From treasured palaces to futuristic skyscrapers, Seoul is a melting pot of various story-worthy sights. This metropolis is where the past and future meet, a city that preserved elements of its rich history. Looking for the best historical sites around Seoul that you can visit? We’ve curated a special itinerary for you!
Did you know that Korean palaces can be found right in the city of Seoul? Changdeokgung Palace, built in the Joseon Dynasty in the 15th century, is a palace where royal families once lived, which also served as the meeting place of kings and ministers for their state affairs. Changdeokgung was the first palace to be rebuilt after the Japanese occupation in 1592 had all palaces burned. Now, it stands as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its architecture, and landscape of the palace well-preserved, showcasing its rich history of 600 years.
There are available tours to explore the whole palace complex. There’s a Secret Garden course where you can see the Hamyangmun Gate, Buyongji Pond, and Ongnyucheon Stream Area among others. There’s also a General Course where you can see the palace buildings. Depending on the season, the attractions to see may change.
Address: 2-71 Waryong-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
How to get there: It’s a five-minute walk from the Anguk Station, Line 3, Exit 3.
Bukchon Hanok Village
This neighborhood lined with about 900 traditional Korean houses from 600 years ago is another important piece of history you shouldn’t miss in Seoul. Bukchon Hanok Village, situated between the Changdeokgung Palace and Gyeongbokgung Palace, is where the upper class and Korean noblemen resided during the Joseon Dynasty. These hanoks are traditional low-rise enclaves with tiled roofs. Though the old architectural design is still evident, it’s now built with modern materials to adapt to a modern structure.
Aside from the hanoks, there are places to visit here, including the Jeongdok Library, Bukchon Asian Art Museum, Gahoe-dong Catholic Church, as well as quaint cafes and small shops for you to explore.
Address: 37, Gyedong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
How to get there: Take the subway and get off at the Anguk Station Line 3 Exit 3 then turn right.
Walk through the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty and learn the in-depth history of the palace that’s been destroyed and rebuilt so many times. It’s the largest of the five grand palaces and the capital city’s main palace. Gyeongbokgung was abandoned for 300 years and reconstructed in 1867. Since then it has been repeatedly destroyed, demolished, and restored.
Aside from the palace, there are many places to discover here, like the National Palace Museum, the Hyangwonjeong Pavilion, and the National Folk Museum of Korea.
Address: 161 Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
How to get there: Take the subway and get off at Gyeongbokgung Station Exit 5.
Dongdaemun History and Culture Park
Harmony of the past and present Korea will welcome you in Dongdaemun History and Culture Park. It’s where modern shopping centers meet traditional markets, and where trendy items meet thousand-year-old relics and artifacts. It’s like a theme park where you can visit plenty of historic establishments. The Dongdaemun History Museum 1398, the Seoul Fortress which was built as a shield from invaders, and the Dongdaemun Excavation Site Exhibition Hall can all be found here.
Address: 281, Eulji-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul
How to get there: Take the Seoul Subway Line 2, 4, or 5 Exit 1 which is directly connected to Dongdaemun.
Originally a gate leading to Gyeongbokgung Palace, the Gwanghwamun Square is a piece of history that has seen people’s movement from the civil revolution to the March 1st Movement among others making it a symbolic place for democracy in Korea. On the other hand, the Gwanghwamun Gate was built in 1395 characterized by an arched gate and a two-story pavilion. Like the other historical establishments in the area, it has been repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt after it was burned down in 1592.
Address: 161, Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
How to get there: Take the subway line 5 Exit 1, 2, and 8 to Gwanghwamun Station.
National Palace Museum of Korea
Home to over 40,000 relics and Joseon royal court artifacts, the National Palace Museum of Korea is a must-visit for all history buffs wanting to learn more about Korea through tangible objects. This museum holds both permanent and special exhibitions about the Korean empire from art to scriptures. These artifacts tell the legacy and national treasures of the country. The museum is divided into several exhibition halls which showcase the cultural assets of Korea.
Aside from the exhibition halls, there’s also a library cafe, museum shop, and preservation lab in the museum.
Address: 12, Hyoja-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
How to get there: Take the subway line 4 to Ichon Station. From exit 2, walk towards Ichon Station. From there you can walk to Yongsan Family Park.
Seodaemun Prison History Hall
Have you ever imagined what a Korean prison looks like in the early 1900s? Head over to Seodaemun to know more about Korean martyrs. The prison was actually used by the Japanese colonizers to jail Koreans who fought for independence, many of them were tortured and executed to death. In 1998 the somber site was turned into a museum that displays the materials used for the torture, as well as the photos of the people who sacrificed their lives for the country. This memorial site is a historical site to see and pay tribute to Korean martyrs.
Address: 120-080 (101, Hyeonjeo-dong) Uijuro 247, Seodaemun-gu Seoul, Korea
How to get there: Take the subway line 3 and get off at Dongnimmun station exit 5.
Jogyesa Temple is one of the major Buddhist temples in Seoul. Established in 1935, the temple was reconstructed into a modern one and moved to its current location now when it was completed in 1938. The temple is composed of the Main Dharma Hall, the Daeungjeon that’s the largest temple building in the city. Aside from that, it’s a serene escape from the bustling city.
Address: 55 Ujeongguk-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
How to get there: Take the Seoul City sightseeing bus which stops in Jogyesa Temple.
Want to see more of Korea’s historic and cultural attractions? Find a tour you’ll love on KKDay!