Seoul is a city we'll never get tired of. ? The history, culture, and energy of its streets are completely irreplaceable, and whether you're visiting the palace of King Sejong or trying out some newly-pickled kimchi you're sure to have memories of your trip that'll last a lifetime! But visiting this city can be hard if you're on a budget - there's just so much to see and do!
If you want to start your Seoul adventure but are on a budget, or maybe you're just looking for new places to explore, then this list is definitely for you! We've cobbled together 11 hidden gems that are completely free to visit - no entrance fees or hidden charges - near some extremely amazing halal food, and we hope it'll help you out! ?
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Insadong has a long history of being the street lined with shops and galleries displaying and selling art, traditional handicraft shops, street market shops selling handmade Korean candy, street food, home decorations, and what not! Even if you're determined not to buy anything, it's worth it to make a weekend trip here as the streets come alive with a street market that's a cross between a flea market and an art festival! Buskers and performers take to the streets creating a lively atmosphere, and booths will be displaying all the trinkets and handcrafted goods you could dream of.
Nearest Subway Stations: Anguk Station (Line 3) Exit 6, Jonggak Station (Line 1) Exit 3
2. Jogyesa Temple
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Jogyesa is one of the most important temples for Korean Buddhism, hosting Buddhist events and processions year round. The temple's courtyard is decorated with brightly coloured lanterns in all shades of the rainbow, giving it a whimsical air that pairs well with the peaceful and tranquil atmosphere. Non-Buddhists are welcome to enter the premises and see features such as the colourful One Pillar Gate, Paradise Hall, and Ten Storey Stupa.
Opening hours: 24 hours but you are advised not to stay too late
Nearest Subway Stations: Jonggak Station (Line 1) Exit 2, Anguk Station (Line 3) Exit 6, Gwanghwamun Station (Line 5) Exit 2
Nearby Eatery: Osegyehyang
Osegyehyang serves vegan fare in a traditional Korean setting. You'll need to take off your shoes and sit on the floor at this eatery, making the experience even more authentic! One of the dishes we’d recommend is their Fried Dumpling (9,000 KRW). Dumplings are usually filled with meat but this one is made with starch noodles instead. Another dish that’s worth trying is their Grilled Soy Protein Stew (10,000 KRW). This is unlike your usual kimchi stew as the meat is substituted with soy protein and it’s an interesting take on the classic Korean dish.
Halal Status: Vegan restaurant (no meat or meat by-products used), and alcohol-free. As this restaurant is not halal-certified, we advise that you dine at your own discretion.
Address: 14-5, Insadong 12-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Opening hours: 11:30 AM to 3:30 PM, 5 PM to 9 PM daily
3. Seokchonhosu Lake/Songpa Naru Park
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If you're not planning to visit Lotte World but still want to get close to its magic, visit Seokchon Lake Park which is a lake that surrounds the amusement park! The lake was originally part of the Han River but has since been formed into the East and West Lakes with plenty of open spaces for visitors to relax, exercise, and just enjoy the peacefulness of the surroundings. You can spend some time just taking in the scenery (from late spring to autumn the trees surrounding the lake are full of beautiful blossoms!) or rent a paddle boat to glide across the water. If you're here during cherry blossom season in the spring you'll definitely want to find a seat somewhere around the water, as the trees will be full of beautiful pink and white blossoms!
Opening hours: 24 hours
Nearest Subway Stations: Jamsil Station (Line 2) Exit 2 or 3
Nearby Eatery: Yang Good BBQ
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Located in the fancy and stylish Gangnam district, Yang Good BBQ is an authentic halal Korean BBQ place, giving you the chance to enjoy deliciously tender and juicy lamb as well as other dishes! The lamb meat alone is definitely enough to fill you up, and you can choose from having it marinated in a Korean sweet sauce, or un-marinated to get that full savoury taste. If you’re still hungry after that, refresh your palate with some doenjang-jjigae (Fermented soybean paste soup) or mulnaengmyeon (Cold noodles) that will really hit the spot! ?
Halal Status: Not halal-certified, but uses only halal-certified meat and ingredients. Alcohol is served in the establishment (due to the Korean culture) but is not used in food preparation. As this restaurant is not halal-certified, we advise that you dine at your own discretion.
Address: 15 Nonhyeon-ro 95-gil, Yeoksam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Opening hours: 4 PM to 12 AM (Mon-Sat), closed on Sundays
4. Namdaemun Market
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When you think of shopping in Seoul, the busy neighbourhoods of Myeongdong, Hongdae, and Dongdaemun may immediately come to mind. But have you heard of Namdaemun Market, the oldest and largest traditional market in Seoul? Outdoor markets are fairly common, but the sheer size and history of Namdaemun are what sets it apart! Even if you’re not planning to buy anything, it’s enough to walk through and feel the busy, energetic atmosphere of stall owners, pedestrians, and customers all mingling together. You can find just about anything there from Korean-style metal tableware to cheap stationery, clothing, and accessories.
#HHWT Tip: While you're at Namdaemun, make sure to check out Sungnyemun Gate (also known as Namdaemun Gate) nearby, which is one of the country's top treasures!
Opening Hours: 9am - 6pm (some shops only get set up in the evening, lasting from 11pm - 4am the next day)
Nearest Subway Station: Seoul Station (Lines 1, 4, Airport) Exit 4, City Hall Station (Lines 1, 2) Exit 8
5. Namsan Park
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Namsan Park is the perfect spot for a little escape to nature within the city itself. It's the largest park in Seoul, with plenty of trees, plants, and wildlife along its many walking trails. The famous Namsan Seoul Tower is located within its grounds, but if you don't feel like paying the Tower's entrance fee we can promise that the view of the city from the park's peaks are just as gorgeous! If you're able to make it up there in time, we recommend packing a small meal and watching the beautiful sunrise or sunset against the Seoul skyline.
Opening Hours: 24 hours
Nearest Subway Station: Hoehyeon Station (Line 4) Exit 4
6. Namsangol Hanok Village
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Hanok villages consist of traditional Korean-style houses that have been conserved (and still lived in!) till today. There are various hanok villages in Seoul of which Bukchon Hanok Village is easily the most popular. But the other villages are no less interesting - and are usually less crowded too! Namsangol has 5 houses, a traditional garden, and a pavilion within its premises. Unlike other villages where the houses are used as residential units, only 1 house at Namsangol is open to the public with traditional furniture arranged inside! Traditional performances and experiences are also held within the premises,
April-Oct: 9am - 9pm
Nov-March: 9am - 8pm
Traditional garden: 24 hours
Nearest Subway Station: Chungmuro Station (Lines 3, 4) Exit 3, 4
Nearby Eateries: Kampungku & Busan Jib
Kampungku is a Muslim-owned restaurant that serves up both Malaysian and Korean fare. The range of dishes here is absolutely mouth-watering, and their Korean-style fried chicken is the perfect meal after a long day out. They also serve up Malaysian favourites including Nasi Lemak Ayam Goreng, Nasi Ayam, and Nasi Putih with Ayam Percik! As an added bonus, there is a prayer room located within the restaurant which makes it the perfect place to do your prayers once you’ve finished your meal and had a brief rest. The prayer room includes prayer mats and prayer garments so you can complete your prayers without worry.
Halal Status: Muslim-owned
Address: Jong-ro 20-gil, Namsandong 2(i)-ga, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Opening hours: 11 AM to 9 PM daily
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Busan Jib is a restaurant that uses halal-certified meat and ingredients to prepare authentic Korean dishes. Though alcohol is served in the restaurant (as part of the Korean culture), there is no alcohol used in preparing the food. We recommend trying the Korean Spicy Chicken Stew, Seafood Pancake, and Stir-fried Glass Noodles with Vegetables ? If you’re feeling homesick for some Southeast Asian cuisine, they even sell Asam Pedas and Nasi Goreng!
Halal Status: Not halal-certified, but uses only halal-certified meat and ingredients. Alcohol is sold separately in the establishment but is not used in food preparation. As this restaurant is not halal-certified, we advise that you dine at your own discretion.
Address: 11-4 Myeongdong 8-gil, Myeongdong 2(i)-ga, Jung-gu, 서울특별시 South Korea
Opening hours: 10 AM to 10 PM daily
7. War Memorial of Korea
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Located in the lively Itaewon area, this museum is both a reminder of Korean’s past wartime battles as well as a hopeful symbol for peace in the future. The courtyard is full of fighter jets, naval ships, and other decommissioned military equipment that will leave you stunned with their decades of history. Inside the museum itself, there are several halls that cover centuries of warfare through immersive and interactive exhibits, and even small workshops for both kids and adults. Our writer paid a visit there on her trip to Seoul, and it definitely leaves you with food for thought that will make you see your trip in a whole new light.
Opening Hours: 9.30am - 6pm
Nearest Subway Station: Samgakji Station (Line 6) Exits 1, 11 or 12, Namyeong Station (Line 1) Exit 1
8. National Museum
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The largest museum in Korea tells the story of Korea's history - from prehistoric times to the modern day. There are countless artefacts here across 6 floors, covering everything from prehistoric tools and weapons, to historical documents, to dozens of art pieces from across Asia. There are also some interactive exhibitions available within the museum premises, and a sprawling courtyard with a huge pond for all of your IG-worthy photos!
P.S. The view of Seoul from the museum is stunning - you won't need to head to Namsan Seoul Tower after this!
Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri: 10am - 6pm
Wed, Sat: 10am - 9pm
Sun, PH: 10am - 7pm
Nearest Subway Station: Ichon Station (Line 4) Exit 2 via underpass
9. Hangang River
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Also known as the 'Han River', Hangang runs through the city itself and is the locals' favourite hangout spot no matter what time of day. No matter where you are along the river, you're bound to find stunning new views you'll want to capture in a photo. For a relaxing change of pace, pack yourself a light lunch and sit by the river for a picnic of your own! Yeouido Hangang Park is one of the most popular parks along the river, hosting events and festivals year round. Make sure to check what's on before you go, and you may even be able to catch a free show!
Opening Hours: 24 hours
Nearest Subway Station: Various
10. Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain
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End your day in Seoul by watching the Rainbow Fountain at the Banpodaegyo Bridge. The fountain consists of 380 nozzles stretching over 500m on either side of the bridge, and is a musical extravaganza! The fountain is active during the day itself, but the addition of brightly coloured lights and dancing jets of water really take it to the next level.
Opening Hours: Active 5-8 times daily, depending on season
Nearest Subway Station: Express Bus Terminal Station (Lines 3, 7, 9) Exit 8-1
Nearby Eateries: EID Halal Korean Food, Makan Halal Restaurant, Hajj Korea Halal Food
EID Halal Korean Food is one of the few Halal-certified restaurants in the country, and is definitely worth a visit for a genuine taste of halal Korean cuisine that you can’t get anywhere else! It’s also located just a short walk from Itaewon Station and Seoul Central Mosque, so you can go complete your prayers once you’ve eaten your fill. Try out their samgyetang (Korean-style ginseng chicken soup), bulgogi beef, and galbitang (Beef short rib soup) all of which are served with a generous bowl of rice and an assortment of refillable banchan(side dishes) typical of any Korean restaurant!
Halal Status: Halal Certified (by Korea Muslim Federation), Mosque nearby
Address: 67, Usadan-ro 10-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday – 11.30am to 9.00pm. Closed on Monday
Credit: @zulfaabdullah on Instagram
Makan Halal Restaurant is another favourite amongst both locals and visitors! The restaurant was set up in 2015 and has remained one of our top recommendations for halal food in Seoul since then! We especially loved the dakdoritang (Korean-style braised chicken stew) and jjajangmyeon (Noodles with black bean sauce and seafood), but the restaurant also serves Korean-style fried chicken, bulgogi (Korean-style barbeque) rice bowls, and so much more.
Halal Status: Halal Certified (by Korea Muslim Federation), Mosque nearby
Address: 52, Usadan-ro 10 gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea 140-911
Opening Hours: Monday, Wednesday to Sunday – 10.30am to 10pm (Closed on Tuesday)
Credit: @smile_uk on Instagram
Located along the same street as Eid and Makan Halal, Hajj is another restaurant in Itaewon where you can get your halal Korean food fix! Stepping into this eatery will make you feel right at home and the dishes are very hearty too. The dishes here are prepared by Korean Muslim revert, Mdm Mariam, so you know the food is authentically Korean! One of the highly recommended dishes is the braised spicy chicken and spicy chicken stew. Don’t miss out on other authentic dishes too like their Beef Bulgogi, Seafood Pancake, tofu stew and more.
Halal status: Muslim-owned
Address: 39 Usadan-ro 10-gil, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Opening hours: 10am – 2pm daily
There are of course countless other free things to see and do in Seoul, but we think that these are definitely the most convenient as they're near some amazing halal restaurants! Let us know if you've been to any of them, or if you have any hidden gems you'd like to recommend to your fellow travellers! ?