There are countless things to do in Seoul, but if you’re a culture lover, you don’t want to miss out on any of the Seoul attractions on this list!
They’re the best way to learn about Korean culture and learn about the country’s history.
6 Attractions in Seoul for Culture Lovers in the capital of South Korea
Visiting the cultural Seoul attractions on this list will give you a deeper understanding of how the city grew into the technological force it is while still retaining strong ties to ancient traditions.
Seoul is unlike any city in the world. The mixture of modern life mixed with traditional culture is incredible, and not something you want to miss.
But be aware that Seoul is a huge city, and having a proper Seoul itinerary will help you with your planning and making sure you will not miss any of the highlights the city has to offer.
1. National Museum of Korea
The National Museum of Korea is one of the best Seoul attractions to start learning about the country’s history and culture.
It is a multi-story museum in the heart of Seoul. The museum focuses on Korean history and art.
The Calligraphy and Painting and Sculpture and Craft exhibits are the best place to go it you’re solely looking to soak in Korean culture.
They focus on artefacts from medieval and ancient history and features some of the most intricate and breathtaking artwork in the world.
The exhibits that focus more heavily on Korean culture also have a number of cultural artefacts.
They range from ceramics to artwork and help you understand the beginnings of Korean culture and how it has evolved into the 21st Century.
You can easily spend two or three hours exploring the museum and learning about ancient Korean culture.
Not many Seoul attractions have free admission, but the National Museum of Korea does! It is also a great place to access free wifi in Seoul!
It is open everyday of the week from 10 am to 6 pm with the exception of Wednesday when it is open until 9 pm.
The National Museum of Korea is the perfect first stop on your journey of learning about and experiencing Korean culture!
2. Gyeongbukgung Palace
You can’t miss visiting Gyeongbukgung Palace!
It is Seoul’s most popular and most visited tourist attraction, and no trip to Seoul is complete without visit it!
Gyeongbukgung Palace was the main palace during the Joseon dynasty. The original palace had over 7,700 rooms.
They were used for a variety of reasons including worship, counsel meetings, and for funerals.
The palace was, unfortunately, destroyed during the Imjin War from 1592 to 1598.
It was all but abandoned until the 19th Century when the Korean government decided to restore all 7,700+ rooms. Only 500 of the rooms were restored in the 19th Century though.
During Japan’s occupation of Korea in the 20th Century, Gyongbukgung Palace was destroyed again.
The palace is in the process of being rebuilt once again.
Approximately 40% of the original buildings have been recreated, but it will take another 20 years before Gyeongbukgung Palace is back to its original state.
The palace is open Wednesday through Monday and is closed on Tuesdays. Admission is 3,000 won (approximately $2.75 USD) for adults.
One of the best things to do at Gyeongbukgung Palace is to watch the changing of the guards’ ceremony. It happens every day (excluding Tuesdays) at 10 am and 3 pm.
Changing of the guard’s ceremony
The ceremony is an exact replication of the changing of the guard’s ceremony that took place during the Joseon dynasty.
The narration describing the ceremony is in both Korean and English, so you won’t be lost and not know what is happening.
You learn about the different aspects of the ceremony and their historical significance.
Watching the changing of the guard’s ceremony is completely free, so you can partake even if you don’t want to pay to tour the inside of the palace.
The changing of the guard’s ceremony is very popular, so it is best to arrive about 10 minutes early to get the best view.
Gyeongbokgung Palace (man with drum)
3. Namdaemun Gate
Ancient Seoul was a fortified city and had eight gates. These eight gates were the only way you could enter or exit the city.
Only six of the original eight gates are still standing, and Namdaemun Gate is one of them.
It is the most famous of the remaining gates and is one of the most popular Seoul attractions for tourists to visit.
It is the first national treasure of Korea and is protected by the government as an important part of Korea’s history and culture.
Right next to Namdaemun Gate is the famous Namdaemun Market. It is a 24-hour market and sells everything you can dream of.
From food stalls to live seafood. From souvenirs to clothing. Namdaemun Market has it all!
It is one of the best places in all of Seoul to get an authentic taste of modern Korean culture.
The market is popular with both locals and tourists. Many locals do their weekly shopping at Namdaemun Market, and it very much a part of locals’ everyday lives.
Namdaemun Gate and Namdaemun Market are an interesting mixture of history and modern culture.
It is the perfect place to people watch and takes in modern Seoul.
4. Namsan Hanok Village
This is one of the best Seoul attractions to visit if you want to experience what ancient Korea was like.
Namsan Hanok Village is a small collection of houses and buildings from the Joseon dynasty that is restored to historical standards.
It features houses that range from an average dwelling to the largest mansion in Seoul at the time.
There is a performing arts stage, traditional pavilion, and garden you can explore.
The purpose of Namsan Hanok Village is to give visitors a cross-section of what life during the Joseon period looked like.
The range of houses showing an ordinary person’s life versus a government official’s house give you a better sense of the class differences between Korean people during the Joseon dynasty.
You walk through the village and get up close and personal with the buildings. It is the perfect way to learn about traditional Korean culture and is a much more hands-on experience than a museum.
Namsan Hanok Village is open everyday but Monday. It is completely free to visit, and you can stay as long as you want.
Sometimes there are special events going on at Namsan Hanok Village.
You never know when you’ll stumble upon a presentation about hanboks and other traditional clothing, a workshop where you can learn calligraphy, and a variety of other special events.
The village is located on Mount Namsan along the path to N Seoul Tower.
If you’re walking up to the tower or back down after visiting it, Namsan Hanok Village is the perfect cultural pitstop to round out your time on Mount Namsan.
5. Jongmyo Shrine
Jongmyo Shrine is one of the most special places in all of Seoul. It is the oldest and best-preserved Confusion royal shrine in the world and is an important piece of Korean history.
The shrine dates back to the Joseon dynasty in the 14th Century and is where funeral services and memorials for kings and queens were held.
When it was first constructed, it was the longest building in Asia and consisted of seven rooms.
It has since grown in size and now has 19 rooms in total.
To this day, Jongmyo Shrine is important to Koreans.
You can only visit it by taking a guided tour, and there are only a handful of English tours per day. It is such a special place that photographs aren’t allowed.
Once a year, the doors to the original seven rooms are opened, and people can see their interior.
The doors are closed the rest of the year, and you’re only allowed to view the outside of the shrine and the surrounding gardens.
Jongmyo Shrine is open Wednesday through Monday and is closed on Tuesdays. Admission is 1,000 won (approximately $1USD), and you have to take an organized tour.
You can’t pre-book your tour. It is first-come, first-served, and there is a limit of how many people can go on each tour.
The best to ensure you get to visit Jongmyo Shrine is to walk by in the morning to see what time English tours are offered that day. Figure out which tour you want to go on, and return to the shrine at least 15 minutes before the tour starts.
Insadong is the second most popular street in Seoul behind Myeong-dong. It is a pedestrian street filled with souvenirs, local crafts, and restaurants.
The street was built over 500 years ago during the Joseon dynasty and is filled with charming buildings and culture.
Insadong is known for its main street filled with small shops and cafés, but it is so much more than that! There are dozens of alleys you can walk through, and you always stumble on the most interesting things.
During the Japanese occupation of Korea, many wealthy Koreans were forced to sell their belongings, and Insadong became the place to do that. Antique stores started popping up, and you can still find them in the alleyways.
If you’re looking for a unique Korean souvenir to bring home, look no further than the alleyways of Insadong.
Insadong is also home to some of the best food in Seoul. It is often overlooked because Myeong-dong is so close, but you’re missing out if you don’t eat at an Insadong restaurant.
Like the best stores, the best restaurants are hidden in the alleys. They are traditional restaurants that have often been in the family for generations.
You get to try authentic, traditional Korean food. Oftentimes, the restaurant still has old, traditional decorations, and you eat cross-legged on the floor.
Insadong is the perfect mixture of traditional and modern. K-pop blares from 500-year old buildings, and the old and new blend seamlessly together.
Seoul is a tourist’s dream. It has the perfect mix of modern and traditional things to do.
The Seoul attractions on this list give you a taste of modern and ancient Korean culture. They help you learn about Seoul’s past, and how it has grown up to be the city, it is today.
The Joseon dynasty is one of the most important periods of time in Korean history and in Seoul’s history. The majority of the cultural attractions in Seoul surround this time period.
The National Museum of Korea is the best place to visit if you want to learn about medieval and different periods of ancient Korean culture.
Namdaemun Market and Insagong are the best places to visit if you want to learn about modern Korean culture and life.
No matter what part of Korean culture you want to learn about, there is no shortage of Seoul attractions to visit! Erica is an avid solo traveller who has been to over 40 countries. She loves spending long periods of time in each country to get a sense of the country and culture.
This guest post is written by Erica from travelswitherica
Erica’s favourite travel activities include attending local theatre and dance performances, wandering through museums, eating way too much food, and riding every rollercoaster she comes across.