Looking for some fun in and around the city? Any tips for rainy days? How to keep the kids busy during their holidays?
Seoul, and Korea in general, are packed with great, beautiful, new, and entertaining places so there is always something new to do. But if you are not fluent in Korean or are new in town, it may be tricky to get the proper information, find the right place and physically arrive with no problems.
TIP: Make sure to have the right address of the place where you are heading written in Korean. Bring the phone number too!
Whether you are a newcomer or a long-term resident, 10 Magazine with the help of the great website Kidsfuninseoul have put together this selection of family-friendly activities in and around Seoul. You may be surprised by the diversity of the selection but this is actually just a ‘shortlist’.
There are so many things you can do in this great city! From nature lovers, museum addicts, sports fans to the thrilling rides enthusiasts – there is something for everyone. This is why we think Seoul is the best place to live for families with children.
TIP: While traveling out of town, try to avoid long weekends and public holidays. Leave early in the morning if possible and plan your returns early afternoon or the next morning. If you’re returning to Seoul from out of town, expect double or even triple drive times.
Go ahead and pick up from our list of favourite places to discover or rediscover with family and friends.
Family Friendly Museums
Korea has plenty of great museums. Many of them are very interactive, equipped with the latest hi-tech gadgets, and provide all kinds of experiments that make it very attractive for kids and youngsters. To list just few of them…
Located right at the Western entrance of the Grand Children’s Park, this museum is a perfect place to spend a half-day with your little ones. Opened in 2013, the 4-story building is filled with all kinds of playgrounds and activities designed specifically for toddlers and preschoolers.
For families with older kids, the Gwacheon National Science Museum is a perfect match. From aerospace to biology, medical research and robotics, this enormous museum covers many of the questions your kids may have about the sciences and teaches them in an interactive and entertaining way. On a sunny day, don’t miss the outdoor display with life-sized dinosaurs and space rockets.
For those of you who are more adventurous, we strongly recommend a visit to the Jeongok Prehistory Museum. Located in a beautiful area near Paju, this modern museum is worth the visit, if only for its original and interesting architecture.
In the main building, designed as a huge stainless steel snake, you will learn all about the evolution of humans in the region of Jeongok. The outdoor area is also a perfect spot for exploration. Don’t miss the yearly Yeoncheon Jeongokri Paleolithic Festival taking place at the beginning of May.
The Gyeonggi Children’s Museum in Suwon, about 30 km south of Seoul, is a perfect fit for kids between 3 and 10 years old. With its impressive rolling ball musical machine located right at the entrance, water playground and a very popular giant climbing tree playground, the Gyeonggi Children’s Museum has definitely become a favourite.
Tired of the noise and hustle and bustle of the “never-sleeping” city? Finding some green and tranquil destinations where you can recharge your batteries could be just what you need.
Namhansanseong Fortress’ history dates back to Baekje period. In 672, a fortress called Jujangseong was built on the western edge of Mt. Namhansan to protect Silla from Tang Dynasty of China. The present fortifications were built during the Joseon period in the 17th century to protect the king against the Manchu Invasion of Korea.
Today Namhansanseong is a beautiful and pristine park as well as a Unesco World Heritage Site. It’s very easily accessible from Seoul by public transportation and is one of those places you can just head for a hike, beautiful nature and also the yummiest food. The hardest decision to make is choosing which of the many traditional restaurants around the village to try.
Dasan Earth Park located very next to the Dasan Heritage Site is another magical place just a 40-minute drive from the city centre where you can easily forget about the turmoil of Seoul.
This peaceful small village was the hometown of Dasan Jeong Yak-Yong (1762~1836)— a scholar from the late Joseon Dynasty who criticised corruption and tried to reform outdated institutions and conventions. Aside from the visit to Dasan’s birthplace and a small museum showing some writings and books, you’ll have a blast walking in the recently opened Dasan Earth Park.
The views of the Han river and surrounding mountains are breathtaking, and there are also some good restaurants where you can try some local specialities such as eel or mushrooms.
Exploring the Traditional
Let’s travel back in time to spend a weekend in a hanok (traditional Korean house), sleep on the heated floor and enjoy a traditional breakfast including rice, soup, kimchi and fish. Here are the places where we love to go when we are in a “back-to-the-roots” mood and craving for an authentic bowl of patbingsu (shaved-ice and sweet red bean dessert).
Dating back to 16th century when it was established as a one-clan community village. Most of its original structures remain untouched and preserve the architectural styles of the Joseon Dynasty, such as the Aristocratic tile-roofed residences and thatched-roof servants’ homes.
To feel the real erstwhile atmosphere, try to stay overnight. Wander around the narrow streets of the village, have a look at the village Confucian school and enjoy the Hahoe traditional mask dance drama.
Another jewel of traditional Korean architecture and lifestyle. Spend a day walking back in time. Jeonju Hanok Village, with its 700 traditional Korean houses, is one of the best-preserved, living traditional villages. Besides its beautiful hanoks, Jeonju is also famous for hanji paper and its delicious cuisine.
Best visited in spring when flowers are blooming. Conveniently located in the Everland resort vicinity, it combines beautiful themed gardens with traditional pagodas and sculptures. Serenity at its best.
Seoul is one of the most densely inhabited cities in the world with 10.4 million people – not counting satellite cities (source: Wikipedia). It ranks 15th by population and 5th by density! The green space percentage stands at just 2.30%—yet not accounting for another 24% occupied by mountains and forests (source: Seoul Statistics). Arguably a bit overwhelming at first glance, Seoul has a lot to offer when it comes to family parks for those who know where to go.
This became an instant classic for all Seoulites from its inception in 2005, and for good reason. Where else can you find a deer garden, a skate rink, sport fields, horse stables, ponds, a butterfly garden, picnic areas, four playgrounds, etc. for free and all in the same place?
Dream Forst is the place to go north of the city. Originally an amusement park, it was repurposed as a public park in 2009. Unique features include forest-covered hills, a man-made waterfall, a cultural heritage pavilion, the impressive-looking astronomical tower and a waterplay stream in summer. Breathtaking views of Bukhansan Mt. and a deer park add to the magic as well.
Not to be confused with Gwacheon’s Grand Park, is a large complex to keep you busy for an entire day of fun or even longer if you also stop by the Seoul Children’s Museum mentioned above. Besides an amusement park (under renovation) and the usual playgrounds, visitors should not miss its urban-size zoo including a mini-zoo section, the giant musical fountain and the water playground.
Seoul’s second largest park, Olympic Park can be enjoyed all year round. Established for the iconic ’88 Olympic Games, it stands just besides major sport halls still in use by sport clubs or for competition. The hills are beautiful especially in spring or in late autumn (check out the persimmon trees) and rabbits can be spotted hopping in the lush green areas. A visit to the Seoul Olympics Museum of Art and its outdoor sculpture park is highly recommended.
Kids all around the world tend to love animals and after extended periods in the metropolitan area will be very excited if you take them for a ride to see real cows, sheep and pigs. You might even be able to ride horses, ponies or just hop on a tractor!
Anseong Farmland has all it takes to let you experience a full day at the farm. Large meadows with cows, horse riding, ducks, chickens, and piggy houses are all available for fun. The visit starts with the sheep area where you can pet and feed adorable little lambs. In the warmer days, enjoy dining outdoors at the Deutsche Ville and even splash in the seasonal swimming pools.
Located in a natural valley, has a very unique charm that could be reminiscent of Tuscany. This family-style farm offers both traditional farming activities as well as hands-on experiences from feeding baby calves to making cheese and ice cream.
A few other attractions worth noting: llamas and ostriches, giant Trojan-style horses serving as playgrounds, and a rice paddy. Last but not least, don’t miss the impressive show of the shepherd dog guarding the herd of sheep. Unforgettable!
Going for a Bike Ride
When spring comes around and temperatures start to rise, taking the family out for a bike ride is always a great idea. However, one may find it hard to plan a safe route that is suitable for little ones, might need to rent equipment, or would simply like to get out of the big city. Plenty of options are available, whether in Seoul itself or in the surrounding area.
Hangang River Park, which was developed in the 80’s, incorporates biking lanes all along its 12 sections. With more than 80 km of dedicated bike-only paths from east to west on both river banks, it’s always easy to find a ride near your neighbourhood. Various rental options are available promoted by Seoul city – including 5 free and 12 paying rental stations.
Out of the city, Namhan (south) and Bukhan (north) River biking trails are fantastic options where you can bike upstream along the Han river in a pristine natural environment. On several portions you will ride on an old railroad route reassigned in 2008 for this public leisure purpose. These trails are beautiful and very convenient, all within a one hour trip from the city centre with several rental options available along the path.
For those more adventurous, the Four River project provides hundreds of extra biking kilometres along the major Korean rivers.
Where is the largest indoor theme park in the world? Which country held the world record for the steepest wooden roller coaster (77 degrees) when it opened in 2009? Where will the world’s biggest Legoland with a planned opening in 2017 be built?
Yes indeed, South Korea has a lot to offer for those looking for big fun rides.
The city’s largest recreation complex, offers dozens of attractions both in its Adventure (the world’s largest indoor park) and Magic Land (outdoor) sections. Very popular with more than 8 million visitors yearly, it is best to visit early and during the weekdays to avoid the crowds.
located in Yongin, is Korea’s largest amusement park, combining five themed zones including several zoological attractions, coasters, performances, a rose garden and much more. Seasonal festivals are scheduled throughout the year and you can also visit Caribbean Bay, the next-door water park.
An alternative option is Kidzania, which opened in 2010. A work-experience theme park where kids can try working in real-life jobs (they can choose among 90 professions) in a kid-size world.
At The Beach
With more than 3,000 islands surrounding the Korean peninsula and a coastline of 2,414 km, going to the beach will certainly be on the menu during your stay in the country. With the closest beach at about one hour distance, the coasts are easily accessible from Seoul either for a long day trip or for a weekend excursion.
A few local things to be aware of before preparing a trip to the sea:
While you may go anytime in the year, official beach opening days run from early July to late August. Out of this period, there is no life guard;
Popular beaches are usually packed with condos, convenience stores and local restaurants giving them a slightly more crowded aspect than what you may be dreaming of;
Koreans tend to go to the sea with more integral swimsuits than Westerners, however they shall not be offended if you or your daughter just wears a bikini.
Our preferred options with children include:
Gyeongpo beach near Gangreung is a popular favourite with its large white-sand beach bordered by pine trees and its bright azure sea.
Beyond sand-castle activities, children will love to take a pony ride on the beach too. Parents should definitely taste the local specialty, spicy raw fish soup (물회). Jeongdongjin beach further south is also beautiful and can be easily reached by express train.
The Sun Cruise resort hotel is the local attraction not to be missed for the whole family: the ship-looking building sits on top of a cliff with spectacular views!
The whole family will surely enjoy a ferry-ride to Sido, Sindo and Modo – the triplet of islands opposite Incheon—and be sure to visit Baemikkumi Garden, a surrealist sculpture exhibition right on the beach.
Right on Incheon island (near the airport), the Wangsan beach is a great getaway for half a day of relaxation and playing in the sand.
There are a few great back-to-nature destinations near Seoul that you should definitely not miss and would make a perfect same-day excursion for the whole family. Best times of the year for a visit are late spring when flowers are in full bloom or in autumn when foliage is turning to bright yellow and red colors.
A must-see for all flower lovers and photographers. The largest private garden in Korea, it has grown since its inception in 1996 and offers 20 gardens in various styles occupying more than 30,000 m2. While at its best from spring to late fall, you may also visit in winter when a lighting festival is held and the landscape is regularly covered with snow.
Jade Garden in Gangwon-do is another great alternative within less than 2-hour drive from Seoul. Nested in a beautiful valley, it offers more than 2,500 species of flowers and plants and is particularly beautiful when magnolias are in bloom (late April).
Featured in many popular Korean dramas (particularly Winter Sonata), Nami Island is generally regarded as a top romantic destination for young couples. However it is equally enjoyable for families with children too! Its beautiful scenery floating in the midst of the north Han river and surrounded by green forested mountains is worth a trip alone. Add the exotic boat ride or the amazing sequoia alley and you will have a perfect formula for a day trip with beautiful family pictures.
Hiking & Korean Temples
With children from elementary school and beyond, why not try to be a bit more adventurous by going out to a mountain and visiting beautiful Buddhist temples? Since mountains make up about two-thirds of South Korea, it is with good reason that hiking is one of the top leisure activities for Koreans. Time to walk the trail!
Start first with the closest options on any of the eight mountains surrounding Seoul itself. Bukhansan trails are easily accessible directly from the nearest subway stations. You may want to tour various sections of the Dullegil road or visit the spectacular Golden Buddha Temple.
South of the river, Gwanaksan has also a number of medium-to-advanced trail routes enjoyable for the whole family and takes you from temples to breathtaking panoramic viewpoints. You could also try climbing Achasan mountain, behind the Walkerhill hotel on the east.
A UNESCO-heritage site, Donggureung is one of the largest Royal tombs sites in the country. It is both beautiful and offers a serene background for a family walk or taking a picnic (yes it is permitted) in the forest.
Hundreds of temple visits are easily manageable from Seoul and provide a great family outing opportunity. Colourful, tranquil and picturesque, they provide some balance to the intensity of our urban lives. A visit to Cheongpyeong temple by boat across Soyang reservoir is, for example, the perfect antidote for those under high stress!
Of course there are hundreds of other amazing places we didn’t have space to write about. Don’t forget to follow the news of the Korea Tourism Organization about seasonal festivals and newly opened places, and of course, stay tuned on kidsfuninseoul.wordpress.com for all the updates!
Here is a directory of the locations listed above.
Seoul Children’s Museum Tue-Sun: 10am~6pm 216, Neungdong-ro, Gwangjin-gu, Seoul 서울특별시 광진구 능동로 216 (능동) Tel:02-6450-9500