Things to do in Seoul for lovers of history and culture

Museums are the best place to start in a new city to learn the details of history and culture. In Seoul, South Korea, the capital has an impressive selection of high-quality, massive museums. Best of all, they have free admission.

National Museum

South Korea’s flagship museum for history and art, and the country’s largest museum. The National Museum opened in 1945, the year Korea gained independence from Japan.

Over the course of 6 floors with more than 220,000 national artifacts and relics, the museum covers the ancient history of Korea to the pre-Korean War modern era.

The National Museum, the country’s largest and flagship museum detailing ancient history to the modern era, as well as an impressive collection of Asian art. From the entrance of the museum, you can see the Seoul Tower, the highest point in the city
The museum houses a growing collection of over 220,000 artifacts and relics. In the main hallway, guests receive a massive welcome from this towering stone pagoda, the Gyeongcheonsa Pagoda, a national treasure

National Museum of Korea
137 Seobingg-ro
Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, 9am to 6pm
Wednesday and Saturday, 9am to 9pm
Sunday & national holidays, 9am to 7pm
Closed Mondays and January 1


National Museum of Korean Contemporary History

Following the ancient history and pre-Korean War lessons at the National Museum, the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History is the perfect follow up.

Four halls detail the politics, economy, society and culture:
1. Prelude to the Republic of Korea from 1876 to 1945
2. Foundation of the Republic of Korea from 1945 to 1960
3. Development of the Republic of Korea from 1961 to 1987
4. Modernization and Korea’s vision of the future from 1988 onwards

The museum sits just outside the Gyeongbokgung Palace, the royal palace, and next to the US Embassy, marked by guards standing every 3 feet. Opened in 2012, it is the first national modern contemporary museum in Korea which discusses the Korean War and how the country moved its way to one of the top global leaders today

National Museum of Korean Contemporary History
198 Sejong-daero
Jongno-gu, Seoul
Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday, 9am to 6pm
Wednesday and Saturday, 9am to 9pm
Closed Mondays


National Folk Museum

Behind the Gyeongbokgung Palace, the royal palace, is the National Folk Museum. The palace grounds require the purchase of a ticket. If you want to just visit the National Folk Museum, there is a free entrance in the rear.

Three main halls illustrate the history of traditional life with over 98,000 artifacts
1. History of the Korean people through their materials of everyday life from prehistoric times to the end of the Joseon Dynasty in 1910
2. The Korean way of life through the villagers in ancient times
3. The life cycle of Koreans highlighting the influence of Confucianism

Gyeongbokgung Palace, “Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven”. The royal palace, with the modern city of Seoul in the backdrop, was first constructed in 1395. It is the main and largest of the Five Grand Palaces
The museum details the cultural history of Korea through food history of the past and present. For instance, dining ware and the kimchi making process starting with these jars which hold the fermenting cabbage
The museum is also a great place to learn the basics of the essentials of Korean cuisine. For instance, this display teaches the varieties of kimchi found in everyday restaurants today as your banchan, the side dishes which complement your meal

National Folk Museum of Korea
37 Samcheong-ro
Jongno-gu, Seoul
Open everyday
November to February, 9am to 5pm
March to May, 9am to 6pm
June to August, 9am to 6:30pm
September to October, 9am to 6pm
Weekends & national holidays during May to August, 9am to 7pm


Agricultural Museum

Opened in 1987, the Agricultural Museum details through artifacts and dioramas paddy fields, traditional homes, and the marketplaces of agricultural societies.

Three exhibition halls cover the agricultural history of the past, present, and future plans
1. Agricultural History Hall – agricultural communities from prehistory times to the modern era
2. Life of Farmers Hall – models recreating the life of farm families from the olden days
3. Agricultural Cooperatives Promotion Hall – information on farming and agricultural cooperatives

The Agricultural Museum. While not one of the best-known museums in Seoul, this is a must visit for anyone interested in cultural and food-related history of Seoul and of South Korea
The museum contains an impressive display of life-size dioramas which illustrate the everyday life and the scenes of the past. For instance, here is a woman preparing a meal in a traditional kitchen

Agricultural Museum
16 Saemunan-ro
Jung-gu, Seoul
Tuesday to Sunday, 9:30am to 5pm
Closed Mondays & national holidays


Stay a night or two in Seoul. (Here are 3 reasons to stay at the Conrad Hotel Seoul)

Conrad Hotel Seoul
10, Gukjegeumyung-ro
Seoul, South Korea
Hilton Honors members can book directly with Conrad Hotel Seoul
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