Best Cities in South Korea to Visit [2022 & 2023]

When you start planning your visit, a common question where are the best cities to visit in South Korea to enable you to start planning your itinerary.

Here are our top two picks of Seoul and Busan with an overview of what to do and see in each city, including many day tour options you can do from each location.

Join the South Korea Travel Planning Facebook Group

You are also welcome to join our South Korea Travel Planning Facebook Group – it is a great resource to enable you to ask questions about your upcoming trip to South Korea!

South Korea Travel Planning

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About South Korea

The Republic of Korea has a population of over 50 million people, living on the southern section of the Korean Peninsula. South Korea has a long and ancient history with archeological sites dating back to 30,000 BC to today.

Below is a map showing the best cities to visit in Korea.

Seoul

Seoul is centrally located in a strategic location on the Korean Peninsula and has a population of over 10 million people.

Click here to check out our detailed Seoul Travel Guide

The kingdoms of Baekje, Goguryeo, Silla and Joseon all fought over the area which is now Seoul. As a result there are many palaces and other historical sights to see in Seoul, along with many much more modern experiences.

Plan to stay for at least 4 days to make the most of your visit, and preferably longer if possible. Popular places for tourists to visit in Seoul include the following options.

  • Visiting the five grand palaces of the Joseon period is a must – if you have limited time plan to visit at least 1-2 of them. Gyeongbokgung Palace is the most popular, and make sure you plan your visit to see the changing of the guard ceremony.
  • Explore a Hanok Village to see traditional hanok style houses and experience traditional culture.
  • Visit Mount Namsan and go to the top of N Seoul Tower.
  • Visit part of the ancient Seoul City Wall (Hanyangdoseong) which encircles the city.
  • Visit a museum. Options include the National Palace Museum, the Kimchi Museum, the National Folk Museum and many more.
  • Visit the markets. There are many different ones to try – our tops picks are Namdaemun Market for knick knacks, Dongdaemun Market for fashion, Gwangjang Market for street food and Noryangjin Market for seafood.
  • Visit the theme parks. Lotte World is mostly indoors so is a great easy to get to all year round option, Everland is south of Seoul and takes a bit longer to get to, but is a great day out. Seoul Land is also a popular smaller theme park option. Plan a full day to visit each theme park.
  • Go shopping. Think Insadong for art galleries, souvenir shopping and more, Dongdaemun, Myeongdong
  • Go clubbing. Think Hongdae and Gangnam, and many more options!
  • Visit the temples. Jogyesa Temple in Insadong is a great option – the Golden Buddhas are amazing.
  • Do a day tour to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the border between North and South Korea
  • Do a day tour to Nami Island and surrounds, for a more rural experience and perhaps some thrill seeking on their zipline!
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View of the walk along the Fortress Wall in Naksan Park, in Seoul, South Korea
View of the walk along the Fortress Wall in Naksan Park, in Seoul, South Korea
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Busan

Busan is the second largest city in South Korea, with a population of over 3.5 million people. It is located in the south east of the Korean Peninsula and is a seaside city, with many lovely beaches which are very busy in summer! Busan has a great combination of traditional charm combined with modern experiences.

Plan to stay in Busan for at least 3 days to make the most of your visit, and preferably longer if possible. Busan is easy to get to from Seoul – the fast trains make the journey in only 2.5 hours direct, or using the cheaper bus option it is a 5.5 hour journey. Popular places for tourists to visit in Busan include the following options.

Click here to check out our detailed Busan Travel Guide

  • Explore the Gamcheon Culture Village to see the picturesque multi coloured village which appears to be stacked up the hillside. Enjoy exploring the village (and get lost!) to find local street and public art.
  • Visit the Jagalchi Fish Market to see the largest fish market in South Korea. Plan to enjoy fresh seafood in one of the many restaurants in and around the market.
  • Visit other markets – including Nampodong Market for souvenirs and vintage clothing, Gukje Market for a large range of household goods, Tin Can Market for food
  • Visit neighbouring Haeundae or Gwangalli Beaches, some of South Korea’s most beautiful beaches.
  • Visit Haedong Yonggungsa Temple which is located beside Songjeong Beach, to see the amazing views
  • Do a coastal waterway walk – the most popular are Taejongdae Resort Park, Oryukdo Skywalk, Songdo Beach and Cheongsapo Daritdol Observatory
  • Visit Geumjeong Fortress, using the Geumgang Park Ropeway. There are a great selection of hiking trails to explore the area and get amazing views over Busan.
  • Visit the UN Memorial Cemetery to reflect on the Korean War and those who died.
  • Visit a Jimjilbang or Korean Spa. Top options in Busan include Spa Land Centum City and Heosimcheong (or Hurshimchung) Spa
  • Do a day tour to visit Gyeongju (which is only one hour north of Busan) and visit its many world heritage areas.
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Haeundae Beach Sand Festival in Busan
Haeundae Beach Sand Festival in Busan
Best Cities to Visit in South Korea

Join the South Korea Travel Planning Facebook Group

You are also welcome to join our South Korea Travel Planning Facebook Group – it is a great resource to enable you to ask questions about your upcoming trip to South Korea!

South Korea Travel Planning

Disclaimer:  This article contains affiliate links.  If you book after clicking on one of these links then we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.