I get it—sometimes you don’t want to travel somewhere around the world and be a tourist. Sometimes, you just want to step foot in a new region far from home and simply put, do regular things.
Explore popular attractions? Nope. Instead, you’d rather focus on immersive experiences like living, eating, and drinking like a local. Or how about partaking in everyday customs and traditions? Sometimes, even a leisurely stroll along a downtown stream or a hike up a popular mountain is all you need to unwind, have fun, and enjoy peace while visiting another country.
With that, let’s say you’ve booked your flight to Seoul, and instead of searching for your typical top things to do list, you’re in dire need of solid recommendations on how to explore South Korea’s capital and largest city like a local. Well, here’s my list of 3 non-touristy things to do in Seoul.
Eat Like at Local at Gwangjang Street Food Market
Sightseeing is one thing, but there’s nothing like arriving in Seoul and wining and dining like a local, especially at a street food market.
Street food markets are readily available across Seoul. They’re typically run by vendors and food trucks that can spruce up traditional, mouthwatering snacks and dishes in minutes, and are usually open into the wee hours of the night, meaning they’re the perfect after-hours hangout for workers and clubgoers.
At Gwangjang Market, Seoul’s oldest, largest, and arguably most popular street food market, you can eat everything from blood sausage, gimbap, tteokbokki rice rolls, and mungbean pancakes, to kimchi, yukhoe raw steak tartare, and live octopus.
It’s also not uncommon to see locals downing their food with Korean beer, such as Hite and Cass, and shots of Soju, the region’s national alcohol.
There are other markets and popular street food areas to try, too. Don’t forget to add Bamdokkaebi Night Market, Myeongdong Street Food Alley, Dongdaemun, and Namdaemun to your list.
Unwind at a Jjimjilbang, or Korea Bath House, in Seoul
Bath houses, or Jjimjilbangs, are also widespread throughout Seoul, and for good reason. They provide all the necessary tools to help guests relax, socialize comfortably, and feel beautiful. Wait a second, is it me or are those basic needs for just about everybody?
Korean bath houses can be equipped with same-sex spas, communal saunas, swimming pools, restaurants, movie rooms, game spaces, sleeping quarters, and offer a variety of services like massages, nail care, and facials.
There are many, like Dragon Hill Spa, that remain open 24 hours. The after-after spot once you’ve finished partying and eating at a street food market.
You may also want to check out LK Spa and Supsok Hangbang Land. And remember, entry fees vary depending on the time of day.
Spend Your Morning Hiking Seoul’s Namsan Mountain
Seoul is far from being flat, and if you’re an avid hiker, there are plenty of mountains, big and small, to choose from for panoramic scenic views and a little R & R in nature.
One of the most coveted and rather easygoing places to hike in Seoul is Namsan Park, a sprawling mountain located in the city center. It’s known for its beautiful trails, wildlife, plush gardens, cable car, and is also home to N Seoul Tower, a popular observatory resting at the top of the mountain.
Should you want a little bit more difficulty, Bukhansan National Park provides multiple peaks with trails of varying levels of difficulty, and the way up offers incredible moutainscape views and vantage points of Seoul in the distance.
You’ll find that a longstanding tradition in Korea is to hike a mountain on New Year’s Day and watch the sunrise. Of course, you can do that every day if you wanted, but what better place to do so than the land of morning calm? Please, go ahead and tell me!
In the End
So there you have it—3 non-touristy things to do in Seoul that are sure to have you feeling like a local. Hey, sometimes it is best to set aside some time to explore normal every day activities in another country. After all, if more people did it, that gives someone like me more time to explore all those tourist attractions you’ve decided to skip. Now that’s a win-win. Safe and happy travels!