South Korea’s popularity as an intrepid traveller’s ideal destination has skyrocketed in recent years, with Seoul often topping the lists of places to go.
With its unique culture, modern skyscrapers and delicious cuisine, it’s easy to see why the capital is rapidly becoming a phenomenal Asian destination.
However, it’s not only all about Seoul when it comes to the intriguing sites in Korea that are piquing tourist’s interest.
Aside from the capital’s fascinating mix of culture, cuisine and tradition, there are countless hidden gems scattered around the surrounding areas, from gorgeous beaches to ancient temples and everything in between.
Check out this quick handy guide to find out where to start planning your day trips from Seoul.
1. Korean Folk Village
Intended to be an amalgamation of Korean culture presented to the public in astounding detail, the Korean Folk Village has been open since 1974 and is an authentic showcase of almost 300 replica houses from different regions and social classes.
This fascinating mixture of exhibits and performances is one of the most popular day trips for people visiting Korea for the first time, and is an eye-opening introduction to the national culture.
Available tour: Korean Culture Day Tour: Seoul City & Korean Folk Village
2. Hwaseong Fortress
Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its cultural significance and impressive architectural achievement, Hwaseong Fortress is by far the most popular attraction in Suwon, a city to the south of Seoul.
Constructed during the Joeson Dynasty in the 18th Century, Hwaseong Fortress is spread out over five kilometres and surrounded by high walls, backdropped by the stunning Paldal Mountain.
Visitors can hike the perimeter of the walls soaking in some of the gorgeous views, before making their way to the center, where there’s an enormous statue of King Jeongjo, the ruler at the time of construction.
Recommended tour: Suwon Hwaseong Fortress (UNESCO) Half-Day Tour from Seoul
3. Ansan Multicultural Food Street
Shattering the presumption that Korean food and culture may be a little “samey”, Ansan Multicultural Food Street is a melting pot of countless mouth-watering cuisines, from Thai and Vietnamese to Russian, to name a few.
Whether you’re in search of a mouth-watering meal or simply want to experience the electric atmosphere, Ansan is without question a journey for the senses.
Other than the vast assortment of street food available, there are various world class restaurants in the area.
The Kantipur restaurant is particularly accomplished in creating delicious Indian and Nepali meals, while the Samarkand Cafe is a go-to for meat lovers.
4. Paju Book City
A paradise for intellectuals, curious travellers and children, Paju is most well-known for being the home of the Paju Book City, a cultural complex featuring publishers, printing, and distribution enterprises.
Here you can wander the streets learning the various stories behind the businesses, or visit famous book cafes such as Darakwon and Moongongsa.
The Tan Tan Story House is a particularly beloved stop, well known for hosting various events to get children interested in books.
5. Jayu Park
Tucked away in the coastal Incheon Metropolitan City, Jayu Park is predominantly a historical site that houses a vast number of structures commemorating key events concerning American-Korean relations over the last century.
The highlight is most definitely the majestic statue of General MacArthur that stands at over 15 metres and signifies the treaty of amity between the United States and Korea.
Near the park, you’ll also find a thriving and wildly popular Chinatown, serving some truly mouthwatering Chinese dishes made by descendants of some of the first ever Chinese settlers in the area, as well a healthy dose of pioneering Chinese-Korean fusion food.
6. Gangchon Rail Park
You can expect a visit to Gangchon Rail Park to be novel, active, and beautifully scenic.
It involves riding rail bikes through one of two routes you can choose from, leading you through the charmingly picturesque Korean countryside.
You’ll arrive at either Gimyujeong Station or Gyeonggang Station, depending on which route you take.
Both paths are back dropped by gorgeous mountain scenery and split up by tunnels playing popular Korean music.
7. Muuido Island
Known for its beautiful beaches and gently rolling, forested hills, Muuido Island is the ideal beach getaway for locals and travellers who want to escape the hectic pace of life of the capital.
Instantly recognisable by the colourfully painted beach huts lining the shore, Hanagae Beach is without a doubt the most picturesque and popular destination on the island.
From enjoying seafood in the sun during the day, to attending lively barbecues at night, the atmosphere at Hangae is always laid back and enjoyable.
If you want to do something more active you can hike around other parts of the island – the ocean views are particularly beautiful from the top of the numerous hills.
8. Ganghwado Island
Filled with commemorative statues, Buddhist temples and paddy fields, Ganghwado is a rural island and a gorgeously scenic and interesting alternative to spending a day in the city.
It is popular with people looking for both nature and culture combined.
Discover Korean history dating to the Bronze Age at the Goindol Rocks, or wander the pine forests at Bomunsa Temple, which is also famed as a place from which you can catch beautiful sunsets.
Ganghwado actually consists of various islands, both inhabited and uninhabited, so be sure to research where you want to go before embarking on your trip.
9. Nami Island
Reachable in under 30 minutes by ferry, Nami Island is both beautifully picturesque and tranquil in equal measure, perfect for visitors who want to spend the day strolling around lantern adorned gardens and serene forests.
The Garden of Morning Calm is particularly breath-taking; not only is it attractive, but it is also Korea’s oldest garden.
Photographers tend to head to the famous tree-lined lanes that consist of paths flanked by trees decorated with colorful lanterns, such as the Maple Land of True Love.
If you happen to be visiting in winter, then don’t miss the biggest light festival in the whole of Korea, with thousands and thousands of lights illuminating the island.
It’s a truly magical experience.
Available tour: Nami Island with Petite France and Garden of Morning Calm
Home to a gorgeous collection of temples, ecologically significant beaches and hot springs, Yeongjong Island is a refreshing respite from the bustling streets of Seoul.
The best of these temples is without a doubt the Yonggunsa Temple, famed for the gorgeous 1,300-year-old zelkova tree standing outside, adding a serene majesty to the already tranquil atmosphere.
After exploring the temples, head down to the Eurwangni Beach to explore the dramatic mudflats that have formed there.
These are considered to be extremely valuable, given that they are the most significant feeding grounds for the vast numbers of shore birds that migrate to Korea.
11. Mount Seorak
Situated in one of the most beautiful natural reserves in the country, Mount Seorak is the third highest mountain in Korea and it offers what are easily some of the best views too.
The Seoraksan National Park is comprised of the Baekdamcheon, Gayadong and Suryeomdong Valleys which are all hike-worthy to a fault, although the highlight is without question hiking to the peak of Mount Seorak to take in the breathtaking panoramas of the land below.
The hikes however are not the only attraction in the area, as it’s also home to the Baekdamsa Temple, renowned for its gorgeous mountain location and architectural beauty.
Suggested tour: Seoraksan National Park and Naksansa Temple 1 Day Tour
12. Mangwolsa Mountain Temple
Nestled within the Bukhansan National Park, you’ll find the beautiful Mangwolsa Mountain Temple, the oldest in the area, and skilfully rebuilt after being destroyed once in the Japanese invasion and again during the Korean War.
Its fascinating history traces its function as a refuge for everyone from monks and soldiers to volunteers, but it’s now used as a temple for Buddhist nuns.
The highlight of the temple is the 13-storey pagoda where Buddha is enshrined, which attracts visitors from far and wide to pay their respects.
Yongin is the colorful, ever-exciting city that is wildly popular with locals because of its many theme parks, which are the main reasons people visit.
Everland is one of these, and is in fact one of the most visited theme parks in the world.
It is made up of several zones, such as European Adventure and Zootopia.
Home to hologram theatres and one of the tallest wooden rollercoasters in the world, a day trip to Everland is sure to be adrenaline-filled and family friendly.
Book online: Everland Tickets and Transfer from Seoul
14. Hwaseong Haenggung
Located deep within Hwaeseong Fortress, far from the outer walls encircling it, you’ll find the enormous Hwaseong Haenggung Palace, the largest of its kind outside of Seoul.
On a guided tour, you can find out more about its former use as King Jeongjo’s residence as you wander the grounds of the traditionally designed buildings.
Once there, you can also enjoy a few lessons of traditional Korean archery, just as the King used to do, at the internal archery site.
15. Suwon Chicken Street
As a widely enjoyed and mouthwatering treat, fried chicken is hugely popular with locals, who will regularly get together to socialise with family and friends and share this tasty delicacy.
Suwon’s bustling Suwon Chicken Street is a thriving community street with up to 14 chicken restaurants all on the same road – some more than 40 years old.
One of the most highly recommended is Yongsung Chicken, where you can enjoy the crispy speciality and an ice cold Korean beer that’ll have you coming back for more.