Ultimate South Korea Bucket List: 50 Awesome Things To Do In Korea

Creating an ultimate South Korea bucket list with only 50 items was a lot harder than you’d think! You might not know it, but Korea has a rich, diverse culture, both historic and modern, that rivals Japan and China. There are so many incredible things to do in Korea that you could live here for years (as I have) and still find new things to discover.

That’s okay, because it gives you the perfect excuse to come back many times, as people often do once they discover the wonders of the Land of the Morning Calm (Korea).

From visiting royal palaces and dress up in traditional hanbok, to exploring the modern joys of the energetic streets of Hongdae, or the bustling traditional markets and street food you can find in Myeongdong, there’s truly something for all types of travellers to enjoy in Korea.

However, there’s a lot more to Korea than what you’ll find in Seoul. Korea is a land packed full of natural beauty, a country that is 70% mountainous, has golden beaches, great water sports, breathtaking festivals, and beautifully preserved UNESCO world heritage sights.

Not only that, the food and drinks available in Korea are delectable. You can discover so many awesome traditional foods you might not know existed, but quickly become one of your favourites. I know many people definitely get addicted to Korean BBQ after their first visit!

You’ll find recommendations about all these things, and a lot more, here in this ultimate South Korea bucket list. I hope it helps you plan your dream trip. If you want some more inspiration, or you’re not sure how to start planning your trip to Korea, then these other articles might help you out. Be sure to bookmark them for later:

What To Know Before Travelling To Korea

How To Plan A 1 Week Itinerary For Korea

Be sure to keep on reading and discover all the incredible things waiting for you in Korea.

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Table of Contents:

South Korea Bucket List: 50 Things To Do In Korea

This is the Ultimate South Korea Bucket List. It is packed full of all the best things to do, see, try, experience, taste, and enjoy in South Korea. Whether this is your first trip, or tenth, this Ultimate South Korea Bucket List will help you lots.

To help you figure out what might interest you the most, I’ve broken this ultimate South Korea bucket list down into a few different sections. These will focus on the the various things to do in Korea and there are loads of details about how to do them, when to experience them, and why you definitely want them on your South Korea bucket list.

1: Cultural Experiences

2: Attractions in Seoul & Korea

3: Korean Food & Drink

4: Shopping & Markets In Korea

5: Nature & Adventure Activities

6: Festivals In Korea

Now, here’s the start of the top 50 things to do in Korea. These aren’t in any particular order, but there are definitely some great ones at the top that I’d recommend for any visitor to Korea.

Women wearing hanbok in Bukchon Hanok Village

Cultural Experiences In South Korea For Your Bucket List

If you’re looking for some awesome cultural experiences in Seoul or Korea, then be sure to add these to your South Korea bucket list. From traditional clothes (hanbok) and houses (hanok), to truly unique day trips to see the world’s most heavily defended border (the DMZ), and lots more.

1. Dress Up In Hanbok In Seoul

First up on the Ultimate South Korea Bucket List is wearing Hanbok 한복. Wearing hanbok is a great way to connect to the history of Korea. Why not experience life as a local did hundreds of years ago? If you’re wearing hanbok, you can also gain access to the four main Palaces in Seoul for free.

Be sure to keep your hanbok on and head to Bukchon Hanok Village for more places to take great pictures.

There are many hanbok rental shops across Seoul, especially in tourist areas around Insadong. You can find hanbok rental in other major cities such as Jeonju, Daegu, and Busan. You can also book hanbok rental online and get other services such as hair-styling, hats, and additional accessories.

K Star Road in Apgujeong, Gangnam

2. Immerse Yourself In Hallyu In Gangnam

Is K Pop on your Ultimate South Korea Bucket List? If so, then Gangnam is the place for you. More than just PSY’s Gangnam Style, Gangnam is home to so many attractions relating to Hallyu 한류 (Korean Wave). Hallyu is the wave of Korean culture that has spread around the world through music, movies, TV, and idols. If you want to find out more about Hallyu and Korea’s modern world of K-Pop music, then take a tour like the one below:

Hallyu K-Pop Tour In Gangnam

Along K Star Road, you will see these cute GangnamDols of K-Pop stars, including BTS, EXO, Girl’s Generation, and more. Once you’ve finished taking pictures with your favourite idols’ statues, check out some of their favourite locations in the area. If you’re lucky, you might even bump into someone famous!

If you’re a fan of PSY and his Gangnam Style, then check out this Gangnam Style statue (above). It’s dedicated to the massive impact he had in spreading Hallyu to Western shores. You can take your picture underneath and show off your own Gangnam Style. Any Hallyu fans should include this in their South Korea Bucket List. 

DMZ Tour Picture, South Korea

3. Learn About North Korea On A DMZ Tour

You could be forgiven for forgetting that Seoul is only 50 km from the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ). This makes it a perfect day trip from Seoul. Half and one day tours are available from a range of different operators. Why wouldn’t this be part of your South Korea Bucket List? There are many places to book DMZ trips from Seoul, including packages from Klook, Trazy, Getyourguide, and DMZ Tour.

The Panmunjom Peace Village (see below) is one of the first places I visited in Korea. This is where Kim Jong-Un and Moon Jae-In, famously shook hands in 2018 at the start of ongoing peace talks.

This village is the place where you can cross the border into North Korea. Well… one foot over the line, anyway. See the stoic faces of the North Korean soldiers standing guard and get some great photo ops.

There are also many other attractions to see on a DMZ tour. These include descending down into the bowels of the Earth at the Third Infiltration Tunnel site. This is where North Korean soldiers tried to tunnel into the South.

Visit the Dora Observatory and look over the border at the barren hills of North Korea. There are also several other significant locations from the war you can visit.

Guide To Doing A Temple Stay In Korea

4. Find Your Soul At A Buddhist Templestay

Staying in a Buddhist temple in Korea is a must for those weary from rushing around the busy city streets. It’s also great for those who want to learn more about Korean Buddhism. There are many Buddhist temples that make a great day trip from Seoul.

Buddhist temples are usually situated at the entrance to national parks, guaranteeing peace and tranquility during your stay. Spiritual travellers should add this to their South Korea Bucket List.

During my temple stay experience, we woke up at 4:00 am and joined the monks in their morning rituals. Then we went hiking to watch the sunrise fall upon the autumnal tree-lined valleys of Sognisan National Park. Truly unforgettable.

The temple staff spoke English at the temple and the booking was simple is easy and cheap. You can book a Temple Stay experience from the Templestay website (in English) and you can choose a whole range of temples throughout South Korea.

Find out more about booking a temples in this detailed guide I wrote to joining a temple stay in Korea, why it’s great fun, and what you can expect to do.

Complete Guide To Booking A Temple Stay In Korea

Noraebang sign in South Korea
Enter the happy world of a Korean noraebang karaoke room.

5. Sing Your Heart Out At A Noraebang

Music lovers will want this on their South Korea Bucket List. You can’t walk around a city of any size in South Korea without bumping into a noraebang (노래방). You might know them as a karaoke room in English, it’s the same thing.

Korean people love, love, love to sing, and now you can join them in a range of different settings. When you see lots of neon lights and the sign below, you’re in the right part of town. These are usually conveniently next to the bars and restaurants. You’ll find lots in areas like Hongdae.

If you’re travelling with some friends then check out the singing rooms. You can order drinks and pay a small fee to sing for as many hours as you’d like.

Travelling alone but still want to sing? No problem, just find one of the individual singing booths (like a large photo booth). Belt out your favourite K Pop, love songs, or teary ballads.

Korean saunas are a great way to relax
Relax in a South Korean sauna at a Jjimjjilbang

6. Relax And Unwind At A Jjimjjilbang

Life in Korea is hectic and there’s nothing better than soaking in a hot pool after a long day. After rushing around ticking off your South Korea Bucket List, why not stay at a jjimjjilbang 찜질방(sauna)? Here you can let the stress and tiredness wash off your body.

These indoor hot springs have something for everyone, from steaming saunas to freezing cold pool and everything in between. You can even sleep in a rest area with free pajamas provided for you. Jjimjjilbangs also act as cheap overnight accommodation or emergency hotel rooms when you’re stuck without somewhere to stay.

If you’re feeling brave and adventurous, then why not try a seshin 세신 massage in the sauna. This involves soaking your body in hot water and then being scrubbed head to foot with a ‘Korean Italy towel’. This is a kind of thin loofah which resembles a sheet of sandpaper more than a towel.

Are you brave enough to add this to your South Korea Bucket List?

Jeonju Hanok Village

7. Experience Traditional Korean Culture In Jeonju

Jeonju Hanok Village is a rebuilt village in a traditional style that demonstrates traditional Korean culture. Located in Jeonju in the southern half of Korea, it makes for a cultural day trip from Seoul. You can find similar areas in Seoul (Bukchon Hanok Village) and near Daejeon (Gongju Hanok Village).

There are more than 700 hanok 한옥 (traditional building) recreated in the beautiful traditional Korean style. With sloping rooftops, wooden beams, and stone walls, they’re really beautiful. You can rent hanbok (traditional dress) and walk around the village like a local. Visit all the different shops, restaurants, and experience centres and learn about the traditional Korean way of life.

You can experience sleeping on the heated flooring in one of the traditional guesthouses. Also, try making traditional Korean crafts at the Jeonju Crafts Exhibition Hall. I still have the goods I made here in 2015 on my first visit and they decorate my desk nicely.

Jeonju is also the birthplace of one of Korea’s most famous foods – bibimbap. This dish is a healthy, filling mix of vegetables, rice, a fried egg, and gochujang (red chilli paste). Where better to try bimimbap than in a traditional Korean restaurant with Korean metal chopsticks?

Busan Gamcheon Culture Village, South Korea

8. See The Views Of Gamcheon Culture Village In Busan

Known as the Machu Picchu of Korea, Gamcheon Culture Village in the Busan is high on all photographers’ lists. See hundreds of colourful buildings on the slopes of these coastal hills. Not only this, you can also see murals and sculptures created by local residents. A lot of the art makes use of boring parts of the local landscape and turns them into Instagram-worthy locales.

You can follow the regular street maps, which will show you where to collect stamps along the way. Or get lost in amongst the winding streets, up and down painted stairway murals. There are even cosy little cafes hidden around the place to recover in.

If you’re limited in time, enter via the North Entrance and you’ll find a lot of the most famous sites. These include The Little Prince, Love Locks, Socks Shops, the Library Stairs, and others. Plenty to add to your South Korea Bucket List!

Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain

9. Take A Cruise On The Han River

Take a cruise along the broad Han River in Seoul and watch the sunset while the city starts to shine. The river is the perfect places to see the sights of Seoul. You can see the N Seoul Tower, the Olympic Stadium, and the famous Yanghwa Bridge.

You’ll pass by many bridges along the way, but one is more magical than the rest – the Banpo Rainbow Bridge. This bridge was installed with a full spectrum of colourful lights that shine down through jets of water. This creates a stunning rainbow waterfall on the north side of the bridge. The lights are only turned on between April and October.

Follow the link to find out about how to book a river cruise tour. Book ahead of schedule, I’ve turned up on the day several times and found the tours all sold out. I’d recommend booking an evening tour. The sights look better at night and you’ll get to experience the rainbow bridge in all its glory.

KTX Train in Korea

10. Travel On One Of The Best Trains In The World

When people think of their South Korea Bucket List, they usually don’t think of trains. Not many people realise Korea has a fleet of high-speed trains. They work as efficiently and quickly as Japanese bullet trains. At 305 km/h (190 mp/h), you can go from Seoul to Busan in a breathtaking 2 hours 40 minutes. This is much faster than going to the airport and flying the same distance!

Take the KTX to experience comfort whilst hurtling through the Korean countryside, seeing natural beauty on the way. Booking tickets for the KTX is easy, and the trains are always on time. Not only that, they’re cheap, too. A trip from Seoul to Busan (325 km across the whole country) costs around 50,000 won ($42). Bargain.

Buy the Korail Pass for unlimited travel for up to 5 days to save even more money. Forget the planes, take to the trains when you travel Korea! Find out more about travel and transportation before coming to South Korea.

Caribbean Bay in Korea

Attractions In South Korea For Your Bucket List

There are so many fun ways to spend your time in Korea, no matter what time of the year. Here are some of my favourite activities to add to your bucket list. If you’re visiting Korea in summer, then be sure to read my article all about the best summer activities in Korea, which will give you even more fun ways to spend your time.

Best Summer Activities For Korea

N Seoul Tower, Seoul, South Korea

11. See Seoul From The N Seoul Tower

It’s hard to miss this brave lookout on top of Namsan Mountain if you’re in central Seoul. It towers over the city like a lighthouse. There is a bus that will take you to the the top, or you can hike up to the top.

For those who don’t like hiking, why not take the cable car (near Myeongdong Subway Station)? It will drop you at the entrance of the N Seoul Tower. You’ll also get a sweet view of the northern part of Seoul as you go. Time it right and you can see the sun setting in the west past the Han River.

You can save money and get combo tickets for the other attractions there, such as the Hello Kitty World. You can also get discount tickets for the N Seoul Tower by booking online.

There are several restaurants that you can dine in, as well as cafes and gift shops. Take as many pictures as you can, there is a lot to see from every side. You might even spot other items on your South Korea Bucket List.

Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul, South Korea

12. Experience Royal Life In A Korean Palace

Forget the Forbidden City in China, this is the South Korea Bucket List. There are many impressive palaces to walk around in central Seoul. You can peek inside ancient throne rooms, walk through picturesque gardens, and experience the life of an emperor or empress.

There are four main palaces in Seoul and entry to these palaces is free if you’re wearing hanbok (traditional clothes). The four main palaces are Gyeongbokgung (above), Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, and Deoksugung.

Gyeongbokgung was the first and largest of these palaces. It can be accessed via the Gyeongbokgung Subway Station or by walking from one of the numerous other attractions nearby. Take note, Gyeongbokgung Palace is closed on Mondays.

Whilst Gyeongbokgung might be older and larger, my personal favourites are the Changdeokgung and Changgyeonggung Palaces (above). You can find these to the east of the main palace. These two palaces are actually part of a larger complex that includes The Secret Garden (access limited, book ahead).

Visit during spring for cherry blossoms or autumn for the autumn leaves. The palaces come alive with nature, making them a breath of fresh air set against the backdrop of Seoul.

Nami Island, South Korea

13. Travel To A Micro-Country On Nami Island

Did you know there’s another country sitting inside of Korea? 63 km outside Seoul is Nami Island – a half moon shaped island that is the burial site of General Nami. This is an incredible day trip from Seoul and you can be back in Seoul in time for dinner. You can include other locations, too.

You can get great combo one day tours for Nami Island, Petit France, the Garden of Morning Calm, and the Gangchon Rail Bike.

Known as the Naminara Republic, the island has declared cultural independence from Korea. They even have their own diplomatic and cultural policies. You can get your passport stamped when you go in there. But don’t worry, you won’t need a visa to get in, it’s still part of Korea.

Nami Island is the perfect getaway for families, couples, and those looking for some tranquil peace. Nami Island caters for the adventurous, too. You can enter the park on the Nami Island zip line. There are great combo deals for Nami Island and the zip line.

See the giant metasequoia, golden gingko trees, as well as cherry blossoms, pines, and many other natural beauties. One of the main attractions is the tree-lined paths (that you can walk or ride through) that were filming locations for the hit Korean drama Winter Sonata (above).

You can book Winter Sonata tours to relive some of the most memorable scenes. Why not put yourself in their shoes? A must for romantic couples.

Mr Sunshine Film Set at Nonsan Sunshine Land, South Korea

14. Visit A Korean TV Set And Travel Back In Time

Another one for K-Drama fans is the Sunshine Studio film set turned tourist site. This should be on your South Korea Bucket List if you’re a fan of the 2018 Korean Drama Mr. Sunshine. The Sunset Studio, part of Sunshine Land in Nonsan, provides a full tourist experience. Visit the authentically recreated town center, complete with Glory Hotel.

Get dressed up in traditional hanbok and walk around the streets of Seoul in the 1950’s. See the traditional shops and take pictures in the dozens of filming locations from Mr. Sunshine. Even if you’ve never seen the show, you can still appreciate the set and enjoy life in 1950’s Korea. Sample some of the traditional foods in the stalls and enjoy the pleasant cafe in the Glory Hotel itself (below).

Art displays are frequently put on in some of the unused buildings. Half the fun as a tourist is watching everyone else wearing 50’s costumes and seeing Korea all those years ago.

Located in Nonsan, near Daejeon, this site provides a good day trip from Seoul or Daejeon. There is easy access to the studio by KTX train from Seoul or a 30 minute train journey from Daejeon. Get a taxi from the station (only 5 minutes) or take the 216 bus to Sunshine Land.

Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon, South Korea

15. Rule The Walls Of Hwaseong Fortress In Suwon

Stretching around the central area of Suwon, just south of Seoul, is the Hwaseong Fortress. This UNESCO heritage site is perhaps one of the most impressive fortresses remaining in Korea. The close location to Seoul makes this a great place for a day trip from Seoul. There are many options for tours and cultural events around this location.

The main fortifications are in the northern section of the fortress, along with most of the other attractions. These include the Hwaseong Haenggung Palace, the Hwaseong Museum, and performances of traditional dances and crafts. Near the fortress there are many other museums, cafes, and places to take part in traditional activities, such as archery.

The fortress wall extends in a loop around the city for nearly 6 km. If you’re feeling brave, why not try hiking some or all of these walls. You’ll be treated to great sights of Suwon and the surrounding areas as well as getting some good exercise. For those who don’t feel like walking, why not take the tourist trolley around some of the key areas.

During the spring and summer time there are often festivals, such as the Hwaseong Culture Festival, as well as light festivals later in the year. Seeing the fortress during both the day and night gives you a completely different experience, with lights turning the grey walls into shining shows at night.

Lotte World Tower, Seoul

16. Brave The Heights Of The Seoul Sky Observatory

Lotte Tower stands like a diamond finger pointing up into the heavens in the centre of Seoul. It’s hard to miss the world’s 6th tallest building which stands at 555 metres above the pristine Seokchon Lake. The best place to see Seoul is from the Seoul Sky Observatory on the 120th floor of the Lotte Tower. This will undeniably give you the best views of Seoul, spreading out for miles in all directions.

Spread over 7 floors, from the 117th to 123rd floor, there are lots of things to do here. Are you brave enough to take a selfie on the glass floor (below)? Certainly not for the faint hearted! Sip a coffee whilst looking out over the city. Take time for some spiritual contemplation about how small the world really is and see how far Seoul spreads in all directions.

You can book tickets on the Seoul Sky Observatory website. However, you can get a better price by booking tickets online with Klook. If you want a memorable evening, why not add a meal in the 123 Lounge to your South Korea Bucket List?

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Busan, South Korea

17. Visit Coastal Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, Busan

A trip to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is a rare chance to see the beautiful southern coast and one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Korea. The clear blue seas are on par with what you’ll find in Haeundae Beach. However, when contrasted by the rugged rocks and unique architecture, this is an even more amazing view.

As you make your way from the entrance, you will be amazed by all the sights there are to see. Pass by rows of zodiac statues (can you find yours?). After that, be astounded by the large golden statues of Buddha. And, of course, take lots of pics of the temple itself, like the one above.

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is one of the three sacred places related to the Goddess of Buddha of South Korea. Its motto is ‘at least one of your wishes will be answered here through sincere prayers‘. Hopefully your wish can come true!

Located a short ride from Busan, this temple can be seen in a few hours. Find out more about how to get to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

War Memorial of Korea, Seoul, South Korea

18. Learn About Korean History Past And Present

Located one stop away from each other in the Yongsan area of central Seoul, the War Memorial of Korea and National Museum of Korea are must-sees for history enthusiasts. It’s also great for those who simply want to know more about the often tragic, always enthralling history of Korea.

The War Memorial puts a focus on visual, realistic imagery and uses provocative models to bring the horror of war to life. Learn about the role of war in Korean society and conflicts with their bigger neighbours, Japan and China.

The National Museum of Korea completes the history lesson. See the various kingdoms that made up Korea in the past. Marvel at the wide range of artefacts on display, dating from the stone age to now. Finally, learn more about Korean culture through the ages and the contributions they’ve made to the world.

To gain access to the War Memorial, head to Samgakji Subway Station. Remember to explore the wide range of tanks and other military vehicles on display from recent history outside. After this, go back to the subway and continue one stop to Ichon Subway Station for the National Museum of Korea.

Everland Theme Park, Yongin, South Korea

19. Find Thrills In Everland & Caribbean Bay Theme Parks

South Korea’s answer to Disney Land or Universal Studios is the thrilling Everland and Caribbean Bay. These are a must for any thrill seeker’s South Korea bucket list. Located in Yongin, it makes for a convenient and exciting day trip from Seoul. Get some great discount tickets from Klook and save money on the normal entrance fee.

Everland is Korea’s largest theme park and boasts the world’s steepest roller coaster. This sends you hurtling down to the ground at an angle of 77 degrees and at 104 km/h! Great for thrill seekers, families, couples looking to create some unforgettable memories, and even animal lovers. Featuring 5 different zones.

Caribbean Bay is one of the world’s largest water parks. With loads of rides, this is the best place to have fun and cool off in summer. Modeled after the gorgeous beaches of the Caribbean, it’s the premier destination for water park lovers in South Korea. Some of the best rides at Caribbean Bay include the Mega Storm, Aqua Loop, and the Tower Raft. Caribbean Bay also features an indoor infant pool, sauna, spa, diving pool, and many types of swimming pools.

The best part of this for travellers to South Korea is the discounts offered only to foreigners. Yes, as a foreigner you can get discounts during certain periods.

BBQ is one of the best things about living in Korea as an expat

Korean Food And Drink For Your Bucket List

No South Korea bucket list would be complete without adding some of the absolutely delicious food and drink you’ll only find in Korea. To be honest, I could probably write make a bucket list for only food and drink items that you really must try when you visit Korea, but I’ll try to stick to just a few unique dishes. If you want to know more about Korea’s amazing food, and get more ideas for your bucket list, then check out my other articles about Korean food.

20 Amazing Korean Traditional Dishes

10 Weird Korean Foods You Must Try Once

Winter Korean Food To Make You Glow

Ddong Bbang poop bread on sale at the Poop Cafe in Ssamzigil, Seoul, South Korea

20. Drink A Latte From A Toilet At The Poop Cafe

The Poop Cafe in Seoul was one of the very first places I visited when I moved to Korea in 2015, high on my own South Korea Bucket List. For those that might be a bit squeamish at the idea of a poop cafe, don’t worry. This little latte in a mini-toilet is actually pretty cute. The colourful decor is on the theme of, well, poop, and there are even little poop hats to wear.

This is a must for anyone who wants to take a picture of something crazy. And what could be weirder than a rose (or mint) latte served in a little toilet cup from the Poop Cafe? Whats more, you can also buy ddong bbang (똥빵) – literally translated to poop bread (see above).

If you’re really hungry, try a curry served in a traditional style Korean toilet. Gross? Maybe, but definitely memorable! Add it to your own South Korea Bucket List.

The Poop Cafe is located on the 4th floor of the Ssamzigil Art Mall in Insadong, Seoul. You can buy the poop bread from a small stall near the entrance to the mall, as well as next to the Poop Cafe itself.

Jeju Black Pork cooking on a hot plate in Jeju, South Korea

21. Eat Korea’s Best Dish – Korean BBQ

For the carnivores out there, a South Korea Bucket List wouldn’t be complete without trying out samgyeopsal 삼겹살 – Korean BBQ. I have to admit, this is my favourite Korean food and, whilst it may be very different from the barbecue food I grew up with in the UK, this certainly gives you the same fix and will leave you feeling stuffed (and possibly put you into a food coma!).

There are numerous options for BBQ in Korea, with different cuts of meat including the shoulder and neck, but the definitive experience comes from eating samgyeopsal (literally – 3 layer meat) wrapped in a lettuce leaf with kimchi, garlic, and whatever else you want to stuff inside (see below). You will be provided a wide range of side dishes with this meal and, if you’ve the stomach for it, you can order all-you-can-eat options!

You won’t have a problem finding a Korean BBQ restaurant throughout Korea. If you want a recommendation of good areas to find some decent restaurants in Seoul, check out the area between Euljiro and Jongak Subways Stations, as well as between Hapjeong and Sangsu Subway Stations.

South Korean Soju in a glass

22. Try The Drink That’s Bigger Than Vodka – Soju

When you think of the world’s biggest spirit, you probably think of Vodka. Little do most people know that the world’s largest spirit is Jinro Soju. Soju is Korea’s national drink and consumed regularly by many Koreans. Being only 14% in strength and costing less than 2,000 won (about $2) for a bottle in a convenience store, it is easy to see why this drink is so popular.

Soju by itself doesn’t taste of much, but mixing it with maekju (Korean for beer) makes a drink called somaek, vastly improving the two individual drinks. Of course, if that doesn’t sound sweet enough for you, there are a range of fruit flavoured sojus that make drinking (and getting drunk!) a lot easier. My favourite brand of sweet soju is Sunhari and comes in flavours such as peach, grapefruit, and blueberry.

If you want to drink like a local, then grab a bottle of soju and drink it by the shot, shouting geonbae (cheers) as you down it ‘one-shot’ style. Share a bottle with some locals and you’re sure to make some new friends.

Insadong is where to stay in Seoul if you're looking for traditional Korean culture

23. Cleanse Your Mind At A Korean Tea Room

Whilst coffee has long ago taken over the minds and hearts of Koreans, tea is still a core part of Korean culture and a good tea room can be a welcome respite for busy tourists and locals alike. Traditional tea houses can be found across the country and offer the chance to try fresh green tea from the various tea fields across Korea, or sample something a bit more unique, such as tea made from rose, persimmon, bamboo, or even mugwort.

Be sure to take part in a traditional Korean tea ceremony when visiting Seoul. I love visiting traditional tea shops when I’m in Seoul because the natural wooden surroundings, along with the tranquil peace and slow ceremony involved with enjoying Korean tea, really helps me unwind and wash off everyday worries in a way that coffee just doesn’t manage. Remember to take off your shoes before you enter, try not to make too much noise, and drink slowly in small sips. Let the tea sit in your mouth for a while before swallowing it down and letting it refresh your body and soul.

Head to the Bukchon Hanok Village between Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung Palaces in Seoul for a chance to experience authentic Korean tea as part of your South Korea Bucket List.

Jagalchi fish market in Busan, South Korea

24. Sample Fresh Seafood At Jagalchi Fish Market

On my first visit to Busan I found that I didn’t need a map to find the Jagalchi Fish Market, I simply followed my nose! It would be hard not to walk into South Korea’s largest fish market anyway, situated along the harbour in central Busan and with its own subway station. There really is something for everyone at this market, from shrimp to squid, octopus to oysters, and everything else that loves hanging around under the sea.

Don’t worry if you don’t fancy taking the fish home with you to prepare, there are dozens of restaurants in the area that source their fish in the early morning and get it ready for you to try for lunch. There really is nothing like the taste of fresh fish sliced up and prepared just for you, whether raw or cooked as you like it.

For those who don’t so much enjoy the taste of seafood (I understand you!) then there are still plenty of alternatives nearby, but I’d still recommend checking out this sprawling market just for the unique sights, sounds, and, most overwhelmingly, the smells.

Find out more about traditional markets in Korea.

Pajeong and Makgeolli in South Korea

25. Try A Korean Pancake With Makgeolli Rice Wine

If you’re hiking in Seoraksan (see 38), Jirisan (see 45), or any other hiking spot throughout Korea, you’ll find a lot of restaurants all selling the same thing – pajeon, or Korean pancake.

This is not like your typical Parisien crepes, however. Korean pancakes come with a variety of fillings, including squid with spring onions, kimchi, or potatoes. They’re fried up on a hot plate and served fresh to hungry hikers who are craving something salty and filling after a long trek.

Dip the pajeon in a bowl of spicy soy sauce and wash it down with another specialty found mostly out near the mountains – makgeolli. Makgeolli is a rice wine that is quite creamy and comes in a range of interesting flavours, including chestnut (my favourite), corn, and even banana.

Easy to drink and perfect with salty food, makgeolli is extremely popular with hikers and visitors to the great Korean countryside alike. Served in a traditional metal bowl, this may look like soup but is stronger than beer. Enjoy responsibly and add this to your South Korea Bucket List.

Delicious street food for sale in the markets in Myeongdong, Seoul, South Korea

26. Try Korean Street Food In Myeongdong’s Markets

A South Korea Bucket List wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Myeongdong for some street food and a look through the traditional Korean markets. The range of food has exploded in recent years as people flock to Myeondong to find the best examples of traditional Korean street food, or some insta-worthy snacks that have only appeared in recent years.

For those who want to sample the more traditional Korean street food, make sure you try out tteokbokki (above left), fish cakes (above centre and left), hotteok (sweet filled pancake), or eggy bread. For those seeking something new, try out tornado potatoes (a potato spun out in a spiral on a skewer), lobster tail with cheese, or foot-long ice creams.

Korean Ramyeon cooking by the Han River, Seoul

27. Enjoy Summer In Seoul With Beer And Ramyeon By The River

If it’s a sunny day in Seoul from anywhere between April and winter, you’ll find a large number of Seoulites flocking to the Han River to partake in one of the best parts of Korean city culture – eating spicy ramyeon (ramen) and washing it down with cheap beer.

Don’t worry about bringing your own supplies. South Korea has a habit of providing everything you could possibly need. Go to Yeouinaru subway station and head to the Han River and you’ll find shops selling various flavours of ramyeon with automatic cookers (see above) that will sort the whole thing out for you at the touch of a button.

Grab a can of Cass, find a table or spot of grass, and enjoy. You can even rent a tent and make an afternoon of it, watching the sun set and the many lights of Seoul spark on. If you want more great summer activities for Seoul or Korea, check out this article below:

20 Awesome Summer Activities For Seoul & Korea

Raccoon at the Blind Alley Raccoon Cafe, Seoul, South Korea

28. Make A Raccoon Friend At Blind Alley Cafe

I visited the Blind Alley Raccoon Cafe in Seoul a few years ago as part of my South Korea Bucket List and was not disappointed. There are two separate areas within the cafe – one place to drink and eat, and another to experience the raccoons. Sometimes they allow the raccoons out to mingle with the customers, too, which is cool.

As with cat cafes and similar animal-based cafes, you’re asked to be respectful to the raccoons and not bother them too much.

Of the raccoons I met, a couple were very friendly and would constantly seem to dig in the palm of my hand, as if looking for food. It was adorable, Don’t worry though, they don’t have sharp claws and at worse will only try to steal things you leave available… as raccoons are wont to do!

The cafe is a short walk from Sookmyung Women’s University Subway Station and prices to see the raccoons start at a reasonable 6,000 Korean won. Definitely worth a visit!

Kimchikan Kimchi Museum, Seoul, South Korea

29. Learn About Kimchi At The Kimchikan Museum

If you’re looking for a quick break whilst shopping and sightseeing in Insadong, then why not pop into the Kimchikan Museum to learn about and Korea’s national dish – kimchi. Kimchi, the name for a range of fermented vegetables including cabbage, radish, and cucumber, that is usually spicy and quite potent, is eaten in most meals across Korea. You’ll find kimchi served in one way or another at every restaurant up and down Korea.

You can learn about how kimchi is made and the various forms of kimchi, as well as see the microscopic lactic acid bacteria that makes kimchi so healthy (said to cure most problems). Why not sample a few different varieties of kimchi and then you’ll know which one to look out for when you’re shopping or eating in Seoul. Not only that, there are special events where you can learn how to make kimchi for yourself.

Dreamy Camera Cafe outside Seoul, South Korea

30. Get Snap-Happy At The Dreamy Camera Cafe

For those looking to leave the bustling streets of Seoul behind, along with all the other cute cafes and cool hangouts, then why not head out to the Dreamy Camera Cafe in Yangpyeong County. As the name suggests, this is more than just a cafe, it’s a place to dream. Set in the idyllic Korean countryside, the views are astounding, both of the model Rolleiflex Twin Lens Camera building, and the never ending greenery outside.

The friendly owner of the cafe encourages guests to take some time out and enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings whilst pondering their own dreams for the future. Take your time and sample some fresh coffee and one of the delicious cakes on offer while you contemplate. Before you leave, take a minute to write down those dreams. Who knows, maybe you’ll come back again one day and realise that dreams can come true?

To get to the Dreamy Camera Cafe, ride the subway line 1 to Yongmun Station and then take a short taxi ride to the cafe. The taxi drivers are sure to know about this place. A dream stop on your South Korea Bucket List tour.

Essential Korean Phrases for Shopping in Seoul and Korea

Shopping And Markets For Your South Korea Bucket List

Seoul is a shopping-mecca and draws in people from around the world with its cheap cosmetics, cool fashion, delicious sea food, and wide range of shopping options for any budget. Exploring Seoul’s markets is a holiday in itself and no Korea bucket list would be complete without checking them out.

There are plenty of other places to shop and enjoy Korea’s markets outside of the capital, too. Wherever you are, you’ll be able to find modern shops and traditional markets to browse and enjoy.

If you want to know more about Korea’s traditional markets, then be sure to check out my article about the top 10 traditional markets across Korea.

Top 10 Traditional Markets In Korea That You’ll Love

31. Grab Some Bargains In Seoul’s Fashion Markets

Shopaholics looking to build their South Korea Bucket List have to visit Myeondong Market, Namdaemun Market, and Dongdaemun Market. Located in the same region of Seoul, to the north of the N Seoul Tower, these markets have street food, fashion, cosmetics, souvenirs, and bargains all around.

Indeed, the best place for branded goods (real or fake, you decide) can be found in these markets. Stalls in the street, which are open until late at night, will often have the cheapest goods (but likely to be fake) while the stores will offer huge discounts for tourists and lots of special offers. Try some traditional Korean food at the markets while you shop, you’ll need lots of energy as these places have so much to see and buy!

Located at the exits to Myeondong, Namdaemun and Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Subway Stations, you won’t have any problems spotting these sprawling markets.

Korea’s Best Traditional Markets

Ssamziegil in Insadong, Seoul

32. Stock Up On Korean Souvenirs And Art In Insadong

Whilst Myeongdong, Namdaemun, and Dongdaemun Markets will satisfy your needs for the modern and delicious, the markets, cafes and shops in Insadong offer an opportunity to purchase more artistic and traditional Korean gifts.

Ever wanted to learn how to do calligraphy? Seen those strange wooden masks in Korean plays and festivals and thought you’d look good in one? Want a taste of authentic Korean wood or stone work to put on your fireplace at home? Then pop along to Insadong.

The main street (Insadong-gil) has more than 100 galleries to explore, showcasing some of the finest Korean art from recent and past history. Not just paintings, you can find ceramics, woodwork, stonework, calligraphy, and much more in this area.

If you want the finer things on your South Korea Bucket List , then why not purchase some fine art as a souvenir to take home? There are also lots of traditional tea houses and food stalls selling yeot (Korean taffy), ice cream, and spicy tteokbokki.

Book Street in Bosu Dong, Busan, South Korea

33. Find Rare Books In Bosu-Dong Book Alley In Busan

Book lovers making a South Korea Bucket List will love this spot. This quaint street in Busan has books of every kind in a range of different languages. It’s a must for book lovers who want to find something unique and for those who just love being around books, like I do. Don’t worry if you can’t understand everything (I couldn’t speak any Korean on my first visit), you can browse freely and take in the atmosphere.

When you get tired of looking at books and squeezing through the narrow street (it’s only four foot wide!), there are many cafes nestled in or between the book shops. The atmosphere is very different from the rest of Busan and I love the ambience and charm from this historic, mostly untouched street that has been selling books for over 70 years now.

Located north of Jagalchi Subway Station, you can combine a trip to the Jagalchi Fish Market with the Bosu-dong Book Alley and get lunch in one of the many restaurants between the two.

Buying a lunch box doshirak and Tongin Doshirak Market, Seoul, South Korea

34. Make Your Own Lunch Box At Tongin Market

I love the food at traditional Korean markets and the food at Tongin Market is no exception. However, this market has one difference that sets it apart from other traditional markets, and that is the ability to mix and match your own doshirak – lunch box. Like Japanese bento boxes, doshirak are traditional Korean lunch boxes that combine just about anything you want – veg, meat, seafood, snacks, side dishes.

In exchange for 5,000 won (about $5), you will receive a number of golden coins (see above), which you use to buy whatever you want from the participating food stalls spread throughout the market. Tongin Market has roughly 70 stalls inside and its best to wander through once to see what you like, then walk back and pick up the most delicious (or interesting) items you saw on the way.

Pop yourself down on a bench and eat like a local. I’d recommend the mandu (dumplings), tteokbokki (spicy rice cake soup), and some of the flame-cooked meats on a stick.

You can find Tongin Market in Tongin-dong, just to the west of Gyeongbokgung Palace, north of Gyeongbokgung Subway Station. Check out the surrounding area for some great bakeries and cafes, too.


Hongdae at night, Seoul, Korea

35. Find Fashion And Fun In Hongdae

Hongdae is arguably the coolest place in Seoul and for many good reasons. Home to big name fashion stores, discount stores, award winning restaurants, nightclubs, cute cafes, escape rooms, activity cafes, and so, so so much more, you can visit Hongdae many times over and never get bored. When I’m showing friends or family around in Seoul, this place is usually top of my South Korea Bucket List.

This place requires a post of its own (which I will create soon) as there is just too much here to talk about. My favourite spots (to show tourists) are the Thanks Nature Sheep Cafe, Bau House Dog Cafe, Lego Cafe, the many wonderful restaurants and craft beer bars, and the stores near Hongik University Subway Station.

You could spend all day exploring Hongdae. The best way to do so is to start at Hongik University Subway Station and then wander in and out of the side streets, heading down towards Hapjeong or Sangsu Subway Station. Generally, shops are in the north, cafes, bars and nightclubs are in the south.

36. Support Local Farmers At A Traditional Market

Probably not on everyone’s South Korea Bucket List, but for some of the best food around, and ethically sourced from local farmers, Korea’s traditional markets are the best place to go. Cheap, cheerful, authentic, and delicious, these traditional food markets sell a wide range of fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, and other items for local residents and tourists alike.

Sample some of the fresh food in the restaurants and food stalls. You can find some of the best tteokbokki (spicy rice cake soup), fish cake, fried chicken, and other traditional Korean foods for sale within the long, covered alleys.

Usually in the older parts of town, these markets can sprawl over several blocks and usually have covered alleyways. Every major city has their own traditional markets, known as shi-jang ( 시장 ) in Korean.

Some of the most famous ones are Gwangjang Market in Seoul, Nambu Market in Jeonju, Seogwipo Maeil Olie Market in Jeju, Jungang Market in Daejeon, Gukje Market in Busan, and Seomun Market in Daegu. Find out more about traditional markets in with my guide to the top 10 traditional markets in Korea.

Top 10 Marvellous Traditional Markets In Korea

One of the best summer activities in Korea is shopping in the night markets

37. Eat, Shop, Play In Seoul’s Night Goblin Markets

Known in Seoul as bamdokkaebi (night goblin) markets, these pop-up markets are the best thing about summer in Seoul (besides night hiking on the fortress walls). Found across the city from April until October, these markets provide an opportunity to purchase hand-made items from local artists, watch live performances, and sample freshly cooked food from one of the ubiquitous food trucks.

For me, the best part of these night markets is the calm, peaceful nature of the market, as well as the chance to buy unique craft items that are so much better than the mass-produced souvenirs and gifts you find elsewhere.

With the heat still lingering at night during summer, I love grabbing a cold beer and strolling through the markets and listening to the impromptu (or not) live music performances, especially near the Han River at the Yeouido Global Night Market. If you’re in Seoul in the summer time, then these markets are a must-visit to see how the locals spend their evenings.

View of Seoraksan Mountain in Gangwon Province, South Korea

Nature And Adventure In South Korea For Your Bucket List

Korea has so many natural wonders. In fact, Jeju Island IS one of the new 7 Natural Wonders of the World. Any travellers to Korea will find some incredible natural beauty as soon as they venture out of the cities and into the Korean countryside. Even if you aren’t used to hiking or trekking,

I’d definitely recommend visiting some of Korea’s national parks – they have courses for all levels. Some of them (such as Seoraksan) even have cable cars to whisk you to the top of the mountain! Don’t forget to add some of Korea’s natural beauty to your South Korea bucket list.

38. Put Your Hiking Boots On And Climb Seoraksan Mountain

Because this is only 2 hours from Seoul, it’s a must for anyone wanting to get out and see Korean nature on a day trip from Seoul. I must admit, one of the reasons I love living in Korea is the fact that it is mostly mountainous (70%) and there are some absolutely stunning hikes and treks in every corner of the country.

Arguably one of the best such hikes for your South Korea Bucket List is Seoraksan National Park near South Korea’s north-eastern coastline. With a large range of hikes for all levels, some of the most stunning nature and views, and the head Buddhist temple, Sinheungsa, there is something for everyone in Seoraksan.

If you want to explore the mountain range without getting too sweaty, then there is a cable car that can take you most of the way up and leave you a few minutes away from Gwongeumseong Fortress, where you can see incredible views all around. For the more adventurous travellers out there, why not try to make it all the way to the top of Daechongbong Peak (1,708m), one of the highest in South Korea.

To get to Seoraksan, you can make your own way there from Seoul for a day or two, or book a guided tour to show you around the many different paths and understand more about the spiritual importance of this area. The best times to visit are spring and autumn, when the weather is milder and nature is at her best.

Autumn leaves and Pagoda in the Garden of Morning Calm, Gapyeong, South Korea

39. Discover Peace In The Garden Of Morning Calm

If you’re wondering why it is the Garden of ‘Morning Calm’, that’s because Korea is officially known as the Land of Morning Calm. You’ll certainly feel calm as you stroll through and smell the flowers, cross wooden swing bridges, see inside traditional Korean houses, or cool off for a snack by one of the many streams or ponds.

Perfect in all four seasons, this place offers breathtaking walks through sculpted gardens with pagodas, stepping stones, lakes, and an abundance of native and foreign flowers. During the winter months, when there aren’t so many plants and the days are short, you can experience the wonderful light displays where everything is covered in tiny colourful lights that make the place look magical.

Don’t forget to check out the various festivals that occur throughout the year, including the Iris Festival, Hydrangea Festival, and (my favourite tree in Korea) the Maple Festival.

You can access the Garden of Morning Calm from the Cheongpyeong Subway Station (Line 1) from Seoul and take one of the local buses that will drop you directly there. You can also combine this with a day trip to another South Korea Bucket List spot – Nami Island (see 13). More info here.

People enjoying the Chonggyecheon River in Seoul, South Korea

40. Stroll Along The Cheonggyecheon Stream In Seoul

Starting in Cheonggye Plaza, just off Sejong-ro Avenue, and running under 22 bridges during its 11 km journey through the heart of Seoul, the Cheonggyecheon Stream is unmissable. Indeed, if you’re walking around the northern-central part of Seoul, it’s hard not to bump into this stream sooner or later.

The stream was created as a place for gathering, harmony, peace, and unity, giving Seoulites a place to come and cool off in the summer heat and to walk together away from the concrete jungle.

For tourists, this is a wonderful chance to experience the light and lantern festivals that often occur along the stream, as well as take a break to hop over the stepping stones and get some colourful photos. The start area, Cheonggye Plaza, usually has events for tourists, including hands-on activities to learn about Korean culture and history.

This area is also one of the best to take photos with fountains and, strangely enough, a giant multi-coloured shell statue towering over the start of the stream.

Damyang Bamboo Forest - a great day trip from Seoul

41. Get Lost In The Damyang Bamboo Forest

The bamboo forests of Damyang, known as Juknokwon in Korean, provide a unique opportunity to see gigantic bamboo trees, meander along shaded pathways, experience a traditional Korean village, and try some bamboo beer. The beer is better than it sounds, trust me.

You can also sample the local delicacy daetong bap (bamboo rice), which is a healthy portion of steamed rice served in a bamboo stem. Located down in the south of Korea, you can visit this place during a day trip from Seoul.

This lush, dense bamboo forest drowns out the noise and heat of modern Korea and is a breath of fresh air. Quite literally, in fact, as there is a high level of oxygen produced from all those bamboo trees.

Take a deep breath and cleanse your lungs and your soul as you walk through the cool forest, perfect for those who want a zen South Korea Bucket List. Visit the Siga Culture Village to see traditional Korean houses (hanok) and take part in tea tasting ceremonies.

Damyang is close to Gwangju in the south-western corner of Korea and makes for a good day trip from Daejeon or Gwangju.

Boseong Green Tea Plantation - an amazing day trip from Seoul

42. Explore Boseong Green Tea Fields

I drink green tea most days as it’s refreshing, healthy and locally produced. On my first trip to Korea in 2012 I wanted to know more about green tea on my South Korea Bucket List so I visited a green tea plantation. I was not disappointed. The sight of row upon row of fresh, bright tea leaves just waiting to be picked and drowned in hot water was incredible and, in a way, too much like a postcard picture to really take in. You can make this trip in a day on a day trip from Seoul.

The Boseong Green Tea Fields near Gwangju, on the south coast of Korea, is the biggest plantation in South Korea and also setup to welcome curious tourists who wish to learn more about this delicious drink. Spend your time walking around the green tea bushes set on the side of lush hills where you might even be able to see the sea on a sunny day.

Other attractions, besides drinking lots of tea, include the Korean Tea Culture Park, the Tea Museum of Korea, and, of course, the gift shop. Make sure to buy some authentic green tea to try out when you get home – a welcome break from your normal brew. If you’re visiting in May, there’s also the Boseong Green Tea Festival to add to your South Korea Bucket List.

Jeju Island - one of the new 7 wonders of nature.

43. Explore Jeju Island – A New 7 Wonder Of Nature

Having visited Jeju a number of times now, I can say that there really is a lot to see and do here. One of South Korea’s most famous tourist attractions, and labelled as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, this island has an impressive array of natural environments to explore – from beaches to volcanoes, lava tubes, tea plantations and millions of beautiful flowers.

The most attention-grabbing feature is Hallasan, the gigantic volcano in the centre of the island that created Jeju, visible from most places on the island. Although not active, you can climb up to the top of the mountain (the highest mountain in South Korea) and look at the crater lakes. You can hike to the top and back within a day.

Not only this, there are a few big cities and a tonne of weird and wacky museums to check out (even 2 ‘love’ museums!). If you’re looking for unique Jeju Island goods, make sure to sample the Jeju ‘black pig’ Korean BBQ, the hallabong oranges (juicy and fresh), and see the dol hareubang – ancient island statues made by the local people. I’ll post more on how to spend a day or two on this most amazing of islands in the future.

View of Haeundae Beach in Busan, South Korea

44. Chill Out At Haeundae Beach In Busan

Haeundae Beach is to South Korea what Bondi Beach is to Australia, or Brighton Beach is to Brits. It’s the definitive tourist beach packed with locals and visitors alike who come to experience the soft sand and slow waves. It simply must be on your South Korea Bucket List if you’re going to Busan.

Stretching out for over 1.5 km, with a wide sandy beach overlooked by a plethora of high-rise buildings, malls, and cafes for you to enjoy the view from, this beach has everything to offer. The shallow bay makes Haeundae great for swimming, with other water sports available further out.

Haeundae Beach is the perfect summer vacation spot and a great place for tourists coming to Busan to stay, with luxury hotels, small guesthouses and backpacker hostels available. Fans of Korean seafood can also sample some of the tantalising set menus that many restaurants offer, serving you wave after wave of fresh dishes.

Other local attractions include the Busan Aquarium, Dongbaekseom Island (which is a pleasant way to spend an hour walking through forested cliffs), the Hard Rock Cafe, and the Haeundae Special Tourist Zone. If you’re lucky, you might turn up at the right time to catch a festival or music performance nearby.

Stunning autumn leaves and nature at Jirisan National Park, South Korea

45. Trek And Hike Jirisan National Park

As I mentioned before with Seoraksan, South Korea has so many wonderful mountains and national parks to experience, and the Jirisan National Park is my personal favourite. The largest of the 22 national parks in Korea, Jirisan National Park covers a massive area, which means it has a diverse range of options for all levels of walkers, hikers, and nature enthusiasts.

Hosting Cheonwangbong Peak, the second highest peak in South Korea, Jirisan has some of the best hiking routes in Korea, as well as the best views. There are many lodges throughout the park that you can book and experience life at the top of the mountain, waking up before sunrise to see the sea of clouds obscuring the smaller mountains below.

You can spend days hiking through or around the mountains and still have lots left to see (I speak from experience!). Jirisan isn’t just from hikers, though. There are many easier courses that anyone can walk, including a 16-stage loop all around the national park that doesn’t involve much ascending or descending.

Nature lovers will also want to add Jirisan National Park to their South Korea Bucket List as it hosts a lot of wild animals, including the last 50 or so remaining Asiatic black bears in South Korea, deer, wild boars, and plenty of squirrels, as well as having some of the best spots for seeing autumn leaves.

Floating Lanterns in front of the Fortress at the Jinju Lantern Festival, South Korea

Festivals In South Korea Not To Miss

I love Korea’s festivals and no matter what season you’re travelling in, there is a festival that you’ll probably love. From winter festivals where you can fish on icy rivers, to spring cherry blossom festivals, summer music festivals, and the most amazing autumn foliage festivals, Korea has something for everyone.

These are just some of the highlights of Korea’s festivals to add to your South Korea bucket list. If you want a fuller list of festivals in Korea, take a look at some of my detailed Korean festival articles:

All The Best Festivals In Korea

Winter Festivals In Korea

Spring Festivals In Korea

46. See The Lights At Jinju Lantern Festival

I was amazed by the scale of the Jinju Lantern Festival when I visited in 2018. with thousands of lanterns on display, from small circular lanters, all the way up to full-sized replicas of buildings and trees. It’s easy to see why the Jinju Namgang Yudeung (Lantern) Festival is the most popular of all the lantern festivals held throughout South Korea, with hundreds of thousands of people attending during the two week festival in October.

The most impressive section was definitely along the river (see above) and in the Jinjuseong Fortress and, obviously, the best time to see the lanterns was after the sun went down. For those making it a day trip, there is still a lot to see and do while the sun is up, including cultural displays (dancing) in the fortress, lantern making (various kinds), traditional Korean games, and a lantern contest to judge.

To see the lantern festival, I’d recommend starting at the fortress, walking through the fortress grounds, crossing the river to access the food and lantern stalls, before crossing back over the river towards the temple entrance again. This should show you the best parts of the festival. There are usually plenty of tours to the lantern festival available, depending on where you’re staying in South Korea.

Eating freshly caught trout at the Hwacheon Ice Festival, South Korea

47. Catch Your Lunch At The Hwacheon Ice Festival

Running for most of January each year, the Hwacheon Ice Festival is arguably the best (and longest) winter festival in South Korea. During this time you can take part in various winter activities, including ice fishing for sancheoneo (mountain trout), tubing on a giant ice slide, fish grabbing with your bare hands, and even ice sledding.

For me, the best part was the ice fishing. Equipped with a small fishing rod, you are led to a small hole on the frozen river and left to catch your own lunch. Once you’ve had your fill of fishing, you can bring them to one of the grill centres (the one above was handily labelled for foreigners), where you hand over a raw fish and minutes later get it back freshly cooked and coated in sauce. Nothing like enjoying the delights of your own labour!

Those who don’t mind the cold water can join in the fish catching contest. Basically, there is a giant pool with a load of fish and you have to try to catch as many as you can. Catch the one with the golden ring attached and you can win the grand prize! I loved watching others joining in and this really should be televised as it’s hilarious.

If you’re not really into fish, then you can check out the ice sculptures, snow sculptures, light displays, and festival food on offer throughout the village. A full day’s entertainment for sure. Tourists can take the foreigner shuttle bus from Seoul to get there just in time to catch your own lunch.

Cherry blossoms in Korea

48. Delight In The Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival

The Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival is the largest spring festival in South Korea, attracting over 2 million people every year in the first half of April. Despite there being cherry trees throughout Korea, Jinhae has gone all in and planted them throughout the city to create a floral blanket of pink and white that has to be seen to be believed.

Make sure to bring your camera as there are so many spots for nature photographers, selfie lovers, couples in love, or anyone who wants to relish in the joys of spring and the rebirth of nature, which is what the festival symbolises.

The best spot to see the cherry blossoms is the Romance Bridge over the Yeojwacheon Stream. Directly north of Jinhae Station, this tree-lined stream has wooden walkways along each side that allows for hundreds of opportunities to get up close with the cherry blossoms and to take that perfect picture. The streets running parallel to the stream also offer up fresh street food and souvenirs.

Keep heading north and you’ll come to the Jangboksan Sculpture Park, which has more opportunities to get some great shots but in a more natural surrounding. I’d recommend walking freely around the city and following the tree-lined streets. There are lots of murals on the walls, cherry blossom flavoured snacks and drinks, and a fireworks and light show at night.

There are lots of tours available to Jinhae from Seoul and Busan, as well as return coach trips from other cities, such as Daejeon.

Korean people covered in mud at the Boryeong Mud Festival in South Korea

49. Get Dirty At The Boryeong Mud Festival

Don’t mind getting dirty or want to put on an all-body mud pack? Then the Boryeong Mud Festival is the place for you. Located on the beach on the west coast of Korea, near to Daejeon, this festival is one of the wildest in South Korea and attracts the largest number of foreign visitors. Running throughout the second half of July, the cool mud is a great way to escape the Korean summer heat.

There are a wide range of activities on offer, including mud face painting, mud beauty products (visit the mud museum to learn about the beautifying qualities of the local mud), and the Mudflat Games. The Mudflat Games are what make this festival so unique, with mud wrestling, mud football, and even a mud marathon to compete in.

Being by the beach means that there is a wide range of fresh seafood available. After spending a busy day in the mud, why not sample some fresh hoe (raw fish) and watch the sparkling sun set into the calm ocean. Spectacular views, good food, healthy mud, and lots of fun, this festival should be high on your South Korea Bucket List.

Drink lots of beer in Daegu

50. Drink Up At A Korean Summer Beer Festival

With temperatures soaring above 35 degrees in the summer, Koreans love to cool down with an ice cold beer or two and what better place to do that than at a beer festival. There are so many different beer festivals in Korea, mostly serving up craft beer from Korea’s ever growing (and rapidly improving) craft beer brewers.

One of the largest beer festivals is the Centum Beer Festival, held on Haeundae Beach (see 44) in Busan in June, where you can drink as much beer as you can for only 10,000 won ($9) whilst live music and games keep you entertained.

Other beer festivals of note are the Daejeon Craft Beer & Music Festival (June), the Daegu Chimac (Chicken and Beer) Festival (July), Jeju Island’s Jjan Beer Festival (July), and the Songdo Beer Festival in Incheon (Sept). These often have live music, food stalls, games, and fireworks later in the evening.

Joel with cherry blossoms at Seokcheon Lake, Seoul, South Korea

That’s far from everything there is to add to your South Korea Bucket List, but I hope it will get you started. If you want to know more about what to do in South Korea, then please leave a comment.

I look forward to hearing from you and your own stories about your experiences in South Korea.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your trip.

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