Just like most large cities, Seoul can be difficult to do on a budget. Often, places in the countryside or smaller cities can be cheaper – just check out my Guide to Free Activities in Busan! But, this is not necessarily true in Seoul. There are tons of free things to do in Seoul!
So, keep reading to find out all the free things to do in Seoul that you can add to your next Seoul Travel Itinerary.
1. Go Hiking in Seoul
All of Korea is a great place to go hiking (especially hiking in Seoraksan). But Seoul might surprise you! Korea is covered in mountains and it might surprise you how many are accessible and visible even from downtown Seoul.
One of the most popular hiking destinations in Seoul is Namsan Tower. It’s an easy trip that primarily consists of stairs (but that won’t stop Koreans from being completely kitted out in neon hiking gear!). The views from both the top and the bottom of the mountain are lovely.
But, for the more adventurous out there you might want to check out Inwangsan. This mountain is known for the Korean shamans and you might just catch a ceremony!
2. Visit the Palaces
Yes, the palaces do normally cost money (although it is just a few dollars, around $2.50). But, on the last Wednesday of every month you can visit tons of things for free – the palaces, museums, shrines, and more!
The palaces are some of the nicest places to visit in Seoul, and even in the entirety of Korea. If you’re looking to simply lower your costs, rather than do everything for free, you can also get free entry into the palaces if you are wearing a hanbok (Korean traditional clothing).
This is another great experience to try – and you can even do it for free:
3. Try on Korean Traditional Clothing for Free in Seoul
While you can’t wear them out of the store or to the palaces, you can still get the experience of trying on hanbok and taking fun pictures. There are several different places to try this, and you can even do so without leaving the Incheon Airport.
In fact, you can get even more free experiences at the Incheon Airport:
4. Free Tours of Seoul
There are several different free tour options available in Seoul. The easiest ones to join are actually sponsored by the government – but they’re only available for people on layovers.
Since Korea’s main airport (Incheon) is a major hub for Asian travel, the government is trying to entice people into making Korea their next vacation destination. So, to give people a quick taste of Korea, they offer fantastic quick tours in and around the Seoul region called the Incheon Airport Transit Tour. Unfortunately, there is no way to join unless you are on a layover.
The other option for people actually visiting Seoul to stay, is to take a free walking tour. Just like most major cities, there are free walking tours where tipping is the main form of payment – but in Korea the tipping truly is optional. Choose your tour wisely since Seoul is a much more massive city with many different areas. Make sure you’re going to cover the areas you most want to learn about.
5. Enjoy Watching Buskers in Seoul
Buskers of all kinds and with some of the best voices and dancing abilities hang out in Seoul. The best area to see them is in Hongdae. You might even catch a glimpse of future K-pop idols as trainees occasionally perform.
The best times to visit are in the evenings when things pick up – never head out in the morning as no one is even awake in Seoul before 10AM (or so it seems!).
6. Visit a Buddhist Temple in Seoul
There are two main temples to visit in Seoul, and they are both free to visit. There are others out there, but Jogyesa and Bonggeungsa are the most impressive. As they are working temples, you can expect to see monks milling about, or ringing the gong for evening prayers.
Jogyesa has some wonderful Templestay trial programs where you can spend a few hours learning about Korean Buddhism, if you’re willing to spend some money. Bonggeungsa has some absolutely stunning statues and views of Gangnam. It’s one of my top temples in all of Korea because of the many wonderful sunset memories I have there.
7. Visit the Seoul National Museum – Free Things to Do in Seoul
This is one of the best “variety” museums I have ever been to (and it was completely unexpected!). This museum not only has a wealth of knowledge about Korea across history, it also has surprisingly excellent exhibits on other countries. For one, their Egyptian exhibit is marvelous.
All the exhibits have English displays and the layout is fairly straightforward for such a large space. If you won’t be able to visit the area-specific museums such as the Gyeongju National Museum, this is the next best option to get a well-rounded view of Korea.
8. See the Historic Sites in Bukchon Hanok Village
It’s very easy to step back in time in the Bukchon Hanok Village. Many of the local regulations have lead to quiet tranquility, with groups of hanbok-clad girls huddling in doorways for scenic photos. Rather than feeling overly tourist-y, it actually feels more authentic with the crowds.
Be prepared for a climb, the village is on a hill, but that gives you some lovely views of the city as a bonus.
9. Hang-out at Cheonggyecheon Stream – Free Things to Do in Seoul
One of my personal favorite places in Seoul, you can escape the hustle and bustle with ease at Cheonggyecheon Stream. Built on top of where a historical river once flowed, the residents resisted the original construction project. Now, it’s both a local and tourist favorite.
There is simply nothing better on a hot summer day than to hang out here away from the noise of traffic and dip your feet in the cool water. Look out for the surprisingly large fish that call this river home!
10. Explore a Korean Traditional Food Market
I will be honest, once you’ve seen one Korean food market, you’ve kind of seen them all! But, if you have never seen one they should definitely be on your list. They’re a great insight into the daily life of a native Korean.
You’ll get fantastic snacks at equally fantastic prices and stumble upon some rare finds. In Seoul, these markets can take on specialities, such as fish or dry goods or fruits and veggies. Be aware – the fish markets are incredibly stinky even if they are cool!
Honorable Mention: Seoul History Museum
This is a very well done museum, and it is free. However, I personally found it super overwhelming. There is so. much. information here. And it just keeps going!
In a way, that’s wonderful – having that wealth of information is impressive and it’s a great way to visualize how the city came to be. But I also was not prepared and found myself practically exhausted from my visit. Point in its favor, though, is the fact that the air conditioning is super strong inside! So it could be ideal for a summer respite.