12 Historic Places to see in South Korea - Oneday Korea Tour (2023)

Korea has been through a long history. Before introducing you the emblematic historic places, you should visit in Korea, let’s sum up the main periods of Korean History.

These 12 historic sites remain the vestiges of four main periods: the era of the Three Kingdoms, the era of unified Silla, the Goryeo dynasty, the Joseon Dynasty and the Korean War.

First comes the Three Kingdoms that reigned from 57 BCE to 668 CE. In the North of Korea and the largest part of the country was the Goguryeo Kingdom. The Central Kingdom was the Baekje Kingdom, and the Southern Kingdom was the Silla Kingdom. In 668, Silla Kingdom decided to reunify the country. Under the orders of King Munmu, Silla kingdom conquered the two other kingdoms. Then, Korea was again reunified.

From this unification came the Goryeo dynasty and the last dynasty Joseon dynasty (the most recent and popular one that everyone talks about). And finally, the last main event was the Korean War (1950-1953).

Here a timeline of Korea History starting from the Three Kingdoms era 🙂 Click on it to see better 🙂

Be ready for a trip back in time, you have memorized the main periods? Then, let’s go for the 12 historic places to see in South Korea.

On the traces of the Kings of Joseon Dynasty

Historic places to see in South Korea – Gyeongbokgung Palace

1. Gyeongbokgung palace (Seoul): The jewel of Korean history

Gyeongbokgung Palace is the main and largest of the five palaces in Seoul. Built in 1395 under King Taejo’s orders during the Joseon Dynasty, the palace is located in the center of Seoul and keeps his majesty. As a background, you can see the inner-city mountains giving a harmonious view between nature and the palace.

King Sejong (1418 – 1450) created the Korean alphabet, called Hangul, in this palace. This king is often referred as the most respected figures in Korean history due to its will to develop the country and its interests in science, law, art, and technology.

The palace is divided into different sections: the government official areas and the royal private areas (the King’s apartments, the Queen’s apartments, the King’s mother apartments, …). Gyeonghoeru and Hyangwonjeong are two outstanding pavilions to see giving a peaceful atmosphere to the palace.

Historic places to see in South Korea – Gyeonghoeru and Hyangwonjeong pavilions – Gyeongbokgung Palace

Changing of guards ceremony – Gyeongbokgung Palace

Every day (except Tuesday), two royal guard changing ceremonies are held in the palace at 10 am and 2pm. The ceremony represents the opening and closing of the palace gates, the guards ensuring the protection of the King during Joseon dynasty. They were placed at the entrance of main gates and inspected the entrance of visitors. There were day shifts and nights shifts and everytime the royal guards needed to shift to new guards, this ceremony was taking place. Very impressive to see it so don’t forget to attend it !

Visit Gyeongbokgung Palace with our Seoul City Tour!

2. Changdeokgung Palace (Seoul): the palace of illustrious virtue

Historic Places to see in South Korea – Changdeokdung Palace

Not far from Gyeongbokgung palace stands the second most popular palace in Seoul: Changdeokgung Palace. It has been built in 1405 as a secondary residence for kings and queens and has its charm.

Historic Places to see in South Korea – Huwon, the secret garden – Changdeokdung Palace

The most appreciated place is Huwon, the secret garden. It offersa beautiful natural scenery. Alarge pond Buyongji is in the middle of the garden.A cross-shaped roof and two supporting pillars rising from the pond make the design of Buyongjeong unique. It is said that King Jeongjo (1752 – 1800) and his courtiers often enjoyed fishing here. Joseon Kings relaxed, studied and even wrote poems in this garden to escape, for a few moments, the constraints of royalty.

You can feel just by walking in the alleys of the palace the harmony with nature, making this place a tranquil area compared to Gyeongbokgung palace, more majestic and built to represent the sovereign power of the King. Changdeokgung Palace is in the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1997.

Visit Changdeokgung Palace with our Seoul City Tour!

3. Bukchon Hanok Village (Seoul) : the northern village

After visiting palaces of Seoul, why not wandering around a traditional Korean village? Bukchon Hanok Village is located between the two main palaces : Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung. It gathers around 800 and 900 hanok (traditional Korean houses). Bukchon means “north village” in Korean due to its location. You need to go up a little but it is worth to visit 🙂

You can feel how was Korean life 600 years ago during the Joseon dynasty. The village was the residential area of high-ranking government officials, nobles, influential families. Nowadays, it is still a residential area so please stay quiet while visiting the village.

Historic places to see in South Korea – Bukchon Hanok Village

Walking in the streets, you can see from a distance the modern N Seoul Tower on Namsan mountain contrasting the traditional landscape you have with the village.

You can spend time in traditional tea houses, visit galleries or have a snack in charming cafes or restaurants.

Have a walk in Bukchon Hanok Village with our Seoul City Tour!

4. Jongmyo Shrine (Seoul): protector of Kings spirits

Historic places to see in South Korea – Jongmyo shrine

Jongmyo shrine houses the “spirit tablets” of Joseon kings and queens. The main shrine, Jeongjeon, built in 1395, preserves the spirits of the Joseon Kings and Queens who reigned on the country. The shrine gathers 49 spirit tablets of renowned regents, and other lesser kings’ spirit tablets are conserved in Yeongnyeongjeon, a smaller shrine. It is registered as UNESCO World Heritage.

By entering the complex, you will feel the solemn and mysterious atmosphere accentuating by the main empty path and two ponds at the entrance.

Every year, on the first Sunday of May, is held the ceremony of Jongmyo Daeje. It is the main memorial ceremony performed to pay tribute to the deceased royal regents of Joseon. During the Joseon dynasty, the kings traveled to Jongmyo shrine to participate in the royal procession and making lavish (food and drinks) in honor of their ancestors. Nowadays, the procession starts from Gwanghwamun to finish in Jongmyo Shrine. Many rituals are held within this day.

12 Historic Places to see in South Korea - Oneday Korea Tour (9)

Jongmyo Daeje ceremony

5. Suwon Hwaseong Fortress and Palace

Historic places to see in South Korea – Suwon Hwaseong Fortress

Suwon is a historical city located from an hour’s drive from the south of Seoul. The city is famous for its World Heritage-listed fortifications buildduring the Joseon dynasty by the King Jeongjo (1752 – 1800). He moved the capital Hanyang (actual Seoul) to Suwon in 1794. However, the king died soon after the construction of the fortress wall, and therefore Seoul regains its place as the Capital.

The King Jeongjo is seen as one of the most successful rulers of the Joseon dynasty because of his modern visions. Unfortunately, it was not the case for his family. The King Jeongjo succeeded to his grandfather (the King Yeongjo) as his father, the Crown Prince Sado, had a sad destiny (he was put to death by his father due to certain mental illness).

That is why the Hwaseong Fortress has been built: a tribute to the King Jeongjo’s filial piety towards his father. Likewise,the fortress was thereflection of the king power.But mostly, it was a national defense for the city. Along with this wall, you can notice that it is equipped with bastions, artillery towers, signal towers, secret doors and many other elements at the forefront of the military art of the time. It is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage.

Historic places to see in South Korea – Suwon Hwaseong Fortress

6. Jeonju: “Slow city.”

Historic Places to see in South Korea – Jeonju Hanok Village

Jeonju presents several historical sites to visit but the main ones are Jeonju Janok village and Gyeonggijeon shrine.

Jeonju Hanok Village welcomes over 800 Korean traditional Houses located in a district of narrow alleys. While the rest of the city has been industrialized, the Hanok village retains its historical charms and traditions of the past. It is especially well-known for its beautiful roof curves. It is the biggest intact Hanok village of the country.

Gyeonggijeon Shrine has been built in 1410 and holds the portrait of King Tae-jo , the founder and the first king of the Joseon dynasty. You can find the King’s and his wife’s mortuary tablets here. The existing structure was remodeled in 1614. Besides, inside Gyeonggijeon, the portraits of other successive kings such as Sun-jong , Cheol-jong, Yeong-jo and many others are on display.
The entrance of the shrine is surrounded by bamboos, giving a zen atmosphere to the place.

Historic places to see in South Korea – Gyeonggijeon shrine

Jeonju is also famous for its peaceful atmosphere (that’s why we callit the “slow city”) and for its traditional Korean food especially the bibimbap. Try it, sure you will like it!

Join our Jeonju Hanok Village Tour!

7. Haedong Yonggungsa Temple (Busan)

Historic Places to see in South Korea – Haedong Yonggungsan Temple

Haedong Yonggungsa is a unique temple located along the shoreline in the north-east of Busan! Built in 1376 during the Goryeo Dynasty by afamous Buddhist teacher Naong, this temple is home to numerous Buddhist treasures such as the Statue of the Great Goddess Buddha of Mercy in the Sea, Daeungjeon Sanctuary, Yongwangdang Shrine, and a three-storypagoda with four lions symbolizing joy, anger, sadness and happiness, all of them looking out over the sea. Visitors can go down the 108 steps towards the sea and take in the spectacular sceneryof the coastlines.

Discover Busan in two days!

Folk villages of the Joseon Dynasty

8. Andong Hahoe Folk Village

Historic places to see in Korea – Andong Hahoe Folk Village

Hahoe Village (Gyeongsangbuk-do province) is home to descendants of the Ryu clan of Pungsan and is well-known for its 230 traditional houses from the Joseon dynasty.The village preserves many cultural heritages by showing Korean traditional living cultures and ancient architectural styles.

Historic places to see in Korea – Andong Hahoe Folk Village

Hahoe Village (Ha means “water” and hoe means “turn around” so literally “Village Enveloped by Water”) gets its name from Nakdong River, which flows around the town’s perimeter. The village is located at the foothills of Hwasan Mountain, an offshoot of Taebaek Mountain that rises up to the east. Walking in the center of the village, you can see large tile-roofed houses with their unique charm.Andong Folk Village is also known for its traditional Korean mask dance.

Hahoe Village boasts beautiful scenic sights: the elegant Nakdong River flowing around the village, the magnificent Buyongdae Cliff, endlessly unfolding sandy beaches, and lush, ancient pine trees.

Visit Andong Hahoe Folk Village!

9. Naganeupseong Folk Village

Naganeupseong Folk Village is located in Jeollanam-do Province and offers unique travel back in time. The village is surrounded by 1,410m fortress wall built to protect the villagers of invaders. It may be surprising but abut 100 families still live in the village and you can see that the village is very well preserved. Likewise, the castle built during the Joseon Dynasty is still intact. You can have a splendid view on the village from the top level of the castle. Just by walking through the village, you will notice an important amount of straw-roof houses. You can participate in many cultural experiences such as silk-farming, hanji (traditional Korean paper) experience, or just attend traditional performances.

Historic Places to see in South Korea – Naganeupseong Folk Village

Go back to the era of the Three Kingdoms: Baekje and Silla Kingdoms

10. Baekje Historic Areas in Gongju and Buyeo

You can see heritage and relics from the Baekje Kingdom in three cities in the actual Chungcheongnamdo province: Buyeo, Gongju, and Iksan. These sites will make you travel back in time during the period of the Three Kingdoms but especially in the Baekje Kingdom. The sites testify of the culture and art of Baekje Kingdom.

Gongju is home of the Gongsanseong Fortress and the Songsan-ri royal tombs. This fortress is about 2.5km long and 110 m high. The best spots of the fortress are the two pavilions Manharu and Yeonji that give a beautiful view of the Geumgang River. The Songsan-ri royal tombs contain the seven graves of kings during Baekje Kingdom (when Gongju was the capital of the Kingdom). The most popular tomb is the one of King Muryeong (462 – 523) and his wife. It gathers around 2,900 artifacts, most of them are displayed in the National Gongju Museum. You can’t enter the tombs, but it is still a nice walk to see.

Historic places to see in South Korea – Baekje Historic Areas – Gongju

Buyeo is a 30-minute drive from Gongju, it is the city that gathers the most of relics from the Baekje Kingdom. You can see the Busosanseong Fortress located on covers the forested mount of Buso. The fortress has a long history. Walking along the fortress, you will arrive at Samchung-sa temple devoting to three Baekje court officials: Seongchung, Heungsu, and Gyebaek. Furthermore, the Jeongnimsa temple and its five-story pagoda show the unique architecture during the Baekje Kingdom. They are said to be the most representative monuments of the Baekje era. Buyeo also has its royal tombs: Neungsan-ri tombs of several Kings when Buyeo was the capital of the Kingdom (called Sabi at this period).

Historic Places to see in South Korea – Baekje historical Areas – Buyeo

Historic Places to see in South Korea – Baekje historical Areas – Buyeo

As the other experience, the city reproduced a historical theme park, called Baekje Cultural Land, back to the Baekje Kingdom with palacesand village to make people feel how was life during this era.

If you visit Buyeo, Seodong Park and Gungnamji Pond are great places to relax. The sculpture park offers rest areas, an observatory, fishing grounds and the beautiful Gungnamji Pond. The park overflows with lotus flowers in summer.

11. Gyeongju: the museum without walls

Historic Places to see in South Korea – Bulguksa Temple

Gyeongju is an archaeological land. The city preserves ancient relics of Korea of Silla Kingdom! Because of its historical and cultural treasures, the UNESCO decided to name the entire city as a world cultural heritage.

One of the main emblematic places isBulguksa Temple. After several renovations due to past war damages, the temple is still majestic. The Buddhist temple is divided into three areas representing the land of Buddha. The two pagodas Seokgatap and Dabotap are a must-see architectures showing the fine artwork during the Silla Kingdom.

Seokguram Grotto is designated as the 24thnational UNESCO treasure heritage. Based on the Tohamsan mountain, this artificial granite cave enshrines an impressive Buddha statue looking on the horizon. It is a mysterious place. This masterpiece is encircled by a beautiful carving wall.

As another emblematic historic places you should see in Gyeongju isDonggung Palace. The palace served as the living quarters of the crown prince of Silla. Anapji Pond is a pleasure garden where the regents liked to rest. Along with itsAnapji Pond, the palace is considered Gyeongju’s most attractive night scene. Here an example 😉

Historic Places to see in South Korea – Anapji Pond

The vestiges of Korean War

12. DMZ

Historic Places to see in South Korea – DMZ

The DMZ was created on July 27, 1953, when the Armistice Agreement was signed during the Korean War (1950 – 1953). It divides the Korean peninsula and resulted from the separation of the country giving birth to the famous 2-divided nations: South Korea and North Korea. Along this demarcation line have been found a lot of vestiges from the Korean War. The most popular one are in Paju and the closest to Seoul.

The 3rd infiltration tunnel is one of them. Since today, four tunnels have been found by South Korea. The3rdinfiltration tunnelis the closest one from Seoul and the longest one. Discovered in 1978, it goes through 435 meters of the demarcation line and ends at Panmunjeom village. Built for invasion by North Korea, the tunnel is wide enough toallow the passage of 2 people.

Furthermore, the Dora Observatory allows you to catch a brief glimpse of North Korea. Using binoculars, you can see the large field where nature reigns. If there is no fog, you can see the propaganda village and farmland of North Korea.

Join our Half day DMZ Tour!

From now on, you know all the best historic places to see in Korea! Contact us if you need more information about our tours! We will create the tours of your dreams 🙂

Read next:Your 10 Days Trip in Korea with Oneday Korea!

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12 Historic Places to see in South Korea - Oneday Korea Tour? ›

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Build in 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace is also known as the Northern Palace because it is located on the northside of Seoul. Among the five palaces in the city, Gyeongbokgun is the largest and arguably the most beautiful one.

Where should I go for the first time in South Korea? ›

Start your South Korea trip in Seoul
  • Explore Seoul with a local. Sunrise over traditional shop houses in Seoul. ...
  • Seoul's food and drink. Street food in Seoul. ...
  • Tour the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) ...
  • Gyeongju's historical highlights. ...
  • Jagalchi Fish Market. ...
  • Gamcheon culture village. ...
  • Jeju Island. ...
  • Hiking on Jeju Island.

What historical place do you know in South Korea? ›

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Build in 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace is also known as the Northern Palace because it is located on the northside of Seoul. Among the five palaces in the city, Gyeongbokgun is the largest and arguably the most beautiful one.

How much money should I take to Korea for 2 weeks? ›

This depends on your style of travel, but a mid-range budget for a solo traveler spending 10 days in South Korea would be about $65USD per day. If you're willing to stay in cheap hostels, stick to more free activities in Seoul, and eat local foods, then you could get it down to maybe $40USD per day.

Which is the most beautiful city in South Korea? ›

Busan: A Vibrant Coastal City Famous for Surfing and Local Food. Busan is a bustling port city located on the southeastern coast of South Korea, renowned for its stunning beaches, delicious seafood, and vibrant nightlife.

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