Seoul is one of my favourite cities in the world. The architecture is beautiful, the people are kind, and the food and shopping are to die for.
Seoul has a bit of a reputation for being an expensive county, but I think it doesn’t deserve that reputation at all. Not only is the city not as expensive as many people make it out to be, but there are lots of free things to do as well.
This post showcases 5 free things to do in Seoul. They are all centrally-located, and you can walk from one sight to the next.
1. Changing of the Guards at Gyeongbokgung Palace
Gyeongbokgung Palace is one of the most famous sights in Seoul. It is located in the centre of the city, so it is easy to get to no matter where you are staying. Entering the palace itself has an entrance fee of less than $5USD. It is worth paying the money to visit because it is a stunning and is full of history.
However, if you are on an extreme budget, you should still make a point to attend the changing of the guards ceremony at Gyeongbokgung Palace. The changing of the guards takes place every day of the week except Tuesday at 10am and 2:30pm. The ceremony takes place just inside the main gate. If you are planning on attending the ceremony, I would recommend arriving 5-10 minutes before it starts to get a good viewing spot.
The ceremony takes approximately 10 minutes. It is narrated in both Korean and English, so you will be able to understand the significance of what is happening.
The narration really helps to elevate the ceremony. Being able to understand what is happening throughout the ceremony helps give you a deeper understanding of the palace and Korean culture.
Gyeongbokgung Palace is definitely one of the best free things to do in Seoul. It gives an understanding of past and present Korean culture and traditions.
Just a few blocks away from Gyeongbokgung Palace is Insadong. This is a shopping street where tourists come to fulfill all their souvenir needs.
This street is lined with stalls selling every souvenir a tourist could ask for. From bookmarks to chopsticks to artwork, there is something for everyone. While there are plenty of opportunities to spend money in Insadong, wandering through the street and stores is free.
Insadong is a great place to people watch. Often times there are people walking around in traditional dresses called Hanbok because they get free entrance to the palaces when wearing the traditional outfit.
Insadong is also a great place to get food. While it does not have as many street food offerings as other neighbourhoods, it is my go-to neighbourhood for restaurants. The food is delicious, and it is relatively cheap with most meals costing between $11 and $15USD.
3. Explore a Museum
Seoul has many different free museums to choose from. There is the National Folk Museum of Korea, the National Museum of Korea, the National Palace Museum of Korea, the Seoul Children’s Museum, and the National Art Museum just to name a few.
All the museums have English text throughout them, so you will be able to read and learn about the artifacts you are seeing. The museums are also well organized, and you never feel overwhelmed with information. Every museum is well-curated and helps you to learn about Korean culture and tradition.
Korea has a long and complicated history, so it is important to take the time to learn about the beautiful country you are exploring. It is easy to get caught up in the incredible city that Seoul is now; however, it has an equally incredible history that deserves to be explored as well.
4. Climb Mount Namsan
Most people opt to take the cable car or a bus up Namsan to take in the view, but I say climb that mountain! I will admit that the climb is a bit steep and involves a lot of stairs at times. However, the path up the mountain is beautiful, and the reward of a magnificent view will be worth it in the end.
Climbing Namsan takes between 60 and 90 minutes depending on how slowly or quickly you make your way up. I recommend making the climb in the evening because seeing the city lit up at night is spectacular. Plus it is less hot, and, trust me, you will get a bit sweaty on the climb.
At the top of Namsan is the N-Seoul Tower. You can pay to go up the tower; however, I think the views from the base of the tower are spectacular enough that you can save your money and simply stick to the free viewing area.
Namsan and the N-Seoul Tower are highlights of Seoul. They provide a unique view of the modern Seoul that you can’t get anywhere else.
Myeongdong is the main shopping area in Seoul. It is free to walk around and explore; however, if you manage to leave without spending any money, you are an amazing person.
Myeongdong is filled with cosmetic shops, cafes, street food stalls, and clothing shops. If you enjoy shopping, this is the place for you! If you love cute themed cafes, this is also the place for you.
Wandering around Myeongdong is an adventure in and of itself. The streets are normally lined with people, and there are always store associates yelling and trying to lure you into their stores. Yes it can be overwhelming when you first get there, but I promise that it will be a great time.
If you’re tired of the crowds on the streets, there are plenty of cafes on the second floor of the shops that you can visit. If you sit by a window in the cafe, you will be able to people watch as well as enjoy your coffee (or green tea latte, which I highly recommend).
As a word of caution, be sure you know what you want cosmetics you want to purchase in Myeongdong before you go. Having a plan will prevent you from overspending and buying product you don’t need.
Seoul deserves to be on everybody’s bucket list. It is a unique city that offers something for everybody to love.
I hope these suggestions for free things to do in Seoul help to convince you to book a trip and explore South Korea. I promise you won’t regret it!
The best part of Seoul is that the central part of the city is very walkable. All 5 of the free sights in this article are within walking distance from one another. Walking from sight to sight will help you take in the modern city of Seoul and walk through some neighbourhoods that you would not be able to see while on the train.
So strap on you’re walking shoes and put away your wallet because free activities in Seoul are waiting for you to explore them!