Seoul, the capital of South Korea, always crowded and bustling, can be stifling. But that doesn’t mean the city is without charm – quite the contrary. As in any big city, there are overrated and underrated spots. Here are mine!

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The Most Overrated Places

With millions of visitors every year, I can say, without a doubt, that Seoul has plenty of fun, unique and exciting things to do. From palaces to shopping to hiking, everyone will find something to their liking, but as I’m not a big fan of crowded places, it can be quite difficult to navigate the capital’s streets. Here are the ones that, in my opinion, are too often highlighted to the detriment of other “unknown” places.

1. Common Ground (커먼그라운드)

Common Ground in Seoul

Address: 200 Achasan-ro, Gwangjin-gu, Seoul

Although the concept is original since this mall is made of shipping containers, I didn’t really understand the hype surrounding it. There aren’t many shops/restaurants, and they’re rather expensive. Sure, it makes for a nice outing but I wouldn’t shop here as there are many more affordable and pleasant places in Seoul.

2. Itaewon (이태원)

Itaewon neighborhood

If you’re looking for an authentic Korean experience, I wouldn’t go to Itaewon. This district is popular for two things: its nightlife and the number of foreigners who live there. When I travel to a country, I try to find places off the beaten track, but I also want to immerse myself and meet locals. So you might want to avoid this area if you want the same.
But Itaewon is ideal if you want a multicultural experience and to meet expats.

3. Hongdae (홍대)

Hongdae in Seoul
Photo by Karsten Torrefiel on Unsplash

Whether you know a little about South Korea or not, you’ve probably already seen many videos about Hongdae. Simply because the neighborhood is famous for its busking scene as well as its nightlife, especially for 20-somethings! True, there are plenty of dining options as well as some cool stores, but I think there are better alternatives in Seoul!

4. Myeongdong (명동)

Myeongdong by day in Seoul

Myeongdong is THE shopping and food district, so of course I love it, I mean, don’t get me wrong, but mostly because it’s where you’ll find and buy your favorite skincare products.
Otherwise, sorry to say but the place is way too crowded for me and I’ve found a few other neighborhoods better than Myeongdong for shopping.

5. Gangnam (강남)

Gangnam doll in Seoul

Frankly, there’s not much about Gangnam from my point of view. A business center, high-end designer boutiques, that’s how I’d describe it. The atmosphere is different and a little too posh for my taste, but of course it’s an ideal neighborhood if you have enough money.

6. Starfield COEX Mall (스타필드 코엑스몰)

Starfield Library

Address: 513 Yeongdong-daero, Gangnam-gu, Seoul

Overcrowded is the word that comes to mind when I think of this mall. Yes, the library is nice if that’s your only goal, but if you expect more, you should do yourself a favor and avoid it.
The mall is also a labyrinth where you feel like you’re walking through a poorly ventilated underground.

7. Ihwa Mural Village (이화동벽화마)

Ihwa mural village in Seoul

Address: 49 Naksan 4-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Once again, this is a nice place but overrated in my opinion as I get the impression there’s not much to see and most of the murals have actually disappeared. The project launched in 2006 to revitalize the village isn’t what it used to be I suppose, and I was a bit sad as I walked the streets looking for the paintings.

What really appealed to me was the view of the town and another place close to it. And I’m going to present it as one of the most underrated places in Seoul right now!

The Most Underrated Places

8. Naksan Park (낙산공원)

Address: 41 Naksan-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Right next to the Ihwa mural village is this nice spot, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I arrived here somewhat by chance, as I was simply enjoying the view of the city after finishing my tour. I was pleasantly surprised as it wasn’t very crowded and I was able to walk along the Seoul Wall.

The views over Seoul are also very lovely and are even more beautiful at night. So if you want to escape the crowds and enjoy the peace and quiet of nature, I recommend you take a stroll!

9. Sinchon, Ewha & Sungshin Universities Shopping District

Ewha shopping
Photo by Pond Juprasong on Unsplash

Address: 52 Ewhayeodae-gil, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul & Sungshin Women University Station (exit 1)

These are in fact my favorite addresses if you want to buy trendy, inexpensive clothes or accessories. The best bargains are always to be found close to the universities, whether in fashion or food, at least in Korea.

The neighborhoods also have lots of cute cafés and restaurants, and it’s not as crowded as Hongdae or Myeongdong, so now you know where to go for your next shopping spree!

10. Olympic Park (올림픽공원)

Olympic park in Seoul

Address: 424 Olympic-ro, Songpa-gu, Seoul

Built for the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, this park is also a symbol of world peace, with the gate of the same name that you can see in the photo above.

Museum, sculptures, fitness facilities (it wouldn’t be a Korean park if there weren’t any), the place is huge and perfect for relaxing away from the pollution and noise of the city.

11. SeMA or Seoul Museum of Art (서울시립미술관)

Rose sculpture in front of SeMA

Address: 61 Deoksugung-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul

Want to know more about Korean history or just interested in art and culture? You’ll love this museum. You don’t need to be bilingual in Korean, as everything is well explained in English too (rather rare in the country).

The big plus is that the museum is free, and is close to Deoksugung Palace as well as the delicious Namdaemun Market, so you can visit them all in one day. It’s also a great idea for a rainy-day activity!

12. Ttukseom Hangang Park (뚝섬한강공원)

Address: 139 Gangbyeonbuk-ro, Gwangjin-gu, Seoul

This park is part of Hangang Park and an extension of it. I loved lingering here because it’s quieter and less crowded than the “main” Yeouido Hangang Park. You can walk or cycle along the river and rest on the grass when you get too tired. Grab some snacks and/or ramen and enjoy the view.

13. Insa-dong (인사동)

Insa-dong neighborhood

This is probably one of the best streets to buy traditional souvenirs! It’s also the place to fill your stomach with delicious meals. Galleries and art have made this street famous, but don’t forget to visit the magnificent Jogyesa temple, just a few meters away.
Lose yourself in its many alleys and step into one of its fun cafés if you dare, such as the Ddong Cafe (literally the poo café, where everything is toilet-themed)!

If you want to learn more about the city’s history and discover its highlights, here’s a very interesting tour!

14. Haneul Park (하늘공원)

Address: 482 Sangam-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul

After climbing the 291 steps if you’ve chosen the difficult route, you’ll find yourself in this small or should I say large paradise of a park. Famous for its Silver Grass Festival (in October), I personally think the park is enjoyable all year round, offering superb views over Seoul and providing an oasis of rest in this dynamic city.

15. Inwangsan (인왕산)

Inwangsan mountain

One of the most beautiful hikes I’ve done in Seoul and one of my favorites! You’ll walk along the Seoul Wall until you reach the top and are rewarded with this view. Nothing beats nature’s breathtaking scenery, is there?

In conclusion

Seoul is the ideal place for first-time visitors, with its perfect blend of tradition and modernity. It also offers great hiking and culture, not to mention a fabulous gastronomic scene. It’s not my favorite city in the country, as there’s no beach, but its charm and lively atmosphere won’t leave you indifferent!

Want to discover Busan’s overrated and underrated spots? Here’s the link!

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10 Comments

  1. Beautiful places and great post! I’m familiar with Itaewon as I’ve watched a drama about it, but I’m most interested in SeMA! What a historic one to visit.

    1. I already know which one you’re talking about as I love this drama! And SeMA is for sure an unmissable while in Seoul. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment Leslie!

  2. My personal opinion is that the places you listed as overrated were big places that could afford to hype themselves up to attract business. The underrated ones were quieter and smaller so they didn’t get as much attention. I think it’s just a matter of publicity. Anyway, awesome post!

    1. This is also definitely true but I guess because there is too much hype around them now, it can be difficult to navigate these places and appreciate them. It is, of course, my own point of view and as I always say, the best is to go and make your own opinion.
      Thank you for your feedback and visit, Tyler!

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