These days, influence of South Korea is everywhere- from KPop, to skincare, to fashion, to food! You probably have heard of Black Pink or BTS- the most popular pop groups in South Korea today. You may also have heard of the 10-step Korean skincare routine which involves double cleaning, series of serums and toners, and endless sheet masks. In terms of food, Korean is one of the most delicious cuisine in the world- Korean barbeque and soju have made their way from Korea to other parts of the world as well.
Here are top places to see and things to try which would convince you why you should visit South Korea on your next family vacation:
1) Gyeongbokgung Palace
There are hundreds of flights to South Korea weekly. South Korea’s Incheon International Airport is one of the top layover airports for long haul international flights. If you are flying to South Korea from another country, highly likely your port of entry is Incheon Airport and then to Seoul, which is South Korea capital. If you only have few days or hours to explore Seoul, make sure to not miss Gyeongbokgung Palace. This is the first and the largest royal palace as well as the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty. Gyeongbokgung Palace was built in 1395 and has been restored by the Korean government.
One of the popular things to do in Seoul, South Korea is to rent the traditional hanbok and wear it around Gyeongbokgung Palace. You can find a lot of shops nearby and inside the palace grounds that rent hanboks. You can have your photo taken wearing a hanbok here and feel like you’re living in the Korean period drama. You can also visit the National Palace Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum of Korea which are both located in the palace grounds. If you are visiting Gyeongbokgung Palace on autumn, make sure to check out the big, old ginkgo tree on the left side of the palace. It’s warm yellow colors during autumn is a perfect background for your travel photos.
2) Nami Island
Nami Island is one of the most popular places to visit in South Korea anytime of the year. It is even more popular during autumn and winter season. According to our tour guide, Nami Island just used to be a place where university athletes in South Korea would come and stay to practice or just hangout with friends. In 2002, the popular Korean series Endless Love Winter Sonata was shot here thus making Nami Island popular to the locals and then eventually to foreign tourists as well.
You would need to get on a 5-minute ferry ride to get to the island. South Korea weather has four seasons- spring, summer, fall, and winter. Because of its proximity to the Siberian mountains, South Korea temperature during winter could reach below negative degree Celsius. Nami Island tends to be windy during autumn and winter, so make sure you are bundled up when you visit.
You can rent a bike here to explore the area and make sure to watch out for the squirrels. There are also shops, cafes, and restaurants around. If you are up for more adventure, you can also ride the zipline going to and from Nami Island.
What is traveling to another country without shopping, right? Myeong-dong is the best place to go in Seoul if you would like to buy some stuff from South Korea. By stuff we mean anything- shoes, bags, skincare products, snacks, to name a few. Myeong-dong night market is also the best place to sample Korean street food. You can buy tteokbokki (also spelled as topokki), squid, lobster, Korean pancakes, fresh juices, gimbap, and so much more.
You will not get hungry strolling around Myeong-dong. There are brand stores here, too which usually offers sale prices of your favorite clothes or shoes. The currency of South Korea is won. 1 US dollar is equivalent to 1,115 Korean won. Most establishments accept major credit cards, but if you need cash, there are ATMs available in Myeong-dong area. When traveling to South Korea with plans to go shopping, make sure to have extra baggage allowance since you will surely fill-in your suitcase.
4) Naejangsan National Park
Naejangsan National Park is in South Korea countryside and is one of the best places to visit in the country especially during autumn. It is a four-hour drive from Seoul in order to reach Naejangsan National Park, but it is definitely worth it. You will be welcomed by the huge mountains and bustling market stalls. You can get inside on your own, or you can also book a tour guide.
The restaurants at the entrance of the park is famous for their local Korean food. You can have the best kimchi here. If the weather is favorable, you may opt to walk towards the temple inside the park or hop on a coaster for a 10-minute ride. You would see local bands performing classic Korean ballads by the entrance of the temple. There are also small stalls that sell pickled things and snacks. It is typical to see a lot of locals in groups all dolled up in their outdoor gears having a picnic.
You can see waterfalls inside the park as well as temples. Autumn is the best time to come here since you will see the bright crimson maple leaves all over the place. If you would like to see cherry blossoms in full bloom, visit Naejangsan National Park during springtime. Come wintertime, the whole place is covered in snow and turns into a winter wonderland.
5) N Seoul Tower (Namsan Tower)
N Seoul Tower, also called as Namsan Tower, is one of the highly recognizable landmarks in South Korea. Built in 1971, N Seoul Tower stands tall on Namsan Mountain and still currently functions as a communication and observation tower. There are steps to climb up the tower, but in freezing temperatures, taking the bus would be preferable. A lot of tourists also ride the Namsan cable car going up. The top attraction here is the love padlocks. You can buy the padlock and key, write your name and your lover or messages for anyone, and secure the padlocks on the designated areas.
This idea is the same as the love locks in Pont Neuf bridge in Paris, France. Securing the lovelocks and throwing away the key is one of the top things to do in South Korea. There are also a wishing pond and observatory on the second floor of the tower where you can throw a coin and make a wish. Of course, being up on the N Seoul Tower will give you a 360-degree view of the Seoul cityscape. Before sunset is the best time to come since this will give you the best view of the sun setting as well as the city lights that will start to come to life on the city below.
Another reason why you should visit South Korea on your next family vacation is Everland. Everland is one of the points of interest in South Korea. Located in one of the major cities in Korea, Everland is the largest theme park in the country and is visited by over 7 million tourists annually. If you are traveling to South Korea with kids, Everland would be a perfect part of your itinerary. It has all the rides and attractions one could ask for in an amusement park. The snow buster is one of the most popular rides in Everland.
You will sit on a tube and ride through the express course. Four people can fit in one tube which is perfect for a small family. If you don’t mind getting splashed a bit, the Amazon express is also a thrilling and exciting ride that both kids and adults will enjoy. Another popular attraction in Everland, South Korea is the Panda World where you can see cute pandas eating bamboo shoots.
Lost Valley and Safari world are areas where you can see giraffes and other animals. There are also scheduled musical and animal shows in Everland. The Four Season’s Garden and Rose Garden are also popular sites in the park amongst tourists. There are varied choices of restaurants here, so even if your kids are picky eaters, they will not go hungry. There are also a lot of gift shops where you can buy shirts and other Everland souvenirs. A trip to South Korea with kids will not be complete without visiting Everland.
7) Jeju Island
Jeju Island is a popular holiday destination in South Korea especially for couples in their honeymoon. Even South Korea people who are not on their honeymoon come here for an island getaway. Jeju Island has the best beaches in South Korea. There are many things to see here including the Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes.
There are direct flights to Jeju Island from neighboring Asian cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, Beijing, and Shanghai. The highest mountain in South Korea is also in Jeju Island. The dormant volcano Hallasan stands 1,950 meters above sea level. Hallasan Mountain is also a UNESCO Biosphere reserve which has crater lake, alpine plants, and a lot of animals and insects.
If you are up for a hike, springtime is the best climate of South Korea for this kind of activity in Jeju Island. The Lava Tubes is another UNESCO site that is worth checking out in Jeju Island. The cooled lava formed tubes and caves overtime. For some beach time, head over to Jungmun beach. You can stay in the Lotte World nearby. Other best beaches in South Korea are Emerald Bay, Gwakji, and Shinyang which are all in Jeju Island as well.
One of the many interesting facts about South Korea is that it has a theme park that is solely dedicated to sex. The Love Land in Jeju Island was opened in 2004. In order to get inside the park and use the facilities, one must be twenty years old and above since this is a place focused on love-oriented art and eroticism.
If you are traveling with kids and cannot go to Love Land, you can do more outdoorsy activities at Olle walking trails. This is popular to amongst fans of the Korean drama series “Jewel in the Palace”. Another must-try activity in Jeju Island is the water massage from Hanwha Therapy Resort. In terms of food, the seaweed and sea urchin soup are must-try before leaving Jeju Island.
8) Dongdaemun Design Plaza and Park
If you are in South Korea capital city, Seoul, drop by Dongdaemun Design Plaza and Park. It is hard to miss this one when you are in the area. You will see the bean-like building which is dubbed as the largest 3D atypical structure in the world. Made up of aluminum and concrete, this popular Seoul landmark is home to galleries, event spaces, shops, and cafes.
You will see young Korean folks here hanging out or on their skateboards. There is also a piano at the bottom part of the building where anyone can come play freely. The Dongdaemun History and Culture Park is a great place to learn more about the history of the site. There are 575 artefacts on display. State of the art audio and video displays are also available. Outside the park is the huge “ISEOULU” sign where you can see tourists taking photos.
9) Changdeokgung Palace
If you have a long layover flight to South Korea, have a quick city tour and visit Changdeokgung Palace. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is one of the best places to see in Seoul. In order to walk around and explore, you must join a one-hour guided tour. Make sure to call ahead or check their website for the tour schedules. Only 50 people are allowed to join the tour at a time, so reservations are highly recommended.
Although not as grand as the Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung has its own beauty. This was built as a secondary palace in 1405 but became the primary residence of the Joseon Dynasty from 1950s to 1872. Touring around Changdeokgung Palace will take you back in time. The beautiful mountain makes a perfect backdrop of the palace. You can see this palace in a lot of South Korean postcards and souvenirs.
10) Hanuel Park
The Seoul, South Korea weather in autumn sets the mood of a perfect day in Hanuel Park. Located within the Seoul World Cup Park which was built to commemorate the 17th FIFA World Cup, Hanuel Park is the most popular and the most beautiful. Hanuel in Korean language means sky and the park was named as such because it is located on a top of a hill.
You would need to pay a small fee for the shuttle that would take you to the skypark. If your legs are up for walking, that would be fine, too. The park is usually open from 5AM to 10PM. The silver grass in Hanuel Park during October draws a lot of local and foreign tourists. A lot of people come here for photoshoots for debut and engagement sessions. During autumn, the grass turns reddish brown.
It could get foggy and windy at Hanuel Park. During our visit in the middle of November, the temperature was between 0-6 degrees Celsius and there was zero visibility from above. There is an observation deck with a telescope where you can see the parks below. It is better to come here very early in the morning to avoid the crowds. You will see a lot of locals jogging, running, or walking their pets in the other parts of the World Cup Park.
11) Le Petite France
If your kids are fans of The Little Prince, then you should not miss visiting Le Petite France in Gapyeong-gun. This is a theme park in South Korea that is focused on anything France. From Seoul, it takes about an hour to get here. The theme park is a French cultural village in the Korean countryside. You will see rooms dedicated to The Little Prince and Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Marie Antoinette, and other relevant French personalities and events. The buildings are colorful with French windows which would make you feel like you are indeed in France and not in South Korea. The cafes sell delicious coffee and pastries. In front of the theme park, you will see stalls that sell fresh fruits.
If strawberries are in season during your visit, buy some and have the best tasting strawberries you have had in a while. It is a bit of a challenge to commute coming here, but you have the option to join group bus tours. There are different companies that run these services in Korea. The guides are bilingual and are usually Korean university students who can speak English, Chinese, and Japanese, too. Group tours is also a great opportunity to make friends with travelers from other countries.