Compared to other big cities around the world, Seoul is pretty affordable. There are plenty of cheap and free things to do all over the city. Here are 8 free things you can do in Seoul:
Visit one of Seoul’s free museums
One of the best ways to truly understand the place you’re visiting is to learn about its history and culture. Seoul’s museums help you do just that. The best part: many museums in Seoul are free to enter. The five national museums in Seoul have no admission fee to see permanent exhibitions. You can see art at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korean history at the National Museum of Korea, and Korean culture at the National Folk Museum of Korea. Moreover, four out of five national museums are conveniently located around Gyeongbukgung at the center of Seoul.
Another option is the Seoul Museum of History, which shows visitors Seoul’s development from the time it was established as Hanyang (한양) in the 14th century to the modern day. The Seoul Museum of History also has branches around the city that are free to visit. One of the branches is right next door to the main museum. It’s Gyeonghuigung (경희궁), a palace built during the Joseon period.
Watch the Banpo Bridge Show at the Han River
When in Seoul, visiting the Han River is a must. And the best part is that all Han River parks are free to enter. The Han River parks (more than 10!) are great for all types of a recreation like picnicking, biking, and walking.
One of the most famous free activities that you can do at the Han River is watching the Moonlight Rainbow Fountain show. Popular on social media, the show is a water and light show that features music from K-Pop artists like BTS and Twice. The show times from July to August are 12:00 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 8:00 p.m., 8:30 p.m., 9:00 p.m., and 9:30 p.m. The Banpo Bridge show is a great way to unwind after a long day of exploring Seoul.
Visit a Buddhist temple
Buddhism was historically very influential on Korean culture, so it’s no surprise that there are so many Buddhist temples in Seoul. As one of the major Korean Buddhist temples, Jogyesa is perhaps the most well-known and visited Seoul temple. Established in 1910, the temple is located in central Seoul. Jogyesa holds seasonal festivals, so if you’re lucky to be in Seoul at just the right time, you can come to join the festivities.
If you’re looking for a temple off the beaten path, head to Gilsangsa in Seongbuk-dong. Gilsangsa was a relatively new temple, being established in 1997. Gilsangsa was originally a restaurant donated to Venerable Bupjeong, a Korean Buddhist monk who converted the restaurant into a temple. What it lacks in age, it makes up for in natural beauty.
All temples mentioned here have no entrance fee.
Hike one of Seoul’s peaks
While Seoul is a large city, there are pockets, or more appropriately peaks, of nature all around. Seoul has six major mountains. The biggest of all of Seoul’s mountains is Bukhansan, which lies north of the city. A popular place to hike with those living in the greater Seoul area, Bukhansan makes the perfect escape from the city.
If you’re looking for a more leisurely hiking experience, try the popular Namsan. The views from the top of the mountain are spectacular at sunset. You can also see the love lock walls around the tower’s base and add your lock. If you’re not a fan of hiking, you can even skip hiking altogether and take the cable car up and down the mountain.
Enjoy busking performances all over Seoul
If you’re a K-Pop fan, check out busking performances while visiting Seoul. What’s great about busking performances is that you’ll find them walking around Seoul. Even though they’re often informal performances, crowds can quickly grow so that you can’t even get a good view of the performance. If you’re keen on seeing some dance cover performances or singing, Hongdae and the Han River parks are popular places for buskers.
If you are interested in street performances, check out the “Live Everywhere” street performance festival, from August 10-14 from 1 p.m. to 4:40 p.m. This festival is part of the larger Seoul Festa 2022.
Search for Street Art
One of the most popular places to see street art is Ihwa Mural Village on Naksan. Along the steep staircases and walls of this old Seoul neighborhood is painted murals from various artists. Walking around the neighborhood is a popular weekend activity, and it’s completely free. The murals painted were an effort to revitalize the Ihwa neighborhood in 2006.
Like Bukchon, Ihwa is still a residential area, so remember to respect the residents while visiting their neighborhood. It’s also encouraged to purchase at stores and cafes in the neighborhood to help support the residents.
Other areas where you can find street art in Seoul are the Mullae Mural Village and Pil-dong near Myeongdong.
Explore Bukchon Hanok Village
Between Gyeongbukgung Palace and Changdeokgung is Bukchon Hanok Village, perhaps the most well-known and visited hanok village in Seoul. Historically a residential area for nobles and bureaucrats during the Joseon period, Bukchon is home to various historical sites and designated cultural heritages. When visiting, be mindful that Bukchon is still a residential area to normal Seoulites today. Make sure to keep noise levels low and respect people’s property and privacy.
In recent decades, the area has become a place for workshops, studios, and cafes. Many of these preserve or incorporate the traditional hanok architecture of the area. Walking through the village feels like taking a step back in time and is a great way to see the older side of Seoul for free. The Bukchon area covers 1,076,302 sq. meters, so grab a map from one tour guide to ensure you don’t get lost.
Join a Free Walking Tour
The best way to get to see Seoul for free is just to walk. But if you’re afraid of getting lost or want to learn some history or culture during your walks, try one of Seoul’s free walking tours. Volunteers give these tours with expert knowledge of the city’s history and culture. There are nearly 40 different tour courses to choose from. Some are focused on palaces, while others pick specific areas of Seoul to explore. Some tours have particular themes, like the Healing Road to Traditional Market Course and the Bukchon Catholic Pilgrammage Course.
Reservations for walking tours must be made at least three days in advance and on english.visitseoul.net/walking-tour. The availability of certain tours depends on the availability of tour guide volunteers. The tours are conducted in Korean, English, Chinese, and Japanese. Remember that while the walking tours themselves are free of charge, fees to enter palaces, historical places, or cultural experiences still must be paid.