13 Free Things to Do in Seoul

If you’re on a super strict, shoestring budget, then you’re going to love Korea’s capital city. While I’ve easily burned through $200+ on a crazy weekend, it’s entirely possible to visit and tour around for next to nothing. Here’s a list of 13 free things to do in Seoul and some super budget tips to help you out!

Keep in mind, Korea is pretty cheap if you know what you’re doing. All of the things below are totally free, but that doesn’t mean other popular attractions are expensive. Most entrance fees are, at most, 3-4,000 KRW!

Want to explore Korea with me? Join my May 2020 tour!

The only time costs start to build are if you’re going clubbing, drinking at trendy cafes or bars, eating at foreign restaurants, or taking taxis everywhere. Otherwise, you can keep costs low and see a lot of the city without blowing through your budget.

For posts related to Seoul and Korea trip planning:

13 Free Things to Do in Seoul

I should note that these free things do not include areas that are mostly for shopping. I mean, sure, you could walk around Hongdae and listen to the buskers. However, if you’re not popping into the fun little shops, eating tons of street food, going clubbing, or visiting quirky places like the Trick Eye Museum, it’s kind of just another busy street. Same goes for Myeongdong and Dongdaemun Market! They’re known for being good shopping areas!

Explore one of Seoul's more off the beaten path areas: Ihwa Mural Village. A charming little art village off of Hyehwa Station, Ihwa is small and intimate.

1. Walk around Ihwa Mural Village

Korea is full of these cute mural villages! The story for these places usually goes like this: the neighborhood is falling to disarray and the local government begins making plans to demolish the area.

Then local artists or students come together and begin painting cheerful murals all around the area. They paint them on homes (with permission), stairs, abandoned buildings, and more. Soon people come to take photos and wander around, small coffee shops and souvenir shops open up, and the once ailing neighborhood is now a must-see destination.

I wrote about Ihwa here if you want to know more.

2. Visit the Palaces on Seollal, Chuseok, or the last Wednesday of the month.

While the palaces are usually around 3,000 KRW entrance (or 10,000 KRW for a combined ticket), it is actually possible to see them for free without renting a hanbok.

I know for a fact when I first went to Gyeongbokgung, I went on Chuseok and it was free. I’m pretty sure it’s only the specific day, not the general holiday, which is 3 days long, but you can always call ahead to make sure.

They’re all also free on the last Wednesday of every month, so you can always plan your palace day for then! The only caveat is that Changdeokgung’s secret garden isn’t included.

3. Visit Jogyesa and Bongeunsa

I’m used to temples having a small entrance fee, so I was surprised that Jogyesa and Bongeunsa were both totally free. If you’d like to see a Buddhist temple, then these are the two you’ll want to wander around. If you visit in late May, then you’ll be able to see them all decorated for Buddha’s Birthday!

Bonus: If you visit on Buddha’s Birthday, you can get bibimbap from any of the temples for free. This goes for any temple in Korea according to my students. Just know it’ll probably be you plus about a hundred or more other people!

4. Walk around Seokchon Lake.

Seokchon Lake is such a pretty area, especially during cherry blossom season. It’s near Lotte World and Lotte Tower, the tallest building on the peninsula. While Lotte World costs money to get into, if all you want to do is see it, you’ll be able to see plenty of views from the lake.

5. Walk around Bukchon Hanok Village.

Bukchon Hanok Village is one of my favorite places to wander around. Hanoks are traditional style Korean houses, and Bukchon is easy to visit because it’s right next to Gyeongbokgung.

You can get some really pretty views of Seoul, and on a clear day, you should be able to see straight to Namsan Tower.

**Please, please, PLEASE be respectful of residents in both Bukchon and Ihwa. There have been complaints recently of tourists disrespecting residents (both Korean and foreign) by being too noisy or taking photos where they’re not allowed. Don’t ruin these lovely places! **

6. Hike Bukhansan

Yup, Korea’s hiking trails are, in general, free! Granted, you’ll probably want to bring water and food with you, but the actual trails don’t cost a thing.

I have yet to do Bukhansan, but my friends went a while back and made a video of it (above). They also included it in their picks for the best fall foliage destinations, so definitely go if you’re here in autumn!

Image via Pixabay because I definitely didn’t have a nice enough camera to take this shot in 2011

7. Hang out by the Han River at night to see the water show from Banpo bridge.

I’ve really only done this once when I was still a student, but I remember it being a fun way to relax at night with friends! If you plan to eat around here, order some fried chicken or jjajangmyeon!

8. Walk along Cheonggyecheon Stream

Cheonggyecheon is Seoul’s big manmade stream, and it’s just a lovely place to walk along. There are always some sort of fun installations or small performances to enjoy. On a hot summer’s day, it’s just nice to sit and dip your feet in the water to relax. If you visit Jogyesa first, it’s an easy walk from the temple.

HA, found this from 2011 at the War Memorial Museum.

9. Visit the many free museums in Seoul.

Many of Korea’s more traditional museums are totally free!

I visited the War Memorial of Korea as a student, and it was absolutely incredible. While it mostly covered the Korean War, it also went into Korea’s entire military history spanning back centuries.

Other popular museums that are free: National Museum of Korea, National Folk Museum of Korea (inside Gyeongbokgung), and the Seoul Museum of History.

The MANY love locks

10. Go to the area around Namsan Tower.

While the actual observatory costs money, the area below with the locks has no entrance fee. I actually prefer this part to the observatory anyway because you get the beautiful views of Seoul without the annoying blue-tinted window.

Very excited outside of Inkigayo in 2011.

11. Try to go to a music show.

Yup! Technically, going to one of the big music shows is free! Granted, there are a ton of hoops you’ll need to jump through to get in, and it’s also not guaranteed.

I know for a lot, you have to get up and wait at 5 a.m. You also might need some sort of proof that you’re a fan — memorabilia, fandom merchandise, or the newest CD. Even then, it might be difficult. BTS, for example, is going to be a lot harder to see than a debut group from a small company.

Luckily when I was a student, my university arranged a special visit to Inkigayo for like 20,000 KRW. I didn’t have to wait in lines or anything, but I also think it was only the dress rehearsals. Either way, they were pretty fun!

Pausing to reflect on some of the best places in Korea I've visited this past year and all the people I saw them with. Cheers 2015!

12. Walk around Dongdaemun Design Plaza.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza is one of the coolest structures in Seoul. It was designed by the late, great architect, Zaha Hadid, who designed the building to represent the neighborhood’s constant change.

If you’re a drama fan, you’ll definitely recognize the LED flower garden from dramas like “The Producers.” It’s also where Seoul’s spring and fall fashion shows are held each year.

13. Go on a free walking tours

The Seoul city government actually offers a lot of different free walking tours, and many include some of the places I listed above. Check out the website and make a reservation for one that fits your schedule.

Some Budget Tips for Seoul

If you’re really looking to save money, here are some quick tips. Hey, I was a broke college student living in Seoul for a summer, so I figured out quickly how to stretch my money.

Eat and drink at the different convenience stores.

I don’t know if you’ve ever stepped into a GS25 or a CU, but when I say convenient, I mean convenient. You could easily make a whole ramen meal and get drunk for cheap. Like, to spend 10,000 KRW, you really need to try.

While I don’t think it’s going to give you the best culinary experience, I also ate sandwiches from 7-11 in Kyoto for most of my trip, so I’m not one to judge.

Also! Check out the university dining options.

Check out the nearby university and see what the dining options are if you’re looking for another cheap-eats option. I remember the cafeteria in Yonsei was maybe 2,000-3,000 KRW for a full meal, and even the shops nearby were super cheap.

Terrible photo, but that mandu was pretty delicious! Gives you an idea of what you get at a uni dining hall

Stay at a jimjilbang overnight.

If you don’t have much with you, stay at a jimjilbang overnight! Shower, soak in the tub and sleep in the jimjilbang area. It’ll cost you around or under 10,000 KRW. Again, not the most luxurious accommodation options, but it gets the job done! I believe it’ll be cheaper than most hostels, even the big mixed-dorm ones.

Download the Subway and Bus Apps.

They’re free, of course, and they can help you plan out where to go without needing to take a taxi. Public transportation is beyond convenient in Seoul, so definitely take advantage of it. Plus there’s Wi-Fi almost everywhere, so if you want to skip getting a SIM card, it’s possible.

Ediya has the cheapest coffee

If you told me Korea had more cafes than it did convenience stores, I’d believe you. However, the coffee here isn’t exactly a cheap affair!

If you do want to get your coffee fix from a cafe, then Ediya has the cheapest menu. I usually get vanilla lattes, so to me, it tastes just as good as the fancier changes or bespoke shops. You also get a small discount if you bring your own reusable tumblr (which you should have anyway!).

I think that just about covers it! I know this list is probably not the most complete, so if you have more places in mind that are totally free, let me know! 

Follow: