit different fish cake stores and discover plenty of eating options. I would give yourself a least an hour and a half to visit all the different levels and shops that Lotte Department Store has to offer.
Koreans are known for their perfect skin. Did you know the “glass skin,” look came from Korea? There are plenty of skincare shops to browse and pick-up goodies for you, friends, and family. I recommend picking up different sheet masks, Jeju green tea face cleanser and any other products you might fancy. A few of my favorite shops were Innisfree, Nature Republic, and The Face Shop.
Have Fun Exploring
I could go on about all the fun things you need to see and visit in Seoul. When traveling, we always make a list of must-see and do things but still leave room for wandering. Often the most memorable experiences come from the unexpected twists and turns that weren’t on the checklist.