City Highlight: Seoul

Published on: Wednesday, February 7, 2018
City Highlight: Seoul - Seoul Tower at twilight in spring

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With its glass and steel skyline, exciting nightlife and delicious cuisine, Seoul is a modern metropolis that’s well worth a visit

Seoul is a wonderful mix of futuristic skyscrapers, traditional quaint wooden houses and meandering cobble stone alleys. The city showcases Korean culture in all its glory, blending traditional history with modern architecture. The National Museum of Korea is a prime example – the shiny and sleek building contains some spectacular artefacts from Korea’s past. Coupled with tasty Korean food and a nightlife scene that takes some beating, Seoul is definitely a jewel in South Korea’s crown.

When to go

Spring (March – May) is the best time to visit Seoul as the weather is pleasant and you can witness the annual Jongmyo Daeje ritual, an ancestral rite that incorporates Korean court music and dance, on the first Sunday of May.

Summer (June – August) sees the arrival of monsoon rains, leaving the city hot and humid. Temperatures hover in the high-twenties and the most rain falls in July.

Autumn (September – November) is an ideal time to visit Seoul as temperatures are in the comfortable 12C (54F) to 26C (79F) range. The city is awash with colour as leaves on the trees turn red, yellow and orange – providing the perfect backdrop for your holiday snaps.

Winter (December – February) can be very cold, with temperatures often reaching minus figures. Spend time at a mogyoktang, or Korean bathhouse, to keep warm and to feel like a Seoul local.

Getting around

Public transport in Seoul is efficient, clean and easy for tourists to use. Stick to the yellow city buses as these are the most tourist-friendly, taking you around downtown Seoul and stopping at main train stations, popular tourist spots and fashionable shopping districts. The Seoul Metropolitan Subway is also a great way of getting around the city – the colour-coded lines and English announcements facilitate a trouble-free journey. For information on CityPass and taxi services, see our Getting Around Seoul guide.

Must-see attractions

National Museum of Korea
A stay in Seoul is incomplete without a visit to the National Museum of Korea. With over 13,000 artefacts on display, including sculptures, weapons and paintings, you’ll get a glimpse of Korea’s diverse and fascinating past.

Changdeokgung and the Secret Garden
This UNESCO World Heritage Site consists of a 15-century palace complex and a stunning Korean garden. Home to many of Korea’s kings and their descendants until 1989, the palace and garden can be visited today on a guided tour.

The War Memorial of Korea
Occupying the former site of the army headquarters, this museum explores Korea’s long history with war. The Korean War (1950-53) exhibition is particularly interesting and makes for a touching addition to your trip.

See our Things to see in Seoul guide for more must-see recommendations.

Quirky & offbeat

Take a dip in a traditional Korean bathhouse
Mogyoktangs, or Korean bathhouses, are a great place to relax and unwind while enjoying the soothing waters from the underground hot springs. Bathhouses are a key part of Korean life so follow the custom and visit one.

Sing to your heart’s content at a noraebang
Koreans adore Noraebang. Rent a singing room by the hour and belt out some classics – there are also small instruments, such as tambourines and drums, for you to play while you sing.

For other fun and quirky ideas, see out Things to do in Seoul guide.

Travel tips

Must-try foods in Seoul

  • Bibimbap – a simple yet delicious dish comprising of boiled rice, vegetables, chilli peppers, meat and an egg.
  • Kimchi – made from fermented Chinese cabbage, turnips, onions, garlic, ginger and salted seafood, this dish is a staple in Korean cuisine.
  • Bulgogi – thin slices of flavoursome marinated beef cooked on a table-top grill – also referred to as Korean BBQ.
  • Soju – a popular vodka-like spirit made from rice or sweet potato.
  • Ginseng wine – sweet, strong and often believed to have medicinal properties, this wine packs a tasty punch.

Our Seoul Food & Drink guide: 10 things to try in Seoul, Korea is packed with must-try dishes and where to find them.

Tipping: is not customary, however many hotels and other tourist facilities add a 10% service charge to their bills.

Hotels in Seoul

The hotels in Seoul are well known for their cleanliness and exceptional service. From gorgeous 5-star hotels, such as The Shilla – a popular choice with celebrities and royals alike – to the simple and traditional Anguk Guesthouse, there are enough options in this ultra-modern city to suit every budget. To find out where to stay in Seoul, check out our Seoul Hotels guide.

Nightlife in Seoul

Seoul is a city that never sleeps. 24-hour singing rooms, open-air night markets and trendy clubs provide something for everyone to do once the sun goes down. A good suggestion is to enjoy a luxurious cocktail at the majestic Sky Lounge and drink in the panoramic views. Alternatively, dance the night away at Club Octagon – an underground club featuring electronic and house music. For more nightlife recommendations, see our Seoul Nightlife guide.

Shopping in Seoul

Seoul is a haven for shoppers, with enough designer stores, impressive shopping centres and sprawling markets to make any shopaholic squeal with glee. Check out our Shopping in Seoul guide for the best shopping areas to visit and cool souvenirs to bring home.

Visa requirements to Seoul, South Korea

Nationals from the UK, Australia, Canada, the USA or the EU do not need a visa to visit South Korea. Canadian nationals are permitted to stay for up to six months visa free, while Australians, Americans and certain EU nationals can only stay for up to 90 days. For more information on the documents you’ll need before you travel, please see our South Korea Visa and Passport Requirements guide.