16 Jun 2020
Posted by Mikaela
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Are you looking for a list of places to visit and FREE things to do in Seoul?I’ve got you covered! As a low-maintenance traveler, I believe that there are several ways we can enjoy traveling wisely while focusing on experience.
Many people who travel abroad can enjoy the luxury of tour packages that enable them to see every tourist destination, but this doesn’t mean that they get to EXPERIENCE everything. Equally, there are also travelers out there who had a great time without spending money.
For this article, I will share 22 free activities and destinations you can include on your itinerary for your visit to Seoul.
Warning: Lots of walking, sight-seeing, and experience-focused activities ahead.
Check out this video for a glimpse of our Seoul travel experience:
1. Hangang Park (Han River)
The Hangang (Han River) is popular among locals and foreigners. It is a great place to do different activities such as walking, running, biking, picnicking, and more.
There are 11 places considered as Hangang Park:
Ttukseom, Ichon, Mangwon, Nanji, Gangseo, Yanghwa, Yeouido, Banpo, Jamwon, Jamsil, and Gwangnaru.
You need not worry about commuting because it is very accessible. Also, there’s a high chance that one of these parks is near your accommodation. If you can, take time to feel the breeze of this amazing river.
(Note: There are different activities you can encounter within these parks depending on the season (live water show, live music, etc.)
We went to Ttukseom Han River Park and took advantage of the sunset and view of the Seoul skyline and Namsan Tower. We were in awe after witnessing this breathtaking moment. After, we strolled around the park and met the locals. They’re kind and sweet towards foreigners, saying “Wau, yeppuda” (wow, pretty girls) while smiling at us.
2. Hike towards the famous N Seoul Tower (Namsan)
If you want to see the Namsan Seoul Tower (N Seoul Tower) other than riding a cable car, you’re in luck! The hike takes about 25- 30 minutes, depending on your pacing and starting point. It’s a relatively easy hike because of paved roadways and stairs. This is a must-try activity if you’re looking for a body exercise, while filling your eyes with a beautiful view when you reach the top. Locals are very accommodating towards tourists. We’ve met one was more than willing to help us (we got lost) find our way to the Namsan Tower. So, don’t be afraid to ask if you need them.
Travel tip: Make sure that your body is in good condition in carrying out this activity. It is wise to spend on a cable car instead of putting your health at risk. I’m saying this as a warning as we have experienced this misadventure (read the story below). Also, make a practical schedule of your itinerary. Be sure to check the operating hours of the destinations and consider your travel time too.
I consider this as the most memorable part of our travel. Everyone learned the value of planning the itinerary properly, and the experience strengthened our bond. We got lost on our way to N Seoul Tower and asked a local about our current location. They were nice, helped us find our way.
The only problem is we thought we’ll be able to make it on time (it’s 22:00, and we’re still walking towards the top with a very kind local), and we will ride a cable car.
It turns out, we’re on the wrong side of the road and have no choice but to hike the Namsan trail late in the evening. It’s funny because we’re not ready at all. We were wearing skirts, carrying heavy backpacks, and wearing inappropriate shoes for the hike. Another thing, we have someone that has asthma (who felt like dying and ignored us until we bribed her with cute stickers inside the N Seoul Tower.)
After 40 minutes of struggle and misadventure, we were taken aback by what we saw at the top of the tower–the gorgeous view of Seoul at night (city lights: one of my weaknesses.)
Location: 105, Namsangongwon- gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Time: 10:00–23:00 (Monday- Friday)
3. Discover Itaewon District
Itaewon is the foreign ‘capital’ in Seoul (aside from Hongdae), well known to many foreigners. You can see several bars, pubs, restaurants, and international brands in any direction of this neighborhood.
It is the best place to experience the diversity of foreigners through food and interaction with almost every nationality. You can taste different cuisines ranging from Western to Southeast Asia cuisines too. Truly a foreign-friendly district, alive during the evening and weekends. Drop by during the late hours for a fun experience.
Location: 27 Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
4. Namdaemun Market
The market is the largest traditional market in South Korea. It opened in 1964 and gained a reputation as a place to buy and sell various goods. The products are sold at an affordable price and are famous for those who are looking for wholesale products. Namdaemun and Dongdaemun Market is a must-visit place if you want to interact with locals, shop, and learn about their culture.
Location: 21, Namdaemunsijang 4- gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
Time: 11:00 pm–4:00 am (closed every Sunday)
5. Dongdaemun Market
The Dongdaemun Market is another shopping district in Seoul. It is famous because of their nightlong operation hours (you can shop 24/7!) There are 30,000 stores and shopping malls (Doota and Migliore) to choose from. You should walk around the DDP and Cheonggyecheon Stream and discover many food alleys to taste some authentic Korean cuisines and street foods if you’re nearby.
6. Admire the Architectural Design of DDP (Dongdaemun Design Plaza)
Whether you’re exploring or taking advantage of the 24/7 operation hours of the Dongdaemun area, drop by and admire the beautiful architectural building called Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP). It is at the center of Dongdaemun and is easy to spot because of its unique design. If you want to see exhibits, conferences, design-related shows, or other cultural events and gatherings, this is the place to go.
Location: 281 Euljiro, Jung-gu, Seoul (Euljiro 7-ga) Line 2, 4, 5 Dongdaemun History and Culture Park Station. Exit 1, 10.
Time: 10:00–19:00 (Tuesday – Sunday) Closed: Mondays
7. Walk along the Cheonggyecheon Stream
The Cheonggyecheon stream is one activity you can enjoy in Seoul while appreciating nature. The 11 km stream is a magnificent spot to stroll around the city; nature meets a city vibe. The sound of the flowing water is relaxing while walking, sitting, or dipping your feet from the water stream. The Cheongyecheon stream’s design varies every season, but either way, this stream is worth seeing.
Eating Korean street food such as tteokbokki, odeng (fish cakes), gimbap, and mandu (dumpling) is the best way to end your day after the long walk and meaning conversations (Avenue of youth in Jonggak.)
Locations: 37 Mugyo-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea (Seorin-dong) City Hall Station (subway line 1) exit 4, (5 min. on foot); Euljiro 1(il)-ga Station (subway line 2) exit 2, 3, (10 min. on foot); Dongdaemun Station (subway line 4) exit 6, 8, (5 min. on foot)
Operation hours: 24 hours
Note: There are free Walking Tours available for tourists.
8. Check out the traditional souvenir items in Insadong
We know South Korea as a country with rich culture reflected on their language, food, way of living, and products. One way for travelers to experience this is by visiting this neighborhood and enjoy traditional Korean culture through walking every nook of the area. The experience includes trying out food and shopping for souvenirs. Art galleries, traditional shops, and unique and affordable shop lines, gathering spaces, and tea houses fill the streets and small alleys of Insadong.
9. Explore the streets near your accommodation
After a tiring day discovering places in Seoul, you may think if you will end the day early or stroll around your neighborhood. Another free thing to do in Seoul is to roam around near your accommodation. For us, we stayed in Hongdae — a region in South Korea near Hongik University, known for indie music, arts, fashion, and youthful ambiance. There are many things to see here, ranging from cafes, gatherings, street performance, fashion shops, and karaoke places.
10. Watch street performers in Hongdae
Hongdae is the ‘nightlife’ capital of Seoul for its popularity among young people and tourists. It is close to a university that makes it a popular place to drink, eat, shop, and have fun at an affordable price.
The environment is perfect for college students (like us) and people who dream of a memorable night. I highly recommend eating dinner here (lots of food restaurants and food choices) and watch different young artists showcase their talent in a big crowd.
11. Take a side trip to Hongik University Street
You can’t go back to your normal life without checking out the Hongik University Street. Still, in Hongdae, the area is a go-to place to have ‘night out’ in Seoul and a chill day tour with your friends. While you’re in the neighborhood, you might as well go to the following places:
- Hongdae Walking Street–to watch indie bands/performers, dance performers, and cultural experience
- Hongdae Mural Street–appreciate paintings, graffiti and
- Hongdae Free Market–shopping, second-hand items, art designs
Location: 20 Hongik-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul
12. Seoul Forest
This eco-friendly zone is a perfect place to appreciate Seoul differently. Locals and tourists both find this large park a place to have leisure activities like admiring the flowers, plants and visiting the animals. What’s beautiful about Seoul is its effort to preserve every piece of nature that they can while also applying urban developments. I am fascinated by their dedication to creating these eco-friendly attractions that give life to the bustling city of Seoul.
Location: 273 Ttukseom-ro, Seongdong-gu, Seoul
Ecological Forest – 07:00-20:00 / June-August 07:00-21:00
Insect Garden – 10:00-17:30 (Closed Mondays)
Butterfly Garden – 10:00-17:00 (Closed Mondays & November-April)
Eco Learning Center – Open only during event &exhibition period
13. Seoul Grand Park
Let’s go a bit far from the center of Seoul to discover another favorite, the Seoul Grand Park. It is at Gwacheon City where you can find the Seoul Zoo, Botanical Garden, Theme Garden (rose garden), and Seoul Land. This family-friendly location lets you enjoy the pride of Seoul’s preservation of animals and nature together in an amusement park to educate their people and tourists. While in the area, take note that admission fees vary in different activities.
We used our DISCOVER SEOUL PASS to witness this grand amusement park. With this, we could see the beautiful Gwacheon Reservoir while taking the gondola or Sky Lift going to Seoul Zoo. We were mesmerized by the view and happy about the fresh air. After the lift, we had fun walking and interacting with different animals in Seoul Zoo before we took pictures in the Theme Garden.
Location: 102 Daegongwongwangjang-ro, Gwacheon-si, Gyeonggi-do
14. Experience the life of night shopping in Myeongdong Shopping Street
Myeongdong is well known as the shopping neighborhood in Seoul. Full of international brands, shopping malls, and street food carts, is has its pride as the bustling district in Seoul, especially at night. This is a good place for you to shop because it has everything! Clothes, shoes, phone cases, cosmetics, and other trendy products are here.
Although this is a popular place for those who have money to splurge, the street is a destination itself. Meaning, you can still enjoy this destination by going inside the stores and trying out their products (don’t be shy to get free samples for your reference) or people watching. While you’re shopping or just strolling around the district, you can try their street food. They have delicious and unique street food that is cheap.
My friends and I spent 3 entire nights wandering in the street of Myeongdong. We had so much fun eating street food, shopping, trying out samples, and watching street performers.
Location: 27 Myeongdong 8-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
15. Explore Jongno District and the Grand Palaces
If you want to enrich your knowledge about the history of South Korea, you will never go wrong by going to Jongno district where 4 out of 5 palaces and 22 other attractions are located.
- Gyeongbokgung (Main palace)
- Changdokgung (2nd largest palace; UNESCO World Heritage) Secret Garden (Huwon)
You can learn more about the Jongno District in our ongoing blog series:
DISTRICTS OF SEOUL: JONGNO-GU AS THE HEART OF SEOUL
MUST-VISIT SITES & CULTURAL LANDMARKS IN JONGNO-GU (PART 2)
MUST-VISIT SITES AND POINTS OF INTEREST IN JONGNO-GU (PART 3)
11 BEST THINGS TO DO IN JONGNO-GU, SEOUL,SOUTH KOREA
Have you heard about Culture Day? Every last Wednesday of the month is Culture Day. This is the Korean government’s way of enriching the locals and foreigners’ knowledge of Korean culture. You can visit the palaces for FREE during this day.
16. Gwanghwamun Gate and Plaza
This landmark is a few walks away from the Gyeongbokgung Palace. Meet the great King Sejong and learn about his reign while observing the people and the square itself. We didn’t have the chance to stay long due to an ongoing protest that day, but the statue of King Sejong and the Gwanghamun gate and the magnificent view of Inwangsan Mountain made this side trip worth it.
Location: Jiha 172 Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul
17. Free tastes of Korean food and local recommendations
If you have lots of free time and you want to eat Korean food products without spending money, go to a K-mart, and enjoy the world of free taste! Remember, you are just trying out these foods, so be mindful of how many you take.
Also, if you want to taste more Korean cuisines, ask the locals for food recommendations. Our research skill is not enough to know where to get the best food with the best price all the time. Their suggestions are brilliant! I didn’t even know Dakgalbi (spicy grilled chicken and vegetables) and Haejangguk (ox bone hangover soup) until an ajumma recommended it to us!
18. Interact with locals using their language
You must try to say anyeong and/or kamsahamnida to complete your Korean experience. The locals can understand basic English and uses body language, but you only have a rare chance to have an in-depth travel experience by interacting with them using their language.
Often, when I say Kamsahamnida in convenience stores, they asked about my home country. When they learned I’m from the Philippines, they say, Oh, Philippines. Uhh… Mabuhay! Mahal ko kayo! I find this cute and heart-warming. It lessened my worry about being in a foreign place.
19. Museums, museums, museums!
In South Korea, their patriotism and dedication to preserve their history and culture are observed. They show how a country with a tragic past became a progressive country of today. I recommend every traveler out there to take time and learn about (even just a brief) history. Try visiting museums when you’re in a different country. Museums house lots of valuable items and information regarding a country.
War Memorial (Location: 29, Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul)
National Folk Museum (Location: 37, Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul)
National Museum of Korea (Location: 137 Seobingg-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul)
Seoul Museum of History (Location: 55 Saemunan-ro)
20. Pose for a picture around Seoul
One way to cherish your trip is to take pictures, right? With the beauty of Seoul, you can pose for a picture everywhere. I repeat, EVERYWHERE. The city is admirable itself because of its style, cleanliness, and attractions. Just by walking towards the subway or bus station, you may encounter a good spot to take your photos. Not to mention that their cafes, parks and other attractions are picture-perfect. Korean citizens are known for their good picture poses and angles, so don’t be shy to ask one to take your photos. They get a good angle and even asks if the picture is good enough for you.
21. Visit the Ewha University and drink at a local coffee shop
Take an interest to explore the Ewha Woman’s University Fashion Street. It is mainly visited due to its popularity, where varieties of trendy and affordable clothes, shoes, bags, cosmetics, and other beauty products can be bought. Before treating yourself with shopping, explore the majestic and unique architectural style of the Ewha University (underground campus) campus. After, enjoy yourself with a coffee around the neighborhood.
22. Explore the downtown markets in every subway station
From cheap items, clothes, shoes, and food, this is an effortless activity to include in your itineraries, especially if you’re using the metros around the city. In every subway station, there is a downtown market that you can traverse.
The items above are the things we could experience during our trip to Seoul. There is plenty more to unravel (for our next visit, fingers crossed). Here are the destinations you can include in your itinerary:
- Bukchon Hanok Village
- Myeongdong Cathedral
- Fairy Tale Village
- Naksan Park
- Haneul Park
- National Palace Museum of Korea
- Samcheongdong-gil Road
- Olympic Park
- Seoul Children’s Grand Park
- Starfield Library
- Seoul City Wall
- Bukhansan National Park
There are plenty of free things to do in Seoul that will make your trip memorable. Just enjoy every moment and explore!
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Was this helpful for you? What are the things you wanted to experience on the list? Comment down below your experiences and plans.