Type in Seoul, South Korea to Google and you will be bombarded with list upon list of all the exciting things to do in the city. After living here for a year, I could give you a list of 100 things to do in this modern Asian city, but that would just be rewording so many of the same articles already out there.
This list is a bit different. This list is all about how to experience Seoul actively.
I want you to get adventurous while in Seoul! Of course I want you to experience all of the must see things in Seoul, like exploring historic palaces, having a cuddly coffee date at a Cat Cafe, and exploring the quirky museums. I want you to eat, and eat and eat (I have plenty of resources on eating in Korea just head here, and here, and here). What I really want you to do is see Seoul in a different way.
I want you to step out of your comfort zone a bit and experience the culture of Korea through one of these active adventures.
Head for the Hills aka Go on a Hike
I have always had an inner struggle deciding if I wanted to live in the mountains or in a city. Moving to Seoul took care of that dilemma. This may come as a surprise (I know it did for me!), but Seoul is surrounded by incredible mountains just calling out to you. Hiking is a favorite past time for Koreans (a past time they take very, very seriously) and all throughout the year hikers dressed in bright neon clothing fill the trails as they summit the mountains.
There are 37 mountains in Seoul, with four surrounding the center of the city. At one point in history a fortress wall connected all four of these mountain tops, protecting the city from invaders. A good portion of the wall is still around today, and makes for a historic and interesting hike. Some hikes are killer; steep, long, and a bit rugged. While others are very leisurely and follow a paved path. There is most definitely a hike for every ability level.
I head out on a hike just about every weekend here are my top three:
Ride Your Bike Along the Han River
The Han (Hangang) River is the artery of Seoul; cutting right through the center of the city and pulsing with life. Hanging out along the Han River is one of the cool things to do, as the city has poured millions of dollars into the development of the river. There are parks and pools and cafes and stages. Performers and families and people watching. At all times of the year, during all times of the day there is something to do.
The best way to see a good portion of the river is by renting a bike and cruising along the riverbanks for a healthy day of exploring. You can start your bike ride from any of the 12 paid, and five free, bike rental spots. The trails run for 80km around the river.
I would suggest heading to Yeouido Island and renting a bike at Hangang Park. From here, head north along the busy riverside walk and bike for as long as your legs will take you. Take a break in one of the 12 parks or at one of the many (many) riverside cafes and convenience stores.
The bikeways are very crowded with walkers, runners, rollerbladers and other bikers, so be sure to keep very alert.
Discover Korea has a great list and map of all the bike rental spots along the river.
Work out at an Outdoor Fitness Center
A unique perk in Seoul are the outdoor fitness centers found all over the city. These (usually neon colored) fitness parks have different weight and cardio machines. Some are huge outdoor fitness centers with free weights, while others just have a couple of machines. They are in just about every park around the city.
Walk/Skate/Bike around Seoul Forest
Seoul Forest is a beautiful oasis of trees, grass, flowers and wildlife right in the middle of Seoul. Spending a few hours in Seoul Forest makes you forget that you are in a massive city filled with a monotony of grey skyscrapers. The park has miles of trails just waiting to be explored on foot or wheels. There is also a Cultural Art Park, an Ecological Forest (with tons of deer), an Insect Garden, and Learning Center.
I am a huge proponent of trying your hand at the local sport while traveling. With Taekwondo being the national sport of Korea, its the best sport to try while here! I have received some informal Taekwondo training from friends and students, and recently went to a local Taekwondo school to inquire about joining a class. Hopefully before I leave Korea I will work up the ranks in the sport! While you are here, there are a few different companies that offer a Taekwondo experience program. The official Korean site has much more detailed information.
I’d also highly recommend checking out Drew over at the Hungry Partier who got his black belt in Taekwondo during his time in Korea.
Wakeboard on the Han River
Wakeboarding is an adventurous sport on its own; doing it in the Han River is a totally different adventure all in itself. For a river that no one swims in, there are actually a lot of people participating in watersports during the warmer months. I have not yet tried this one, I am thinking about it before the summer ends, but Kristina over at Vagablonding talks about her experience wakeboarding on this river. If you are up for it, and the river is calling out to you, why not give it a go?!
Take a K-pop Dance Class
K-pop is HUGE in Korea! Every student I teach mimics the K-pop dance moves they see on TV. The entire second floor of my apartment building is a K-pop music school. Needless to say, it is a big part of the culture. The Korea Tourism Organization offers K-pop dance classes a few times a month (for free!). And the global center in Gangnam has K-pop dance classes for 5,000won ($5.00) on Fridays from 4-6.
Watch a Sporting Event
It may not be YOU getting active, but watching a sporting event in Seoul gives you a unique look into the culture of Korea. Soccer games and baseball games are the go-to events to watch. Beer is cheap, food is plentiful, and the fans are amped! There are cheerleaders, dancers and ringleaders guiding the crowd in cheers. There are fun games in between halves and innings. And plenty of people watching. Baseball games are at Jamsil Stadium in Gangnam. Soccer games are at World Cup Stadium in Mapo. The stadiums are big, so make yourself the designated beer getter and get your exercise climbing the stadium stairs over and over!
Head to the Batting Cages
When baseball became a popular sport in Korea, people needed places to practice their swing. Welcome, batting cages! Every neighborhood in Seoul will, no doubt, have a batting cage. Some are out in the open, while others are hidden underground in arcades. They are cheap, 500-1,000 won ($0.50-$1.00), and fun! If you happen to encounter a batting cage while exploring the city, definitely make a pit stop.
Join a Fitness Class
If you really want to keep your workout routine going while in Korea, check out one of the many interesting fitness classes in Seoul. Joining a fitness class in another language may seem daunting, but I have found that people are always welcoming, and there is always someone who speaks enough english to help you out. There are 56 Crossfit boxes in the city (according to the Crossfit Box Locator), as well as some unique fitness studios. Like most places around the world, if you go in and inquire about classes you will most likely be able to try out a class for free! Check out my first experience trying Crossfit in Korea.
[divider]What other active adventures would you recommend to do in Seoul?[/divider]