7 best places to visit in SOUTH KOREA
Curious about the best places to visit in South Korea? South Korea, one of the four Asian Tigers, is not only among the most productive and profitable countries in Asia but also in the whole world.
Rich with unique sights and landmarks, South Korea is among the 25 most visited countries in the world. In 2018 alone South Korea received about 17 million tourists.
South Korea’s landscape is vast and varied. Rugged mountains, pristine beaches, volcanic islands, ancient temples and bustling cities surrounded by farmland. South Korea is an exotic land with thousands of years of history.
But, what to do in South Korea? What are the best places to visit in South Korea?
Here is a list of some of our favorite places in South Korea.
7 best places to visit in South Korea
A blend of modern and traditional, Seoul is the best place to visit in South Korea. If you have limited time (only a few days, or so), definitely choose to visit Seoul! There’s so much to do in Seoul, and it’s a great place to learn more about Korean cultural heritage.
Do not miss Bukchon Village when visiting Seoul. It’s a traditional Korean village featuring “hanoks” — traditional courtyard houses. It shows a 600-year-old urban environment.
Changdeokgung is one of the best-preserved of Seoul’s palaces, and Jongmyo Shrine is one of the oldest Confucian royal shrines left in the world.
Changdeokgung Palace at the foot of Mount Eungbongsan is a tranquil palace complex which is also home to the Secret Garden. This complex is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Seoul is also a great place for shopping. The expression “Shop until you drop” describes shopping experience in Korea. Some of the markets in Seoul are truly unique.
Gyeongdong Market is one of the largest herbal medicine and ginseng markets of South Korea.
Shinsegae is a luxurious department store in Seoul, which houses local designers and a high-class supermarket. Even if you are not planning to buy anything, it’s a great place to visit and window-shop.
Myeongdong is the to-go place for skincare and cosmetic brands. Namdaemun Market is a large traditional market selling all kinds of goods. Gwangjang Market is a traditional street market where you can buy all kinds of stuff — fabrics, silk, vintage clothing, kitchenware, souvenirs, Korean traditional medicinal items, food, and fresh produce. Gwangjang Market is one of the oldest traditional markets in South Korea.
If you are interested to learn more about the Korean War, visit the War Memorial Museum of Korea.
2. The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
Another place to visit if you are interested in the military history of Korea and the Korean War.
The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is a border barrier between South and North Korea. It is 250 kilometers long, and about 4 kilometers wide. It is the world’s one of the most heavily fortified borders.
As tragic as it can be, but it has been turned into a unique tourist attraction that attracts visitors from all around the world.
Many people want to visit the Korean Demilitarized Zone on the South Korean side and get a rare glimpse of North Korea from the Dora Observatory.
The DMZ is located around 50km from Seoul and you can easily go on a day trip there. Local travel agencies offer guided tours to the DMZ. Tours to the DMZ also can be booked via https://www.getyourguide.com and other places to visit in SOUTH KOREA.
3. Jeju Island
Jeju island is known as a popular honeymoon destination for Korean newlyweds.
The island is a black volcanic rock with outstanding scenery. The island is known for its natural lava tubes originating from the Geomunoreum volcano.
The dormant volcano Hallasan is situated right in the middle of the island, and it dominates the island’s skyline.
Hallasan is the highest mountain in South Korea and a UNESCO Biosphere reserve containing a crater lake, waterfalls, multi-shaped rock formations, and rich flora and fauna.
Also, the Hallasan mountain hiking trail is one of the best hikes in South Korea.
Another UNESCO World Heritage site in Jeju is Manjanggul Lava Tube Cave. It is one of the finest lava tunnels in the world and one of the best places to visit in Jeju.
Do not miss Seongsan Ilchulbong! It is a unique, crater-style peak, formed by volcanic eruptions. Just like Hallasan, Seongsan Ilchulbong also is an extinct volcano.
Busan is one of North Korea’s major cities and is home to the largest port in the country which also is the third-largest in the world.
The city has plenty of amazing things to see.
Gamcheon Culture Village is probably the prettiest neighborhood of the city.
Gamcheon’s houses are all painted different colors, and tiny steep streets and stairways lead visitors to Gamcheon’s unique and quirky street art.
Haeundae Beach is a surprisingly beautiful beach located at the edge of Busan.
Haedong Yonggung Temple is a gorgeous beachside temple, dating back to the 14th century.
Visit Busan is incomplete without a visit to its fish market — Jagalchi! Jagalchi Fish Market is a large sprawling fish and seafood market. It is considered to be the largest fish market in South Korea.
5. Suwon and Korean Folk Village
Suwon is one of the largest cities in South Korea. The city is known for its stunning late-18th-century Hwaseong Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Suwon is also home to Korean Folk Village and Everland — the country’s largest amusement park. The two sights are among the best places to visit in South Korea.
You can get a taste of Korea’s past in the Korean Folk Village. It is a popular attraction for local and foreign tourists alike, located a 30-minute drive from Suwon. It is an open-air folk museum designed to show how Koreans once lived. The folk village has a large collection of thatched and tiled traditional houses and showcases all sorts of household furnishings and tools.
Gyeongju is often referred to South Korea’s ancient capital and its historic area is often called “The Museum Without Walls”.
Gyeongju is a city with a vast amount of historic sights. The city is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites and National Treasures.
The most popular sights in Gyeongju are Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto which houses a 1000-year-old Buddha.
Tumuli Park is another unique landmark in Gyeongju. Its hilly terrain is not natural — those are burial grounds for Silla Kingdom’s elite ruling class.
7. Seoraksan National Park
Seoraksan is one of Korea’s most beautiful mountains, and Seoraksan National Park is the surrounding area.
It is a large, mountainous national park with diverse flora and fauna and numerous hiking trails, and a UNESCO Biosphere Protection site.
Boasting beautiful mountain landscape, the park is among the best places to visit in South Korea.
The park also features two Buddhist temples — Baekdamsa and Sinheungsa. The temples are set in areas of great natural beauty. Sinheungsa temple is believed to be the oldest Zen (Seon) temple in the world.
South Korea travel tips
- You don’t need a visa. Citizens of the EU are not required to obtain a visa if staying in South Korea for less than 90 days.
- Korea has four distinct seasons, each with its own special characteristics. The best time to visit South Korea is fall or spring. The weather is the best during these seasons. In the fall (September — November) it’s warm and sunny, and the skies are blue. In April to June, the weather is good, with generally mild temperatures.
- Cherry blossom season is in April. If you plan to visit South Korea in spring, come in late March / mid-April to catch a glimpse of cherry blossoms. Check bloom calendars and forecasts before booking your holiday. They’ll give you some insight on the dates. Other trees and plants flower in April, too.
- If you want to save money, stay in hostels. Hostel culture in South Korea is taking off with great success. Hostels in South Korea offer also private rooms.
- Don’t rely on Google Maps. It doesn’t really work in South Korea. Use Naver Maps and Kakao Maps maps instead.
- The most convenient way to travel is with Korea Train eXpress (KTX) trains. They’re fast and modern. But the downside is — the KTX trains are expensive. Saemaeul trains and intercity buses are cheaper than KTX.
Foreign tourists can buy Korail Pass (a rail pass) online. These rail passes offer unlimited rail travel, including KTX services.