South Korea is still a very un-traveled country. This can often make it hard for people to get around or know where to go. After living there for over a year I explored a lot of the country and have compiled a list of the best cities in South Korea that are worth visiting. The great thing about this list is that the last five cities can be reached in as little as an hour of each other. See – you can see more in this country than you thought!
Some countries capital cities are only good for flying into and then just getting out of. Not Seoul. Seoul is a destination in itself and you definitely want to make sure you give yourself ample time to explore as it is one of the largest cities in the world. There is so much to do here from morning until night – and throughout the night.
What is there to see in Seoul? Read my post: Ten Places to Visit in Seoul – a Mix of Urban & Traditional.
2. Jeonju Hanok Village
This is a historical town in Korea where the village is laid out in traditional fashion. The Hanok Village allows visitors to try many types of traditional Korean food, see different Korean arts, and even walk the old cobblestone streets wearing traditional Korean clothing – Hanboks. This is the place to be if you want to get a crash course on Korean culture – and pick up some cool souvenirs along the way.
3. Jeju Island
Jeju is actually an island and is a popular vacation spot for Koreans and Japanese. Koreans refer to it as the ‘Hawaii of Korea’…but take that with a pinch of kimchi. Nevertheless, it is an absolutely beautiful place with a dormant volcano that can be seen throughout the island. Jeju-Air offers cheap flights but be careful during holidays because flights book up in a nano-second!
Busan is the second largest city in South Korea (and my personal favourite) I am drawn to Busan because it is less of a concrete jungle than Seoul. Whether looking high or low, you will always find something to do in this coastal city. Busan is a fun and big city that also offers nature – from huge beaches to lush mountains. In Busan you have it all; city, nature, and culture.
To plan your perfect trip to Busan read my Quick Guide to the Best of Busan.
As you drive into Gyeongju you will won’t be able to help but notice massive green rolling hills. However, this is not some geographical anomaly, those are actually Tombs of past Kings. There is even one tomb you that you can go inside.
Gyeongju has so much history that all of its building are still made in the traditional Korean style – even Starbucks! Gyeongju used to be the capital of South Korea- but you wouldn’t know it now based on the size of this small city – which makes it the perfect size to explore.
One of the most fashionable cities in South Korea, Daegu is a city that is known for shopping. Head to the winding downtown streets to walk around checking out all the cute (and cheap) boutiques.
At night the city transforms as all of the shopping streets turn into a party as the bars open up. With so many bars located close together, it is ideal spot for bar hopping. Daegu also has a large student population – giving this city a young and carefree feel to it.
If you want some adventure you can also check out the fun high-ropes course.
In between Gyeongju and Busan, Ulsan is worth checking out for it’s beautiful parks. It’s a metropolitan city but the best part of Ulsan is actually the nature. With parks, beaches and mountains this city has a lot to explore. Just bear in mind that land wise, it is one (if not the) largest cities in South Korea. Ulsan is extremely spread out so depending on where you are staying some destinations can take hours to reach. Trust me – I lived here. Also – the KTX (Korean’s “bullet” train) is about 45 minutes from the city centre (whereas in Seoul, Busan, and Daegu it’s right in the city).
Pohang is not on the map for many people visiting South Korea. To be honest, it doesn’t look that different from many other South Korean cities. But I have always had a great time in Pohang and thought that it was worth putting on this list just for the fact that it has this awesome dragon temple (Daewonsa Temple – 대원사)!
This it the coolest temple that I have ever seen and it is definitely worth checking out. Since it is off the beaten path you will probably be the only one there. Since it is located near the ocean you can easily visit here during a beach day.
Wondering how to get to all of these amazing places? Read my blog post for a two week travel itinerary around South Korea.