There are famous landmarks in Seoul like the N Seoul Tower or Gyeongbokgung Palace that any travel site will tell you not to miss. But among the dozens of other attractions that Seoul has to offer, which hidden gems are most worth your time?
It can be difficult to decide what to see in a new city – especially if you only have a few days to spend there – and Seoul is no exception. Bursting with palaces, parks, and unique neighborhoods, this beautiful city can be a bit intimidating if you don’t know where to start.
I spent two and a half weeks exploring Seoul, and during that time I tried to visit as many landmarks as I could. Although the largest attractions were certainly awe-inspiring, there were several places that captured my imagination despite the fact that I had never heard of them before. Here’s why you should add these highlights to your itinerary!
Yes, the Han River is amazing, but this little stream is equally fun to visit. Although man-made, Cheonggyecheon has a calm, natural feel that takes you away from the urban side of Seoul, despite being just below the busy city. As you walk along the pathway on either bank you will encounter benches, art installations, and stepping stones where you can cross to the other side.
There are a number of entry points to Cheonggyecheon, but I recommend starting at the small park on the west end. To find it, take the subway to Gwanghwamun Station, exit number 5, and look for the large blue and red spiral sculpture.
All palaces in Seoul have their own charm, but Deoksugung is a unique blend of traditional and foreign sensibilities. I was surprised to find ionic columns at home next to the colorful palace buildings, but somehow they still felt balanced. Ascending the stairs in front of the Western-influenced Seokjojeon gives you a fantastic view of the grounds and the city beyond while enhancing the sensation of old and new coexisting together.
If you’re planning on visiting more than one palace, I recommend buying a Palace Combination Ticket for 10,000 KRW. It’s very affordable, and all of the sights included are worth seeing!
Tucked away as a small corridor off the main street in Insadong, this open-concept mall takes the traditional handcraft feel of the neighborhood and puts a modern spin on it. As you wind your way up four levels, you will find a delightful array of stores selling all sorts of merchandise. My absolute favorite was Moony Orgel, where you can personally design your own music box by selecting everything from the tune to the windup key. I visited this store so many times that a staff member asked me if I was living in Korea!
Before you leave Ssamziegil, be sure to check out the artistic stairwells and store directories as they add a whimsical vibe to the experience, and top off your time with a snack from one of the specialty vendors (I went with some banana milk).
4. Ewha Women’s University
Seoul has a number of prominent universities, and Ewha Women’s University is certainly on the list. However, the true draw of this university for the average tourist is the campus itself. I visited Ewha Women’s University on a whim, and was utterly entranced by its beauty. Ewha is full of aesthetic inspiration, from walls patterned with floral motifs to gardens bursting with color.
At the heart of the campus lies an impressive staircase leading down to a corridor between two glass-fronted buildings. Taking a picture from the top will give you one of the most scenic shots of Seoul you will find on your trip.
Did I miss your favorite place? Feel free to share your recommendations below!