20 Popular Tourist Attractions in South Korea

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South Korea is a country where ancient traditions meet modern innovation. Its bustling capital, Seoul, is famous for its high-tech infrastructure, iconic historic palaces, and vibrant street markets. The nation boasts stunning sights like Jeju Island and Seoraksan National Park. South Korea, borders North Korea, China, Russia, and Japan, a global leader in technology and pop culture, with K-pop and Korean dramas gaining worldwide popularity.

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With friendly locals and a mix of historical landmarks and top tourist attractions, South Korea offers a unique and engaging travel experience. In this article, we will explore the 20 popular tourist attractions in South Korea that amaze travelers worldwide.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace, located in the heart of Seoul, is the largest and most striking of the Five Grand Palaces built during the Joseon Dynasty. Constructed in 1395, the palace served as the main royal residence and administrative center. Despite suffering significant damage during the Japanese invasions in the late 16th century, it has been meticulously restored to its former glory. The name Gyeongbokgung means "Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven," reflecting its auspicious beginnings.

Gyeongbokgung Palace, popular tourist attractions in South Korea

Photo by Daniel Bernard

Visitors can explore numerous grand halls, pavilions, and the beautiful Hyangwonjeong Pond. The palace is also home to the National Palace Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum, offering rich insights into Korean history and culture. The changing of the guard ceremony held daily at the main gate, is a popular tourist attraction, showcasing traditional Korean martial arts and costumes.

Surrounded by scenic mountains and modern cityscapes, Gyeongbokgung Palace provides a stunning juxtaposition of historical grandeur and contemporary Seoul. It stands as a testament to Korea's enduring heritage, offering a serene and educational escape for locals and tourists alike.

Bukchon Hanok Village

Bukchon Hanok Village, nestled between Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace, and Jongmyo Shrine in Seoul, is a historic enclave that offers a glimpse into Korea's past. The village is home to hundreds of hanok, traditional Korean houses dating back to the Joseon Dynasty. These hanoks are characterized by their curved roofs, wooden beams, and ondol (underfloor heating) systems, reflecting the architectural elegance and ingenuity of ancient Korea.

Bukchon Hanok Village, popular tourist attractions in South Korea

Photo by Federica Bisso

Wandering through the narrow alleyways of Bukchon, visitors can experience a unique blend of old and new. Many hanoks have been converted into cultural centers, guesthouses, restaurants, and tea houses, providing a rich cultural experience. The area is also dotted with art galleries and craft workshops, showcasing traditional Korean arts and crafts.

Bukchon Hanok Village is not just a historical site but a living neighborhood, where residents continue to preserve and celebrate their cultural heritage. The village offers various walking tours that highlight its historical significance and architectural beauty. With its scenic sight of Seoul and authentic Korean atmosphere, Bukchon Hanok Village is a top destination for those seeking to immerse themselves in the cultural tapestry of Korea.

N Seoul Tower

N Seoul Tower, perched atop Namsan Mountain in central Seoul, is one of the the most iconic landmarks in Seoul. Originally built in 1969 as a broadcasting tower, it has since become a popular tourist attraction, offering panoramic views of Seoul and its surrounding areas. The tower stands at 236 meters (774 feet) and, combined with the mountain's height, provides an impressive vantage point over the bustling metropolis.

N Seoul Tower popular tourist attractions in South Korea

Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric

The tower features multiple observation decks, a digital observatory, restaurants, and cafes. One of the highlights is the "Locks of Love" area, where couples attach padlocks to the fences as a symbol of their everlasting love. The tower also hosts light shows and various cultural performances, making it a vibrant spot both day and night.

Visitors can reach N Seoul Tower by hiking up Namsan Mountain, taking a scenic cable car, or riding a shuttle bus. The surrounding Namsan Park is also worth exploring, with its walking trails, botanical gardens, and historical sites.

Seoraksan National Park

Seoraksan National Park, located in the Gangwon Province of South Korea, is one of the most popular natural tourist attractions in South Korea. Spanning approximately 400 square kilometers, the park is named after Seoraksan Mountain, which translates to "Snowy Crag Mountain" due to its snowy peaks that remain white for much of the year. The park is a part of the Taebaek mountain range and features some of South Korea's highest peaks, including Daecheongbong, the third highest in the country at 1,708 meters.

Top Rated Tourist attraction in South Korea

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The park is celebrated for its stunning landscapes, characterized by rugged mountains, clear streams, and lush forests. During autumn, Seoraksan becomes a tapestry of vibrant colors, attracting countless visitors who come to witness the spectacular fall foliage. Hiking is a popular activity, with trails ranging from easy walks to challenging climbs. The Ulsanbawi Rock, known for its panoramic views, and the Biryong Falls, a series of beautiful cascades, are must-see highlights.

Seoraksan National Park is also home to diverse flora and fauna, including several rare species like Korean Fir, Wusongi, Korean Edelweiss, Korean Goral and Asian Black Bear. The park’s biodiversity and natural beauty led to its designation as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Lotte World

Lotte World, located in Seoul, is one of the world's largest indoor theme parks, offering a wide range of attractions and entertainment for visitors of all ages. Opened in 1989, Lotte World comprises an indoor theme park called "Adventure," an outdoor amusement park known as "Magic Island," a luxury hotel, a shopping mall, an ice-skating rink, and a Korean folk museum.

Lotte World

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Adventure, the indoor park, features various themed zones, each with thrilling rides, family-friendly attractions, and live performances. Notable rides include the French Revolution, a high-speed roller coaster, and the Conquistador, a swinging Viking ship. The park's whimsical design, complete with castles, fairy-tale settings, and parades, creates a magical atmosphere.

Magic Island, situated on Seokchon Lake, offers additional attractions, including more intense rides like the Gyro Drop and Atlantis Adventure. The picturesque lake and surrounding gardens provide a scenic backdrop, perfect for leisurely strolls and photo opportunities.

Lotte World also hosts seasonal festivals, special events, and multimedia shows, ensuring there's always something new to experience. With its blend of excitement, culture, and entertainment, Lotte World is a popular tourist attraction for families, thrill-seekers, and anyone looking to enjoy a fun-filled day in Seoul.

Changdeokgung Palace and Huwon

Changdeokgung Palace, built in 1405 during the Joseon Dynasty, is one of Seoul's most beautiful and well-preserved royal palaces. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is renowned for its harmonious integration with the surrounding natural landscape. Unlike other palaces, Changdeokgung was designed to blend seamlessly with its environment, following the principles of pungsu (Korean geomancy).

Changdeokgung Palace

Photo by Jeanne Rouillard

The palace complex includes numerous pavilions, halls, and gates, each with intricate architectural details reflecting the elegance of the Joseon period. Key structures include Injeongjeon Hall, where major state affairs were conducted, and Seonjeongjeon Hall, the king’s office.

One of the highlights of Changdeokgung is the Huwon, or Secret Garden, a vast landscaped garden that served as a royal retreat. Covering 78 acres, the garden features picturesque pavilions, lotus ponds, and wooded areas, creating a tranquil and idyllic setting. The garden’s natural beauty changes with the seasons, offering a serene escape from the bustling city.

Guided tours of Changdeokgung Palace and Huwon provide insightful historical and cultural context, making it a top destination for those interested in Korea's royal heritage and traditional landscape architecture.

Namdaemun Gate

NNamdaemun Gate, officially known as Sungnyemun, is a significant cultural and historical landmark in Seoul, South Korea. Constructed in 1398 during the reign of King Taejo of the Joseon Dynasty, it served as the main southern gate of the old city, part of the larger Seoul Fortress Wall that protected the city. The name "Namdaemun" means "Great Southern Gate," reflecting its strategic location.

Namdaemun Gate

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Architecturally, Namdaemun is an exemplary piece of traditional Korean design. It features a grand, two-story wooden pavilion set atop a robust stone base. The pavilion's roof showcases the elegant curvature typical of Korean palatial structures, and its intricate carvings and painted details reflect the artistic craftsmanship of the era. The gate has endured significant damage over the centuries, notably during the Japanese occupation and the Korean War. A devastating arson attack in 2008 further damaged it, but it was meticulously restored and reopened to the public in 2013.

Namdaemun was designated South Korea's National Treasure No. 1 in 1962, underscoring its importance to the nation's heritage. Today, it stands as a symbol of Seoul's rich historical tapestry and resilience, attracting both locals and tourists. Its presence amidst the modern urban landscape of Seoul serves as a poignant reminder of the city's historical depth and cultural continuity.

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is a stunning seaside Buddhist temple located in Busan, South Korea, renowned for its scenic beauty and spiritual significance. Perched on a cliff overlooking the East Sea, the temple offers panoramic views of the coastline and surrounding landscape, creating a serene and beautiful setting for contemplation and prayer. Unlike many other temples in Korea, Haedong Yonggungsa is uniquely located by the sea, adding to its charm and sense of tranquility.

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple South Korea

Photo by Helena Nguyen

Tourists can explore ornate temple halls, pagodas and intricate stone carvings while enjoying stunning sea views. The temple is especially popular during Buddhist celebrations and festivals, when it comes alive with colorful lanterns and rituals. Whether you seek spiritual enlightenment or simply want to admire the beauty of nature, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple offers a memorable and enriching experience that captures the essence of Korea's cultural and natural heritage.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza

Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), designed by the renowned architect Zaha Hadid, is a major urban development landmark in Seoul. Opened in 2014, DDP is celebrated for its futuristic architecture and innovative design, featuring a flowing, curvilinear structure that resembles a spaceship.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza

Photo by Eugene Lim

The complex includes exhibition spaces, a design museum, retail stores, and event halls. It hosts numerous design-related events, exhibitions, and fashion shows, making it a central hub for creativity and innovation in Seoul. The Design Lab, in particular, showcases cutting-edge design products and ideas, offering inspiration for designers and visitors alike.

One of the highlights of DDP is the LED Rose Garden, an outdoor installation featuring thousands of illuminated roses that create a stunning visual display, especially at night. The complex also boasts a rooftop garden with panoramic views of the Dongdaemun area, providing a serene escape in the midst of the city.

DDP's location in the bustling Dongdaemun district, known for its vibrant nightlife and shopping scene, makes it a perfect blend of culture, design, and urban energy. It's famous for architecture enthusiasts, designers, and anyone interested in the intersection of tradition and modernity.

Jogyesa Temple

Jogyesa Temple, located in the heart of Seoul, is the chief temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. Established in 1395, it serves as the central temple for Zen Buddhism in Korea and is an important cultural and religious site.

Jogyesa Temple

Photo by Francisco Anzola

The temple complex includes several significant buildings, such as the Daeungjeon (Main Buddha Hall), which houses a large statue of Sakyamuni Buddha. The hall is an architectural marvel with intricate carvings and vibrant paintings depicting Buddhist themes. The temple grounds also feature a 500-year-old baeksong (white pine tree), adding to the serene and historic ambiance.

Jogyesa Temple is renowned for its annual events and festivals, including the Lotus Lantern Festival held during Buddha’s Birthday. This festival sees the temple and surrounding streets adorned with thousands of colorful lanterns, creating a mesmerizing spectacle.

Visitors to Jogyesa Temple can participate in various cultural programs, such as temple stays, meditation sessions, and tea ceremonies, offering a deeper understanding of Korean Buddhist practices and traditions. The temple's tranquil atmosphere, coupled with its accessibility in the bustling city center, makes Jogyesa a peaceful retreat and a fascinating cultural experience for both locals and tourists.

Seongsan Ilchulbong

Seongsan Ilchulbong, also known as Sunrise Peak, is a stunning volcanic crater located on the eastern tip of Jeju Island. Formed over 5,000 years ago, this tuff cone rises 182 meters above sea level, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape and the ocean. The name "Ilchulbong" translates to "Sunrise Peak," highlighting its popularity as a prime spot to watch the sunrise.

Seongsan Ilchulbong

Photo by Rogelio Arcangel

The peak's unique bowl-like shape features a crown of jagged rocks at the summit, resembling a giant fortress. The crater is approximately 600 meters in diameter and 90 meters deep, covered with lush grass and seasonal flowers. The hike to the top is relatively short, taking about 30 to 50 minutes, but it can be steep in parts. Well-maintained trails and steps make the ascent manageable for most visitors.

At the summit, the panoramic views of Jeju Island, the azure sea, and the scenic coastline are truly spectacular. The area around Seongsan Ilchulbong is also known for its Haenyeo, or female divers, who perform traditional diving shows. These divers collect shellfish and seaweed without the use of modern breathing equipment, showcasing a unique aspect of Jeju's cultural heritage. Seongsan Ilchulbong is a popular destination for nature lovers and those seeking to experience the natural beauty and cultural richness of Jeju Island.

Manjanggul Lava Tube

Manjanggul Lava Tube, located on Jeju Island, is one of the finest lava tube caves in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Stretching for over 7.4 kilometers, it is one of the longest lava tubes on the planet, although only a one-kilometer section is open to the public. The cave was formed by volcanic eruptions that occurred about 200,000 to 300,000 years ago.

Manjanggul Lava Tube popular tourist attraction in South Korea

Source visitjeju.net

Inside Manjanggul, visitors can explore a surreal subterranean landscape featuring impressive lava stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones, and unique formations such as lava benches and lava rafts. The cave's highlight is a massive lava column, which stands 7.6 meters tall and is considered the largest of its kind in the world. The temperature inside the cave remains relatively constant throughout the year, providing a cool and refreshing escape from the outside heat.

The well-lit and carefully preserved path allows visitors to safely navigate through the cave while marveling at the geological wonders. Informative signs provide insights into the formation and significance of various features within the cave. Manjanggul Cave offers a fascinating glimpse into the volcanic activity that shaped Jeju Island and is a must-see for geology enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike.

Jeju Loveland

Jeju Loveland is a unique and somewhat controversial outdoor sculpture park located on Jeju Island, dedicated to themes of sexuality and eroticism. Opened in 2004, the park features over 140 sculptures created by graduates of Seoul's Hongik University, depicting various aspects of human sexuality in a humorous and artistic manner. The park aims to provide a playful and open environment for exploring and discussing sexual themes, which are often considered taboo in traditional Korean society.

Jeju Loveland

Source visitkorea.or.kr

The sculptures in Jeju Loveland range from abstract and surreal to explicit and provocative, covering a wide spectrum of sexual expressions and positions. The park is designed to be both educational and entertaining, with exhibits that promote sexual health and awareness. Interactive installations, multimedia displays, and informative panels add to the visitor experience.

While Jeju Loveland is a popular tourist attraction for adults, it maintains a respectful and light-hearted tone, making it a unique cultural experience. Visitors must be 18 years or older to enter the park, ensuring that the content is appropriate for mature audiences. Jeju Loveland offers a distinct and memorable outing for those looking to explore a different side of art and human relationships.

Jeju Folk Village

Jeju Folk Village, located on Jeju Island, is an open-air museum that showcases traditional Korean life and culture, particularly focusing on the unique customs and architecture of Jeju. Spread over 40 acres, the village features over 100 traditional houses and structures, including farmhouses, government offices, schools, and religious buildings, all meticulously reconstructed to reflect the island's historical lifestyle.

Jeju Folk Village

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The village is divided into four main sections: Mountain Village, Hill-country Village, Fishing Village, and Shamanism Village, each representing different aspects of Jeju's rural life. Visitors can explore these sections to learn about the island's agricultural practices, fishing techniques, and religious rituals. The exhibits include traditional tools, household items, and artifacts that provide a comprehensive insight into the daily lives of Jeju's inhabitants.

Cultural performances, such as traditional music, dance, and folk games, are regularly held within the village, offering an engaging and immersive experience. Workshops and interactive programs allow visitors to participate in activities like making traditional crafts, trying on hanbok (traditional clothing), and sampling local foods.

Jeju Folk Village provides a fascinating journey into the past, preserving the island's rich heritage and offering a unique cultural experience for visitors of all ages. It is an excellent destination for those interested in Korean history, culture, and traditions.

Gyeongju Bulguksa Temple

Bulguksa Temple, located in Gyeongju, is one of South Korea's most significant and picturesque Buddhist temples. Originally built in 528 during the Silla Kingdom, the temple has undergone several reconstructions, the most notable being in 751 by Prime Minister Kim Daeseong. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Bulguksa Temple is celebrated for its exquisite architecture and historical significance.

Gyeongju Bulguksa Temple

Photo by Muneeb Babar

The temple complex features a series of beautifully crafted buildings, pagodas, bridges, and stone terraces that seamlessly blend with the surrounding natural landscape. Notable structures include the Daeungjeon (Main Hall), Geungnakjeon (Hall of Paradise), and the Seokgatap and Dabotap pagodas, which are considered masterpieces of Korean Buddhist art.

Bulguksa Temple is also home to numerous important relics, including gilt-bronze statues of Buddha and intricate wood carvings. The temple's serene environment, with its meticulously landscaped gardens and ancient pine trees, provides a peaceful retreat for meditation and reflection.

Visitors to Bulguksa Temple can explore its various halls, each dedicated to different Buddhas and bodhisattvas, and learn about the rich history and spiritual practices of Korean Buddhism. The temple's cultural and architectural grandeur, combined with its tranquil setting, makes it the best attraction for those seeking to experience Korea's spiritual heritage.

Gyeongju Anapji Pond

Anapji Pond, also known as Wolji Pond, is a historic artificial pond located in Gyeongju, the ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom. Constructed in 674 by King Munmu, the pond was part of the palace complex and served as a pleasure garden for the royal family. It was designed to mimic the natural landscape, creating a serene and picturesque setting.

Gyeongju Anapji Pond

Photo by John Ko

The pond is roughly circular in shape and surrounded by beautiful gardens and pavilions. Three small islands within the pond add to its aesthetic appeal, reflecting the Silla Kingdom's sophisticated landscaping techniques and appreciation for natural beauty. The reconstructed pavilions around the pond, such as Imhaejeon Hall, offer a glimpse into the architectural style of the period.

Anapji Pond is especially enchanting at night when it is illuminated, creating a magical reflection of the pavilions and trees in the water. The site is also known for its seasonal beauty, with cherry blossoms in spring and vibrant foliage in autumn.

Excavations around Anapji Pond have unearthed numerous artifacts, including pottery, jewelry, and tools, many of which are displayed in the nearby Gyeongju National Museum. Visiting Anapji Pond provides a tranquil and culturally enriching experience, highlighting the artistic and architectural achievements of the Silla Dynasty.

Cheomseongdae Observatory

Cheomseongdae Observatory, located in Gyeongju, is the oldest existing astronomical observatory in East Asia and a testament to the scientific advancements of the Silla Kingdom. Built during the reign of Queen Seondeok in the 7th century, the observatory was used to observe the stars and predict celestial events, playing a crucial role in the agricultural calendar and state affairs.

Cheomseongdae Observatory

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The observatory is constructed from 362 granite stones, symbolizing the days of the lunar year, and stands approximately 9.17 meters tall. Its cylindrical shape tapers slightly towards the top, featuring a square window halfway up the structure, which was used for observations. The base consists of 12 stones, representing the months of the year, while the overall design reflects the harmonious balance of ancient Korean architecture.

Cheomseongdae's location in Gyeongju National Park, amidst lush greenery and historical sites, adds to its historical and cultural significance. The surrounding area is perfect for leisurely walks, allowing visitors to explore other nearby attractions such as Anapji Pond and the Gyeongju National Museum.

Hwaseong Fortress

Hwaseong Fortress, located in Suwon, is a well-preserved example of late 18th-century military architecture. Built between 1794 and 1796 by King Jeongjo of the Joseon Dynasty, the fortress was constructed to honor and house the remains of his father, Prince Sado. It was also intended to serve as a defensive stronghold and an administrative center.

Hwaseong Fortress

Photo by Mathew Schwartz

The fortress spans approximately 5.7 kilometers and features impressive walls, gates, pavilions, and watchtowers. Notable structures include the Paldalmun and Janganmun Gates, which are grand and intricately designed, showcasing the architectural prowess of the period. The Hwahongmun Gate, with its beautiful stone bridge and arches, is particularly picturesque.

Hwaseong Fortress incorporates both traditional Korean and innovative military design elements, such as the use of brick and stone, making it a unique blend of form and function. The fortress is equipped with bastions, artillery towers, and secret gates, reflecting the advanced military strategies of the time.

Visitors can explore the fortress on foot or take a ride on the Hwaseong Trolley, which provides a guided tour of the key sites. The fortress is also a popular spot for cultural festivals and historical reenactments, offering an immersive experience into Korea's past. Hwaseong Fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must-see for history enthusiasts and architectural aficionados.


The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula, serving as a buffer zone between North and South Korea. Established in 1953 after the Korean War armistice agreement, the DMZ is approximately 250 kilometers long and 4 kilometers wide. It is one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world and a symbol of the ongoing tension between the two Koreas.

Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

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Despite its militarized status, the DMZ has become a unique tourist attraction, offering a rare glimpse into the Korean conflict and the current state of affairs. Key sites within the DMZ include the Joint Security Area (JSA) at Panmunjom, where negotiations between North and South Korea take place, and the Third Infiltration Tunnel, discovered in the 1970s and believed to be an attempted invasion route by North Korea.

The DMZ also features the Dorasan Observatory, which provides views into North Korea, and the Dorasan Station, a symbolic train station that once connected the two Koreas. The surrounding area has become a haven for wildlife, with many rare and endangered species thriving in the absence of human activity.

Tours to the DMZ are tightly controlled and typically conducted by authorized tour operators, ensuring the safety of visitors. A visit to the DMZ offers a poignant and educational experience, highlighting the complexities of the Korean Peninsula's division and the hope for future reconciliation.

Haeundae Beach

Haeundae Beach, located in Busan, is one of South Korea's most famous and popular beaches. Stretching for 1.5 kilometers along the southeastern coast, Haeundae Beach is known for its fine white sand, clear blue waters, and vibrant atmosphere. The beach is named after the Silla scholar Choi Chi-won, who admired the area's scenic beauty.

Haeundae Beach South Korea

Source visitbusan.net

Haeundae Beach is a hotspot for both locals and tourists, offering a wide range of activities and attractions. During the summer months, the beach is bustling with sunbathers, swimmers, and water sports enthusiasts. The surrounding area features numerous hotels, restaurants, cafes, and shops, catering to all tastes and budgets.

One of the highlights of Haeundae Beach is the annual Haeundae Sand Festival, where artists create intricate sand sculptures and visitors can participate in various beach activities and contests. The nearby Haeundae Market offers a taste of local cuisine, including fresh seafood and traditional Korean dishes.

The beach is also home to the Busan Aquarium, one of the largest aquariums in Korea, and the picturesque Dongbaekseom Island, known for its walking trails, camellia flowers, and the iconic Nurimaru APEC House. With its lively atmosphere and beautiful coastal scenery, Haeundae Beach is a must-visit destination for those looking to enjoy the sun, sea, and vibrant culture of Busan.

In conclusion, South Korea's diverse attractions offer something for every traveler, whether you're looking for a cultural experience, outdoor adventure, or simply relaxing by the beach. From ancient palaces to modern theme parks, historic villages to pristine national parks, the country's rich heritage and natural beauty are sure to leave a lasting impression on visitors from all over the world. Plan your next adventure, explore all the popular tourist attractions in South Korea and discover the magic for yourself.