Top 10 things to do in South Korea for the best bucket list
Written by: Circles.Life
South Korea is a rich tapestry of the modern, traditional, fun and even chaotic. Whittling down to the top 10 things to do was not easy by any means, but here it is!
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What better way to start off than with a generous helping of Korean fare. Seoul may be a skyscraping cosmopolitan megacity, but equally impressive are its alleys of very yummy yet affordable local food that rivals the best street offerings in the region.
Fuel up with traditional Korean stews, rice and other homemade dishes at Ttukbaegi-Jip near the popular Insa-dong district. Or go steamboat-style at Songlim Sikdang, one of the city’s largest taxi restaurants.
Many full meals with side dishes go for the equivalent of S$6 - S$9.
Image credit: Tripzilla
By this we mean South Korea’s traditional markets or jaerae sijang. Indulge in the sights, sounds, smell and taste coming together in a wonderfully chaotic but uplifting harmony.
One moment you are haggling with a vendor in your broken Korean, the next you are ducking from some random rider in their scooter.
To relive a past marketing experience of the locals, drop by Dosirak Cafe at Seoul’s Tongin Market. There you can buy a traditional lunch tray and a handful of old Korean brass coins, which can actually be exchanged for stuff around the rest of the market to fill up your tray.
For smaller crowds, try Donam Jeil Market. An honorary mention also goes to Gukje Market in Busan and Dongmun Market in Jeju.
Fall in love with nature
South Korea’s hiking trails offer the best respite from the crowds, not to mention it’s time for you to burn some calories after all the feasting.
Hiking is not just a favourite pastime of the locals but a part of their cultural identity. Hardly surprising, considering 70% of the country is mountainous. From an 80-year-old granny overtaking you on the way up to rewarding themselves with fried pancakes at the summit, the activity is an attraction in itself.
Bukhansan is a convenient hiking route near Seoul while for the more gung-ho, Jirisan is the tallest mountain on the mainland.
Go full of s***
Nope, that wasn’t a typo. Get ready for a proper education of our ~body~.
Except that you may need to pinch your nose throughout. Poopoo Land in Busan is a theme park museum dedicated to all things digestive a.k.a our poop, pee and…..let’s not spoil our appetite for the next army stew shall we?
Don’t worry, the photos you take here won’t literally stink up your camera. Before you leave, dare yourself in the Digestive Maze and exit like a pile of s***.
Pounding up the mountain takes your breath away in more ways than one. Whip out your camera and treat yourself to spectacular views along the way and among the clouds.
Sunrise lover? There’s perhaps no better way to welcome the day than when atop the Taebaek mountain range along the east coast, with the sun slowly peeking out above the horizon and first rays dancing through the morning mist.
A cable car is available if you do not want to work up a sweat.
All things bamboo
Little known is that South Korea is home to some of the most abundant bamboo groves in the region.
Juknokwon is one of its largest bamboo forests, boasting hiking trails, a culture village, an art gallery and even a bamboo museum. And we bet you have never tried bamboo ice cream before.
The area is also a popular film setting. Don’t go ga-ga if you bump into your favourite K-pop stars!
Image credit: Hotels.com
Immerse yourself in the country’s rich cultural heritage with a visit to Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul. Built more than 600 years ago during the Chosun dynasty, it is the largest and arguably the grandest in South Korea.
Which is why you are likely to be immersed with your fellow travellers as well, hanbok-wearing and all.
Alternatives like Deoksugung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace provide a more serene royal experience. The latter is even a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A Hanok is a traditional Korean house built in the 14th century and makes a great next step on your cultural journey. You may know Jeonju as the birthplace of bibimbap but many also flock there for its Hanok village.
Staying in a Hanok and sleeping on the floor is as authentic as they come. Not to mention making a Hanji fan with paper from mulberry trees.
Other activities like stamp and fermented rice wine making would round off your day trip nicely.
Theme park with a twist
Image credit: Bobo and ChiChi
No visit to South Korea is complete without including an abandoned theme park.
You read that right. Because where else could you get the park owner to still switch on the carousel lights for you for a token fee? Rather than the creepy-crawly version in horror movies, the Yongma Land Abandoned Theme Park in Seoul is a busy photo spot with its array of iconic rides from the 1980s and 90s.
Any shrieks you hear should be of excitement, as the place hosts celebrities filming K-pop MVs too.
Finish on a high on Seoul Tower
Image credit: 360Cities
Rather than in the bowels, end your trip at the top of the world. Standing at over 130m, Seoul Tower’s observatory offers a 360-degree view of its surroundings as you reflect on this amazing capital and country.
Surprisingly, you can fill your tummy at street food-style prices here too. Amidst fine dining restaurants, the N Burger joint dishes out delicious burgers from 1930s America.
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