As the capital of South Korea, plenty of sites will give you lists on the most popular attractions in Seoul, must-sees and #1 go-to’s. Me, I’m not so interested in just checking out what’s popular. I especially love veering off the beaten path, whether in Portugal, England, or across Asia. So, of course, I’ve got some good picks for underrated places in Seoul, too. It ranges from the kinda quirky to the weird but fascinating. It might raise some eyebrows, but they’re definitely not to be missed.
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Where To Stay in Seoul
Today’s hotel-to-try is Ara Hotel. It gets consistently good reviews while staying at a very reasonable price. It also isn’t too far from the city center, which makes it convenient to travel around the city or take some day trips from Seoul.
PHOTO CREDITS: ARA HOTEL VIA HOTELS.COM
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Must-Visit Underrated Places in Seoul
1. Ihwa Mural Village
This little corner is definitely one of the most underrated places in Seoul. Ihwa Mural Village is a cool, arsty spot of fun, unique street murals. Murals on houses, shops, and cafés – all in bright colors and smooth, cute, or quirky art styles. There were even stations set up in some places specifically for picture-taking.
The only downside I can think of was that it was on top of a hill (RIP my feet). Was totally worth the visit, don’t miss it if you’re passing through Seoul.
2. Dongdaemun Design Plaza
Dongdaemun was pretty wild to visit, mostly because of the out-of-this-world architecture. They’ve got kidney-bean-shaped buildings, metal twisting up and arching around. It gets pretty creative with the designs; definitely earns the “design plaza” title. If you have any interest in metalwork or architecture at all, you’ve gotta add this to your itinerary.
The plaza’s also conveniently located to a bunch of other sightseeing, so even if architecture’s not your thing, you can swing by on your way to Seoul Tower. (Or on your way back, like I did.) There’s also some nice shopping in the area and a whole litter of pet shops. (Yes, it is a horrible pun, and no, I’m not sorry.) Make your trip (and life) complete by cooing over some puppies and kittens.
Seoul has a lot of streets and districts that people rave about, but for some reason, I don’t see much mention of Cheonggyecheon. It’s a shame because it’s one of the liveliest and most underrated places in Seoul. The stream is basically a living, breathing outdoor museum, showcasing Seoul’s history and culture. It has seen some of the country’s darkest times, shown nowadays in replicas of the ramshackle houses that used to hang over the stream. You can even see the reconstruction it’s undergone in the now moss-grown concrete supports that once held up a highway hiding the whole stream from view.
4. Ikseon-dong Hanok Village
When I visited Seoul, I went to Bukchon Hanok Village, but that’s far from the only hanok village in the city – case in point, Ikseon-dong Hanok Village. For those who don’t know, “hanok” is what those old-timey Korean houses are called – curved roof, wooden frame, sometimes with a stone wall plopped out front. They’re super photogenic, so strolling through a hanok village is the perfect chance for taking pictures.
Unlike most “traditional” places, Ikseon-dong takes the old and makes it retro. It perfectly blends traditional and modern styles, from its clothing stores to its fusion cafés. You don’t have to worry about it being too stuffy or historic. You just get to enjoy this unique spin on the past brought to life.
5. Jogyesa Temple
Okay, it’s not a complete unknown, but Jogyesa doesn’t have the same popularity as temples like Bongeunsa. If you’ve heard of the Lotus Lantern Festival, Jogyesa is where the official parade ends. And if you haven’t heard of it, it’s a two-week-ish-long event celebrating Buddha’s birth. There are lots of events, ceremonies, and the aforementioned Lantern Parade. The temple has more than that, of course, being a historic and religious site, but I can’t help mention it cuz the place is gorgeous when it’s strung up with paper lanterns.
6. Hongje-dong Village
Anyone who’s read enough of my blog has probably noticed I love street art. Well, Hongje-dong is another great place to see painted murals on building fronts. They range from the stunningly gorgeous to the cute and kinda humorous. Hard to tell if it’s as expansive as Ihwa Mural Village from looking online, but still worth checking out if you love alternative art.
7. Color Pool Museum
If ever there was a place that was literal eye candy, it’s Color Pool Museum. This place looks like it’s fresh out of one of those 1-2-3 Go content factory-type videos on YouTube. Everything – the walls, floor, props – are in bright or pastel rainbow colors. It’s a serious mind trip – definitely weird, but kinda cool too? You get so used to neutral colors in everyday life, so it’s a real trip to walk through a building that pops so much without being garish. Just looking at the pictures of the place, it doesn’t look real – more like a studio than anything. But hey, that’s its whole charm.
8. Haneul Park
Here’s another that fits the bill for unique attractions, and then some. You get zigzag stairways, a bowl of sky (literally the name of a sort of topiary observation deck), and a silver grass festival in the fall. I couldn’t find much information on it except for locals saying it’s pretty, which is a good enough endorsement for me.
9. Seoullo 7017 Skywalk Garden
Normally, I hate heights, but the skywalk garden would probably be an exception. At least it’s not some rickety bridge other tourists are swinging wildly, anyway. Nope! This one’s set above the ground, but on sturdy concrete, with a nice wide walkway bordered by trees and shrubbery. Enough to make you forget that you’re not on solid ground.
10. COEX Library
COEX is a two-story library, with its most prominent bookshelf reaching from floor to second-story ceiling on proud display. It measures 42 feet with a metric butt-ton of books. A marvel for all book lovers, I’m sure. Or possibly a curse, because it looks like from pictures that there’s a bunch of books you can’t reach. Also, they’re probably in Korean. Still, it’s a cool concept and worth a swing by if you’re in the area.
This list of underrated places in Seoul is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m always updating with travel tips and itineraries for countries around the world, so be sure to check back in again soon!
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