In recent years South Korea has stepped into the spotlight as one of Asia’s hottest destinations. Don’t miss these top things to do in South Korea for your trip.

For a relatively small country, South Korea is a magical place where the food, music, and technology aren’t only a significant part of the local culture, they increasingly inspire people around the world. 

Walking through the futuristic streets of Seoul, sitting down to a feast of grilled meats and pickled veggies, and immersing yourself in a Korean spa are all experiences that are nothing short of transformative. 

If you think that’s a bit dramatic, It’s not. I just returned from a visit to South Korea, and looking back on my trip reminds me how each city, village, and street had stories to tell.

To really experience South Korea means to understand both the rich, complicated history and the forward-thinking residents who make it one of the most exciting places in the world right now. 

Because there is so much to see and do, narrowing down what you should experience and where to go may feel overwhelming. No need to worry. I’ll help you choose the best things to do and places to visit in South Korea.

Best Things to Do in South Korea 

Head to Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul 

Historical reminders pop up on nearly every corner of Seoul, but the ancient palace grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace offer some of the most visually striking reminders of the Joseon Dynasty. It was hands down one of the most fascinating places I visited during my time in the capital. 

Gyeongbokgung Palace was originally the most important of the 5 Grand Palaces and was the Royal Family palace from 1395 to 1592 when it burned down during a Japanese invasion. The palace was rebuilt but destroyed under Japanese occupation in the 20th Century, and only as recently as the early 1990s has there been an active effort to recreate the beauty of the palace grounds. 

Touring Gyeongbokgung Palace allows you to see dozens of ancient royal buildings and the iconic Gwanghwamun gate, with its ornate wooden details welcoming you into the palace grounds.

Take in the Views of Busan From the Busan Air Cruise Cable Car

Busan Air

If Seoul often steals the limelight, then trust me, Busan is hot on its heels. This stunning city in the southeastern corner of the country is surrounded by water, so it’s no surprise you can enjoy some magical views when you visit. 

We made our way to the boarding station before hopping on board to be whisked along above the pine trees and sandy shores on the Busan Air Cruise. It’s a straight up stunning way to look over the Sea of Japan and South Korea’s second-largest city from above. 

Let me tell ya, the views of the port district of Yeongdo-gu and Sando Beach from the top were seriously incredible. Seeing the sprawling metropolis from above really puts things into perspective.

Also, when you get to the top of Songdo Sky Park Station, there’s a funky little park (you can skip it), but make time for more epic views from there.

Top Tip

A premium ticket is worth the extra money. You’ll get a glass-bottomed car with better views from every angle and you get to skip the long queue at the start.

Try Traditional Korean Food  

Sampling traditional Korean food takes you on an odyssey through centuries of local and international ingredients, techniques, and traditions. Was it the part of the trip I was most excited about? Yep! Did it disappoint? Certainly not. 

Visit local markets and restaurants to try fresh produce, jangajji (pickled veg), meats, and seafood. Sample noodle dishes that range from traditional Korean knife-cut noodles (kalguksu) to wheat noodle dishes, which evolved during the Korean War when the UN brought in wheat to supplement the lack of rice that local farmers could no longer produce.

Even a dish like bibimbap shows a rich array of ingredients and styles, where the bowl of rice, eggs, kimchi, and meat can change from one restaurant to the next.

But one thing remains consistent from city to city and restaurant to restaurant: the quality of meat and vegetables is extraordinary. Try classics like Beef Bulgogi, featuring one of the world’s first marinades, a seductive blend of sesame, soy sauce, garlic, and spices, dating as far back as 37 BC.

Top Tip

Swing by Insadong Hangane Bulgogi Jumak in Seoul is the place to try beef bulgogi. It’s brilliant and the set menu is pretty affordable too. 

Visit the DMZ

Aegibong Peace Park South Korea
Aegibong Peace Park

The Korean Demilitarized Zone is one of the most interesting places to go in South Korea and something I think everyone should do if they have a chance.

The 4 km (2.5 mi) x 250 km (160 mi) region has been neutral territory ever since the Korean Armistice Agreement in 1953 when the Korean War ended.

A guided tour allows you to explore some important sites like the 220-metre (722-foot) Gamaksan Suspension Bridge or the 3rd infiltration tunnel, which North Korea actually built after the peace agreement as a way to launch an attack on South Korea – but South Korea discovered it in the late 1970s.

Aegibong Peace Park South Korea
Aegibong Peace Park

So far, nothing new – but if you want an alternative to a traditional tour, visit Aegibong Peace Ecopark. It only opened in the last couple of years and offers a completely different take on the DMZ. 

Head up to the observation deck and grab an eyeful of the views of the skyscrapers in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital (or you can try – it was pretty misty during my visit so we couldn’t see the city, but the views were pretty stunning nonetheless). 

Walk Through the Dosanseowon Confucian Academy in Andong 


One of the more enlightening experiences I had during my trip to South Korea was learning about the importance of Confucianism not only in China but in South Korea as well. 

If you want to learn more about the philosophy of accountability and goodwill and its impact in Korea, the Dosanseowon Confucian Academy in Andong is the place to go.

Legendary teacher Yi Hwang (many consider Korea’s most influential philosopher) opened the Dosanseodang lecture hall late in his career. His followers expanded the school after his death, and the school was an important educational space during the Joseon Dynasty period in the late 16th century.

Top Tip

Not heading to Andong? Alternatively, you can visit Jeonju Hyanggyo Local Confucian School. The 15th-century architecture and beautiful garden grounds make it one of the most celebrated historic sites in Jeonju.

Learn How to Make Moju in Jeonju


Of all the places that really took me by surprise, Jeonju was one of my absolute favourites. The city is a member of the UNESCO Creative Network Cities, and has a longstanding tradition as a creative hub for food, arts, and crafts.

I strongly recommend visiting Jeonju on your visit to South Korea and scheduling a class to learn some of the local customs. The official “Taste City” is particularly famous for food and beverage, so a cooking class is a wonderful option.

On my most recent trip, I made Moju in a class led by an expert in a traditional Hanok house. To make the fermented rice beverage, we took makgeolli (rice wine) and boiled it down with various ingredients for flavour and medicinal properties. It was actually delicious.

Moju MakingJeonju South Korea

We sampled 3 different varieties of the tonic, each with its own unique style, and I’m still thinking about which one was the tastiest.

Get a Spa Treatment at Spa Le in Seoul

Korean bathhouses (Jijimbang) are a unique experience I’d encourage anyone to check out when visiting South Korea.

First up, I’ll kick off by saying that although bathhouses are kind of like spas, they’re actually pretty different from any other spa I’ve visited. For example, you need to be completely nude during the bathhouse experience. I admit this took me a bit by surprise. But I found that overall, Spa Le in Seoul was a bit more accessible for Westerners, and it’s a female-only business.

So what should you expect? You’ll spend hours moving from icy cold water to warm baths, getting massages, and even getting a full body scrub, which I promise will leave you feeling better than you can imagine.

I thought the £95 ($120) charge for the entrance fee, massage, and body scrub was well worth it, considering I was in there for over 3 hours (3 hours!).

Top Tip

Definitely spend time moving between the warm baths for at least 30 minutes before a scrub. It helps soften your skin, which you’ll absolutely need because this treatment was vigorous

Visit Arte Museum Valley in Gangneung

South Korea has a rich art history spanning thousands of years and various mediums.

If you’re more interested in modern art than art history, The Arte Museum Valley in Gangneung is a great choice. It features a remarkable digital collection alongside Gyeongpo Lake that was one of the highlights of my last trip.

What makes it particularly unique is the immersive exhibits, which allow you to experience recreations of famous landscapes, like the coastal areas of Gangneung and the forests and mountains of Gangwon-do, with tons of colour and movement. 

You can visit any day of the week, and the hours are from 10 am to 8 pm. Walking through the iF Design Award-winning museum was particularly cool in the morning, when you can still see many of the exhibits without large crowds.

Try Mung Bean Pancakes at Gwangjang Market, Seoul 

From big cities to smaller villages, markets are an important part of life in South Korea and brilliant places to try local specialties. Gwangjang Market in Seoul features stalls selling just about any type of South Korean food you can dream up, but the mung bean pancakes stole my heart.

The pan-fried delicacies are a staple in Seoul, and you’ll know why the minute you bite into the savory meat and veggie treats with an addictive and crispy exterior.

It’s an affordable snack, which may be filling enough to consider a meal, and will set you back less than £8 ($10).

Gwangjang Market Seoul South Korea-

Sunhui-ne Bindaetteok is the place to get mung bean pancakes in Gwanjang Market. But arrive early. This place gets crazy busy.

Stroll Through Jeonju Hanok Village

Walking through the narrow rows of charming homes and businesses in a traditional Hanok Village is something you just have to do when you’re in South Korea. Jeonju Hanok Village is my favourite, with over 800 traditional homes.

Take a walk through the idyllic village, where the houses date back over 500 years, and be sure to check out the impressive details of the roofs and the heated floors, which use an ancient technique to heat the floors where residents eat and sleep. 

Also, watch for locals and tourists in traditional dresses (Hanboks). Wearing long, colourful, flowing dresses is a beautiful way to step back in time, plus you get some great photos for all the socials.

Jeonju Hanok Village

It’s fun to visit any time, but if you go during a festival, you can watch the village come alive with celebrations of music, art, and bibimbap (this is where the iconic dish was invented). 

Top Tip

When you visit Hanok Villages, be respectful. People still live in these neighbourhoods and have to contend with the foot traffic and noise.

Walk on Clouds in Busan 

Another great way to take in the scenery of South Korea’s second largest city is particularly unique. You ever want to know what it feels like to walk in the clouds? This is as close as you’ll ever get. 

Songdo Cloud Trails in Busan is a 365-metre (1,200-foot) walkway along Songdo Bay, giving you beautiful ocean views through the glass-bottomed boardwalk leading to a lighthouse view.

Wondering how to get there? If you’re looking at Songdo Bay from the beach, you can head to your left until you see the skywalk entrance near Songdo Bay Station. There’s no fee to enter.

Top Tip

Looking for the best time to go? Plan your walk early in the morning when the island is immersed in clouds. Hence the name.

Visit the Only UN Memorial Cemetery in the World in Busan 

Once you’re back down on the ground in Busan, I can’t recommend visiting the UN Memorial Cemetery enough.

If you haven’t learned about the Korean War from 1950-1953, this is the place to do it. You learn about just how important the UN effort was to preserving South Korea’s independence and the lives lost along the way.

I walked through the exhibit, watched an educational video, and attended the UN flag ceremony. I can’t think of a moment where I didn’t wipe away tears.

To see how locals still honour the soldiers with the utmost respect so many decades after the war ended is both humbling and uplifting. 

Top Tip

You can find specific tombs and names on the Wall of Remembrance here if you want to pay respects to any family member or friend buried there.

Walk Across the Longest Pedestrian-Only Bridge in Andong

Andong is a beautiful historic city that has a much more laid-back feel than larger cities like Seoul. 

I enjoyed walking around the town and exploring green spaces like Nakgangmulgil Park, with its lovely waterfalls and ponds. But my favourite stroll was across South Korea’s longest walking bridge: Woryeonggyo Bridge.

The 387-metre (1,270-foot) bridge crosses the Nakdonggang River and is a beautiful landmark connecting the city to nearby forests. The bridge’s design is a nod to Mituri style, an homage to the legend of a local woman who made a pair of shoes for her dying husband using her own hair.

Top Tip

Visit at 8 pm or 10 pm, when the bridge and temple are lit in different colours, reflecting on the inky waters below. 

See Seoul From N Seoul Tower

N Seoul Tower is a 236-metre (774-foot) tower known to tourists and locals as having the most incredible panoramic views of Seoul from above.

It’s only £9.50 ($12) to go up to the observation deck, which is well worth the views from the top. There’s also a loo with a view from the oversized glass walls in the bathroom stalls, which is really cool if a bit weird at first.

There’s not a whole lot to do once you’re up there besides an OK shopping area and an upscale French restaurant open for lunch and dinner. I didn’t visit the restaurant myself, but you can skip the price of admission and enjoy the view for longer if you have lunch or dinner at the popular N.Grill.

Visit the City of Coffee

Gangneung South Korea

Korea takes its food and beverage seriously, so it’s not a surprise that cafes serve up some delicious java throughout the country.

Gangneung is known as the “City of Coffee” and even has a Coffee Street lined with dozens of places to try a fresh brew.

Stroll along the avenues near the coast and try local gems like Terarosa, where they’ll treat you to incredible espressos and hand drips in a stylish basement space.

Top Tip

Iced coffees are the go-to order for many locals, but baristas will happily pour you something piping hot if you’re feeling chilly.

Stand Up Paddle Board at Gwangalli Beach 

South Korea is surrounded by the sea, so coastal areas are perfect for exploring the water. Busan offers a few places to enjoy the sandy shores along the Sea of Japan, but Gwangalli Beach is my favourite.

Spend the day swimming, suntanning, or stand-up paddle boarding and experience one of the best beaches in South Korea. 

Nearby Haeundae Beach may be more popular, but if you rent a paddleboard around sunset, you’ll see why the bright city lights shimmering off Gwangan Bridge and Busan Bay is something everyone needs to experience at least once.

Stock Up on K-Beauty Products 

Be sure to pack light and save some extra room in your luggage; shopping is a thing in Korea. And honestly, the K-beauty products in Seoul are worth bringing an empty extra suitcase to fill up.

K-beauty has taken the world by storm, and the natural plant and even snail-based (really) products aren’t just unique; they work wonders on making your skin look and feel younger.

Hit up Olive Young’s flagship in Myeongdong for the most popular skincare, makeup, and masks in Seoul. The best part? When you purchase beauty supplies, you can forgo the tax if you bring your passport to the store.

Top Tip

Forgot your papers in your hotel? Not to worry. Take 5-10 minutes at customs and they’ll reimburse you if you save your receipt.

Soar Above Mokpo in a Cable Car

If you’re interested in learning more about South Korea’s history, Mokpo is another excellent choice for visitors to explore.

Located about 4 hours from Seoul, it’s an important port city that’s played a role in Korean and Japanese trade for centuries and, at one point, accounted for 20% of Korea’s revenue.

Visit Mokpo Modern History Museum II to discover more about this area under Japanese occupation and check out the fountains and art installations at Peace Square – but make sure to save time to ride the Mokpo Marine Cable Car for stunning ocean and city views.

Mokpo Marine Cable Car South Korea

If you decide to take the Mokpo Marine Cable Car, you’re really in for a treat. The 3.23-km (2-mile) ride soars over 150 metres (492 feet) above the bay, making it Korea’s longest and tallest cable car ride.

Top Tip

Riding at dusk offers some of the most striking views of the sunset and city lights. The final ride of the day is generally 1 hour before close, which is 10 pm in the summer and 9 pm in the winter. 

Go to a K-pop Pop-up in Seoul

Ok, if you haven’t heard about K-pop by now, it’s time. The genre has been around for a long time now, but it seems like it’s really taken off worldwide over the past decade.

You can get into the fun of the song, dance, costumes, and overall experience in a few ways in Seoul. The pop-ups at The Hyundai are some of the best.

Check out a rotating at the trendy shopping mall near Yeouido Hangang Park. Iconic K-pop bands often put up artistic scenes in kiosks and stores, and you may even be able to buy some merch to take home.

There are also occasional planned and impromptu K-pop events throughout the city, so always ask around before your trip. Even legendary BTS has performed free shows around the city, from time to time.


Looking for another way to check out the K-pop scene? Try this immersive K-pop tour with art and music for a unique experience in Seoul.

See the Pink Muhly Bloom at Jeonju Arboretum

When you think of beautiful shades of pink filling gardens in East Asia, the lovely cherry blossom trees that bloom in Japan and South Korea are likely the first images to pop up.

But if you head to the Jeonju Arboretum in pink muhly in Autumn, you’ll see waves rose-coloured grass dancing along the pathways through Jeonju in what is one of the most beautiful scenes anywhere in South Korea.

The Arboretum is a lovely stretch of urban green space, which is a welcome addition to the bustling freeway district in Jeonju, and seeing the pink, feather-like flowers on the tall green grasses is a welcome reception on your walk up to the urban park.

Top Tip

Fall is the best time to see pink muhly, usually in September or October, so plan accordingly.

Attend a Royal Reception at Changdeokgung Palace

Changgyeong Palace Seoul South Korea-7

Walking the palace and garden grounds of Changdeokgung Palace, was a highlight of my trip. The sprawling home of the Royal Court and one of South Korea’s Grand Palaces was full of incredible architecture and history, including Daejojeon Hall – where the final royal Joseon dynasty empress lived.

But my favourite part was “attending” a historical 60th birthday party for the emperor’s mother as if you were one of the guests at Changgyeong Palace in Seoul. How? Ah, the wonders of augmented reality.

Using the Changdeok AR-irang app, visitors can see the UNESCO World Heritage site through an entirely different lens, watching reenactments of the royal event while walking through the courtyard and secret gardens and seeing the Royal Court dressed in Wonsam (elaborate formal robes).

Take a Ride on the Jeongdongjin Railbike  

I’m up for any excuse to cruise along on the coast, but the Jeongdongjin Railbike is an enjoyable way to take in ocean views when you’re visiting Gangneung.

The 2 or 4-person bikes skirt alongside the East Sea shores and honestly went a lot faster than I expected. They’re a lot of fun and don’t really require much effort, as the semi-powered engines do a fair amount of the work on the 45-minute route.

The ride is relatively inexpensive, at around £19-£24 ($23-$30)

Getting There

Head to the Jeongdongjin Station (17, Jeongdongyeok-gil, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do), where you can buy tickets for a one-way or round-trip ride.  

Practical Tips for Your South Korea Trip

If you’re taking a bus, BusTago, and Ko Bus are the 2 best lines, and you can find your route on Kakaobus or Rome2Rio. The KTX bullet train system is also trustworthy, comfortable, and scenic.

As far as navigating the streets on foot, I found Naver or Kakao were much more reliable than Google Maps for getting around.

Other Top Tips for Your Visit 

  • If you begin your trip in Seoul, find a bank in Myeongdong and take out cash before visiting restaurants and boutique shops.
  • When you plan to take a bus trip, simply charge your T-money card and use it to tap in and out of the relevant locations. 
  • Purchase a SIM card for your trip. You have a few options, but LG U+ is considered one of the fastest. 
  • Locals don’t tip in South Korea. Don’t feel like you need to, as some restaurant workers may take offence to it.

How Long to Visit in South Korea? 

Views from Buyongdae Cliff South Korea

I think you can cover many of the most popular South Korea activities and learn more about the local culture and cuisine in 10-14 days.

Best Time to Visit

Hanuel Maru Observation Deck Gamcheon Village Busan South Korea

If you want to avoid crowds but enjoy nice weather, plan your holiday for September or October.

Where Should I Stay in South Korea? 

The Four Points Josun Seoul Myeongdong (Mid-Range) 

The Four Points Josun Seoul Myeongdong is a nice option with reasonable rates for staying in the Myeongdong area of Seoul.

Rooms aren’t large, but they’re comfy and bright, with beautiful city views you can wake up to each morning.

Check Prices and Availability for Four Points Josun Seoul Myeongdong

Grand Josun Busan (Luxury) 

Grand Josun Busan boasts elegant design and ocean vistas just a short walk from the popular Haeundae Beach.  

There’s enough space to relax on the couch, plan your next activities at the desk, or freshen up in the spacious bathroom before you head out for the afternoon.

Check Prices and Availability for Grand Josun Busan

Things to Do in South Korea: Map 

*I was hosted on a press trip by the Korean Tourism Organisation – as ever, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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