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Visiting Seoul for the First Time? Here's What to See and Do


Visiting Seoul for the First Time? Here's What to See and Do
Hi, I'm Lydia!

Lydia Schrandt is a writer, editor, and award-winning photographer currently based in Houston. She’s a contributor for USA TODAY 10Best and serves as the first chair of the Editors Council of the Society of American Travel Writers. Her work has appeared in Draft, Time Out Beijing, Travel+, USA TODAY, San Francisco Chronicle, and others.

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Hi, I'm Lydia!

Lydia Schrandt is a writer, editor, and award-winning photographer currently based in Houston. She’s a contributor for USA TODAY 10Best and serves as the first chair of the Editors Council of the Society of American Travel Writers. Her work has appeared in Draft, Time Out Beijing, Travel+, USA TODAY, San Francisco Chronicle, and others.

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South Korea’s capital offers a rich diversity of experiences, from its busy markets to its grand Joseon dynasty palaces. If this is your first time in Seoul, here are our top tips for experiencing the best of the city in one trip.  

Visit the DMZ

For a slice of Korean history.

If you only have time for one day trip from Seoul, head to the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) for a fascinating exploration of the history and modern-day tensions between North and South Korea. Most tours offer the chance to peek into North Korea from the Dora Observatory

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The DMZ is now a popular tourist attraction and day trip from Seoul. Photo: Dylan Goldby / Viator

Cruise the Han River

Enjoy the city from a different perspective.

The Han River flows through the heart of Seoul, and a leisurely cruise along the waterway shows off the city’s landmarks from a different perspective. Choose an evening cruise to see Seoul illuminated, including the popular Banpo “Rainbow” Bridge.

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Savor some street food

You won't leave Seoul hungry.

Seoul is known for its street food, so don’t leave without treating your tastebuds to some local flavors. Join a food-themed walking tour through the city’s busy markets and back alleys to find the best bites where locals go to eat.

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Seoul's street food scene is famously delicious. Photo: Andrew Faulk / Viator

Shop the markets

Indulge in some retail therapy.

Experience firsthand why Seoul is a shopper’s paradise with some retail therapy in one of the city’s renowned shopping districts. Look for local fashions and cosmetics in Myeongdong, or take a guided shopping tour of the immense Dongdaemun Market.

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Visit the palaces

Learn about Korea's regal history.

Step back in time to the Joseon dynasty with a visit to one of Seoul’s grand palaces. If you’re pressed for time, opt for Changdeokgung Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s included on many city sightseeing tours.

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Seoul's Changdeokgung Palace is one of the city's must-visit attractions for first-timers. Photo: Andrew Faulk / Viator

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See all Seoul tours
624 tours & tickets
Things to do in Seoul
See all things to do in Seoul
Must-See Palaces in Seoul
Must-See Palaces in Seoul