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South Korea is a unique country where the modern high-tech era is intertwined with ancient buildings carefully protected by the state. The sights of South Korea are ancient palaces, amazing nature, and modern megacities. What to see in South Korea if you are in this country for the first time? Especially for you, we have selected the most interesting places in this colorful Asian country.
What to see in South Korea in the first place
Those who like well-organized and informative excursions definitely need guides in South Korea, who can express their wishes and set off to explore the sights at the agreed time. If you prefer to travel on your own, then from the list below, you can easily select suitable places to visit.
1. Gyeongbokgung (Seoul)
Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul
Gyeongbokgung is the main palace of the country, which many rightly call the Korean Kremlin. Travelers can easily find it in the heart of Seoul. It is impossible to visit a tourist city and forget to look into this place. The palace itself was built in the 14th century. For a number of reasons, he constantly changed his appearance. Most of the buildings that make up Gyeongbokgung are made of wood.
On the way to this South Korean landmark, there are several monuments dedicated to the medieval admiral named Lee Sun-sin. It was he who at one time came up with armadillos. Also near the entrance to the palace you can see a monument that was erected in honor of the ruler Sechzha, who created the Korean alphabet. Behind this figure, there are gates that open the way to the sights. The gates are three entrances at once. The main entrance is always closed, as it is intended for the legitimate ruler.
Tourists are surprised at the costumed guards of the palace, who have a beard glued on to give them solidity and stateliness. Every morning there is a changing of the guard. This procedure is accompanied by a spectacular performance, which is always interesting to watch.
Official website: http://www.royalpalace.go.kr/
2. Changdeokgung Palace (Seoul)
Changdeokgung Palace in Seoul
Many tours in Seoul include a trip to Changdeokgung Palace. He was one of the few who managed to retain his original appearance. The palace constantly had to be rebuilt and restored, but during the work the masters tried to preserve the real appearance of the building. Thanks to this, this landmark of South Korea still manages to convey the architectural style that the Joseon dynasty adhered to. Within the walls of the palace until his death, Emperor Sunjong lived, remembered in history as the last monarch of the country. In 1955, the architectural monument was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The territory of the palace turned out to be quite picturesque. This result was achieved due to the fact that during construction it was necessary to reckon with non-standard terrain.
Thousands of tourists come to the foot of Eagle Peak Mountain to admire the beauty of Changdeokgung. Locals continue to believe that there is a unique energy in these parts that once filled the bodies of departed emperors with amazing power and knowledge. Thanks to this, they could manage the whole country wisely for many years.
Official website: http://eng.cdg.go.kr/
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3. Seoraksan National Park (Sokcho)
Sokcho's Seoraksan Park in bright colors
Seoraksan National Park is a cozy corner of nature. Travelers who have not decided what to visit in South Korea can safely go here to enjoy the incredible scenery. The park is famous all over the world for its waterfalls and geysers. Buddhist temples, which are more than one century old, did not go unnoticed. It is interesting that for this attraction of South Korea, territory was allocated in four neighboring cities at once. Locals consider the park the main advantage of the country.
The national park successfully combines jagged peaks, beautiful waterfalls, deep caves and dense forests. Walking around Seoraksan, tourists can come across the Shinhungsa temple, which is one of the oldest Buddhist buildings of religious significance.
Many travelers come to the park to enjoy the wildlife. They are fascinated by amazing mountain slopes with non-standard shapes and outlines. The forests of Seoraksan look most advantageous in the autumn, when the foliage of the trees begins to change color. On the mountain slopes, you can see many rare representatives of the world of flora, which you will not find anywhere else.
4. Hwaseong Fortress (Suwon)
Hwaseong Fortress Watchtower and Part of the Fortress Wall
When you travel around South Korea, be sure to set aside a full day to visit the “blossoming castle” in the provincial capital of Gyeonggi-do. Exactly a day will be needed in order to be enough in the fortress. After all, Hwaseong is so large in scale that it could compete with the Moscow Kremlin.
On the territory of the “Diamond Fortress” (another name for the castle) there are numerous palace buildings and high former watchtowers – a total of 40 buildings. You can get inside by passing through the majestic gates located along the perimeter of the castle to all four cardinal points. It is still possible to explore on foot the walls more than five kilometers long, but going around them is not an easy task.
Some of the fortifications are located on the top, while the other part is on steep hills. Although a special tram may arrive in time to help travelers.
The title of “blooming” was given to the fortress for its picturesque panoramic views. The mighty stone walls of the castle rise proudly in the thicket of green gardens. If you have not seen Hwaseong, then you have not seen the real sights of South Korea.
5. Hahoe Village (Andong)
Hahoe Village in Andong
As soon as they call this picturesque place, located on the banks of the Nakdong. This is both a “folklore” village or a land near a “winding river”, and the village is identified with a “lotus flower floating on water”, and they even talk about Khahoe as a symbol of the unity of two polar principles. All these names and descriptions actually reflect the world that opens before the eyes of a tourist who has fallen into the atmosphere of an ancient era.
By the number of cultural heritage items that the village keeps, all other sights of South Korea fade. Here are the real school of Confucianism, and architectural buildings from the Joseon Dynasty. In Hahoe, the air is literally saturated with tradition, so be sure to go on a tour to learn the history right from the scene. Another pride of the village is the wooden carnival masks. The craft of making them is perfectly mastered by the locals and is still practiced today. These works of art can be purchased as a souvenir. Hahoe Village gives every tourist the opportunity to take a piece of history with them.
Official website: http://www.hahoe.or.kr/
Feel the atmosphere of South Korea in this beautiful video!
6. Jeju Island (Korea Strait)
Black Basalt Stone Sculptures on Jeju Island
If you are wondering what to see in South Korea, then you have not yet been to the “Island of Three Abundances”. The innumerable treasures of Jeju are stones of volcanic origin, which have absorbed the history of more than four hundred million years. There are several extinct volcanoes on the island, the most famous of which is called Hallasan.
Another natural feature of Jeju is a real riot of elements, when the most powerful gusts of wind roam freely among the rocks. Also, the island became famous for the original national disposition of the locals. After all, here the main earner is a woman, and a man does housework and brings up children. And the islanders themselves are already like specific sights of South Korea, with their curious local dialect, which sometimes even native Koreans do not understand.
In addition to the breathtaking island nature, with its waterfalls and mountain caves, mandarin plantations, bonsai and orchids, here you can admire unusual stone sculptures – giant three-meter tolharubans, which are considered the guardians of Jeju. You should also visit the famous Bridge of the Seven Nymphs. All this must be seen with your own eyes!
7. Hyedong Yonggunsa Temple (Busan)
Buddha Statue at Hyedong Yonggunsa Temple in Busan
Sights of South Korea are very diverse: architectural monuments, natural parks, historical heritage and much more. A good example is the Hyedong Yonggunsa temple located on the outskirts of Busan city.
The Buddhist temple of Hyedong Yonggunsa is considered one of the most beautiful among those that can be seen in the south of the state. But this is not the only thing that makes him popular. There is an ancient belief that every sincere prayer or wish made from the heart within the walls of the temple will surely come true. You can ask for anything: health, financial well-being, family happiness and much more.
Another feature of this attraction is its unusual location. Most of these buildings occupy a place somewhere in the mountains. Hyedong Yonggunsa is located a few meters from the sea. According to one of the legends, it was here that the sea king, who appeared to the monk in a dream, advised him to build it. The latter, in desperation, asked for help for a country that was suffering from severe droughts, famine and crop failures. The Sea King said that a temple built by the sea would make Korea happy forever. So in 1376 the foundation of Hyedong Yonggunsa was laid.
On the territory of the temple you can see a lot of interesting things: altars, pagodas, healing springs, sacred Buddha statues, etc.
Official Website: http://www.yongkungsa.or.kr/en/
8. Namiseom Island (Jongpyeong Dam)
Namiseom Island's colorful autumn scenery
South Korea's natural attractions start from Namiseom Island. In terms of area, it occupies more than 450,000 m² and is a crescent. Namisom owes its appearance to the Jeonpyeong Dam.
The island has a lot of features and interesting places:
- The burial place of General Nami, who lived from 1441 to 1468. Behind him is the suppression of the uprising that took place in 1467, when King Sejo of the Joseon dynasty ruled in the country. By the way, the name of the island comes from the name of this general. A cable car that was installed in order to draw attention to eco-tourism. It is considered the largest road in all of Asia. Its height reaches 80 m.
Another distinctive feature of the island is the complete absence of telegraph poles. The wires are neatly laid in the thickness of the earth. Because of this, Namiseom looks very natural.
What to visit in South Korea on Namiseom Island? In addition to sightseeing, tourists can engage in outdoor activities such as swimming in the pool, water skiing or rides in the park. You can also take a walk in the forest to see with your own eyes the huts, similar to the dwellings of the ancient Koreans. And, of course, tourists have the opportunity to try amazing Korean cuisine.
Official website: https://namisum.com/
9. Demilitarized Zone (4 km zone between South and North Korea)
Another must-see sights of South Korea are the objects located in the demilitarized zone. This is an area covering 4 km. It is located between two states – South and North Korea. The DMZ appeared in the summer of 1953, during the period when a temporary truce was declared in the Korean War.
The DMZ is 7 cities. It is almost impossible to visit them all in one day due to the abundance of interesting places:
- Imjingak Peace Park. It can accommodate more than 20,000 people at a time. It contains a large number of various expositions and artifacts related to the Korean War. Tunnel number 3. It is a construction for the transition from North Korea to South. For the first time they learned about him in 1978. The length of the tunnel is impressive – 1635 m. Phanmunchzhom. This village, formerly called Nolmuri, is located on the military demarcation line. There are two buildings in the village, one is white and the other is blue. The first is run by the UN military, and the second by the North Korean army.
When deciding what to see in South Korea, the demilitarized zone must be given not the last place. This is a reminder of how far war can go.
10. Jongmyo Temple (Seoul)
Ancient Jongmyo Temple in Seoul
If you look at the sights of South Korea, then you need to start from the capital. Seoul is a city that harmoniously combines history and modernity, religion, architecture and beautiful nature. And one of the interesting and beautiful places is Jongmyo Temple.
This building is part of the world cultural heritage. According to scholars, Jongmyo is the oldest Confucian temple that has survived to this day. It was erected back in 1394 by King Taejo. It was then that Seoul received the status of the capital of the state.
Jongmyo was once the longest building in all of Asia. But during one of the wars, it was destroyed. After the restoration in 1601, only a part of the buildings survived. And this despite the fact that the temple was always restored in the first place.
Now Jongmyo consists of two large halls and several additional buildings that perform household functions. One of the halls is called Jeonjeong. It usually hosts a funeral ceremony. The second hall is called Yeongnyeongjeong or the Room of Tranquility and Peace. There is an amazingly beautiful park in front of the entrance, where tourists can relax and hide from the bright sun.
Jongmyo Temple is open to both tour groups and individual tourists.
Official website : http://jm.cha.go.kr/
Sightseeing in South Korea: what else to visit while in South Korea
In addition to the well-known monuments and parks, there are many tourist sites in the country, about which there is not much information. So that you can choose excursions in South Korea, taking into account all your preferences, we offer descriptions and photographs of really unusual places. You can visit them both on your own and with an experienced guide.
11. Seoul TV Tower (Seoul)
Seoul TV Tower
What to visit in South Korea? When answering this question, each guide will mention the Seoul TV Tower. This building is included in the list of the ten most popular places in the Korean capital. Why is it remarkable?
The Seoul TV Tower is a kind of observation deck. It is located on Mount Namsan at an altitude of more than 240 m. The height of the tower is 236 m. It turns out that it allows you to admire Seoul from a height of 479 m.
The construction of the structure began in 1969. In just 2 years it was ready, and after another 4 years a cafe, a museum, an observation deck, etc. were opened there. The first visitors appeared here in 1980.
A visit to Seoul Tower is an unforgettable experience. The view that opens from it to the capital will amaze even the most sophisticated tourists. This explains the fact that more than 8 million people visit it every year.
The structure consists of 3 parts, each of which has its own characteristics. For example, Lobby N has a living museum and gift shop. The N Tower houses the unique Teddy Bear Museum, while Plaza N, which spans 2 floors, offers a terrace and a cafe to eat.
All the sights of South Korea, including the Seoul TV Tower, help to get acquainted not only with the history of the state, but also with the life of modern people.
Official website: http://www.nseoultower. co.kr/
12. Myeongdong Cathedral (Seoul)
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Seoul
What to see in South Korea in its capital? A great option is Myeongdong Cathedral. Its second name is the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It belongs to the archdiocese of Seoul. The Virgin Mary is the patroness of the city, so the cathedral is the main shrine of Korean Catholics. In addition, the cathedral is one of the most interesting examples of neo-Gothic style in architecture.
Myeongdong Cathedral has a lot of features:
- The height of the structure is 23 m. If we take into account the spire with the clock hanging on it, then the height is 45 m. In the fall of 1977, the temple became part of the list of National Historic Monuments, which includes many other attractions in South Korea. Stained-glass windows are of particular interest to tourists. They represent the birth of Jesus, the magi who brought gifts, as well as Jesus along with 12 apostles. The remains of Christian martyrs who accepted death for their religious views are kept on the territory of the cathedral. These people were canonized by the Pope in 1984.
Myeongdong Cathedral doesn't have a lot of ancient artifacts on its grounds. By the standards of the Christian religion, he is still quite young. But, as religious scholars say, its construction in Korea in the 19th century is a real breakthrough.
Official website: https://www.mdsd.or.kr/main/< /p>
13. Bul Guksa Temple (Gyeongju City)
Pul Guksa Temple in Gyeongju
Pul Guksa Temple was established during the prosperity of the United Kingdom of Silla. He became the personification of the concept of Buddhism. Like many other similar buildings of a religious orientation, the temple surprises with the sophistication of its forms and unique beauty.
The gates of Pul Guks are guarded by eternal guards – painted giants made of wood. Each of them faces one of the cardinal directions. Behind the gate is a stream, over which a bridge is thrown. It is believed that this is the path between reality and the world of the Buddha. The stream itself originates in a pond. One beautiful legend is associated with him, which has existed for many centuries. You can hear it from the locals.
The monastery, which tourists can observe today, is a restored version of the temple. In the last century, the president issued a decree to reconstruct this landmark of South Korea, but only the main premises, which were a small part of the entire complex, were restored. But even this restored part allows you to understand what beauty the Pul Guksa temple had in its time. It still causes genuine admiration among the guests of the city, as it allows you to plunge into the history of this place.
14. Olympic Park (Seoul)
Seoul Olympic Park
To find out what to see in South Korea, you need to look into the tourist guide. In it, the traveler will definitely find the Olympic Park in the city of Seoul, which is of great interest to the guests of the country.
In 1988, Korea was honored to host the next Olympic Games. It was on this occasion that the Olympic Park was built. It contains gyms, health centers and various equipment rentals. The park covers an area of at least a thousand hectares. Especially for the guests of Seoul, museums were built in this attraction of South Korea so that its visit was not only interesting, but also informative.
Tourists take pictures with great pleasure near the architectural structures that are located throughout the Olympic Park. There are more than two hundred sculptural and other figures created by the best masters of modern art.
In the very center of the park square there is a unique composition of various stones. They differ in size and origin. Each stone bears the signature of one of the participants of the last Olympiad. For many, this composition has become the embodiment of sports spirit and record victories.
Official website: http://www.olympicpark.co.kr/
15. Korean National Village (Yongin)
Folklore Museum Korean National Village in Yongin
Yongin is home to a unique attraction worth seeing. The museum of ethnographic orientation, located right in the open air, received a lot of positive reviews. It was named the Korean National Village.
A huge territory was allocated for this attraction of South Korea. It is noteworthy that not only tourists come here, but also local residents. For many, the village has become a family holiday destination. The purpose of the creation of the national village was the desire to show visitors from other countries the life and culture of the people of Korea. The idea was realized thanks to the placement of a huge number of exhibition items in the tourist area. In the village there are exact copies of houses that belonged to people of different social circles. The craftsmen did not forget about the market, where merchants sell traditional food and clothes.
Talented dancers and performers are responsible for the entertainment part. All sorts of traditional ceremonies, including weddings, are often held in the national village. They allow guests of South Korea to get acquainted with the daily life of the indigenous people in more detail.
Official website: http://www.koreanfolk.co.kr/
16. Myeongdong Street (Seoul)
Seoul Central Shopping Street
South Korea has long positioned itself as a country of fashion and style. Tourists from all over the world flock to its capital not only for sightseeing, but also for grand shopping. In addition to the already sensational South Korean cosmetics, there are a lot of things here that you want to fork out for. What is worth visiting the major shopping district of Seoul – Myeongdong. On an area of 0.91 square kilometers, there are a ton of boutiques and branded stores selling clothes, shoes and accessories of high quality and well-known brands, and all this can be bought at relatively affordable prices. In addition to boutiques, you can also see here: Chinatown, where national cosmetics, food and medicine are sold, numerous beauty salons, restaurants with national and European dishes, theaters, hotels and much more.
17. Rainbow Fountain Bridge (Seoul)
Colorful Rainbow Fountain Bridge in downtown Seoul
Nowadays, few people can be surprised by fountains. But the Korean masterpiece will surprise the most sophisticated tourist. The Rainbow Fountain Bridge is both a bridge and a fountain, combined into an original design and creating an inexpressible beauty spectacle. From the branch pipes installed on both sides of the Banpo Bridge along its entire length, streams of water break out, which, describing a huge arc, noisily fall into the Hangang River. This spectacle is complemented by the illumination of water streams, which shimmers with different colors of the rainbow and creates a truly enchanting spectacle. Therefore, this creation is especially beautiful in the evening and at night, if you watch it from the south bank of the river. The Banpo Bridge is two-tiered, and it is also interesting to be on its lower tier to feel like you are inside a waterfall.
18. Deoksugung Palace Complex (Seoul)
Traditional Korean building at Deoksugung Palace in Seoul
Panorama of Deoksugung Palace in Seoul
There is a palace complex in Seoul that includes 5 royal palaces. Toksugun is the smallest of them, it is the only one decorated in European style. The rest of the buildings have traditional South Korean facades. It is also noteworthy that on the territory of the Toksugun Palace there are several structures designed by a Russian architect at the beginning of the last century. In total, the castle complex once included 180 structures, but most of them were destroyed during the Japanese colonial period and in a fire in 1904. Today, in the western wing of the castle, you can visit a branch of the National Art Center, and in the eastern wing, you can see the collection of palace treasures.
Official website: http://www.deoksugung.
19. Pomos Temple (Busan)
Colorful Buddhist statues at Pomosa Temple
Pomosa Buddhist temple complex on the edge of Mount Geumjeongsan in Busan
Religion, like the culture of South Korea, is based on ancient traditions and customs that have their own unique history. Buddhism, being the main religion of the country, absorbed the ancient interpretations of Confucianism. The holy places of South Korea testify to the history of the formation of the Buddhist religion, which has more than 2 millennia. The five most important South Korean shrines include the Pomosa Temple in Busan. The temple complex covers an area of about 8 square kilometers, on which there are 160 different structures – priests' huts, rooms for solitude and other buildings. It also houses a number of valuable cultural relics, such as the 3-story pagoda, Iljumun Gate, or the main building of Duengcheon, which is an example of the beautiful wooden architecture of the Joseon era.
Official website: http ://www.beomeo
20. Cheomseongdae, Gyeongju
“Star Watching Tower” in Gyeongju National Park
The famous Cheomseongdae observatory in the Wolseong area of Gyeongju National Park
Despite the fact that Seoul is a real treasure trove of valuable historical, cultural and natural monuments, other cities in South Korea deserve attention. For example, the city of Gyeongju for a millennium, during the reign of the Silla Dynasty, was the capital of the state. Among its attractions, the Cheomseongdae Astronomical Observatory, listed as a national treasure, stands out. This building was erected in the distant 7th century AD. during the reign of Queen Sondok, from 362 blocks of granite (according to another version – 366), the number of which symbolized the number of days in the lunar year. At one time, the observatory was used not only to observe the stars, but also to predict the weather.
Official website: http://english.knps.or.kr/
21. Museum of Illusions (Busan)
Sea Monster Panorama at Trick Eye Museum of Optical Illusions in Busan Indiway.com
Unicorn Panorama at Busan Museum of Illusion Indiway.com
The Museum of Optical Illusions is a Busan attraction that is loved by both locals and visitors to the city. The institution, opened in 2013, has gained immense popularity in a short period of its existence. Because the exhibits of the museum are 3D paintings that you can not only look at, but also take part in the drawn three-dimensional plots yourself. These paintings are all interesting and funny in their own way, and the photos against their background are as realistic as possible, thanks to the skillful use of perspective features by the authors. Both adult visitors and children are delighted with the opportunity to become the hero of a scene with a sea monster, sit next to the “real” Mona Lisa, launch Angry Birds from a slingshot, feel like a prince on a white horse or find yourself inside a soap bubble.
Official website: https://trickeye.com
22. Lotte World Amusement Park (Seoul)
Seoul Lotte World Ziggymaster
Largest indoor ice skating rink in Lotte World SJ Yang Underground
Like a number of other unique objects, the world's largest indoor park is located in the capital city of Seoul. True, the Lotte company, which created the Lotte World amusement park, did not limit itself only to the creation of a covered area. An open complex was also built – a whole island with countless attractions. The total area of the park is 128 thousand square meters, and every year new entertainments, cafes, souvenir shops appear on its territory, so the complex continues to delight even those who have been there dozens of times. The covered area includes four above-ground floors with attractions, food courts, restaurants and one underground floor with an ice rink. The open area features a variety of attractions and cafes, as well as the fabulous Aurora Castle, where you can just walk around and watch the show.
23. Bukhansan National Park (Seoul)
Bukhansan National Park is popular with nature and tourism lovers
Sometimes the sights of North Korea and South Korea are so close that it would seem that in one trip you can cover both. But, alas, the political regime of these countries is making its own adjustments, and crossing the border, which is very close, is very problematic. Not far from the border, in the north of Seoul, right in the city, there is a beautiful reserved park Pukhasan. From the noisy city to the picturesque mountain landscapes, you can quickly get by metro, and you can climb to the heights along one of the many routes – all of them are so well thought out that you can master any of the trails without much preparation. The height of the mountains reaches 1000 meters, and magnificent views of the numerous gorges with crystal streams and waterfalls open from there.
Official website: http://english.knps
24. Jagalchi Fish Market (Busan)
Inside the largest Jagalchi fish market in South Korea, Weli'mi'nakwan
Selling and cooking fish at Jagalchi Fish Market in Busan yeowatzup
One of the most colorful places in the Republic of Korea is the Jagalchi market in Busan, one of the largest markets in the entire Asian space. Its territory stretches for 11 kilometers in length and has become not only a trading area, but also a place of numerous entertainments, holidays, festivals and even rock concerts. As for products, the stalls of this market offer a wide variety of seafood – the emphasis is mainly on the trade in the freshest, most often living marine life. It is here that Korean restaurateurs most often stock up on seafood in order to offer their visitors excellent national dishes. Any visitor can stock up on some delicacy here and pass it to the restaurant, where a delicious dish will be prepared literally in front of his eyes.
25. Cheonggyecheon (Seoul)
Cheonggyecheon Stream is a popular walking spot in central Seoul among locals and tourists
If you travel to South Korea in the spring and are looking for what to see in Seoul in May, it is worth noting that it is too early to start a beach holiday during this period, but it’s time to visit beautiful parks and various natural monuments. This is facilitated by the most comfortable weather of the year, with a predominance of the sun and average daily temperatures at the level of 20-25 degrees. Cheonggyecheon Park is one of the most suitable places: a recreation area about 10 kilometers long is located right in the center of Seoul, along the eponymous stream. This is a real oasis among the stone jungles of the metropolis: along almost the entire length of the stream there are alleys, shops, beautiful fountains beat, and in the evening and at night this place becomes truly magical, thanks to thoughtful lighting and flickering from the surrounding skyscrapers.
Official site: http://www.sisul.
Next to South Korea is the country of sakura – Japan. While in Korea, consider visiting the Land of the Rising Sun. Read about the sights of Japan and get inspired for your next trip to Southeast Asia!