Things to see in South Korea: the best places to visit

Things to see in South Korea: the best places to visit

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25 October

Who would have predicted that South Korea would become such a travel hotspot? Korean culture has become an absolute world leader in recent years: teens worship K-pop singers like BTS, adults watch Squid Game and eat kimchi, and the whole world knows how to dance Gangnam Style. As people grow more curious about Korean culture, the country has seen a massive rise in visitors.

If you’re curious about Korea, it’s time to pack your bags! This travel guide to the best places to go in South Korea will let you see the country at its finest. From ultra-modern cities to gorgeous islands, South Korea is a country of contrasts. Get ready to see it for yourself with our guide to the very best of the Korean Peninsula.


Most trips to South Korea start in the capital, as it’s where you’ll find the country’s biggest airport. Don’t be tempted to just pass through on your way to your next destination. Instead, with its intriguing mix of ultra-modern skyscrapers and ancient palaces, it’s worth spending a few days exploring the capital.

Seoul is home to some of the most interesting things to see in Korea. Take a trip to the National Museum and the War Memorial, where you can learn more about the country’s long and often tragic history. Go partying in the trendy neighbourhood of Euljiro, or try the student-friendly and low-budget nightlife of Hongdae if you’re on a budget. Visit the beautiful Changdeokgung Palace, built in the 15th century. Oh, and if you’re wondering what Gangnam Style is all about? Well, head to the neighbourhood of Gangnam, known for its high-end boutiques and great shopping, to see the place that inspired one of the biggest hits of the 21st century.

Dedicated K-pop fans will probably already have a personal bucket list of places to visit in South Korea, particularly in Seoul. There are dozens of sites around the city for Korean culture lovers. Regular pop-up events celebrating different bands are held, and many cafes host special events to mark the birthdays of their favourite idols. Some singers even opened their very own cafes and restaurants, where K-pop fans can flock for a taste of the idol lifestyle!

Aerial photograph of skyscrapers illuminated at dawn in Seoul.


Busan is another big city. It’s also a huge South Korea tourist spot for two very good reasons. First, it has some of the country’s best beaches, including the sandy Haeundae Beach, which attracts beach bums from across Korea and beyond. Secondly, it boasts some truly impressive natural sights, including hot springs, mountains for hikers and a river estuary that’s a favourite with bird watchers.

There are some hidden gems located in and around Busan, too. Visit the colourful Buddhist temples nestled between the skyscrapers, or head to the Maritime Museum to learn more about how South Korea became a world powerhouse in the shipping industry. Best of all is the food. As you’d expect from a port city, it focuses heavily on seafood. Head to Jagalchi Market for an eye-opening experience. This is the largest fish market in the country, and you’ll be blown away by the sheer number of stalls laying out the catch of the day for you to admire. Once you’ve chosen some fish that takes your fancy, head upstairs to one of the restaurants, where the staff will clean and cook it for you.

Haeundae Beach in Busan.

Jeju Island

If you’ve seen Squid Game, you might remember characters talking wistfully about Jeju Island. Ask a Korean, and they’ll tell you that Jeju is one of the best places to go in South Korea. It’s just 85 kilometres from the coast of the peninsula, but it feels like another world. Dense pine forests, beautiful beaches and eerie volcanic craters all make this an unmissable destination during your Korean adventure.

Love to hike? Then be sure to add Jeju to your list of places to visit in South Korea. There’s an official route that runs all the way around the island, the Jeju Olle Trail. The full loop spans an impressive 437 kilometres, and it will take about a month to complete. If you don’t have the time to spare, you can easily choose to dip in and out, following short stretches of the trail. One of the major highlights is Seongsan Sunrise Peak, a volcanic mountain. As the name suggests, it’s at its best early in the morning. Strap on your hiking boots and head up to the top for a blazing sunrise you’ll never forget.

At the end of the day, you’ll find the island’s best sunsets at Ggotji Beach. The sun seems to sink between the two huge rock formations out in the bay, lighting the water up with a brilliant orange glow as it sets. While you’re here, don’t miss the barbecued black pork. This local delicacy is a must-try for all visitors!

A photo of Jeju Island in South Korea.


Not every traveller to South Korea makes it to the DMZ, but if you’re interested in history and politics, this place is definitely worth a visit. The DMZ is the demilitarised zone that marks the border between North and South Korea. Only a small section is open to the public, and you can only visit here as part of a guided tour. As you’d expect, security is pretty intense here, with North Korea being just a few metres away.

So why would anyone want to visit the DMZ? The truth is that it’s an incredibly fascinating place. Unless you do something very foolish, it’s likely the closest you’ll ever get to North Korea. At the Observation Post, you can actually see across the border into Kim Jong-Un’s mysterious country. You’ll also find some intriguing historical sites like the Infiltration Tunnel, which the North Koreans secretly built in the 1970s. The area also contains a North Korean gift shop, where you can buy North Korean currency and stamps, as well as wine brewed north of the border.

The history of the two Koreas involves a number of very complicated and sad stories. While many visitors to the country prefer to focus on the glitz and glamour of Seoul, a trip to the DMZ is something really special, offering a glimpse into one of the planet’s most enduring conflicts. This is one of the most singular places to visit in South Korea, and your experiences here will stay with you for a lifetime.

The Korean Demilitarised Zone.


We often think of Korea as a very modern country, thanks to its skyscrapers and huge influence on pop culture. That’s why it’s interesting to take a step back and visit Gyeongju, an ancient city with more than 2,000 years of history.

Originally built as the capital of the ancient Silla Kingdom, Gyeongju offers living history on an enormous scale. Marvel at the 8th-century Bulguksa Temple and the Seokguram Grotto, two sites that have attracted Buddhist pilgrims for centuries. Inside Seokguram, a beautifully atmospheric cave temple, you’ll see one of the world’s best statues of Buddha, sheltered from the elements for over a thousand years.

Gyeongju Temple Photos.


Now it’s time to visit another era of Korean history! Suwon is known for the Hwaseong Fortress, built in the 18th century to defend the city and serve as a mausoleum for the late Crown Prince Jangheon. Designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, this brick fortress is brilliantly preserved. You can wander the ramparts, enjoying views that sweep across the city and watching out for any approaching enemies! There’s also an area within the fort where you can try your hand at archery. Korea was once famed for the ferocity of its bowmen. Will you pass the test?

One of the best places to visit in South Korea, Suwon is a city where the old meets the new. Not far from the fortress, you’ll find the Samsung Innovation Museum. As the name suggests, this museum focuses heavily on modern technologies and developments from Korea’s most famous brand. There’s also the beautiful Gwanggyosan Mountain nearby, which is a highlight for anyone who’s a fan of hiking. Several trails wind their way up to its summit, giving you great views over the surrounding area.

A pond in a park with a pagoda in the background.


Feel like no trip is complete without doing some serious trekking? There are many great spots for hiking dotted all around the country, but when it comes to natural places to visit in South Korea, it’s hard to beat the beautiful zone of Pyeongchang. During the summer months, there are great trails through the Taebaek Mountains, with something to suit every hiker. That includes serious, challenging routes, like the trail to the summit of Baegunsan, 883 metres above sea level. There are also some gentler trails that are less taxing but just as beautiful. Go for a hike along the Seonjaegil Trail or take the route that winds through the Odaesan Woljeongsa Needle Fir Forest.

If you visit Pyeongchang in winter, you’ll find something completely different. In the snowy months, the mountains are transformed into a haven for winter sports enthusiasts. In fact, the 2018 Winter Olympics were held here. If the skiing infrastructure is good enough for the best athletes in the world, then it’s bound to be impressive! Hit the slopes at the Alpensia or Yongpyong ski resorts, perfect spots for snow bunnies in South Korea.


Not many Westerners have heard of Gwangju — yet. This hip, modern city is determined to increase its number of visitors, and to that end, it’s invested a huge amount of money in developing attractions for travellers of all ages. You can expect it to become one of the top places to visit in South Korea in the near future. Start your day with a visit to the Gwangju Museum, which is one of the best in Korea. It’s designed to look like a traditional Korean palace and features archaeological exhibits dating back a whopping 66,000 years. There’s also a fascinating 14th-century shipwreck on display. Best of all, it’s free to enter!

Gwangju is also home to the Asia Culture Centre, which demands a full day to explore. Inside, you’ll find art galleries, history, architecture, theatrical performances, live music and more. You can also visit the Boseong Green Tea Field, one of the most interesting places in South Korea. Here, you can learn about how tea leaves are grown and harvested, which is surprisingly fascinating, and you’ll be able to sample the local tea while you explore!

Aerial view of the city buildings during the day.


Andong is an absolute must if you’re interested in Korean history and culture. The major highlight is Hahoe folk village. At this living history site, you can see how Koreans lived during the days of the Joseon Dynasty. Another of South Korea’s World Heritage Sites, the village contains old houses and pavilions where you can explore the old Confucian way of life. Everything about this village is remarkable. Even its layout is designed in the shape of a lotus flower, which was considered auspicious.

In the village, you can see old, traditional rituals, including the Mask Dance Drama and the Sunyu Line Fire. It’s a singular location in the Korean Peninsula, where you can really learn about what daily life was like for normal people in centuries gone by. Visitors from all over the world flock here. Even Queen Elizabeth II chose to celebrate her 73rd birthday in Andong, immersed in Korean traditions.

Not that keen on history? Well, you’ll also find plenty to interest you. If you’re a foodie, Andong is an absolute paradise. The local speciality is jjimdak, a rich dish made up of braised chicken and noodles. Andong is also the birthplace of soju, a Korean liquor that’s become one of the country’s national drinks. Raise a glass to that!

Brown wooden houses surrounded by mountains.

Seoraksan National Park

Korea is a country where each season feels completely different. If you’re visiting in the autumn, there’s no better place than Seoraksan National Park. This rugged area is home to the Snowy Crag Mountains, making it a great spot for hikers. It’s carpeted with a dense forest, so as the leaves change colour, it looks truly spectacular. Take a hike that will lead you to the beautiful Yukdam-Pokpo waterfall, admiring the brilliant colours that surround you all along the way. Forget New England — if you want to see autumn foliage, Seoraksan is the place to be.

There’s more than just nature in this national park. Seoraksan is built around the Baekdamsa Buddhist temple, which is definitely one of the most beautiful places to visit in South Korea. In the middle of the path ahead of you, an enormous statue of the seated Buddha seems to appear out of nowhere. With its perfect blend of nature and spirituality, it’s worth taking a moment to rest and contemplate the scene.

As you wander through the park, keep your eyes peeled. There are over 2,000 species of animals and birds that call this place home. If you’re lucky, you might spot Siberian flying squirrels, cute otters and goat-like Korean gorals. There are even black bears lurking in the forests — but don’t panic, as they tend to steer clear of humans.

A person walking across a bridge over a river in the Seoraksan National Park.


Jeonju was once the spiritual capital of Korea, and if you want to see temples, pagodas and museums, it’s still a great place to visit. Take time to explore Jeonju Hanok Village, a living history site that displays a preserved snapshot of life from the early 20th century. Here, you can try out one of Korea’s most interesting traditional crafts: the making of Hanji paper. In centuries gone by, Hanji was made by hand. It’s a surprisingly strenuous process that involves a great deal of pounding and stirring.

This city is also home to one of South Korea’s most important Catholic sites, the Jeondong Cathedral. Established in the early 20th century, the cathedral honours Korea’s Catholic martyrs, and its unusual architecture shows off an East meets West design.

Aerial photograph of houses during the golden hour.

Halla Mountain

You’ve probably realised by now that South Korea is an ideal spot for hikers and nature lovers. One final hiking hotspot is the glorious Halla Mountain. Visit during early spring to see it at its best. The flowers are just starting to bloom, creating a vibrant carpet of bright pink, purple and other colours, but there are still icicles dangling from the tree branches at higher altitudes.

Halla Mountain, known locally as Hallasan, is located on Jeju Island, and it’s the highest peak in all of South Korea. There are many different trails you can take to explore it. If you’re a hardcore hiker, attempt the full route to the top — but be warned, it takes around 10 hours to complete! There are many shortcuts if you’re not up for the challenge.

Image among the rocky mountains of Halla Mountain.

South Korea is a country with something for everyone. Whether you’re a culture vulture looking for a city break or a nature lover longing to escape, there’s a Korean tour perfect for you. Check out our fabulous trips to South Korea, and start planning your next holiday to discover the best places to visit in South Korea.

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WeRoad Team
Written by WeRoad Team