Are You Going To Korea For The First Time? Here's A List Of Places You *Need* To Visit

Make sure these spots are on your must-see list!
PHOTO: Mongkol Chuewong/Getty Images

Finally planning your first trip to the Land of Morning Calm? It could be confusing to narrow down what you must include in your travel itinerary with all the beautiful places of this sought-after destination. Don’t worry—we gotchu. Below, a list of the top places to visit in Korea for first timers. (P.S. We included some alternatives you can check out, too.)

Nami Island

Perfect for: Nature Lovers 

The iconic Metasequoia Lane, the yellow wonderland of Gingko trees, and several other natural sights—these make Nami Island a favorite tourist spot in Korea. The best time to go would be during autumn to see the spectacular fall foliage. But visiting during a snowy winter day would be wonderful, too. You can even recreate those epic scenes from the K-drama, Winter Sonata.

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Alternatives: Seoul Forest and Garden of Morning Calm

Myeongdong

Perfect for: Foodies and Beauty Addicts

One of the most popular places to visit in Korea, Myeongdong is the mecca of beauty boutiques and street food stalls in Seoul. Sure, you’ll see random vendors of fish cakes and gimbap and cosmetics shops anywhere in the city, but Myeongdong’s famous shopping street is where you go to see almost all the options. Pro tip: You can visit the surrounding malls if you find the shopping street too hot and crowded and the underground shopping mall for cheaper (non-branded) cosmetics.

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Alternatives: Markets and virtually everywhere in South Korea, really!

Hongdae

Perfect for: Fashionistas and Culture Vultures

For trendy outfits and accessories, head to Hongdae. Go shopping in hip fashion boutiques and tiangge­-style stores. You can also see live performances of aspiring K-pop dancers and bands (college students, mostly). PSA: There are also several restaurants (chicken and beer or dakgalbi, anyone?) and cafés (including a Harry Potter-themed one!) in the area.

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Alternatives: Edae (the streets outside Ewha Woman’s University) and Dongdaemun

Gyeongbokgung

Perfect for: History Enthusiasts or Sageuk Drama Fans

Gyeongbokgung is the grandest out of the five ancient royal palaces in Seoul. The impressive structures transport you back to the Joseon Dynasty of Korea. You might love these sites, too, if you enjoy watching historical Korean dramas. Pro tip: You could wear a hanbok and enter Gyeongbokgung (and all the other palaces) for free! You can also make a side trip to the Bukchon Hanok Village when you visit this palace.

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Alternatives: Changdeokgung (this one has a secret garden tour), Deoksugung, and Jongmyo Shrine

N Seoul Tower

Perfect for: People who crave breathtaking views

Here’s one of the must-see and free (!!!) places to visit in Korea. At the top, you can marvel at the gorgeous cityscape of Seoul. If you’re traveling with your beau, you can also leave one of those cute locks of love. Disclaimer: There’s no entrance fee to the Namsan tower grounds, but there’s a fee for the observatory. There’s also a cable car fee or a bus (or taxi) fare to reach the peak, but you can take the tipid route and trek the scenic trail up the mountain (it takes about 20 to 30 minutes).

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Alternative: Naksan Park (near Ihwa Mural Village)

Yeouido Park

Perfect for: People who love scenic parks and picnics

Another scenic spot you can visit for free, Yeouido Park lies beside the great Han River of Korea. Aside from sightseeing and ~*just chilling*~, you can buy ramen, drinks, and some street food around the area and have a picnic there. Rent a bike (or a tandem bike for couples) if that’s your cup of tea! The best time to visit is peak springtime since the park is home to plenty of gorgeous cherry blossom trees.

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Alternative: Banpo Bridge

Gangnam

Perfect for: K-pop Fans

Aside from the cool cafés and luxury fashion outlets in the area, Gangnam is home to K-Star Road. Here, there’s a line of IG-worthy “GangnamDols” to represent the biggest K-pop acts like BTS, Super Junior, Girls’ Generation, EXO, and more. Once you’re done taking pictures with the doll of the group you stan, you can make a K-pop pilgrimage to the buildings of big entertainment companies like SM and JYP. Who knows? You might spot an idol if you’re lucky!

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Alternatives: SMTOWN Coex Artium, House of BTS, and other agency or music video filming spots in Seoul

Insadong

Perfect for: Souvenir Shopping

What’s a trip without pasalubong and random knickknacks to take home and remember it by? Go to Insadong to buy affordable souvenirs like chopsticks, cute keychains or ref magnets, and traditional pouches. You can even buy socks, shirts, and bags here! Plus, you can snap photos in Insadong’s Instagrammable spots.

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Alternatives: For edible or just cute souvenirs, go shopping in Lotte Mart, Daiso, or traditional markets.

Jeju Island

Perfect for: Beach Bums

If you love the sand and sea, the pristine beaches of Jeju Island must be on your bucket list. Aside from being one of the most picturesque places to visit in Korea, you can also try the fresh seafood, sweet tangerines, and savory Jeju black pork. PSA: There are two ways for Philippine passport holders to enter Jeju Island visa-free. One is via flight to the island with a stopover at another visa-free country (like Hong Kong). Another is through legit travel agencies. Note, though, that unlike in the Philippines, Korea has designated swimming seasons, so it’s best to visit during Korea’s summertime.

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Alternative: Haeundae Beach in Busan

Which place in Korea are you most excited to see?

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