If you plan on traveling to South Korea, I highly suggest you include many if not all of these places in your itinerary.
South Korea is a very unique country with a very rich culture. You could spend an entire year here, and still not experience everything this gem has to offer. It’s amazing how quickly Koreans have been able to rebuild their country into the thriving, first world sensation it is today.
This is my Top 7 of things you should experience in South Korea:
A Jimjilbang or public bathhouse and sauna is extremely popular in Korea. It’s a magical place I tell you!
When you go to the jimjilbang, you pay around $13. You are provided with 2 towels, a uniform, and two lockers (one for your shoes and one for your clothes). The bathhouse is separated by gender. The first thing you will notice when you walk in is naked women (or men) everywhere! Women of all ages, shapes, sizes, and colors will be walking around completely naked so you’ve been warned! Once you check in and get your locker assignment, you will get undressed and take your towel and toiletries to the community bath area. You will first have to take a shower and clean your body thoroughly before you are able to enjoy the different Jacuzzis. Yes there are about five or six different Jacuzzis at different temperatures that you will be able to enjoy. Once you are finished relaxing in the Jacuzzis, you can dry off and make your way back to your locker to change into the uniform they provided you with. Once you’ve changed, you will proceed to the floor with the saunas. There are many different rooms with different temperatures that you can enjoy. It’s important to remember that all Jimjilbangs are not created equal. There are blankets and sleeping mats available for those who want to sleep (this is a much cheaper and better alternative to an expensive hotel!).
When I visit Seoul on Saturday nights I like to stay in Siloam Sauna (the best jimjilbang ever) as a cheap and more comfortable alternative to a hostel. I always manage to get a good night’s rest there.
2. Namsan Tower or Seoul Tower
The infamous Namsan Tower was a truly wonderful experience. You do have to do quite a bit of hiking before you reach the lifts that take you up to the top of the tower. When you reach the top you will see an area full of locks! They are locks of love and thousands of people have left a lock for their loved ones up there. There’s a separate lift that will take you even further up the tower where you can have a fancy dinner overlooking the entire city! It’s beautiful! The restaurant is not cheap as you can imagine so you may want to skip this part if you’re on a tight budget.
For more information: nseoultower.co.kr
3. Byeongbangchi Skywalk & Zip Wire
This experience was so amazing. The Ari Hills Byeongbangchi Skywalk & Zip Wire are located right in my little county of Jeongseon! The zip wire here is known for being one of the longest and steepest zip wires in Asia! The sky walk was also beautiful! Many Koreans from Seoul come to Jeongseon on vacation for attractions such as this one. You can even take an ATV on the trails with a tour guide!
For more information: ziprider.com
4. Haesindang Park AKA “Penis Park”
Wow….all I can say is wow!
This place was absolutely gorgeous, and I’m not just talking about the many penis sculptures. I’m really speaking of the trees, the water, and the scenery! It was an amazing experience. I’m 25 years old, but when I went to this park I felt like a naughty little teenage girl. We took inappropriate pictures, made sexually inappropriate jokes, and felt free to do so. It was nice to leave the filter at the gate, and just be completely absurd for the day!
The story behind this park goes a little something like this: A virgin bride was swept away by the high tide right before her wedding; consequently she drowned and died. Shortly after that, the village began to notice there was a shortage in fish. Fishermen were not able to catch as many fish, and the town was slowly beginning to starve. Then one day, a man decided to relieve himself at the top of a cliff into the water. The “ghost” of the virgin was watching and was pleased with what she saw. As a result, the fish started to return. When more men found out what happened, they all began to relieve themselves in the water and more and more fish returned. This is why they decided to erect penis statues, in hopes that it would please the virgin and keep the supply of fish plentiful. Now I’m sure I’m screwing this story up a little bit, but you get the idea.
With that being said, I highly recommend visiting this park. IT’S AWESOME!
For more information: thesouthkoreatravelguide.com
5. Hongdae, Myeongdong, Itaewon, Gangnam & Insadong
These areas are all located in the metropolitan area of Seoul. They are all major tourist hubs, and each offers its own unique experience. They are all worth visiting for sure.
Hongdae is your college town with many coffee shops, cheap restaurants, plenty of indoor and outdoor shopping, some of the best clubs and pubs, and I can’t forget to mention the plentiful and rather cheap hostels in this area. When I stayed at a hostel in Hongdae I met people from about 12 different countries, and I still keep in contact with many of them today. It was a wonderful experience, but I don’t recommend staying in this area longer than a few days.
Myeongdong, if I’m being 100% honest, gives me extreme anxiety! I’ve never seen so many stores in my life. It has huge department stores everywhere, and an underground mall with what seems like hundreds of shops, lots of cosmetic shops, more street food and restaurants than anyone could ask for, and more options than any other shopping district I’ve ever been to. It’s INSANE.
Itaewon is known as the foreigner district of Seoul. In this area you will see a lot of diversity as there are Americans, Canadians, Africans, Europeans, Australians, Asians-pretty much every nationality can be found in this area. This also means that this district houses all the foreign cuisine restaurants as well as upscale clubs, bars, and there’s even a “Red Light District” here. I like to frequent Itaewon for my American style breakfast fix! Chicken and pancakes anyone!?
Gangnam is the life of the party! Why do you think “Gangnam Style” is still such a popular song!? There is literally everything in Gangnam: shopping, restaurants (both foreign and Korean), upscale hotels, budget hostels, high-end clubs, bars, huge malls, an indoor amusement park, huge stadiums where major concerts are held, and so much more. It can actually be quite overwhelming there. You can’t run out of things to do in this area.
Insadong is such a great place to visit. It’s slightly smaller than the other areas, and the vibe is a lot calmer than the other major areas. It’s great for visiting the famous Gongbukdong Palace, going shopping for souvenirs, having a traditional Korean style meal, and just walking around enjoying the day. It’s perfect for those who are not into the party scene, and just want to relax and enjoy the culture. They often have free cultural shows in this area for tourists. You can witness traditional Korean dance and singing which makes for a very special experience.
6. Sun Cruise Resort & Yacht
This place is very unique. I will preface this by saying that the best time to visit this site is during the summer months. This is the time when all the amenities are available, and you will enjoy your time much more.
The Sun Cruise Resort & Yacht is the only ship hotel in Asia. Yes, it’s an old retired ship that was completely refurbished and turned into a stationary hotel that sits directly on the beach. The views from this place are amazing. The statues are beautiful, and the park is picture worthy. At the sky bar you can sit along the window while the platform rotates 360 degrees to give you an aerial view of the entire property! It’s lovely. DISCLAIMER: This hotel is not for budget travelers. For example: a glass of wine in the sky bar is $12. But, it’s still totally worth the visit.
For more information: esuncruise.com
7. Jeju Island
This is the only place on this list I have not experienced yet. I’m including it for many reasons though:
- Jeju is considered to be the “Hawaii of Korea” and if you’ve ever seen pictures you understand why.
- The entire island is basically a UNESCO World Heritage site! If UNESCO wants to preserve this gem then it must be precious right?
- This island contains “Loveland Park” very similar to the Penis Park I mentioned earlier with many dare I say “erotica” statues that are sure to make you blush! (Are you beginning to see a pattern here?)
- The fruit that comes from this island is impeccable, and this I can personally attest to.
It’s definitely worthy of a spot on your Korea bucket list. Many of my friends who visited this island had nothing but wonderful things to say about it.
For more information about Jeju Island: The Ultimate Jeju Island Guide
What else to do in South Korea?
There are many other places and things to do in Korea that probably deserve a spot on this list. There’s just way too much to do, between the festivals, the concerts, the parks, and the restaurants- one year of living here is simply not enough! I’m happy to keep coming back, and experiencing something new each time. Here are a few more things that I haven’t done yet, but I have been told are well worth it:
- A temple stay
- A mud festival
- A KPOP Concert
- Daegu Chicken & Beer Festival
- Cat Café
- DMZ Tour
- Lotte World –Indoor Amusement Park
- Sokcho Sea Train
- A visit to Busan
For more information about South Korea and everything there is to do in this incredible country visit Korea Tourism Organization’s website
And for further inspiration check out 10 Best Places For Winter in South Korea
If you’ve already been to South Korea, and you have any suggestions that I haven’t mentioned feel free to share them with us in the comments section!
Safe travels to South Korea folks! I have a feeling you’re going to LOVE it!
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