South Korea — Attractions
South Korea offers a great combination of historic and natural attractions. Most visitors start in the capital, Seoul to visit the DMZ and then, time-permitting, explore the rest of the peninsula. The coastal regions of South Korea, as well as the mountainous areas, are extremely beautiful and popular vacation destinations for visitors and locals alike.
Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
The DMZ is a manmade line, roughly along the 38th parallel, which literally divides North and South Korea. Established in 1953, the line is 160 miles in length and considered to be the most militarized border area in the world. The area has seen numerous incursions and incidents over the years, including people trying to cross into the south. Four underground pathways dug by the North Koreans, have been found to date. Visitors can see parts of the Joint Security Area, peek into North Korea, witness no-man’s-land, and explore some of the infiltration tunnels.
Address: Korean Demilitarized Zone
National Museum of Korea, Seoul
If you only have time to get to one museum, then this should be the one. The National Museum of Korea is considered to be the premier cultural institution and showcases the country’s most amazing artifacts. Covering a large area, the complex itself is beautiful and a nice place to spend half a day. Home to over 220,000 artifacts and various national treasures, the museum also hosts changing exhibits throughout the year.
Address: National Museum of Korea, Yongsan-dong 6-ga 168-6, Yongsan-gu, Seoul 140-026
Located on Jeju Island, Manjanggul Cave is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Korea. One of many caves protected on the island, it is one of the very few that is open to the public. Considered to be one of the longest lava tunnels in the world, a small section (less than a mile long) of the underground world is able to be explored, with the whole tunnel estimated to be nine miles in length. Even during the summer, temperatures range between 51°F to 70°F underground.
Address: Manjanggul Cave, Donggimnyeong-ri, Fujwa-eup, Jeju City
Changdeokgung Palace Complex and Huwon Garden
This UNESCO World Heritage site in Seoul is a national treasure and one of the so-called ‘Five Grand Palaces’ constructed during the Joseon era. Built in the 14th century, the palace complex is made up of numerous buildings, the most impressive being Injeongjeon Hall. Behind the palace is the beautiful Huwon Garden, a great example of Korean landscape design. Spread over a 78-acre area, the garden has a lotus pond and several pavilions.
Address: Changdeokgung Palace, Yulgok-ro 99, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-360
This Confucian shrine in Seoul was built in the 14th century and is the oldest of its type still preserved in Korea. The shrine became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995. If visiting in May, it is worth seeing the annual Jongmyo Jaerye service that takes place which is a re-enactment of a festival held back in the 15th century involving traditional costumes, music, and dance. What makes the Jongmyo Shrine unique is its structure as it was considered to be one of the longest buildings in Asia when it was constructed.
Address: Jongmyo Shrine, Jongno1-ga 155, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Seoul Olympic Park & Museum
South Korea hosted the Olympic Games in 1988 and a day out at the Olympic Park and Museum in Seoul is both educational and fun. Enter through the Peace Gate, where the Olympic flame still burns. The park itself is home to various sporting facilities, and famous building reproductions of the Mongchon wall and the Mongchon moat. The park also houses over 200 pieces of art and sculpture which are well worth exploring. The Olympic Museum allows visitors to not only learn about the epic Games, but also try some of the events on a virtual level.
Address: Olympic Park, 88 Bangi-dong, Songpa-gu, Seoul 138-749
Seoraksan National Park
Korea is home to a number of stunning national parks and this one located in the northeastern part of the country, has a variety of rare flora and fauna. The highest peak is Daecheongbong, at 5,600 feet and offers plenty of hiking and walking paths for visitors to enjoy, as well as viewing platforms. It is also home to two Buddhist temples which are open to the public. During the winter, the area is cloaked in snow and German visitors will be happy to see the Edelweiss flower growing here.
Address: Seoraksan National Park, Gangwon-do, Inje-gun, Buk-myeon
Seoul Iris Garden
Also known as the Seoul Botanical Garden, this oasis in the capital consists of 12 themed areas of flora. Most notably the Iris Garden is home to 130 species of irises and over 300,000 flowers. Seeing these in bloom between May and June is an amazing spectacle. Other areas not to be missed include the Wetlands and Medicinal Garden. The visitor’s center and the Cheoni Observatory provide great views over the entire sprawling landscape.
Address: Seoul Botanical Garden, Dobong-dong 4, Dobong-gu, Seoul
Leeum Samsung Museum of Art
This museum in Seoul has a nice balance of traditional and modern art. The collection is separated into two distinct buildings, designed by famous architects such as Mario Botta, Rem Koolhaas, and Jean Nouvel. Make your way through the traditional Korean national treasures in a building reminiscent of the Guggenheim in New York. The modern collection is a combination of works by Korean artists and famous international painters such as Jeff Koons and Damien Hurst. Outside, visitors will find a big symbolic spider sculpture known as Maman by Louise Bourgeois.
Address: Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, Yongsan-gu, Hannam 2-dong, Seoul 747-180
Phone: +82-2-1330 or +82-2-2014-6900