A Beginner’s Guide to South Korea: Sights, Bites, and Seoul Delights

Reading time: 3 minutes

Are you ready for your first vacay to South Korea? This colourful country offers everything from futuristic cities and lush landscapes to cultural treasures and mouth-watering cuisine. So, buckle up and get your tastebuds ready! We’re about to dive into a crash course that will prepare you for a splendid adventure in the land of the morning calm. 

Seoul: The Heartbeat of Korea

Seoul, a city where ancient meets modern, is your perfect starting point. Here’s how you can soak up Seoul’s vibrant energy: 

  1. Palace Hopping: Start with the grand Gyeongbokgung Palace, the largest of the Five Grand Palaces, and watch the changing of the guard ceremony. Don’t miss out on Changdeokgung Palace either, a UNESCO World Heritage site famed for its beautiful secret garden.
  2. N Seoul Tower: Situated on Namsan Mountain in the center of Seoul, this tower offers a panoramic view of the sprawling city. It’s a great spot for a sunset selfie or nighttime sparkles that’ll make your friends back home wish they were there. The lines can get long during peak season, so consider grabbing some tasty street food to eat while you wait.
  3. Hongdae: Known for its youthful ambiance, Hongdae is the epicenter of Seoul’s indie music and fashion scene. This neighborhood is alive with art markets, street performances, and trendy shops. Cafés and bars here often host live bands, and you can immerse yourself in the local culture by simply wandering through its vibrant streets.

Culinary Adventures

Korean cuisine is all about bold flavours and textures. Here’s where to treat your tastebuds: 

  1. Street Food in Myeongdong: From spicy rice cakes (tteokbokki) to sweet-filled pancakes (hotteok), Myeongdong offers a lot of options to eat your way through Korean street food classics. Head there on an empty stomach and let your foodie adventure begin.
  2. Barbecue Bonanza: Visit any local Korean BBQ spot to grill your own meat. Wrap your freshly cooked selections in lettuce, add some garlic and ssamjang (a spicy paste), and you’re in for a flavour explosion! Most KBBQ restaurants open until very late and are the perfect way to end a day out exploring the city.
  3. Traditional Tea Houses: After exploring the bustling cities, slow down and step back in time by visiting a traditional tea house in Insadong. Savour a cup of soothing herbal tea accompanied by traditional Korean sweets like yakgwa (honey cookies) and dasik (tea cookies)

Unique Experiences

Seoul is full of quirky and cool experiences that you won’t find elsewhere: 

  1. Jjimjilbang Experience: Spend a day at a Korean spa, or jjimjilbang, like Dragon Hill Spa in Yongsan. These are not just places to soak and steam; you can also sing karaoke, enjoy a movie, or nap in various themed rooms. It’s a fun experience whether you’re going solo or travelling with friends.
  2. Hanbok Rental: Dress up in a traditional Korean hanbok and stroll around Bukchon Hanok Village. It’ll make the perfect IG snaps and is a great way to feel connected to the history and culture of Korea.
  3. Themed Cafés: Love coffee and cuddly animals? Seoul is famous for its themed cafés which give you the best of both Sip a matcha latte surrounded by cats, pups, raccoons, or even meerkats at one of these funky spots.

Beyond Seoul: Must-Visit Places

While Seoul might be the heart of South Korea, the rest of the country offers some spectacular experiences: 

  1. Busan: Check out South Korea’s second-largest city, famous for its beautiful beaches, Jagalchi Seafood Market, the annual Busan International Film Festival, and the colourful Gamcheon Culture Village.
  2. Jeonju: Dive deep into Korean tradition in Jeonju. This city is known for its well-preserved hanok village and for being the birthplace of bibimbap, one of Korea’s most beloved dishes made with rice, seasoned veg, egg, beef and spicy gochujang sauce
  3. Gyeongju: Often referred to as ‘the museum without walls’, Gyeongju is packed with ancient sites like Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto. You’ll want to get your camera ready because the tranquil backdrop is stunning

Travel Tips

To make the most out of your trip to South Korea, here are a few tips: 

  1. Connectivity: Purchase a local SIM card or rent a portable Wi-Fi device to stay connected. South Korea boasts some of the fastest internet speeds in the world.
  2. Transportation: Get a T-Money card, a rechargeable smart card for all public transport in Seoul. It can also be used in taxis and at convenience stores.
  3. Language: While many South Koreans speak English, especially in tourist areas, learning a few basic Korean phrases can enhance your interaction with locals.


South Korea offers an incredible mix of experiences that cater to all tastes—from the historical depths of its palaces to the cutting-edge urban culture of its cities. Whether you’re exploring the neon-lit streets of Seoul or the tranquil temples of Gyeongju, South Korea promises a journey filled with fascinating contrasts and unforgettable adventures. So pack your bags and get ready for a spectacular first-time visit to this amazing country. Happy travels! 

Travel Insurance 
We all know that the good times can take a slight detour when travelling. When the going gets tough, Travel Insurance Direct policies aim to do the heavy lifting and may assist with travel insurance cover for South Korea to help keep your trip moving in the right direction, so you can refocus on the fun. 


TID is an Australian online travel insurance company.


How to enjoy a Italian getaway in Tuscany on a budget

When you picture Tuscany what are the first things that come to mind? If you’re like us, perhaps it’s ...


The Americas

The 8 best things to experience in South America

Heading to South America? Find out more about the 8 absolutely unmissable activities you must experience in Brazil, ...



Top tips for staying in a favela in Rio

Keen to stay in a favela in Rio? Find out how to stay safe, not get involved with a drug lord and most importantly, ...