Luckily, the city has one of the world’s most efficient public transportation systems. The subway network looks complex, but it is the easiest way to navigate the capital city and discover its various cultural gems.
Here are several major attractions located within walking distance of a subway station. Choose your type of travel and hop on a subway.
Immerse in old Seoul
The city’s major historical sites are centered around Gyeongbokgung, Anguk and City Hall Stations. Gyeongbokgung Station has a direct access to Gyeongbokgung Palace through an underground pass and also to the National Palace Museum of Korea, which displays artifacts that offer a glimpse into the royal life of the Joseon era.
Anguk Station takes visitors to the well-preserved Bukchon Hanok Village, once an upper-class neighborhood of Joseon. The village is one of the most popular sites in the city that draws not only foreign tourists, but also locals during weekends and holidays. A short walk from the station to the east takes passengers to Changdeokgung Palace, known for its beautiful gardens and palace buildings in harmony with the surrounding natural landscape. The royal palaces are open at night in the spring and summer months. A tip to enjoy the night scenery is to rent a hanbok – traditional Korean costume – at nearby rental shops, wear and get free access to the palaces.
City Hall Station, near Deoksugung Palace and Jeong-dong, offers a glimpse of the early modern days of Korea as it was once the center of the 19th century Joseon, dotted with early Protestant churches, foreign embassies and schools.
Art walk to museums and galleries
The city’s major art museums and galleries are gathered around the Anguk and City Hall stations. A 10- to 15-minute walk from Anguk Station leads to the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea. Surrounding the museum are Korea’s major galleries such as Kukje Gallery, Gallery Hyundai and Hakgojae, which showcase works of some of the big names in the Korean and international art scenes. Walk further down to Insa-dong, and one will encounter a long stretch of street lined with small mom-and-pop galleries showing works of local Korean artists.
Seoul Museum of Art is located near City Hall Station after the end of the scenic stonewall of Deoksugung Palace. The city museum of Seoul attracts locals and tourists to its sculpture garden and the historic redbrick museum building, which was built in 1928 and served as the Supreme Court until 1995. Its exhibitions feature contemporary art and public-friendly displays, such as the ongoing show with DreamWorks Animation studio, to cater to both art enthusiasts and the general public.
Walk in nature, or hop on a thrilling ride
Amid the skyscrapers and high-rise apartment blocks, Seoul tries to keep its city green with several large public parks such as Seoul Forest near Ttukseom Station and Yangjae Citizens’ Forest.
Seoul Forest, envisioned by the Seoul Metropolitan Government to be like London’s Hyde Park or New York’s Central Park, encompasses five different functions, including an eco-forest with diverse species of plants, a botanical garden and outdoor sports facilities.
In southern Seoul, Yangjae Citizens’ Forest Park boasts a lush forest with hundreds of tree and plant species, serving as a nature sanctuary for citizens. It is equipped with grounds for many sports and activities, ranging from basketball, volleyball and tennis to barefoot walking.
Lotte World, the only theme park located in the heart of the city, is easily reached from Jamsil Station through an underground pass. The theme park consists of both indoor and outdoor adventure areas with thrilling rides, year-round parades and other amusement and shopping facilities, such as an ice rink, folk museum and the Lotte World Mall. The adjoining Lake Seokchon offers a nice, breezy walk along the lake, looking on rides at Lotte World and the 123-floor Lotte World Tower.
Buy and eat
Shopping can’t be missed on a Seoul trip. The city’s top most popular shopping streets are Garosu-gil near Sinsa Station and Coex Mall at Samseong Station, both in the Gangnam area. Garosu-gil, named after its beautiful tree-lined streets, is dotted with large stores of international brands such as Zara, Forever 21 and Swarovski, as well as many other local clothing and accessories shops.
The underground Coex Mall, renovated in 2014, is a one-stop shopping spot with more than 200 retail shops and 90 restaurants and coffee shops.
Looking for a more traditional shopping experience? Gwangjang Market nearby Jongno 5-ga Station and Namdaemun Market at Hoehyeon Station offer a more local and traditional side of Seoul. They are also the best places to eat like a local.
Gwangjang Market, best-known for its hanbok stores, is also popular for its variety of Korean snacks and eats such as Korean-style pancakes, or “jeon.” There’s a lot to discover at Namdaemun Market with the variety of goods it sells and the alley of “galchi jorim,” or spicy braised scabbard fish.
By Lee Woo-young (firstname.lastname@example.org)