Things to Do in Seoul
Whenever South Korea comes up in any conversation, I’m pretty sure K-dramas, intensive skincare routines & flawless looking human beings (in or not in a musical group) are one of the first few topics to come to mind.
So if you’re not a fan of those Big 3 Korean things, Seoul might be way below your bucket list of go-to places before you die.
But trust us, Seoul has so much to offer than that!
So this is our list of things to do in Seoul that consist of hidden gems & tips that you won’t see on any other list.
1. Love Museum
For the past few years, trick eye museums have been a booming trend in this Instagram age.
But if you’ve been to one, you’ve been to all.
But Love Museum in Seoul gives the whole experience a more sensual, wacky & adult twist.
Straying from the stereotyping of Asians being uptight about sex, this 18+ trick eye museum is filled with erotic images that will surely leave you red in the face.
Divided into 6 galleries: Fun & Sexy, Femme Fatale, Chunhwa, Erotic Garden, Dream House & Sex Life, Love Museum provides a steamy interactive for guests in each one.
Sometimes, words can’t do a place justice so we’ll just include some (not-so explicit) photos for you to conclude if this should be a pitstop in your itinerary.
Oh, but if you want a cleaner & more family-friendly alternative, right next to the Love Museum is a normal Trick Eye Museum.
Address: B1 floor, Seogyo Plaza 20 Hongikro 3gil, Mapogu, Seoul
Opening hours: Monday – Sunday: 9am – 9pm
Price: RM26 (on Klook)
After you’re done with the zany & explicit Love Museum, why not stick around the area the museum’s located at?
Ala Harajuku in Tokyo, Hongdae is the hub for Seoul’s urban arts & culture scene. It’s no surprise seeing as three universities are located in this neighbourhood so this is where all the cool kids be hanging out at.
Not only can you shop for the newest trends in the rows & rows of shops scattered around but while you shop, you can test out all the Korean street food delicacies at the stalls scattered between.
Hongdae is not only about shopping & eating however because it’s also a place where the local music scene trickles out. And yes, it’s NOT all Kpop!
So while you munch on Tteokbokki (rice cakes covered with a spicy red sauce) or kimbap (Korea’s version of sushi) which are all famous Korean street food, you can watch street performers & buskers do their thang and really get the feel of what the real Korea music scene is like.
TIPS FOR HONGDAE
- Hongdae will be your best bet for the cheapest Korean shopping experience & we suggest trying to visit every store to compare prices for the best deal as some stores do sell the same items!
- SOCKS SOCKS SOCKS! Koreans love their socks in every shape, colour, pattern & print so immerse yourself in their culture by getting a pair (or ten). We’re pretty sure in Hongdae alone, there are more than 10 shops that specifically ONLY sell socks.
- Looking for one of a kind homemade goods? Some cute stationery perhaps? Head over to object, a 2-storey lifestyle shop filled with goodies from independent Korean artists & designers.
- Wanna see art but not interested in going to a stuffy & pretentious museum? The streets & walls of Hongdae are filled with art so why not go on a street art hunt once you’re bored of all the shopping & wanna burn off all that eating?
3. Try out different convenient stores
If you’re on a budget or maybe like us, just find comfort in convenience stores, well you’re in luck because Seoul is packed full with them!
Yes, we know you want to immerse yourself in the full Korea experience by eating only in authentic markets, restaurants or cafes but hey most of us Malaysians are always popping into a KK Mart, 7-11 or MyNews on the daily so it’s definitely no different in South Korea. So be like one of them & dig into the many confectioneries, premade meals & drinks offered to your convenience.
South Korean convenience stores are also where you can test out local snacks & drinks without needing to be wary of hiked up tourist prices.
And who knows, one of those nights, you might just wanna save a won or two on your meals. And we can assure you even their microwavable premade meals (bento boxes) will satiate your appetite enough.
Among the convenience stores scattered around Seoul: we recommend you trying out GS-25, 7-11 (of course), CU Mart & emart24. At first glance, they might sell the same things but you’ll soon realize the variation in their stock.
Labeled as Seoul’s melting pot of diverse cultures & ethnicities, Itaewon is expat central.
And this can be proven because for every Korean BBQ restaurant, there’s also a kebab shop a few steps away (a clear sign that Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore).
But Itaewon is not only just a place to get your different cuisine fix, it also provides a beautiful different take on Seoul. And this is especially true if you’ve just been spending time in Hongdae or Myeongdong where it’s just hustle & bustle of a busy city.
Not saying Itaewon is any less busy than its counterparts but walking further away from the Main Street, you’ll chance upon a less frantic neighbourhood filled with mini shoplots & residential houses.
What is even more amazing is you’ll realize this secret part of Itaewon is on higher ground so you’ll get a wonderful view of the city with no crowds, no noise & totally free of charge!
TIPS FOR ITAEWON
- If you’re truly sick of all things Korean, Itaewon is your best bet to see & try out the wonders of immigration right in front of your eyes. If you’re seeking for halal food, this is also where it’s at.
- The main attraction here is Namsan Tower/N Seoul Tower where you can get a spectacular view of Seoul. However admission tickets run up to about RM40 (rounded off) and for budget travellers, we really do suggest you just take a stroll among the neighbourhood of Itaewon to not only get the (just slightly) same view of Seoul but to also catch a glimpse of an ordinary day of life in Korea. To do so, we suggest using Citymapper (a travel app that will save your life) and set it to Mmm Records (a record shop/bar). You don’t have to actually go into the set location but it’ll lead you to this hidden side of Itaewon.
- If you’re a vinyl record collector, you’ll be happy to know that Itaewon has many vinyl record stores to offer. The biggest (and most commercialized) one being Vinyl & Plastic by Hyundai Card which offers a wide selection of vinyl records (again, that is NOT Kpop) from all over the world but does give the smaller independent ones a chance. Support local, as they say.
- Also, Itaewon is home to Seoul’s ‘Gay Light District’. Nicknamed Homo Hill, it’s a small street that houses shops, cafes, restaurants but most importantly, gay bars which are foreigner-friendly. You’ll be happy to hear that homosexuality isn’t illegal in South Korea. However same-sex marriages & civil unions are still not legally recognized and of course South Korea being a rather conservative country, still heavily discriminates homosexuality and (most of) locals still view it as a taboo subject.
5. Dongmyo Flea Market
Keeping in tune with seeing a different, non-touristy side of Seoul, head on over to Dongmyo Flea Market, a heaven for vintage aficionados.
So if you’re a fan of K-dramas or just a master linguist, put your knowledge of Korean language to good use and try your hand at bargaining among the locals.
From second-hand clothing to film cameras to antiques, Dongmyo is like any average vintage market that you might find in Malaysia: meaning no quality control and prices can range from absurdly cheap to absurdly expensive.
Remember to bring lots of 1000 won notes as it’ll make bargaining & any exchanged transactions between you & the seller easier.
It’s no Portobello Market, that’s for sure but we love the random assortments arranged haphazardly, tended by old Korean uncles just puffing away on their cigarettes who really couldn’t care less if you purchase their wares or not.
But here it’s where (again like in Itaewon) you get to immerse yourself in another part of South Korea that isn’t bombarded with loud music or overly-enthusiastic tourists (yes technically, you ARE one of those but doesn’t mean it’s any less annoying to be reminded).
We can guarantee you won’t find even a word of English on the menu of any of the eateries or restaurants in Dongmyo.
So wake up one morning and take the Seoul Metro to Dongmyo Station (Exit 3) and be surprised by what else Seoul has to offer.
Seoul Metro/Subway stop: Dongmyo Station (Exit 3)
Opening times: 2pm on weekdays, 4pm on weekends. Closes at 6pm.
Tips: Bring small won notes & learn some Korean bargaining phrases
6. Yongma Land Abandoned Theme Park
The saying goes, “good things fall apart so better things can fall together” but sometimes good things fall apart just to become abandoned, desolate AND a pretty good backdrop for a Kpop group’s music video.
Once a hotspot for families & thrillseekers in the 80s, just mention Yongma Land to the older Korean crowd & you’ll surely see a wave of nostalgia hit them.
Unfortunately, when giant & fancier theme park Everland entered the scene, it was all over for Yongma. They officially ceased operations in 2011.
Thankfully Yongma Land wasn’t demolished and with the acquisition of a new owner, the abandoned theme park was soon turned into an attraction.
So with just 5000 won, you can explore the place and become a true urban explorer!
And as we mentioned, Kpop idols also love using the place as a photoshoot & music video location so why not try your dancing skills and mimic some scenes from Crayon Pop’s ‘Bar Bar Bar’?
To get here, you could either take the train to Mangu Station (about 10 minutes away from Yongma) or hail a cab . The place is well-known enough that cabbies will definitely know where to go.
So try something a little different than spinning around in a hanbok and instead go spin around in an abandoned carousel.
So, this is our list of things to do in Seoul that are completely unique & different from the other lists you can find online.
Touristy things to do will always be fun & is still vital to any trip.
But sometimes to really experience a country, we think you got to do something out of the box that will remain in your memory forever.