Our top 10 places to visit in South Korea (with kids)


We’ve lived in South Korea just shy of four years and have been on countless adventures (apparently I have 80 posts about Korea on this blog…) People always ask our favorite places to visit. Here is our top 10. Keep in mind that our entire time in South Korea, Clarissa has been five and under so a couple with no kids or teenagers may have a different list.

Please note that I am putting these in order based on location so that you could feasibly plan a trip from this list. Tim and I do think that if you did a trip to South Korea, this would give you a decent idea of cultural things though.


There will be a post at some point about our favorite things in Seoul itself. But for now, these are our favorite places in South Korea that just happen to be in Seoul.

There are two neighborhoods that we really like and for different reasons. Hongdae (Hongik University Station exit 6) is very artsy and modern. You can buy lots of cute jewelry, art supplies, and gundam here in modern stores. On a visit there this fall, I got my ears pierced and we visited a bunny cafe.

My other favorite neighborhood is Insadong (Anguk Station or Junggak Station). It is another artsy area but very different. Here you can buy traditional pottery, silk scarves, wall paintings, and plenty of other Korean knick knacks. Some are in carts that only accept won and others are in stores that will take your credit card. While visiting this area, you can also let fish nibble the dead skin on your feet or visit a temple.

There are several different palaces in Seoul. Our favorite (and close to Insadong) is Gyeongbokgung Palace (Gyeongbokgung Station or Anguk Station). The palace grounds are huge and lovely. They even have a changing of the guard ceremony several times per day. The entrance fee is 3,000 won (less than $3 USD). If you want a different experience and to get in free, there are several shops nearby that will let you rent a traditional hanbok and walk around a few hours looking like a Korean princess.

Another cool place is visit is Olympic Park (Olympic Park Station or Mongchontoseong Station). You get to see all four seasons at this park so you may want to go more than once. There are several miles of walking trails, cool trees, monuments and sculptures, flags form all over the world, buildings from the Seoul Olympics in 1988, and even some playgrounds for the kids. If you get hungry or want to walk around in some air conditioning Lotte World Mall (didn’t make our top 10 but we do like it) is nearby and has plenty of options for eating, shopping, and a decent aquarium.

Korea has a large Buddhist population so there are temples all over the place. Many of them look similar and have architecture much like the palaces you may also visit. But, if you are going to visit a temple while visiting Seoul, we recommend Bongeunsa Temple (Bongeunsa Temple Station or Samseong Station). It is one of the largest temples that we have seen as it is a complex instead of just one building. It is pretty much across the street from Coex Mall (again not our top 10 but we like it) which also has some shopping, good food, and a decent aquarium.

Suwon and surrounding area

Clarissa refers to Hwaseong Fortress as the Great Wall of Korea. We were impressed that she did the three mile plus hike. There are several places to rest as you walk. I wouldn’t bring a stroller as you need to go up several flights of stairs, but a carrier would be fine. It isn’t a dangerous hike at all. There is a palace inside the wall, but it is not better than Gyeongbokgung that is listed above. There are several monuments and bells. There is a place to learn archery at certain times of day. You can get snacks at a convenience store. It is very pretty during certain times of year. At certain places on the wall you can see most of Suwon.

I went to several different folk villages in Korea and the best one is the Korean Folk Village in Yongin. We have been twice. There are several different houses and shops set up so that you can see how peasants and rich people and governors have lived in Korea over the years. Several times per day there are shows with horses, acrobats, or folk dancers. I grew up going to Jamestown and this was the closest thing I experienced to this. There is also a great Folk Museum that has exhibits from many countries around the world to see how indigenous peoples live. A small amusement park is attached. There is admission for the folk village and museum, and you can also add on rides at the amusement park or different experiences like pottery making for an additional cost. There is plenty of Korean food available for purchase as well.

On our first trip to the Folk Village, we went to Everland the next day. Everland is an amusement park with the same caliber rides as a Busch Gardens. There are different countries represented as well as food. Clarissa was only 2.5 so she was too small for all of the rides except Thomas the Train. But the real reason that we went there was the zoo! Admission to Everland will cover the zoo and the rides. But the zoo alone is worth the admission. It is the best zoo in South Korea because of the size and quality of the exhibits. It is also the only zoo in Korea that has pandas. There is a safari ride that takes you over land and water to see animals close up. You can also pay extra for a pony or camel ride.

If Clarissa was making this list, she would add Anseong Farmland to the Suwon and surrounding area. However, this would not be easily accessible by public transportation so it would really only be worth going if you already live in Korea and are planning to be in the Pyeongtaek area (Camp Humphreys or Osan).


People head to Busan for the beach. The water in South Korea is pretty cold in my opinion, but Busan has some very pretty beaches. Our favorite is Haeundae Beach. It is a very nice beach, but also very crowded during tourist season (July and August). You can see some pretty parks nearby or a sand castle festival in May. I like the contrast of the water with the tall buildings. There is an aquarium right on the beach, but you can skip it unless you have really young kids who need something to do.

Another cool temple is check out is Haedong Yonggungsa. You can take a bus near Haeundae Beach or you can take a taxi. It is a beautiful temple, on the side of a mountain and right on the water. There are plenty of statues and shrines inside it to see. We happened to go the week of Buddha’s birthday so it had special lanterns.

If you’re going to be in Busan and are looking for a fun park to go to with your kids, I would recommend Busan Citizen’s Park. There are so many beautiful plants and different playgrounds. Your kids will love it! It’s not super easy to get to with public transportation, so again, this would be great if you have a car.

Seoul: Insadong and Museums 


We started our Wednesday morning at the largest Kyobo bookstore in Seoul. They had a very large English section and a reading area for kids complete with a world map. It was mostly college textbooks and children’s books with a large section of books perfect for homeschooling.

Next we headed to Insadong.

We walked through Tapgol Park to see some architecture.

Insadong is my favorite place to shop in Seoul. There are street vendors and shops all over the place selling traditional Korean items and crafts. I found something for everyone on my Christmas list.

We had lunch at Cafe Hollywood on one of the side streets. It is an Asian fusion restaurant so they have traditional Korean food but they also have things like pizza and French fries. They have a Cafe on the first floor and a restaurant on the second. The fresh squeezed juices are amazing.

Clarissa’s favorite part of Insadong was Dr Fish. For 9,000 won, you put your feet in the water and little fish come and eat the dead skin off your feet. At first, she was afraid because it tickled. But by the end, she let them nibble her hand. Apparently my feet are the most gross, because the fish seemed to like me best…

After Insadong, we took the subway to Children’s Grand Park to see the Seoul Children’s Museum. Admission costs 4,000 won per person but children under 3 are free. It was well worth the cost. There were 4 floors of exhibits that all of us enjoyed. You could pretend to be blind and get on the subway, learn about animals or space, play dress up, build a house, or play with water. Most exhibits were explained in both Hangul and English. If we lived here, we would buy a membership. I think the museum is geared towards kids second grade and under.

On Thursday we headed to the Gwacheon National Science Museum. It costs 4,000 won for adults and 3,000 won for kids age 7-13 (Korean age). Honestly, we were not impressed with the museum itself. Most exhibits were in Hangul only. Several were broken or closed, including the dinosaurs. The space section was pretty good.

There were also a few dinosaurs outside.

There was a planetarium and a space world you could pay extra for, but Clarissa wasn’t old enough. She did really enjoy the insectarium though.

They had an exhibit at the end that showed how people could eat insects that we thought was funny.

Clarissa’s first girls weekend 


Recently a friend of mine was telling me about an appointment that she had in Seoul.  She would have to stay in a hotel overnight and her husband would not be able to go with her.  I thought it might be fun to have a girls trip.  So I invited myself and Clarissa to go with her.

We had to reschedule because William got sick.  But it worked out better because we added a day to the trip and ended up being there for the Thanksgiving price instead of normal price. Score.

We left a little later than expected Thursday.  But traffic wasn’t bad until we got to Seoul. The kids had so many snacks on the way that I was surprised that they were hungry when we got to Dragon Hill Lodge. We unpacked a little and then headed to Itaewon for dinner.

We ate at Vatos Tacos. The server asked if we wanted high chairs and I initially said no. But the chairs were bar stools, so we ended up needing them anyway. They brought out five massive hard tortillas and some salsa. Clarissa said she wanted chips, so I thought she would be happy with that. But she was hungry so we ordered french fries. William had a quesadilla, but they browned the top and Clarissa thought it was pizza, so she helped herself to that as well. I had the chimmichurro chicken tacos. It wasn’t listed as spicy, but I thought it was. I prefer hard tacos, so it wasn’t my favorite meal.

Then, we jumped on the subway to Insadong. Insadong is fun because once you round the corner and turn right, you get to a long line of carts selling artsy and Korean things. So it was a great place to find Christmas presents. Clarissa also found an apron she “needed” for making cookies.

I thought there was an ice cream shop on the way back to the subway. But I was wrong. So William got a donut at Dunkin Donuts and Clarissa was still adamant that she wanted ice cream. We headed back to Itaweon for Baskin Robins. On the way back to base, April stopped at Lush. They have some really cool bath things in there. She bought playdoh bath soap for the kids.

Friday morning was her appointment. We had breakfast at the buffet downstairs, which was excellent. It was only $10.95 for adults and the kids were free. I had never eaten at Greenstreet for breakfast, so I as plesantly surprised.

The kids and I headed to the playground while April went to her appointment. They had a great time. There are two playgrounds at the hotel. One is supposed to be for toddlers and the other for big kids. They ended up using both. I didn’t know that the dinosaurs could move. But during the course of our visit, they were hungry, ate grass, and moved to the little house so they could eat lunch at the table.

After a quick snack from the Shopette, we headed to Children’s Grand Park. Clarissa was very excited to see a “real” Tayo bus. We got to climb into and “drive” Gani and Lani. I may or may not have been more excited than she was to drive the bus…

Children’s Grand Park is huge! We passed a playground on the way to the zoo but convinced the kids that it would have to wait. The zoo was pretty good once you get over the size of the cages. I have never seen as many species of cat in one zoo in my life. They seriously had ten different cages for cats. The poor elephant lives by himself. But there are plenty of monkeys. The kids loved it. They even fed the deer. 

We wanted to go to the children’s museum next but it was already 4:00 and they close at 5 on the other side of the park. So we walked by Snow White’s Castle. It was a restaurant. We didn’t eat there because we heard “Let it go” while we were still outside and Clarissa had to dance.

Clarissa and William really wanted pizza and ice cream for dinner so we decided to leave then and go back to Itaewon to beat the dinner rush. We had to walk by that playground on the way out and ended up staying for another hour. The kids loved the playground but I really don’t recommend it for preschoolers. It would be great for elementary aged kids though. And it was an accessible playground so you could go up the play structure in a wheelchair, they had special swings, etc. At one point, Clarissa and William left the playground (we followed them) to wander around the park themselves. Clarissa kept telling me that she wanted to be “alone with William.”

They both fell asleep on the subway back to Itaewon. April and I were pretty excited about this so that we could have a quiet dinner. But then we realized that all of the restaurants were on the second or third floor and required stairs while the kids were asleep in the strollers. Plus it was raining. We just decided to go back to Dragon Hill for dinner.

Clarissa woke up during the walk and remembered the promise of pizza and ice cream.  We ended up at Pizza Hut for dinner. By the time our pizza was ready, she decided that she just wanted ice cream but I told her she had to have at least one slice of pizza first. She remembers everything. So after her first slice of pizza she decided that she was ready for her ice cream, which she only ate half of.

Back in the room, I brought purple nail polish for Clarissa’s first girls weekend. I thought it would be fun to introduce her to something girly. She sat kind of patiently while I painted both of her hands. Then when she realized that she needed to be still even longer for her nails to dry, she demanded that I take the nail polish off. It was pretty for two minutes anyway. William woke up during the nail polish so they got to play a little while before bed.

On Saturday, the kids slept way later than I expected them to. But April and I really enjoyed sitting in bed chatting. We drove to Osan for lunch. I wanted to introduce her to Sawatdee, but there was construction and it had moved. It took a while to find it, but this guy passing out flyers for his Indian restaurant helped us find it. Clarissa and William enjoyed the fish tank. William loved the spring rolls. Clarissa was all about the rice. April and I enjoyed our yummy Thai dishes as well.

We then headed to the PX for some shopping. I found the baby gloves that I like for Clarissa and she insisted on a pink pair of mittens. April and I both found several clothing items we liked. Clarissa and William stayed in the cart together and did various things like hang shirts off the side for “Christmas” and “shoot the lights” with their clothes hangers. When April tried on her boots, Clarissa wanted to get out of the cart. She kept trying on adult boots and saying “I’m a cowboy.”

After our shopping adventure, they had earned a trip to the playplace. And we of course got ice cream before we headed home. Both kids fell asleep rather quickly on the car ride home so April and I enjoyed some girl time on the way back where there was random heavy traffic. Who knew Dajeon was popular at 8pm on a Saturday night?

Seoul Week


This was our longest trip to Seoul so far, and I think also our best. We took a taxi to the train station, which we’ve never done. We had too much stuff to take the bus and the subway this time, plus it was raining. I think this made it a better trip for everyone. Plus it started Clarissa saying, “taxi” all week.

I made a new friend at Dragon Hill who was headed to Daegu on Sunday. We had dinner with one of Tim’s work friends at Green Street (one of the restaraunts at Dragon Hill Lodge).

Because Tim had class all week and didn’t really want me exploring outside of the base, I thought that Clarissa and I would have a lot of down time. But that wasn’t the case.

On Monday, Clarissa and I went to the library just to see when story time was and we happened to walk in on a baby story time where we made friends. We had lunch with them and made plans for the next day. Monday was Tim’s birthday so we went to our favorite Thai restaraunt, Buddah’s Belly, for dinner with a couple of friends from his class. We then had the best gelato ever before coming home.

Tuesday, Clarissa slept through the baby play group that we were invited to. But we met up with our new friends afterward and headed to iPark for lunch. iPark is like a huge mall attached to emart. They had a Tayo that sang the show’s theme song and moved for 1,000 won (about $1). So while everyone else went to Daiso, Clarissa and I did that.

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She was super cute and loved it! Then, I tried to put her on a different vehicle, but she flipped out when another child got on Tayo. The mother didn’t seem to care and took her child off Tayo (not that I wanted her to). Because I was planning to let her ride the other vehicle, I just let her ride Tayo again. She definitely threw a fit when our friends were ready to leave. But she stopped because one of those friends happened to buy her Tayo stickers while in Daiso!

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We then went to Burger King for lunch where Clarissa ate an entire serving of french fries by herself. Finally, we went to PlayTime which is a huge play area. They had two. One for babies and one for older kids. The baby one was quite full, so we went to the older child area. It cost 10,000 won (about $10) for two hours, which I thought was kind of expensive. But Clarissa had a great time!

First, we had to take off our shoes. Then, we went to the bathroom to change her diaper. They had shower shoes there and Clarissa loved wearing them. She walked on a huge floor piano that lit up and made music. Then, we went to the ball pit, where she stayedfor at least a half hour.

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They had a teddy bear that you could jump on that took up an entire room. She was kind of afraid of that, but the babies we were with loved it! We went to the sand room for a bit. She didn’t really know what to do at first. They had rainboots to wear and she loved those. She enjoyed putting sand in a dump truck. She put sand in a cup and then tried to drink it. She didn’t like that her mouth was messy at that point. But once I cleaned her off she was happy again. She definitely didn’t want to leave when our time was up.

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We went out to dinner with one of my new friends, her husband, and six month old son. It was a Korean barbecue place. They called it beef and leaf, which makes sense since you put the cooked meat on lettuce to eat it. We had waffle and ice cream for dessert before heading back to Dragon Hill Lodge.

On Wednesday, Clarissa woke up a little earlier than I expected so we went to one of the playgrounds at the Lodge. She was bored with the baby playground but wasn’t really tall enough to climb most things on the big kid playground. So she mostly had fun running around.

Then we headed to our friend’s apartment. Clarissa had a great time at their playground. They must have a preschool there, because I think it was recess! There were like 20 three year olds at the same time. But Clarissa did a great job of standing in line and waiting her turn for the slide. We had pizza for lunch, which Clarissa loved. But I think her favorite part was the cat. She said, “Itty tat” the rest of the week.

Wednesday night we headed back to iPark for dinner. We ended up at a Japaneese place called Teriyaki that had incredible (and cheap) sushi. I was smart and went to Burger King before and bought Clarissa some fries to eat so she wouldn’t go hungry. Then the plan was to go to the electronics market there. Apparently it closes at 8 (which is odd because it seems like malls and things are open late here), and since it was 8:30 we were out of luck.

On Thursday, I let Clarissa sleep in. Then, we Skyped my parents and headed to the playground at the elementary school on post. It was the best school playground I have ever seen! Clarissa had a great time climbing and going down the slide. She definitely has no fear! She even went on the swings. For lunch, I gave her a choice and she definitely wanted pizza.

Thursday night we went back to iPark for the electronics market. Our friend didn’t find what he was looking for so the next step was to go to a different market, but Clarissa was getting fussy since it was late, so she went to Baskin Robins for dinner and got an Apple Fruit Blast while the men kept shopping. That seemed to give her some energy so we went to a city park along the way home.

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Friday morning, Clarissa and I went swimming in the Lodge pool. The rule is that you have to shower first and she is generally afraid of showers so far. But when I explained that she had to take a shower to go in the pool, she eventually complied. She had a great time in the pool and didn’t want to leave. She had a blast in the locker room too! She was not happy when  we were finally headed to lunch, but the pizza made it better!

Friday evening we went to 63 City. We had dinner at a place called Shabu Shabu. (It means swish, swish). There is a burner in front of each person. They give you a small pot with water and then some raw vegetables and meat. Once the water starts boiling, you add the vegetables. You can start eating them before you add the meat, or you can wait. Clarissa wasn’t interested and so we just ordered her some rice.

63 City is a huge building that has an aquarium, wax museum, art museum, and an observatory on the 63rd floor where you can see most of Seoul. We went to the aquarium first. Clarissa loved it! I think her favorite were the sea lions.

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It was about 7:30 when we went so the seals and were sleeping. The penguins were fun though. At the end, she chose a shark stuffed animal that was almost as big as her.

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We all enjoyed the views from the top floor. They had viewers that you could put a coin in to see close up. Clarissa kept pointing at it and so this young guy (maybe 20) who was on a date kept going through his pockets. His date was like, “what are you doing?” and he kept saying, “eggi” (baby). He definitely put change in the view finder so that Clarissa could see out! She was definitely popular and got her picture taken several times. Someone even gave her a lolipop.

It was getting late so we decided to take a taxi back to post. Clarissa was thrilled. “Taxi” is her new favorite word apparently.

On Saturday we were going to head to some palaces, but Clarissa was fussy from a long week of going to bed late so we were going to try her nap first. We had Mexican for lunch (because Tim loves me) and then thought for sure she would sleep early. Wrong. We were about to give up on the nap when she fell asleep. The palaces close at 5 so that didn’t end up happening this trip.

We headed istead to Insadong. Of course it started raining once we got there. But we still had a great time. I bought a new purse for 8,000 won (almost $8). They have a lot of cultural and crafty things in Insadong so I think that it would be a great place to go when it is time to go Christmas shopping.

We headed to a Buddhist Temple. We actually went there three years ago, but they were having a service of some kind so we didn’t get close. They were having a prayer service of some kind this time as well. So we just explored the outside, which was pretty neat. Tim felt some weird spiritual things there. But Clarissa and I mostly just walked around.

We ended up at a place called Hollywood for dinner. It was basically a traditional Asian restaraunt. Clarissa enjoyed the rice cake appetizers and we enjoyed our food as well. We had Dunkin Donuts for dessert and then saw a Daiso that was five stories. My friends had planned to go this week but it didn’t work out, so we went to check it out. I really don’t think it was that big. We have a two story one near us that I think is actually bigger.

Sunday we headed home. Clarissa was determined to hold her shark for the entire trip, which made holding her interesting since the shark is so large. But she was pretty happy for most of the trip.