Korean flags at the DMZ, one of the things to do in South Korea
Korean flags at the DMZ, one of the things to do in South Korea

What to do in South Korea: the 7 attractions you cannot miss

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The Republic of Korea is the most modern country we have ever visited. Their innovations and technologies are everywhere. Nevertheless, what caught our attention the most during our 15 days trip around the country, was more to do with the Korean nature, history and tradition. After exploring the country throughout, here you are our tips on what to do in South Korea.

1 Visit the city of Busan

Many street stalls in Busan, South Korea
The fish market of Busan with the Gamsheon Culture Village at the back

Located at the South coast of the country, this is the second largest South Korean city. Busan has many beaches to enjoy during the summer and it hosts one of the most important ports in the world.

Do not miss out on the fish market and its incredible variety of seafood (the city is located three hours sailing from Japan, so you can imagine…), the Beomesa Buddhist temple and the Gamcheon Culture Village with its colourful houses.

If you prefer to visit Busan’s main tourist attractions with a guided tour, we recommend this one.

*Find your accommodation in Busan here.  

2 To enjoy and perhaps sleep on a Jjimjilbang

Tiago and Fernanda sitting in a Jjimjilbang, one of things of what to do in South Korea
Us during one of the nights we spent on a Jjimjilbang

The jjimjilbangs are the South Korean public bath houses and according to Tiago, it was the best part of the trip.

They are very traditional and you can find a jjimjilbang in practically every city. There, you can relax in baths with different temperature, saunas, steam rooms and many other things (men and women have their own floors). In the common area, where everyone meets, there are normally a telly, massage chairs, a library and a restaurant.

The coolest  thing about the jjimjilbang is that you can spend the night over there too. In fact, this is a great solution for the expensive accommodation places in South Korea.

3 Exploring Seoul

The Korean capital is a vibrant and exciting city and a must-stop if you are wondering what to do in South Korea. It has a mix of lights, skyscrapers, technology, shopping centres and a sense of tradition.

At first sight, Seoul can be scary for a newcomer as everything is so large and confusing to the eyes. Though, slowly, slowly, visitors start adjusting to the rhythm and getting used to all the new sounds, colours and flavours. And that’s when you fall in love with the city.

Seoul is full of museums, temples, street food, art and whether you like big cities or not, this is a must for anyone who wants to learn more about South Korea’s history and culture.

*Check for hotels in Seoul in here.

4 Visit the historical city of Gyeongju

Traditional South Korean houses in Gyeongju
Traditional Korean houses in Gyeongju

This is the city we liked most in South Korea. Gyeongju was the capital of the old Silla Empire which last from 53 BC to 935 AD. For this reason, the city has many monuments considered Unesco World Heritage sites, let alone museums, temples and many parks.

Our tip is to rent a bicycle and lose yourself through the charming streets of Gyeongju. Every little corner of this city has a bit of history to tell. Gyeongju is surely one of the best things to do in South Korea!

*Find your accommodation in Gyeongju

5 Visiting the DMZ in South Korea (Demilitarized Zone)

A barbed wire on a fence in the DMZ, the most militarized zone in the world in between South Korea and North Korea

The DMZ, or Korean Demilitarized Zone, is one of the most tense areas in the world. It is a strip of 4 km width and 238 km length in which it divides the Korean peninsula between North and South.

In this area, created in 1953, right after the end of the Korean War, is where the peace talking between both countries happen. Who visits the region from the Republic of Korea’s side, can enter one of the tunnels dug by North Korea to spy on their neighbour (there are four tunnels in total), go up on an observation tower facing North Korea and many other things.

It is a very tense region, full of meanings and tragic stories. We were slightly disappointed to see that South Korea tries to revert the place into just another touristic attraction – the surroundings of DMZ even have a theme park. Nevertheless, the visit is still worthwhile.

To be fair, the DMZ is one of the best tourist attractions in South Korea. You can visit it on your own, or with a guided tour. We tried to visit the DMZ on our own and ended up getting lost on the way, thus arriving at the area too late for some of the activities. So, if you want to be safe, we recommend you booking a tour such as this one from the Get Your Guide platform, which in our opinion is the best place to book online travel activities.

6 Exploring the beautiful Seoraksan National Park

A cable car in the mountains, an activity to do in South Korea
The cable car at Seoraksan National Park

If you are looking at what to do in South Korea, the Seoraksan National Park is probably one of the most beautiful Korean parks and you can’t miss it.

There are many trekking options which take you to different places within the park, such as waterfalls and Buddhist temples built during the Silla Era.

We visited Seoraksan in November, during autumn, and really recommend this time of the year due to the spectacular colour of the tree. On our Instagram we posted lots of pictures of the Korean nature.

The park also has a cable car which will takes you to the top of one of the mountains, providing an incredible view of the area.

7 Visit Jeju Island

A waterfall to visit in South Korea
One of the waterfalls of Jeju Island. Photo: Pixabay

Jeju Island is a beautiful tropical lookalike island in South Korea. It has lakes, waterfalls and mountains and is the main destination for Korean newlywed couples on honeymoon.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have the opportunity to get there because the access is a bit expensive (only plane or ferry can take you there) and we thought it wasn’t worth the investment in the cold autumn. Nevertheless, we heard many good things about Jeju, enough to make our list of attractions not to miss in South Korea!

The Jeju Island is huge with many attractions, so if you want to make sure to visit the main ones, you might want to take a guided tour, such as this one.  Also, check in here what are the best hotel deals in Jeju Island!

We hope you liked our post on what to do in South Korea and that you enjoy your time exploring the country. If you know any place or attraction we should have mentioned in here, drop us a line on the comments and we can add it in here to help other travellers 😉