Korea may be a small country, but it’s full of fascinating places to visit! Most people coming to Korea have only heard of Seoul, and Seoul is amazing! But there is so much more to Korea. In no particular order, these are the top 10 places to visit in Korea!
Top Sight: The Hwaseong Fortress and walls
Where to Stay: Hwaseong Guesthouse
Suwon is always of favorite of those living in Korea. It’s one of the only walled cities Korea has. Because of this, it offers a fascinating skyline. Buildings within the walls have to stay smaller, while just outside the walls the skyscrapers begin. The downtown area is surprisingly retro feeling, with old-fashioned neon signs and tons of handcrafted goods.
None of the main things to do are out of walking distance. So head to the fortress in the evenings or the morning (just head in any direction), and then make a stop at the Temporary Palace. Just outside the palace you may be tempted to buy a kite and run around the main square – you should do it! And don’t forget dinner at the most fabulous French restaurant I’ve ever encountered in Korea, Live Laugh.
And it won’t take you long to explore. It’s only 30 minutes to the south of Seoul by a fast train, so it’s easy to incorporate into any itinerary as a daytrip.
Top Sight: Igidae Coastal Walk
Busan is always on people’s lists to visit, and you really should. Busan is Korea’s second largest city. While it’s population is much lower than Seoul’s, it’s just as spread out. In fact, it’s almost like there’s two cities, Busan proper and Haeundae Beach. Twice the fun!
Haeundae is going to have more nature, the Igidae Coastal Walk and Haeundae Beach are the top stops. My absolute favorite cafe in Korea, Bibibidang, is also in this area.
Busan proper is more of the shopping area, with Shinsaegae Department Store being the largest in the world. SpaLand is one of the nicest spas in Busan, although it’s not my personal favorite (but you should make that decision yourself!). My favorite spot here is Gamcheon Cultural Village. The village is not to be missed with it’s colorful houses, murals, and dedication to art.
Make sure you give yourself at least a weekend in Busan! Check out my guide to Busan!
Top Sight: The Hanok Village
Where to Stay: Geunsu’s Chogajip
Jeonju is a city known for it’s food. It’s famous for inventing bibimbap, Korea’s ever popular mixed rice dish. However, there is so much more to Jeonju than food! Jeonju is a bit further from Seoul, but it’s well worth the trip. It’s your best opportunity to stay in a traditional house. The largest hanok village in Korea is the best place to experience both authenticity and reasonable prices.
The Hanok Village is the very reason Jeonju is on the list of 10 Best Cities in Korea! Just wandering down the lovely classic streets and running into historical sites like the Confusion School can make anyone’s day or week in Jeonju. Strange sights like the large Catholic church outside the traditional shrine buildings characterize this eclectic city.
Make sure you do check out the food, it’s not Korea’s foodie haven for nothing! She Walks the World has a great post on all the great food options 😀 And don’t forget all the many historical sites – check out my guide to Jeonju!
Top Sight: Hahoe Village
Where to Stay: Kim’s House
Andong is home to Korea’s largest Masked Dance festival. It happens in October every year and it’s a great way to experience not only Korea’s masked dances, but other countries’ as well. They invite delegations from as far as Israel and Uzbekistan!
But there’s more to see than just the festival if you head to Hahoe Village, on the outskirts of Andong. It’s rather expensive to stay here so it is best to take the bus from Andong. The Hahoe Village was selected by Korea to best represent their traditional lifestyle. And it is quite the idyllic little villa. The Hahoe Village history is painted throughout various small museums and signs. It really helps to make you feel like you could have lived on this river next to the large cliff among the thatched-roofed houses.
Be sure to check out my guide to Andong!
Top Sight: Bangudae Park Petroglyphs
Where to Stay: Riverside
Normally, this blog wouldn’t recommend staying in hotels when traveling – you want to meet people and save money, don’t you? But Riverside is not only a really nice hotel with stellar views, it’s also really well located. The shopping area just behind the hotel is home to great restaurants and cafes.
Make sure you eat dinner early because many places close early for some reason. Head to Ohishi Ramen (오이시) for some of the most delicious Japanese ramen I’ve had in Korea. But make sure you get there before 8:30PM!
Delicious ramen aside, the main reason you should go is for the Bangudae Petroglyph Park. It’s very out of the way and be prepared for a walk, but it’s completely worth it. There is a dinosaur footprint site on the way to the petroglyphs. While the petroglyphs may be hard to see without direct sunlight, the setting is beyond gorgeous.
Check out my guide to Ulsan!
Top Sight: National Gardens and Bay
Where to Stay: Airbnb mama and papa house
Suncheon is a small city with some big sights! Home to delicious lamb and vegetarian restaurants, those are almost the least of what Suncheon has to offer. A trip to Suncheon without dropping by the National Gardens would be something of a tragedy. Make sure to go in the spring, summer, or fall for the best flower-viewing!
The National Gardens are adjacent to the Suncheon Bay Wetland Reserve, which the gardens were built to protect. The gardens serve as a buffer between roads and pollution to the bay. The wetlands are pretty impressive, with over 10 square miles to explore.
Make sure to check out my guide to Suncheon to get the best ideas for where to eat, what to do, and where to sleep!
Top Sight: Hongdae
Where to Stay: Bunk Guest House
Yes, you’ve definitely heard of Seoul. So I won’t say too much given I’ve written several extensive guides to Seoul and it’s various sights. Seoul is very spread out and there is a ton to do here. In fact, if you’re staying in Korea for less than a week, I don’t recommend ever leaving Seoul. There is simply too much to see. Even though it’s discussed too much, it is simply one of the best places to visit in Korea.
Hongdae is the top destination in my opinion because it’s where you’ll see true Korean nightlife on its best display. It’s truly like nowhere else in the world, and be prepared to stay up all night!
You would have to be insane to skip Seoul on your Korea itinerary so make sure you’ve budgeted adequate time! Check out my Seoul Travel Guide.
Top Sight: Tomb Mounds
Where to Stay: Momojein Guesthouse
Gyeongju is my favorite place in Korea. Gyeongju is one of the highlights of any Korean trip. Any fans of history, spiritualism, or nature will find themselves at home here. Korea’s most famous temple, towering grass covered tomb mounds, and the world’s oldest observatory are all clustered in range of this city.
Although Busan and Seoul are the top sites in Korea, they are for gaining a modern understanding of Korean culture. Gyeongju is the perfect place to learn where Korean people come from and how their history full of shining gold crowns and legendary forests can shape people today.
They also have one of the best cafes in all of Korea. This little sampling of things to do isn’t even the half of it! Check out my Gyeongju Travel Guide.
Where to Stay: Seogwipo City
Jeju is Korea’s most famous and most beautiful island. It is actually large enough to have a couple cities on it, but anyone going to Jeju should plan to be there long enough to see all of them. It’s often referred to as “Korea’s Hawaii” but as anyone can tell who have been to both, there’s not much resemblance. The similarities begin and end with them being islands popular for honeymooners 😛
There is so much to do on Jeju that at minimum one should have a long weekend over which to see the main sights. The island has an excellent tourism structure, with buses running frequently and cheaply to all the best places. It’s one of those places to visit in Korea that you don’t have to do any work to have an amazing time.
Lava caves, tangerine picking, cactus villages, waterfalls, giant tea fields, smaller islands perfect for cycling, and of course, plenty of hiking for everyone. With cheap flights out of Seoul and Busan frequently, there’s no excuse not to go. Just make sure to book ahead! Tickets can sell out half a year before some of the main holidays.
10. Buyeo & Gongju
Top Sight: Baekjae Historical Sites
I put Buyeo and Gongju together because I’d recommend seeing both on the same trip. They’re only an hour bus ride from each other, and while Buyeo has far more things to see, Gongju had my favorites. Both are known for their Baekje historical sites. Hailing from the infamous Three Kingdoms period of Korea, the Baekje are the least discussed. Perhaps this is because they didn’t have crazy golden crowns like the Silla in Gyeongju, and they did not eventually unify Korea and give it its name, Goryeo.
But the Baekje Kingdom is still fascinating and the tombs in Gongju are particularly beautiful as they look down at the city below. In Buyeo there is a fantastic pond with a small pagoda on an island in the middle. Surrounding the pond are fields and fields of lotus flowers. If you can time it just right you’ll be able to see the whole fields abloom in an incredible show!
And those are the top 10 places to visit in Korea! Of course, there’s some other places you should consider visiting as well, such as the tea fields in Boseong and the churches in Daegu and the fortress in Jinju. But these 10 have the most variety of things to do!
Check out my other guides:
Vatican Travel Guide
~ Top 10 Places to Visit in Korea ~