Things to do in South Korea

Things to do in  South Korea

Welcome to South Korea

Nicknamed the Land of Morning Calm, South Korea is a nation of extremes. Major cities like Seoul and Busan are abuzz with bright lights and a 24-hour lifestyle, while the pace of life in sleepy rural communities ticks by the same way it has for centuries. Seasonal weather changes see glorious sunshine, heavy monsoons, clear skies, and harsh humidity as the months pass, and South Koreans swing between their traditional hearty cuisine and the latest international fast-food chains. Travelers to South Korea can find new discoveries round every corner, with activities and adventures to suit all tastes and ages. In the capital city, Seoul, visitors can explore UNESCO World Heritage–listed landmarks such as Changdeokgung Palace and Gyeongbokgung Palace on sightseeing tours, and experience the bustling markets of Gwangjang, Insadong, or Namdaemun, where locals shop for everything from fresh produce to valuable antiques. Savor the diverse flavors of Korean cuisine on a food and craft beer walking tour, or visit the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) where the tension between North and South Korea is palpable. In the countryside outside Seoul and Busan, day-trippers can rub shoulders with locals along popular hiking trails around Mt. Geumgangsan, Mt. Hallasan, and Mt. Taebaeksan, or relax in sunshine as the waves roll in on Jeju Island, South Korea's popular paradise retreat.

Top 15 attractions in South Korea


Nowhere is the tension between North and South Korea more palpable than in the no-man's-land known as the Korean Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ. As a divided nation, only 2.5 miles (4 km) separate the North from the South at what is the most heavily armed border on earth. The 150-mile (241-km) zone has served as a buffer since the 1953 cease-fire agreement between the United Nations and North Korea that put the Korean War on hold.More

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Arguably the most beautiful and easily the biggest of Seoul’s five main palaces, Gyeongbokgung (also known as the Northern Palace) is one of South Korea’s must-visit attractions. Built in the 14th century, this is the oldest Joseon Dynasty palace in the nation, and it’s right in the heart of Jongno-Gu, the most culturally happening part of Seoul. Come for 600 years of history—and one brilliant changing of guards ceremony.More

Gamcheon Culture Village

Gamcheon Culture Village spills down a hillside in a riot of colors just outside Busan. The village, nicknamed “Santorini on the South Sea” and “the Machu Picchu of Busan,” was once an enclave for refugee members of the Taegeukdo religious movement. Today, the neighborhood attracts visitors with its steep cubicle houses, galleries, and cafés.More

Seokguram Grotto

The 8th-century Seokguram Grotto is a remarkable Buddhist temple located in South Korea’s Gyeongju National Park. The temple houses an ornately carved statue of Buddha and is renowned for its intricate architecture and serene atmosphere. A visit to this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must for anyone interested in Buddhist culture and history.More

Jagalchi Fish Market

Visitors come from all over to sample the fresh seafood at Jagalchi Fish Market in Busan. The largest seafood market in the country, Jagalchi is unique in that it’s run largely by women—a tradition dating back to the Korean War, when many of the men were off fighting and their wives took over the family businesses.More

Namsan Tower (N Seoul Tower)

Head to the top of Namsan Tower (N Seoul Tower) in hilly Namsan Park, the largest in Seoul, for some of the best panoramic views over the South Korean capital. The 777-foot (237-meter) tower offers three observation decks and half a dozen restaurants where you can soak in the views, day or night.More

Gwangan Bridge (Gwangandaegyo)

The cover star of just about every Busan tourism poster since it opened in 2003, Gwangan Bridge (Gwangandaegyo) is the city's answer to the Golden Gate Bridge. Particularly impressive at night when it's illuminated, the bridge is best viewed from Gwangalli Beach, where you can see the nightly light show.More


Insadong is Seoul’s cultural and artistic hub, as well as the place to shop for local crafts, visit a traditional Korean tea shop, or catch an impromptu street performance. The neighborhood, located in the Jongno-gu district, offers one of the largest antiques and craft markets in the country, with many shops and cafés housed in historic buildings.More

Bukchon Hanok Village

Flanked by Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace—two of Seoul’s Joseon Dynasty palaces—Bukchon Hanok Village comprises hundreds of traditionalhanok houses that today are home to restaurants, teahouses, cultural centers, art galleries, and B&Bs. It’s one of the best places to experience a taste of old Seoul.More

Haeundae Beach

Busan’s proximity to the sea is one of its charms, and Haeundae Beach is perhaps the most famous beach in South Korea. Nearly a mile long (1.5 kilometers), this stretch of coastline is lined with some of Busan’s top international hotels, as well as an assortment of restaurants, shops, and the Sea Life Busan Aquarium.More

Jogyesa Temple

Established in 1910, Jogyesa Temple serves as the center of Zen Buddhism in South Korea. Highlights of the temple complex include Daeungjeon, Seoul’s largest Buddhist shrine, as well as a garden area with a white pine tree that is more than 500 years old.More

Third Tunnel of Aggression

The Third Tunnel of Aggression is one of four known tunnels situated within the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North Korea and South Korea. Located more than 70 meters beneath the ground and at 265 meters long, the Third Tunnel of Aggression is a highlight of any DMZ tour.The tunnel was built by North Korea in the 1970s, who initially denied its existence when South Korea discovered it later. The North were then said to have claimed it was a coal mine, before it was revealed that they had dug the tunnel in order to launch a surprise attack on Seoul. The South eventually took control of the tunnel, blocking off the demarcation line with the North via concrete barricades.Although the Third Tunnel is now very much a tourist site (there’s even a gift shop near its entrance), it still remains guarded and taking photography is forbidden once inside. The tunnel passage is dark, long, and narrow, and it’s a steep incline to access it.More

Jeju Glass Castle

As the name suggests, Jeju Glass Castle in west Jeju is devoted to the art of glass. Hundreds of sculptures by artists from around the world span three zones. Highlights at this glass-themed, indoor-outdoor park include the Magic Forest walking trail and a stunning mirrored room. You can take short classes in glassblowing, glass painting, and a technique called lampworking.More

Teddy Bear Museum

Boasting hundreds of teddy bears from around the world, Jeju’s Teddy Bear Museum is a must-see attraction for lovers of the cuddly toy. Highlights include the world’s smallest teddy bear, which measures just 4.5 millimeters, and an art gallery where teddy bears replace the human subjects of world-renowned artworks. The museum’s garden has teddy bear sculptures, plus fantastic views of Jungmun Beach.More

Gukje Market

During the 1950s, refugees of war-torn Korea began opening small shops to try to earn a living. This modest collection of shops has since transformed into Gukje Market, Busan’s largest traditional market. Today, stalls sell everything from seaweed and street snacks to electronics and hanbok (Korean formalwear.More

Trip ideas

Top activities in South Korea

DMZ Full day with Gloucester Memorial & Suspension Bridge Tour
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Korean DMZ Tour with Expert Tour Guide from Seoul - No shopping
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Busan Customizable Private Tour

Busan Customizable Private Tour

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People Also Ask

What is South Korea known for?

The Korean wave, including K-pop and K-dramas, has extended South Korea’s reach around the globe. Food and drink like kimchi, Korean barbecue, and soju are also popular the world over. Home to exceptionally fast internet speeds and major tech companies, South Korea is a leading name in innovative technology.

How many days do you need in South Korea?

You will need at least three days to take in Seoul’s historical attractions, shopping neighborhoods, and many restaurants. Add a fourth day to include a day trip to the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). If you plan to travel to other parts of the country, such as Busan, Gyeongju, or Jeju Island, set aside at least 5-7 days.

What activities are popular in South Korea?

Koreans are generally quite active; hiking and camping are common weekend activities for people of all ages. Other popular activities include shopping, norebang (karaoke), and sports. Food is also an integral part of Korean culture, and friends often socialize over chicken and beer, Korean barbecue, or coffee.

What is the prettiest place in South Korea?

Many consider Haedong Yonggung Temple in Busan to be the prettiest place in South Korea with its ornate buildings and view over the Yellow Sea. Constructed in the 14th century, it was destroyed during the Japanese occupation and rebuilt in the 1930s. Springtime visitors should opt for a visit to nearby Jinhae to see the cherry blossoms.

What are the do’s and don’ts in South Korea?

South Korea has many cultural customs that foreigners should make an effort to adhere to. Do accept items with two hands, slurp your noodles, and remove your shoes when entering someone’s house. Don’t shout, blow your nose in public, or take subway seats reserved for the elderly and pregnant or people with disabilities.

Is it safe to go to South Korea?

Yes, South Korea is incredibly safe for tourists. The country’s crime rate is very low, and crimes against foreigners are rare. As in any country, petty theft is possible, so it’s good to be aware of your valuables while exploring densely populated areas. Police officers are regularly stationed on street corners and are always happy to help.

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