Oh man, I feel like I could make a list of 100+ things to do in Korea, but I forced myself to edit down. While I’ve made a bunch of posts on visiting my favorite country, I’ve never actually made a fun bucket list type post. Well, after numerous visits and living there, I thought I’d write out some of the MOST Korean things to do in Korea.
Want to explore Korea with me? Join my May 2020 tour!
These are some big things on here (like visiting Gyeongbokgung) but fun things I remember from living there, like learning to like a bathroom that doubled as a shower or ordering fried chicken (constantly) and having to explain to the delivery guy how to find my apartment.
If you’re planning on teaching in Korea for a year or just want to visit, I hope you have fun checking off this Korea bucket list!
To make it easier, here are the different sections I broke it up into:
- traditional & historical things to do
- things that people living in Korea will experience
- travel-y things to do
- beauty-related things to do
- fun things to do (trendy, K-pop, K-drama, quirky)
- seasonal things to do
- foodie things to do
Traditional & Historical Things to Do in Korea
1. Visit Gyeongbokgung (and the other palaces)
Depending on how much of the legend you believe, Korea’s royalty goes all the way back to 2333 BC to the first monarch, Dangun Wanggeom. However, most believe he was a mythological figure.
Until Japanese imperial rule in 1910 and the splitting up of the peninsula in 1945, Korea always had some sort of royal family. And since 1945 wasn’t that long ago, much of the architecture, customs, and culture of its most recent dynasty, Joseon, still remains! These are easily some of the most stunning examples of Korean architecture, so at the very least you must visit one.
You can check out my guide to all the palaces in Seoul to choose which one to visit, but the most popular one has to be Gyeongbokgung while Changdeokgung is popular for its secret garden and there’s a cool view you can see of Deoksugung.
Bonus: they’re free on major holiday weekends like Chuseok or if you wear a hanbok!
Double Bonus: My favorite royal drama has to be “The Last Empress (황후의 품격),” which reimagines Korea as a constitutional monarchy. It’s a freaking TRIP.
TOURS TO THE PALACES:
2. Walk around a hanok village
The hanok is a traditional Korean house. I’m differentiating the villages with giwa, or tiled roofs, which were more for the upper classes, and the choga, or straw roofs, which were for the common man, next.
The main hanok village most people think of is the Bukchon Hanok Village, which is next to Gyeongbokgung. For a lesser known one in Seoul, go to Namsangol Hanok Village near Namsan tower.
I personally love the Jeonju Hanok Village, which is more enclosed than Bukchon. They’re all free to visit, though if you’re in Bukchon, I highly recommend paying a bit more for the observatory!
TOURS TO THE HANOK VILLAGES:
- Jeonju Hanok Village Day Trip
- Day Tour Including Namsangol Hanok Village
- Changdeokgung & Buckchon Hanok Village
3. Also visit the folk villages
Whenever they’re translated into English, the hanok villages with tiled roofs are called “Hanok Village” while the ones with straw roofs are called “Folk Villages.” They’re all examples of traditional housing in Korea; it’s just that the ones called hanok villages are examples of higher class dwellings while the ones called folk villages are ones of the normal commoner.
Be sure to check out the different folk villages around the country as well as the hanok ones! My absolute favorite is Naganeupseong Folk Village near Suncheon. There’s also one in Jeju called the Seongeup Folk Village, and the most famous is Andong Hahoe Folk Village, which I have yet to visit!
TOURS TO THE FOLK VILLAGES:
- Private Tour to Boseong & Naganeupseong
- Andong Half Day Tour
- Andong Hahoe Folk Village Private Tour
- Discount Ticket for Seongeup
- Eastern Jeju Private Tour (Includes Seongeup)
4. While you’re at it, stay over at a hanok!
Of course, one of the most quintessential things to do in Korea is stay overnight, sleepin’ on the floor of a hanok. There are so many places to do this, and it’s pretty cheap.
I highly, highly, highly recommend this one in Bukchon. It’s a stone’s throw from Anguk Station. The room is so clean and cozy, and the owner is the sweetest. She’ll make a traditional breakfast for you in the morning too!
I also recently stayed at this guesthouse in Jeonju and loved it. Same deal, clean and cozy room and a sweet ahjumma who made sure I knew where to eat and go!
5. Embrace the hanbok
The hanbok is Korea’s traditional style of dress. I’ve only “worn” it once or twice during a competition where my kids had to dress us up. However, you can easily rent them and have your own photoshoot around the palaces and get in for free!
Personally, I’m more into the modern hanbok style, and if I ever want to buy one, I’ll probably by something like that. My friend, Hallie, wrote about this cool place to buy one online called Leesle.
I like that you can go as obvious as a modern hanbok or as subtle as an outfit with hanbok details, which is probably more wearable outside of Korea.
6. Do a temple stay
Another unique way to spend your night in Korea is at a temple stay. I’ve only done one, and one is all I feel I’ll ever need to do. It was not relaxing, but it was an experience! I do, however, think about those comfy monk pants all the time.
Mine was also deep in the southern countryside, so I imagine the ones in Seoul are more foreigner and tourist-friendly.
If you want to do a tour in/near Seoul, try these:
- Geumsansa Temple Stay – in Bukhansan
- Hwagyesa Temple Stay – also in Bukhansan
- Jogyesa Temple Stay – right in Seoul near Gangnam
7. And also visit all the unique temples out there
Okay, you can find Korean temples everywhere, but a decent amount of them aren’t going to be that special. Temple fatigue is a real thing where people see so many of them, they’re kind of like “different, but same-same.”
However, there are some truly cool temples out there that are very worth seeing. I love the seaside temples like Hyangiram in Yeosu or the ones in Busan and Namhae. Hallie even took me to a random gold temple in Seoul called Suguksa. Another interesting one, which is popular, is Jogyesa in Seoul with its white lanterns for Buddha’s birthday.
If you don’t have temple fatigue, I’d also recommend checking out Seonamsa and Songwangsa near Suncheon and doing the hike between the two temples over Jogyesan.
8. See a pansori performance
Pansori is a super traditional music genre that’s more storytelling than casual listening. It’s considered one of Korea’s Living National Treasures, and, its birthplace is apparently in Namwon (or somewhere nearby).
I’ve seen a lot of pansori performances living in Namwon. They have concerts in the city and, of course, there are performances for the Chunhyang Festival in the late spring. There’s even a museum about pansori in Namwon, but it’s mostly in Korean.
If you’re in Seoul, try this Samcheonggak Lunch Concert, which has a pansori performance on Wednesdays.
9. Play a traditional Korean game!
Tuho is always in hanok villages. It’s a game where you try to get these arrows into a wooden jar, and it’s hard!
I’ve played yutnori with my church for Seollal, which is a game with dice and wooden sticks, and my kids tried teaching me gonggi, but I was hopeless at both of them.
10. Get into Korea’s festival culture
I kid you not when I saw there’s a festival for everything. Of course, the seasonal festivals are the most famous, but every town has its own thing.
Jeonju has a bibimbap festival, Namwon has Chunhyang, Muju has a firefly festival… I mean, I know there’s one for chili peppers somewhere in Korea!
Your best bet is to just choose whatever city you want to visit and Google “City Name + Festival” and see what pops up!
11. Visit the DMZ
All along the 38th parallel runs the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), it’s one of the tensest borders in the world.
This is where the peninsula splits between North and South. I am very against visiting North Korea, so this is about as close as I think is appropriate to go.
I went on a tour way when I first moved back to Korea, so it’s been quite a while. I remember the tour feeling almost a little kitschy, but it was still an interesting experience.
TOURS TO THE DMZ
12. Check out the many, many museums around Korea
So many museums and art galleries! Of course, you have classic museums that really go into Korea’s history and culture.
At Home/Everyday Things to Do in Korea
This section is for all you who are calling Korea home for the next year or more! Obviously, some of this a tourist may or may experience too.
13. Get your food delivered (and struggle somehow)
Three+ years in Korea, and half the time I still mess something up, even with the Yogiyo app! But Korea’s food delivery system is truly something.
Long before the Americans abused UberEats, Grubhub, and Postmates, Korea had food delivery down to an art form. McDonald’s in the middle of a monsoon? Go for it! Fried chicken in a random spot near Banpo bridge at night? Bingo!
One of the first things I recommend doing once you settle down in Korea is figuring out your food delivery!
In Namwon, I used to call all the time, but in Suncheon I downloaded Yogiyo, it’s one of the apps for Korea I swear by. You need to be able to at least type in Hangul to use it (as far as I know), but once you do, it’s the easiest thing ever. You can even get Baskin Robbins delivered! I’ve heard UberEats has finally been allowed in some parts of Seoul, and Coupang came out with its own food delivery app, but I’m only familiar with Yogiyo.
14. Turn your bathroom into your shower
Nothing is quite like that first time you realize your shower is not separate from your bathroom. Have you guys seen that “90 Days Fiance: the Other Way” clip of Deavan being introduced to a Korean bathroom the first time? Every expat was sharing it and cracking up because we’ve ALL been there.
The worst is figuring how quickly your toilet seat can dry. I became a morning shower person so my toilet would have time to try during the day, and I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night and sit on a wet seat.
Anyway, most bathrooms in Korea, whether you’re staying at a hotel or your own place, don’t have a separate area for the shower. It’s just something to get used to, and it’s really not that bad. It actually makes cleaning the bathroom super easy.
15. Sleep on the floor
Did you know for the entire year I lived in Suncheon, I slept on the floor? It kind of sucked, I’m not going to lie, but I also didn’t get a proper floor mattress.
While you’re more likely to have a regular bed, it is something to be ready for just in case. Also it’ll most likely happen at least once on one your trips around Korea, like at the aforementioned hanok stay!
16. Use ondol heating
This last winter I actually kind of missed having floor heating! Basically, most Korean apartments are set up so that it’s hot water that runs underneath your floors and heat your house.
It can get very expensive, so be careful, but nothing is quite as cozy as curling up under a hefty blanket and laying on top of a hot spot.
17. Master the art of metal chopsticks
Most restaurants in Korea use metal utensils, and this includes chopsticks. Apparently, metal was a way of detecting poison for royalty back in the day, and it just stuck around!
They’re a little trickier to use than wooden ones that come with our sushi, but you’ll get used to it quickly.
18. Ditch your boots for shoes you can slip off in 5 seconds
When I first came to Korea, I wore riding boots all the time. I brought a dark brown and a black pair with me, wore them once or twice and then they sat in my shoe closet for a year! And they would have sat there longer if I didn’t bring them back with me when I went home for vacation.
Most schools will require you to leave your shoes at the entrance in favor of some slippers. Nothing is worse than getting stuck fussing with your shoes. I’m at a point now where if I can’t get my shoes off in under a minute, I’m over them.
19. Begin to live your life on the floor
Your life is now on the floor. Even if you have a bed, a regular table with a chair, a proper couch… you’ll find yourself preferring to sink down to the floor.
I got these big rugs off Gmarket that were SO fluffy and comfortable for both my apartments. They were so nice, I used to get home from work and just sprawl on then, especially in the winter with ondol heating. Even now when I’m home in the US, I find myself sinking to the floor when it’s more convenient.
20. Buy the inevitable plant or twenty
Korean apartments can be kind of… dull on their own. And some are just downright ugly. One way to liven them up is with cute, inexpensive plants!
The easiest ones are just bamboo stalks in water as you literally never have to do anything besides refill the water. Succulents are also, of course, super easy. By the time I left Namwon, I had a whole collection of plants I gave away or brought to my schools. There are plenty of plant shops scattered around; you shouldn’t have a problem finding one.
21. Befriend your local a Korean pharmacy
Maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s an American thing, but I tend to avoid taking medicine unless I’m on my deathbed. It’s just kind of a hassle to get a prescription and then go to the pharmacy to fill up, and I dunno. I just was never a big medicine person if I didn’t absolutely need it!
However, it’s almost too easy to pop into a pharmacy or 약 on your way home. Most of them are very conveniently located, and it’s so easy to get the meds you need.
I first went to one when the skin on my hand kept breaking out in rashes. I told them what was happening; they gave me some pills and cream, and I was good as new within a week! And it all cost maybe $10 or less.
I also got my friend birth control for a year, and it was like $88. No prescription or anything.
22. Get cheap glasses or contacts (or LASIK)
If you need some help to see, Korea is one of the best places for quality eye care. I think most Koreans have pretty bad eyesight, so there are a plethora of glasses shops, and they’re cheap.
I got my wire frames for maybe $30 and my Acuve 1-month contacts for about $30 to $50 a box. If you’re not sure of your prescription, you can get an eye test, and they’re usually free!
And, if you’re ready to step it up with LASIK, Korea is not only one of the most affordable, it’s also one of the best places for it. Many of my friends have gotten either LASIK or LASEK done here, and it’s on my list to do eventually.
23. Explain to a taxi driver where you’re from
Your taxi driver is going to know you’re not Korean within a minute of you getting into the car. Whether you obviously don’t look Korean or your accent when you tell them where you want to go… they know.
And they’ll always ask you where you’re from, and then they’ll follow it up asking why you’re in Korea and if you have a boyfriend. I swear this is has happened every. single. ride. It’s not creepy either, just like the standard set of questions.
24. Order something from G-Market
Speaking of G-Market, above, nothing is as magical as Korea’s own version of Amazon. There is just SO much to buy, and there are so many reference photos for all of it!
Once I figured out how to order from G-Market, I think I ordered everything I needed and decorated my apartment with it! The delivery is often only a day or two too.
25. Go out for noraebang
Norebang, or “song room” is Korean karaoke. As in, you and your friends go into a small room with a giant TV, microphones, and often tamborines. Order some soju, flip through the song book, and pick your favorites to sing!
26. Attend a Korean wedding (whether traditional or, um, “factory”)
I’ve only been to one wedding in Korea, and it was one of the “factory”-style weddings. A Korean wedding, either traditional or factory, is SO different from anything you’ll expect in the US.
I’d love to attend a traditional one, but they’re not that common. Actually, when I think about it, the only people I know who have had a traditional wedding were mixed culture couples! My friends went to a traditional wedding and, of course, Hallie had one of her own, which she’s written about a lot.
When it comes to factory wedding, you basically go to a giant wedding hall with different rooms. Each room has its own ceremony going on, and it’s all very quick. Once it’s done, you go up to the 2nd floor buffet area and mix with other weddings’ guests, eat a bunch, maybe see the bride and groom, and then leave! It’s an experience for sure.
27. Learn about Korea’s holidays
There are quite a few holidays unique to Korea (and Asia), so it’s a good idea to know them in general! Especially if you’re a teacher, and you get off for these holidays:
- New Years Day (Jan 1): Go for a sunrise hike
- Seollal/Lunar New Year’s Day (late Jan/early Feb, depending on the year): Usually you get a 2 to 3 day extra vacation, eat tteokguk (more on that below), and play games like yutnori.
- Independence Movement Day (Mar 1): The day in 1919 when Korea declared independence from Japan
- Buddha’s Birthday (varies, but late April/mid May): This is when you can see all the temples start decorated with lanterns!
- Children’s Day (May 5)
- Memorial Day (June 6)
- Liberation Day (August 15): Commemorates Japan’s surrender after WWII
- Chuseok (varies, usually end of Sept, early Oct): Sometimes called Korean thanksgiving, this, with Seollal, is one of the two huge Korean holidays.
- National Foundation Day (Oct 3): Celebrates the founding of Korea by Dangun
- Hangul Day (Oct 9): Celebrates Korea’s alphabet!
- Christmas (Dec 25): Not quite like you’d expect at home; it’s actually more of a couples’ holiday!
There are, of course, also fun holidays like Pepepero Day on Nov 11!
28. Learn about Yi Sun Shin and King Sejong
If there are two names you’ll know by the time you leave Korea, it’s Yi Sun Shin, a famous Korean war hero, and King Sejong, the guy in charge of creating Hangul.
They both have giant statues in Gwanghwamun, and they’re both the most well-known figures in Korean history. If you teach high school and give your students a prompt of, “Who do you admire most?” 9/10 students are going to pick one of them to write about.
29. Find your favorite foreign restaurants in Itaewon
Anyone who lives in Korea for an extended time inevitably finds themselves in Itaewon, the foreigner district in Seoul. Besides actually going on a military base, Itaewon is where you’ll find most foreign things you can’t normally get in Korea.
This means there are a lot of good restaurants that cater to just about every culture or dietary style in the world (or at least it feels like it!). My favorites are Braai Republic for South African food, Coreanos for a Korean/Mexican fusion, and PLANT for vegetarian and vegan food.
Travel-y Things to Do in Korea
30. Stay in a love motel
Just, uh, be careful in case there’s a creepy hidden camera. But love motels are a plenty all over Korea, and they’re mainly used for exactly what they sound like — sexy times.
However, they’re often a nice mid-range option in many places, and some of them aren’t seedy at all. I’ve stayed in a few that are pretty nice, and they even have waterfall shower heads! Just, you know, do a little research and read the most recent reviews.
31. See Korea’s tea fields
There are three big tea fields in Korea: Hadong, Boseong, and Jeju’s fields. Korean green tea is delicious, and you can find it at all three of these locations! Boseong is by far my favorite. Get the green tea ice cream when you visit.
32. Take a relaxing vacation to Jeju
Jeju is one of my favorite places not only in Korea but anywhere! It’s considered the “Hawaii” of Korea, and it’s just so lovely. If I were to ever consider moving back to Korea, it’d be because I could call Jeju home.
Don’t be fooled by the maps, it’s about 2 hours to drive from East to West, and to circle the whole island will take about 4 hours. Things are not as close as they seem.
Here are my guides to help you plan:
33. Visit Korea’s bamboo forests
Did you know Korea had its own bamboo forests? The most famous one is in Damyang, and I’ve been countless of times to wander around. No matter the season or the day, it never feels overly crowded. If you’re in Busan, you can always pop up to Ulsan to see the Taehwagang River Bamboo Forest too!
34. Check out Korea’s colorful villages
There are so many colorful corners in Korea with beautiful murals and street art. In Seoul, there’s the Ihwa Mural Village, and, of course, in Busan, there’s my ultimate favorite — Gamcheon Culture Village.
35. Go hiking! Especially on New Years at sunrise.
Okay, full disclosure, haven’t gone for a sunrise hike in Korea. I think the one I did of Mt. Batur in Bali was more than enough for me.
But! I do enjoy hiking in Korea. It’s very easy, and since the country is mostly mountainous, you have plenty of options big and small! Here are some of the ones I’ve written about:
- Guryong Waterfall Hike
- Hiking Daedunsan in the Fog
- Hiking Wolchulsan to Cross the Cloud Bridge
- Seoraksan, One of Korea’s Tallest Mountains
- Jirisan’s Baemsagol Valley Course
36. Check out Korea’s many islands
Eventually, I’d like to make my way over to Ulleung-do and Dok-do in the East Sea. They’re both kind of a mission to get to from where I lived, so I never even entertained the idea of going.
But Dok-do has an important part in Korea’s current issues with Japan, and Ulleung-do just looks beautiful. My friends went on vacation last year and loved it.
Anyway, there are SO many more islands all around Korea to visit (after all, it IS a peninsula). Your best bet is to go down to port cities like Busan, Tongyeong, and Yeosu, and then see which of their smaller islands you can take a ferry to.
If you’re in Jeju, you can visit Udo, which is such a fun little island!
37. Check out Korea’s beaches
Considering Korea has a ton of islands because of its peninsula status, you know there are a ton of cool beaches both popular and remote all around.
Nothing’s quite as fun as a little beach picnic with some samgyupsal and cider in the summer. I like the beaches around Yeosu, and, of course, I always enjoy a nice day in Gwanghalli or Haeundae as long as you can avoid the crowds is always nice.
Beauty Things to Do in Korea
38. Relax with a sheet mask
Before these fancy gold sheet masks were a thing in the US, they were a normal part of Korea’s beauty scene. The first time I discovered them, I thought they were awesome.
Now I always have one or two with me when I travel! They’re super refreshing and moisturizing. Don’t forget to not wash them off! Just massage it all into your skin!
39. Have a girls’ sesh at the jimjilbang
Nothing beats soaking in different tubs, putting on a sheet mask, and then going to the sauna rooms while having a catch-up session with your friends. Plus, nothing says friendship like a pal who’s willing to scrub your back with an Italy cloth.
My ultimate favorite is Siloam Sauna near Seoul Station. Some foreigners will say the one in Itaewon is nice, but I thought it was kind of shitty and not very welcoming when I went. Really any sauna will do where you’re living. I used to go to the one near my apartment in Suncheon, and in Yeosu I’d go to the ones near my friends’ places.
40. And while you’re there, get a scrub down
If you don’t want your friend to do the scrub down, how about paying a little extra for an ahjumma to ruthlessly scrub off your dead skin, your problems, and your sins? On my most recent trip, I had time to kill, so I went right to Siloam and paid to have a scrub down. Came out feeling fresh and clean!
41. Go for a facial
I love getting facials in Korea! They’re actually everywhere in unassuming places, so I’d check out places with 피부 in the name to see reviews or appointments. They usually last an hour and the most I’ve paid is 40,000 KRW.
42. Get a digital perm!
Okay, maybe not everyone, and you should always make sure your hair is healthy enough… but I love digital perms. I make it a point to get one at least once a year, though it’s recommended you get them every six months.
I have stick straight hair that’s not quite as glossy as you’d think Asian hair is. However, I personally like having more texture in my hair, and I was obsessed with getting Victoria Secret-esque curls as a teenager. A digital perm basically does just this! It’s still work, but it takes a lot less time than my normal hair would.
43. Buy all the stuff you need for your 10-step skincare routine
Remember when that was trending everywhere and everyone thought Korean women were these crazy geniuses who unlocked the ridiculous secret to everlasting youth?
Let me tell you, the 10-steps are a little misleading. You don’t do them every day! However, I will say, my skincare routine has gone up since my first move to Korea. I love double cleansing, and I like a little toner before my face lotion.
What you’ll want:
- micellar water for make-up removal
- cleansing oil
- foam/normal cleanser
- face cream
- face sunscreen
- night cream or sleeping mask
- eye cream
- exfoliating scrub
I’m telling you right now I have about half of this that I use regularly. You don’t need it all, but I’d do some reading on Korean skincare to figure out what you want to try. I highly recommend the Soko Glam book!
44. Get a dainty watercolor tattoo
I meannnnn…. I love mine! I want to say they originated in Korea and Japan, but don’t quote me on that.
All I know is that I’ve been following some Korea-based watercolor tattooists on Instagram and I got mine with @tatooist_ilwol in Hongdae. Mine is a cherry blossom flower behind my left ear, and I may look into getting a fall foliage one behind my right ear.
Fun Things to Do in Korea (Kpop, Trendy, & Quirky)
45. Go cafe hopping
Korea has got to have some sort of world record for most cafes per square inch. There’s a cafe everywhere — franchises and plenty of locally-owned ones.
I wrote a whole post about some trendy cafes in Seoul, and that’s definitely only skimming the surface. Hang out with cats, drink your face, find some real gems… The list goes on not just in Seoul but the whole country. On my most recent trip, I went to a yarn-themed cafe! Yarn!
46. Visit a cat cafe
Speaking of cats, you really should try visiting a cat cafe in Korea! In Asia, in general, there are some great ones.
If you’re ever in Suncheon, visit the one that’s near my old apartment! They’re all rescue kitties, and the owner is so sweet.
47. See your fav K-pop act at a music show or concert
Listen, I’m still waiting for the stars to align so that I can see Kyuhyun sing live. I feel like I keep missing him, and there’s the fact that he was in the army for two years… *sobs.*
Anyway, if you’re a K-pop fan, you’re going to LOVE the shows. I still remember going to Inkigayo as a student, and I’m pretty sure we went to like a rehearsal not the real show. It was the days when Hyuna was known for “Bubble Pop” and missA and 2pm were still a thing…
48. Secret tip: Go to a musical if your fav singer is starring in one
Okay, so the shows and the concerts are kind of ridiculous in terms of getting in! Sometimes you can get tickets ahead for festivals, but it’s not always easy.
One big tip though? If your favorite singer is in a musical — get tickets! You’d be surprised at how less likely Kpop fans are to buy musical tickets. I saw Seohyun perform as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, and it was freaking awesome.
49. Embrace the full on cheese and go somewhere your fav singer owns
Did I stay at Myeongdong MOM Guesthouse because Kyuhyun’s mother owns it? You betcha.
And it was as cheesy and full of Kyuhyun images as my fangirl heart could have dreamed of. If you’re a big fan of a Kpop star, why not stay in a business they or their family owns?
50. Visit the different filming locations from your favorite K-drama
Nami Island… Petite France… Ihwa Mural Village… I’m sure if you Google “X-Drama Filming Locations,” you’ll find a list. Bonus if you can figure out how to use Naver’s blogs and can decipher the blog posts!
Here’s a more recent tip, the Netflix drama, “My First First Love” was filmed all around Yeonnam-dong in Hongdae. I immediately recognized a lot of the spots they shot, like the park, the cafes, etc.
51. Go to Seoul Fashion Week!
Korean fashion is a whole different world than the likes of Paris, Milan, or New York City. It takes place around October and March at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza.
You don’t even need tickets to a show — just go and hang out and see all the cool street fashion. This is on my to-do!
52. See more on Korea’s love of poo
53. Enjoy Korea’s love of books
One thing I noticed living in Korea is that they definitely invest in their public libraries much more than I’ve seen in the US. Even my small city of Suncheon had multiple libraries and community centers, and they were incredibly up to date and just nice.
Embrace Korea’s love of books, especially at many of the cute libraries and bookstores in Seoul.
54. Pick a team — Kakao vs Line friends
Kakao and Line are two messenger apps in Korea. Kakao came first and is much more widely used. Like everyone I know has KakaoTalk, and that’s how I contact Korean friends. Line is Naver’s attempt at getting in on the market, and part of that was coming up with their own cartoon mascots.
I’m Team Kakao mostly because they came first and I don’t use Line…ever. Also my friend, Maggie, and I used to converse on Kakao Talk pretty much just in Kakao Friends emojis. Peach is my fav!
55. Go Shopping — like really shop.
Koreans are one of the only people I can think of who get excited about Duty Free shopping. They take their shopping seriously, and you can see it everywhere from the beauty stores to the many, many clothing stores.
One issue, of course, is that Korean sizing is notoriously quite small. I hardly ever fit into most of the clothes, even at my tiniest when I studied in Seoul at 18. However, you might as well poke around and see what you find.
The big hitters are in Myeongdong and Dongdaemun, and for really fun shopping go to Ehwa or Gangnam Station. Down south, Gwangju’s main downtown is quite similar to Myeongdong and, of course, Busan’s Nampo-dong is full of random shops and alleys.
For those of you hoping to be a little more sustainable, Seoul also has quite a lot of secondhand shops! Check for VinPrime locations and, of course, look up 빈티지 or 고풍스러운 on KakaoMap.
56. Visit a Korean theme park
Why not see Everland or Lotte World? They’re super fun and cutesy, especially if you’re traveling with kids. You can find lots of smaller theme parks around the country as well. For example, Namwon has a Chunhyang Theme Park!
57. See the random murals or street art.
One of the things I love about Korea is how I can walk somewhere randomly and stumble across some sort of cute mural. Even in the most countryside of countryside places, I’ve seen mini murals lining the wall.
There are whole villages with beautiful murals, like Ihwa or Gamcheon. Recently, Powwow Korea had a huge street art festival around Seongsu Station, and I’m hoping to see them all next year. Hallie also introduced me to Royyaldog’s incredible murals. I’ve only seen two so far, but he has quite a few in Seoul. Follow his IG to see where else he has them.
Seasonal Things to Do in Korea
58. See the cherry blossoms
Ahhh one of my favorite times of the year — cherry blossom season in Korea! There are the light pink yoshino cherry blossoms that start in late March and go to early April, and then there’s the King Jeju cherry blossoms that come right after.
After a dreary winter and colder temps, the blooms of spring in Korea are a sight for sore eyes!
Check these posts for more on cherry blossom season:
59. Hike for the azaleas
Or don’t because I still haven’t… *cough*. There are two kinds of azaleas in Korea but they both get translated the same — the azaleas you can see above at Wonmisan and the ones in Namwon that you hike for.
60. Chase the canola fields
This is exactly what I did when I rented a car on my most recent trip to Jeju! The canola fields are so beautiful, and it’s so nice to see them all in bloom.
They tend to bloom a bit before the cherry blossoms, but they last for quite a while.
61. Also don’t miss the sansuyu, plum blossoms, rhododendron, or roses
Really, SO many flowers not to miss! The sansuyu and the plum blossoms come first, and it’s still quite cold out when they arrive. The rhododendron come around when the cherry blossoms pop out, and then the roses and tulips come in May. If you’re near Goseong or Gwangyang in June, you can also go see some lavender fields!
See my other flower guides here:
62. Enjoy the fall foliage
Easily one of my favorite times of the year, autumn in Korea! It’s just magic, even more than the cherry blossom I’d argue. The leaves turning vibrant shades of red, yellow, and orange… Korea just feeling alive as everyone enjoys the growingly crisp air, munching away on apples or persimmons…
I only had like three falls in Korea, and I get a little nostalgic thinking about them!
See my fall foliage guides here:
- Best Places to See Fall Foliage in Korea
- Naejangsan National Park: Finding Fall Colors
- Jirisan’s Baemsagol Valley Course
63. Go skiing in Gangwon-do
For the best mountains to ski in the winter, check out the slopes in Gangwon-do up north. This is the area where the 2018 Olympics were, but there are other areas outside of Pyeongchang. You can see them all in my winter in Korea guide.
Foodie Things to Do in Korea
64. Make (and eat) kimchi
If you didn’t at least try kimchi while you were in Korea, are you sure you went to the right country? Kimchi is like THE main staple of Korean food. It’s such a staple, Autumn and I joked in Morocco that olives were the kimchi of Moroccan cuisine! Heck, it’s even got its own museum you can book tickets to visit!
It has a strong taste, so it may not be for everyone! My favorite type of kimchi is kimjang kimchi, which is when it’s freshly made at the end of fall/beginning of winter. If you can, try making some! I’ve only made it once with my friend’s co-teacher, but if you don’t know anyone local, you can always join in on these kimchi-making experiences:
- Tea Ceremony & Kimchi Making
- Seoul Kimchi & Culture Experience
- Myeongdong Kimchi & Tteokbbokki Cooking Class
65. Sample all the delicious street food
Do not miss out stopping at the different food stands to try some delicious food! The street food in Korea is endless. If you stay at a hotel in Myeongdong, you’ll be able to easily stop at a ton of different stands in one place.
Of course, one of my favorite things to do in Busan was to visit Nampo-dong and eat pajeon, ddeokkboki, and mandu in the busy marketplace! Street food, after all, tastes best when you have people bumping behind you!
Really, though, you’ll spot street food stalls everywhere, especially if you go to a festival. Just wear your eatin’ pants and prepare to feast!
66. Try Korea’s alcoholic drinks: soju and makgeolli
Korea has its own special alcoholic drink in addition to some questionable beer. What you want to drink is soju and makgeolli!
Soju is…. it’s something. I’d do the flavored ones because they at least taste better. You drink it from a shot glass, and it’ll creep up on you if you’re not careful! Makgeolli is a milky white rice wine that you drink from bowls.
67. Eat pajeon & drink makgeolli after a hike.
I don’t know why this is a thing, but it is. In the middle of a hike or afterwards (or, hey, before), it’s very common to sit down and have a nice kettle of makgeolli with some delicious jeon. There are usually always makgeolli huts around hiking trails where you can eat.
I don’t drink alcohol, but I love, love, love jeon. I could eat a whole one by myself but I try not to. It’s basically different vegetables or ingredients fried together with some flour batter. The variations of jeon mainly include pajeon (spring onions), kimchijeon (kimchi), and haemuljeon (seafood).
68. Order some chimaek!
Koreans love to abbreviate, and chimaek is one of them. The name comes from chicken and maekju (beer), so chimaek! Fun fact, while you call regular chicken dak (닭) in Korean, the famous fried chicken is just chicken (치킨). So if your Korean friend asks you if you want chicken, they probably mean the latter!
Personally, I don’t drink beer and even if I did, I’ve never heard a good thing about Cass or Hite, so I’d still get some Chilsung cider instead! It’s sort of a cross between Sprite and Ginger Ale but better.
Of course, the best thing to do is to call or use Yogiyo to order some chimaek to wherever you are (seriously you can drop a pin and the delivery guy will find you). I personally love Kyochon honey original, and I eat it at least twice whenever I return…often by myself lol.
69. Enjoy Korea’s tea culture
I know cafe culture is strong in Korea, but tea culture has been around much longer. See if any of the temples you’re visiting have some sort of tea ceremony. I know Seonamsa in Suncheon does. You can also book one head, like this one in Seoul.
70. Eat songpyeon for Chuseok & ddeokguk for Seollal
So like I said above, Chuseok and Seollnal are Korea’s most important holidays. Both of these foods are kind of the thing to eat for each day (there’s a lot more, but I’ve never been to a celebration, so I don’t know all the details that well).
Songpyeon (송편) is sort of half-moon rice cake that comes in white, pink, or green and has some nice, sweet fillings. They’re SO good, and I don’t even like normal rice cakes that much. It’s been around since the Goryeo period, which began in 918!
Ddeokguk (떡국) is rice cake soup, and so nice to eat in the winter. I remember making a botched version of it my first year when the church near my house gave us all huge bags of thinly sliced rice cake! Apparently, it’s believed eating ddeokguk during Seollnal will bring good luck.
71. Get into Korea’s vinegar drinks
Yummm, I love Korea’s vinegar drinks. I know that sounds gross, but they really are so good. You basically buy the concentrate and mix it with water. I became very fond of the pomegranate ones! They’re supposed to aid with digestions and whatnot.
72. Go with your friends for some Korean BBQ
Samgyupsal and soju or Chilsung cider, if you’re me. Nothing beats freshly grilled meat in a little lettuce wrap with some garlic and ssamjang sauce!
73. Try the black pork in Jeju
There are other foods to try in Jeju, but black pork is quite unique. I like going to one of the restaurants near Seongeup Folk Village for it. There’s also a random hamburger place somewhere in Seogwipo if you want to try it in a different form.
74. Convenience store kimbap
On the go? Get a kimbap from the convenience store! They’re so good and so easy to grab. Sometimes it’s what I plan to eat for breakfast when I’m traveling around Korea!
Kimbap is basically a bigger version of sushi — it’s rice, veggies, and meat wrapped in dried sheets of seaweed (kim).
75. Also try the convenience store snacks and drinks
Really any of them! There’s so much to choose from, including banana milk, random snack bags, and, my favorite, the ice cream bars.
76. Anddd try all the different ice creams!
Green tea ice cream. Maesil ice cream. Bamboo ice cream. Cherry blossom ice cream… I swear I’ve tried so many all around the country!
77. Cool off with bingsu.
Bingsu is essentially shaved ice. The most popular version is patbingsu, which is mainly made with red beans (pat) and condensed milk.
However, I’m not a fan, so I prefer the fancy versions Sulbing has like the cheesecake bingsu or blueberry bingsu (seen above).
78. Share some honey bread!
Ahhh honey bread. Nothing beats a nice warm latte and honey bread at a cafe in the winter!
I’m ashamed to say that I can probably eat one all by myself, but I usually try to get someone to split it with me so I don’t pig out on pure sugar and carbs.
79. Try Korea’s version of Chinese food
You know how the US has Chinese food that an actual Chinese person is like, “Nope, this ain’t it, chief.” Korea has its own Chinese food too!
My favorite is jajangmyeon and tangsuyuk. I like jjambbong, but only at certain places. It’s very spicy, so it’s easy for restaurants to cheap out and make it watery.
80. Really just immerse yourself in Korea’s foodie culture
Honestly, Korean food is such a fun part of the culture, and there are SO may dishes and food to enjoy. Try a cooking class or just enjoy trying all the different cuisines around the country. I have a lot of recommendations in my Korean food guide, so check that out if you want even more foodie tips.
And there you have it! My ultimate bucket list guide filled with all the best things to do in Korea. Anything I’m missing? Let me know below!