30 Free Things to do in Seoul When You Won to Maximise Your Budget
Thanks to the rise of the Hallyu wave, Korea has become a popular tourist hotspot for Singaporeans. With affordable accommodation and food, as well as a variety of attractions to visit, the possibilities are endless!
We’ve uncovered 30 of the best and completely free things you can do in Seoul, with some bonus activities outside of Seoul too!
Go Back in Time At A Palace in Seoul
The four popular palaces in Seoul are the Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace and Deoksugung Palace. All four offer free admission to all visitors wearing a hanbok. Guests are still required to register, so remember to drop your name and grab your tickets upon entry.
Arguably the best known palace in Seoul, Gyeongbokgung Palace (also called the Northern Palace) is also the largest of all four palaces.
View contemporary art within the palace and witness the guard exchange ceremony at the famed Gwanghwamun Gate. Each session takes about 10 minutes, with the guardsmen donning bright traditional costumes to perform the ceremony.
Free guided tours are also available, lasting between 60 to 90 minutes and are limited to 30 people per session. For groups of 10 or more people, please make a reservation in advance.
Address: 161, Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Closed every Tuesday
January to February and November to December, 9am – 5pm
March to May and September to October, 9am – 6pm
June to August, 9am – 6:30pm
Guided Tour Timings:
English – 11am, 1:30pm, 3:30pm
Japanese – 10am, 12:30pm, 2:30pm
Chinese – 10:30am, 1pm, 3pm
Royal Guard Performance Timings: 11am, 1pm
Contact: +82 2 738 9171
Famous for its elegant stonewall paths and Western-style garden, Deoksugung Palace is another tourist favourite. It may be the smallest palace among the five in Seoul, but you still can observe the royal guard changing ceremony here as well. In fact, you can even sign up to experience being a royal guard for the changing session at 2pm every day.
Deoksugung Palace is one of the few places that opens late into the night, with the last admission at 8pm, allowing you to explore the are under the moonlit skies.
Entrance is complimentary for guests wearing a Hanbok and guests visiting on Culture Day, the last Wednesday of every month. Complimentary 1-hour tours are also available.
Address: 99 Sejong-daero, Jung-gu, Seoul
Opening Hours: 9am-9pm, closed every Monday
Guided Tour Timings: No tours on holidays.
English – 10:30am, 1:30pm
Japanese – 9:30am, 4pm
Chinese -10am, 2:30pm
Royal Guard Performance Timings: 11pm, 2pm, 3:30pm
Contact: +82 2 771 9955
Free Hanbok Rental in Seoul
A Hanbok is traditionally worn on special occasions or national holidays, but with its growing popularity among the younger generation and tourists, more and more places are offering a Hanboks for rent.
It can be expensive to rent a full Hanbok for extended hours so this is where free hanbok rental services come in handy. The Seoul Global Cultural Center and Daehanmum Gate at Deoksugung Palace offer free hanbok rentals at about 10 minutes per session, perfect for a short photo-op!
Free Hanbok Rental: Seoul Global Cultural Center
Address: 5th Floor, M-Plaza
Myeong-dong 8-gil 27, Jung-gu
Seoul, South Korea 04536
Opening Hours: 10am-5pm.
Hanbok Rental Session: based on first-come-first-served, maximum six pax per session.
Contact: +82 2 3789 7961
Admire Art at Seoul’s Museums & Exhibits
National Folk Museum
With three main exhibition halls spanning over several floors, visitors can explore the different aspects of Korean life at the National Folk Museum.
Free commentary tours are available at different times of the day where you can earn about local costumes, traditional musical instruments and Korean festivals. Groups of 10 or more people need to book a group tour 3 days before arrival.
Entrance is free with the Gyeongbokgung Palace ticket.
Address: 161, Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Closed on January 1st, Lunar New Year’s Day and Korean Thanksgiving Day
November-February, 9am- 5pm
March-May and September, 9am – 6pm
June-August, 9am – 6:30pm
May-August on Saturdays, Sundays and P.H., 9am-7pm
Guided Tour Timings:
English – 10:30am (unavailable on Tues & Sat), 2:30pm (unavailable on Tues)
Japanese – 11am, 3pm
Chinese – 9:30am, 1.30pm
Contact: +82 2 3704 3129 (Monday to Friday, 9am-12pm and 1pm-6pm)
King Sejong Story & The Story of Admiral Yi Sunshin
These two galleries pay tribute to the two great historical leaders of their times. Learn about the Korean alphabet system and its creator at King Sejong Story where you can participate in workshops and learn how to write simple expressions with Hangul characters.
The Story of Admiral Yi Sunshin will bring you on a journey through his life, his battle tactics and the design of the famous Turtle ship (Geobukseon).
Guided tours are available for groups of 20-60 people and free rental of MP3 or PDA devices are also available for the those who wish to explore on their own.
Address: 175, Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul
10am – 8pm, closed Mondays. If Monday is a national holiday, it will remain open.
Tuesday-Friday, 11am, 2pm, 4pm
Saturday-Sunday, 11am, 2pm
Contact: +82 2 399 1114
Free Live K-pop Performances
K-pop Music Shows
K-pop lovers, you now have a chance to catch your favourite K-pop acts live! Music show access is free, but to join the queues require a bit of work. You can produce a copy of the album or a receipt of a digital download, among other instructions listed by the official Fancafe (a community forum for fans on Daum). The best way to check is to refer to the group’s official social media handles for music show updates.
Alternatively, Korean Tourism Organization (KTO) Singapore also holds free ticket giveaways to SBS MTV The Show (Tuesday) and KBS Music Bank (Friday) from time to time.
Free busking performances
Image Credits: @Hi_sewoon | Twitter.com
Stumble upon live busking performances when you roam the trendy streets of Korea, such as Hongdae and Itaewon. Students and aspiring musicians often set up at random spots around town and perform K-pop and Western pop covers, as well as original music.
Sometimes, K-pop idols and artistes participate in busking events too. Idols like 15&’s Baek Yerin and boyband Day6 are known to be spotted busking on the streets of Seoul.
Other Korean Music Festivals
With a vibrant indie, hip-hop, rock and EDM scene, there is more than just K-pop music that you can enjoy. Some of these music festivals are free, like the Incheon K-pop Concert (INK) and the weekly Park Concert held in Summer. Just arrive early to ‘chope’ a seat or register online.
Insta-worthy Backdrops & Walking Tours
Bukchon Hanok Village
Located near the Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palance, Bukchon Hanok Village offers views of hundreds of traditional houses called ‘hanok’. These houses date back to the Joseon dynasty and operate as guesthouses, restaurants and cafes.
If you’re lucky, you might stumble upon small roadside stalls selling ‘Ppopgi’, a type of traditional sugar candy.
This quaint little neighbourhood in Seoul is near part of the Seoul Fortress Wall. Find Insta-worthy spots, cafes and hidden art galleries as you roam the alleyways. While some of museums require a small fee, there are some free ones as well, such as the Yoon Dongju Literary Museum.
You can even trek up the fortress wall for free! Just head to the nearest access point at Changuimun Gate.
Discover restaurants, cafes, and attractions owned and frequented by famous Hallyu stars. As you roam the streets, you can snap photos of the many ‘Gangnam-dols’ – adorable teddy bear statues inspired by K-pop stars like TVXQ, BTS, and PSY.
Drop by the Gangnam Tourist Information Centre and grab a map before embarking on your journey and if you need a guide, there are also complimentary tours available
Provided by: Gangnam Tourist Information Centre
Address: 161, Apgujeong-ro,Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea
Language Available: English, Mandarin, Japanese
Walking Tour Hours: 9am – 6pm (write your desired time)
Reservation at least 3 days in advanced. Minimum 3 people to start tour.
Contact: +82 2 3445 0111 or [email protected]
Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)
Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) hosts various exhibits, fashion shows and conferences throughout the year. Since its opening in 2014, DDP has become the hub of artistic expression with year-long exhibitions, and the biannual Seoul Fashion Week (SFW).
The fashion shows require a paid ticket, but feel free to linger around the area to spot celebrities, models and influencers during SFW season.
If you’re a history buff, you can also visit the Dongdaemun History Museum 1396.
Address: 281, Eulji-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul
Contact: +82 2 2153 0000
Immerse Yourself in Greenery & Fresh Seoul Air
Haneul Park within Seoul World Cup Park
Haneul Park, also known as the “Sky Park”, offers sweeping views of the surroundings after a 291-step climb. Seek out Seoul’s iconic landmarks such as the Namsan Tower and the Han River.
The Korean equivalent of Central Park in New York, Seoul Forest is a forested space in the Ttukseom area. There are five different parks within the forest and over 420 thousand trees were transplanted to build them.
Visit the TtukSeom Ecology Forest, Wetlands Ecological Field and Experiential Learning Park to see Formosan and Chinese water deers, a bird observatory and botanical garden.
A popular resting site, Namsan Park is rich in its own history as well. Find the beacon mound called Bonghwadae at the top, as well as the Palgakjeong Pavilion.
Heading up the Seoul Tower will also reward you with a better view of the cityscape, though additional charges apply. Don’t worry, the highest point of the park itself rewards you with an equally good view!
Address: 46, Sopa-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul
Contact: +82 2 3783 5900
Bukhansan National Park
Bukhansan is known for its smooth granite rocks and sharp peaks, with its main peak being the Baegunbong and offering views of Seoul City and Hangang River.
Seeing over five million visitors every year, it is home to over a thousand species of animals and plants, with many temples and the Bukhansanseong Fortress within the area.
Address: Goyang-si, Gyeonggi-do
Seongbuk-gu, Gangbuk-gu, Jeongno-gu, Eunpyeong-gu, Seoul-si
Hiking restrictions: it is prohibited to hike past sunset to 2 hours before sunrise.
Access is restricteed during 15 Feb-15 May and 1 Nov-15 Dec for fire-prevention and maintenance. This timing is adjustable depending on the park directors. Refer to the official website.
Contact: +82 31 828 8000
Snag Some Free K-Beauty Samples
K-beauty is one of the most popular beauty trends in Singapore and in Seoul, cosmetic stores can be found on almost every street. A quick trip to Myeongdong and you can spot popular K-beauty brands like Etude House, Innisfree and Tony Moly, as well as local favourites like Labiotte.
A visit to any of these stores will always earn you a handful of beauty samples to try out during your stay in Korea!
Free Food in Seoul
In Korea, it’s very common to have side dishes, called ‘banchan’, served at restaurants. Every restaurant will serve up their very own specialties like kimchi, steamed vegetables and roots, prepared with homemade recipes. These side dishes are refillable, just let the auntie (ajumeoni) know if you’d like seconds, or even thirds!
If you stop by a spicy rice cake (tteokbokki) snack cart along the street, the odeng soup is completely free for sampling as you munch on the other goodies available.
Seek Solace in Seoul’s Libraries
Checking out libraries might sound odd, but it’s a perfect hideout from the summer heat. The Seoul Metropolitan Library is a favourite amongst tourist, especially with its appearance on one episode of the variety show, Running Man.
The brand new Starfield Library, situated within Starfield COEX Mall, is also a great place to check out with its 50,000 book collection!
Address: 513, Yeongdong-daero, Gangnam-gu,
Starfield COEX Mall, Seoul 06164, South Korea
Contact: +82 2 6002 5300
Get Lost in Seoul’s Markets and Streets
Hongdae Free Market
An open-space market, the Hongdae Free Market has the artistic hipster vibe on a busy Saturday afternoon. Unlike second-hand flea markets, this market offers only new and artisanal items.
Sit down to get your caricature drawn, look at handicrafts or get lost in the crowd. Don’t want to spend money? Look out for buskers and other performances as well!
Address: 19-3, Wausan-ro 21-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Opening Hours: Every Saturdays, 1pm – 6pm
Opened only from March to November.
Contact: +82 2 325 8553
A traditional market with 600 years of history, no trip to Korea is complete without visiting Namdaemun Market. This market is best for purchasing souvenirs and gifts, as well as ginseng and traditional crafts.
The market has specific alleyways for stationery, cameras and much more, so every turn yields a new surprise.
Address: 21, Namdaemunsijang 4-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul, Korea
Contact: +82 2 753 2805
Learn About Buddhism at a Templestay
A Templestay is an increasingly popular option to experience Korea’s deep-rooted culture in Buddhism.
Have a friendly chat with the monks over tea and gain first-hand knowledge on the traditional Buddhist schools of thought. Hands-on activities such as making lotus flowers and printing traditional patterns are free as well.
Address: 56, Ujeongguk-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Opening Hours: 9am – 7pm
Activities Available: Talking with a monk over tea, making lotus flower – Wed, Fri, Sat, Sun
Coloring experience (traditional patterns), printing program – Mon, Tue, Thr
Contact: +82 2 2031 2000
Other Free Events in Seoul to Catch
Cherry Blossom Festival in Spring (country-wide)
In Seoul, the Spring Flower Festival held at Yeouiseo-ro Road in early Spring is a sight to behold. Yeouido is famous for it’s 1886 Korean Cherry trees planted on either side of the roads.
The roads are cordoned off during this period, so guests can relax and fully immerse in the romance of Spring. Besides Yeouido, Seokchonbosu Lake also boasts an impressive backdrop for viewing cherry blossoms.
Beyond Seoul, popular places to visit for cherry blossoms include Jinhae, Changwon and Jeju Island.
Korea Travel Hotline: Just call 1330
Lost in one of the narrow alleyways? Need help with last minute accommodation? Fret not, as the KTO got you covered. Simply dial in ‘1330’ for the Korea Travel Hotline, select your language and speak with the operator on the other end.
Contact: +82 2 1330 (overseas) or just 1330
Bonus: Sights Beyond Seoul
If you’re staying in Korea for a long holiday, here are some other places you can visit beyond Seoul in Daegu, Busan and Gangwondo.
Daegu Yangnyeongsi Museum of Oriental Medicine (Daegu)
Established in 1993, learn all about traditional herbal medicine here. Besides being able to purchase different herbal medicine, you can also experience how traditional medicine is being made and sample different types of herbal tea.
Don’t miss the chance to try on the traditional doctor’s outfit for a photo opportunity at the museum. This interactive museum also allows you to make your own oriental mist, lip balm and air fresheners for a small fee.
Address: 49, Dalgubeol-daero 415-gil, Jung-gu, Daegu
Opening Hours: 9am – 6pm, closed Mondays and Public Holidays
Extended Opening Hours: 9am – 9pm on the last Wednesday of every month
Contact: +82 53 253 4729
Daegu ChiMaek Festival in Summer (Daegu)
‘Chimaek’, a portmanteau for the popular fried chicken and beer (maekju) combo, is a staple in Korea. It is no surprise then, for them to have a ChiMaek Festival lasting a total of seven days in the heart of Daegu. Complete with a series of musical performances that last through the night, enjoy lots of free chicken and beer! Alcohol tasting is only allowed to legal adults on-site, but alternative choices will be made available as it is a family-friendly festival.
Gamcheon Cultural Village (Busan)
Hailed as the ‘Santorini of Korea’, Busan’s Gamcheon Cultural Village is made up of colourful houses and murals along quaint alleyways. After a makeover in 2009, the place has slowly become a popular place to visit in the Busan area. While it is a residential area, cafes and small galleries have sprung up, perfect for visitors to catch a break.
Board the bus 2 or 2-2 towards Gamcheon Elementary School from Toseong Station Exit 6 to reach the area.
Bosu-dong Book Street (Busan)
The heaven for bibliophiles, Bosu-dong Book Street is well worth a visit for those looking for a bit of nostalgia. What started off as a simple book trading spot between students and professors turned into a book street frequented by locals and tourists alike.
Second-hand books are stacked to the ceilings in nearly every shop, with Korean and selected English titles for sale at discounted rates. Take a break with your new purchase at one of rustic cafes.
Address: 8, Chaekbanggolmok-gil, Jung-gu, Busan
Contact: +82 51 244 9668
A popular destination to visit in the Winter, snow freezes over the branches in Taebaeksan creating the beautiful illusion of “snow flowers”. Known as one of the three sacred mountains in Korea, people come from all over the world and Korea to hike up Taebaeksan for a glimpse of the year’s first sunrise. Remember to dress warmly and comfortably, especially if you’re hiking in the winter months.
Address: 4778, Taebaeksan-ro, Taebaek-si, Gangwon-do
Hiking restrictions: Access is restricted during 15 Feb-15 May and 1 Nov-15 Dec for fire-prevention and maintenance. This timing is adjustable depending on the park directors. Refer to the official website.
Additional Fees: for shelter, campfire and camping site reservation.
Contact: +82 33 550 0000
Taebaeksan Mountain Snow Festival in Winter (Gangwondo)
Taebaeksan holds the annual Snow Festival, featuring large snow sculptures in downtown areas like Jungang-ro and Hwangji Pond. Pose alongside these snow statues, participate in snow activities, visit the igloo cafe and also the starlight festival. Admission is free, but additional fees apply for certain activities.
There you have it, 30 things you can try in Seoul that are completely free! With new things to try and places to visit, it’s time to plan for your next trip to Korea. Don’t forget to check out some of our travel deals on ShopBack for additional Cashback and savings from Booking.com and other travel merchants!
Any FREE lobangs that we missed? Leave them in the comments below!