If you had asked me what are the best things to do in Gangnam after my visit as a tourist, I would have probably thought of a couple of things. However, after living in Seoul for one year, I came to understand that Koreans see Gangnam as a whole region, not only a district.
Gangnam-gu (district) became famous thanks to PSY, the Korean artist who broke YouTube with his video back in 2012. Nevertheless, if you ask anyone in Seoul what to do in Gangnam they would think of the whole area south of the Han River. That’s because “Gangnam” literally means “south of the river”.
For the sake of this post, I will try to focus mostly on the things to do and see in the district. But I cannot leave out areas such as Jamsil or Songpa. Because these places are south of the river, and extremely close to Gangnam district.
Thus, without further ado, here is everything I enjoyed doing on a day or so south of the river in Seoul.
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Top things to do in Gangnam
Map of the Best Things to do in Gangnam
Click on the map to open it in Google Maps. I will constantly update it with the best things and places to see in Gangnam, Seoul.
Table of Contents
- Top things to do in Gangnam
- Map of the Best Things to do in Gangnam
- COEX Mall Library
- Visit COEX Aquarium
- See the Samsung Display
- Take a picture with the Gangnam Style Statue
- Have Korean BBQ at Heukdonga Samseng restaurant
- Luxury SPA treatment at Sulwhasso SPA
- Shop for luxury brands on Garosu-gil Street or Apgujeong Rodeo Street
- Plastic surgery world around Gangnam Station
- K Museum of Contemporary Art & Art Galleries
- Cosmetics Flagship Stores
- Stroll along the Han River
- Lotte World
- Lotte Sky Tower
- Visit Seoul Olympic Park
- Starbucks river cafe
- Hangang River cruise
- Party until you drop
- Learn about the young Korean generation
- Go and see a celebrity hairstylist
- Choose a Beauty Tour: Cosmetic & Medical Consultations in Gangnam
- Walk around Seokchon Lake (during spring or fall)
- Go shopping at the Lotte World Mall or Lotte Department Store Castle Plaza
- Banpo Bridge Moonlight Rainbow Fountain
- Samneung Park
- Take a picture at Art Monster
- Entertainment companies for K-pop lovers
- Sip a glass of tea at Basilur or TWG Tea
- Templestay at Bongeunsa Temple
- K-Star Road
- Gangnam Station Underground Shopping Center(강남역 지하도상가)
- Where to stay in Gangnam
- Getting from Incheon to Gangnam
- Do you need a visa for South Korea?
- Getting around Seoul
COEX Mall Library
One of the main Instagram spots in Gangnam and in Seoul, this public library is incredibly photogenic. The thing is, the place has been built inside of the COEX mall with precisely this in mind: attracting people to the shopping mall.
You cannot actually borrow or buy books, and even if you could, they are all in Korean. However, you can enjoy the atmosphere and read or simply look at the pictures inside the magazines.
And while you are here, why not allow yourself to get lost inside this impressive shopping mall, who knows what you might find?
Or better yet, head for the next thing on the list.
Visit COEX Aquarium
The largest aquarium in South Korea is hosted inside a shopping mall! Hosting around 40.000 sea creatures, this is the place to be for kids and adults alike. Why not spend a few fun hours learning about the incredible life of underwater creatures?
You’ll get to see sharks, penguins, a “mermaid performance” and much more.
By booking online you will not only save on the price ticket, but you will also have the flexibility to cancel or change your booking.
You can use it with the Discover Seoul Pass, or book it separately.
Have tea at Bongeunsa Temple
Bongeunsa Temple is set within walking distance of the COEX mall and it is one of the few Buddhist temples inside Seoul. In the past, many temples have been moved outside of the city, especially to the mountains, but Bongeunsa has fortunately survived.
Visiting this temple has been one of my favorite things to do in Seoul and I loved it, especially when it was covered with colorful lampions.
Another reason why I love going there is because of its small tea house hosted inside one of the small temple houses. The interior is stunning, the views are beautiful, and you can enjoy a true Korean-style tea ceremony here.
During my first trip to Seoul, some ladies also offered me some traditional sweets while visiting the temple. For those interested in such activities, Bongeunsa also hosts Templestays where you can stay and sleep inside the temple, learn about the Buddhist religion and live like a monk.
Come during spring or summer and you will get to enjoy the true beauty of the temple’s gardens.
See the Samsung Display
Set outside of COEX Mall, this impressive display attracts not only tourists but also locals, especially during football competitions.
The display changes every now and then, depending on the season and what’s cool at the time, but you will get to see not only K-Pop idols but also things that offer optical illusions such as waves hitting the screen.
Some time ago “the wave” went viral on social media and they keep resurrecting it so you might be lucky to catch it on display.
Take a picture with the Gangnam Style Statue
Located right in front of Coex Mall, you should not miss the opportunity to take a picture with the famous Gangnam Style statue.
Have Korean BBQ at Heukdonga Samseng restaurant
One of our local friends took us to this restaurant for our first Korean BBQ after moving to Seoul. They served Jeju black pig and everything was delicious.
Luxury SPA treatment at Sulwhasso SPA
Who doesn’t like a little pampering, especially when it is done in the world’s beauty capital?
Sulwhasoo is one of the main luxury k-beauty brands with its main ginseng line targeting anti-aging and revitalization.
At their flagship store and SPA in Gangnam, you will find an impressive place where you can learn about the history of Korean beauty, shop for some of the best cosmetics, and pamper with exclusive SPA treatment.
The building also has a rooftop terrace where you can sit back and relax. Book your treatment in advance and come in earlier when you want to make the best out of your time here.
Have a coffee at one of the cool cafes around Dosan Park
Right next to Sulwhasoo SPA, you will find Dosan Park, a small green oasis in the middle of one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Seoul.
On the streets around the park, you will discover tons of cool cafes to choose from. Some have a more girly style, others are hipster heaven, while others care only for the coffee they serve.
Inside the Dear Dahlia flagship store, you will find one of the girliest cafes, while if you walk towards Gangnam station you will find more low-key cafes.
Here are a few of the prettiest and most popular cafes around Gangnam:
Antique Coffee – set in a pastel house, with the Lotte Sky Tower in the background, they have a beautiful flower display and Instagrammable cakes. It is located in Songpa-dong ( 송파동).
Address: 48-7 Songpa-dong, Songpa-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 송파구 송파동 48-7)
Mammamia 도산 – has been around for a while and it is still one of the most popular cafes in Gangnam (and Seoul). The pink exterior attracts picture lovers, while their sweets look mouthwatering. It is on a street right next to Dosan Park. Address: 45 Apgujeong-ro 42-gil, Apgujeong-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Hermes Cafe – it is set inside the Hermes store in Gangnam, right across the street from Dosan Park. From my experience at the Dior Cafe (also in the area), going there is more about taking pictures than actually tasting the coffee and food.
Shop for luxury brands on Garosu-gil Street or Apgujeong Rodeo Street
Even window shopping around Garosu-gil or Apgujeong Rodeo Street is an experience you should not skip. This is the area where you will find all the fancy stores, and big luxury brands, but also smaller and cooler local shops.
If you don’t feel like shopping at Chanel, Hermes, Dior, or brands of this kind, only a few minutes away you will find colorful k-beauty stores or unique local brands such as Ader – a clothing store with an out-of-this-world interior design.
No matter what you are into and no matter your budget for shopping, you should allow yourself to get lost in this area for at least a few hours.
To be honest, before finding this place I had no idea Dior had also cafes, and I honestly thought this is a Seoul thing. However, I later found out you can enjoy a coffee with the famous fashion brand logo in other capitals around the world, but since you will be in Seoul, why not try the one in Gangnam?
The cafe is set on the last floor of a building, on top of the actual Dior store. If you go during the week, chances are you won’t need a reservation because at the time we were there most tables were empty, but people started to come towards lunchtime.
In my humble opinion, as a “coffee snob”, their coffee was one of the worst I’ve ever had, especially when you think about the price tag. However, I would rather suggest you come here for afternoon tea, it might be better and more worth it.
All-in-all the experience is something worth considering, especially for the ‘gram.
Plastic surgery world around Gangnam Station
Everywhere you look around Gangnam Station and on Teheran Street, you will see countless plastic surgery clinics. During normal times, in this area, you would see people wearing bandages entering or exiting these buildings.
If you didn’t know, South Korea is the number 1 country for plastic surgery, and Gangnam is the Silicon Valley of Seoul’s beauty industry.
There are even clinics that offer special packages for foreigners, for an intense 1-2-3 days of rejuvenation. While most doctors don’t speak English, many such clinics have translators that will guide you through the whole process.
Save on your Seoul vacation
With the Go City Explore Seoul Pass you not only save on your trip, but you also have the flexibility to organize your vacation as you want to.
You can choose between the All-Inclusive Pass – designed for 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5-days in Seoul; or the Explorer Pass – and get to choose between 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7 attractions on a pass – you choose your activities and have 60 days to use them.
K Museum of Contemporary Art & Art Galleries
If you are into art you should not miss a visit to the K Museum of Contemporary Art or at one of the many art galleries around Gangnam.
Cosmetics Flagship Stores
If you don’t feel like going all the way with plastic surgery, there is always the world of cosmetics. And in Gangnam, you will find some of the coolest flagship stores.
Dear Klairs is set in a small building with a charming and tranquil interior design. You will be able to try some of their most popular products, take advantage of the offers, and get free samples.
Read also: Where to buy skincare in Seoul
Stroll along the Han River
Han River divided the city into 2 parts, and the whole area along the river, on both of its banks, is transformed into a park.
Bicycle lanes go along pedestrian lanes, and you can basically walk (or bike) from one end to the other of the city.
The Gangnam area is also pretty nice because you will get a beautiful view over Namsan Tower and Hannam-Dong with its colorful buildings perched on the hill.
You can grab a drink from one of the convenience stores along the river and bring a blanket to sit on the grass and enjoy a beautiful sunny day.
Set in the middle of Seokchon Lake next to the famous Lotte World Tower, Lotte World is the most popular adventure park in South Korea.
No matter if you are traveling with kids or you simply want to feel like a child again, spending one day at the amusement park should be on your Seoul bucket list. Or go there at night for a great show and view.
Choose a Fast Pass when you don’t want to wait in line at any of the rides, or get the combo ticket and visit the Aquarium as well.
Lotte Sky Tower
This is South Korea’s tallest building, one that can be seen from almost any point in Seoul. You can climb all the way to the highest floors and admire the city from the top of its 117th to 123rd floors.
Every now and then there is a special exhibition organized inside, and they do hold various Korean entertainment programs.
The building has one of the fastest elevators in the world, and you will be surprised how fast you will get to the top of Seoul.
Visit Seoul Olympic Park
Within walking distance to Lotte World and Lotte Sky Tower, you can get to one of the most beautiful parks in Seoul: Olympic Park.
People usually come here looking for the most photogenic tree in the city, but even a stroll along the beautiful lanes would be worth it.
Starbucks river cafe
While I’m not a huge Starbucks fan (let’s say I like other types of coffee), I couldn’t skip this cool place set on the Han River.
Seoul Wave is a relatively new addition to the river and to the list of Instagrammable places in Seoul, and it can be easily reached from Gangnam.
The building doesn’t only host the cafe, but it also has yoga studios and other cool places. However, Starbucks coffee is the most popular place inside the building, mainly because of the beautiful view you get from the inside.
It is not a large space so if you are going during the weekend you might find it difficult to find a table on the ground floor.
Hangang River cruise
If you would rather see the city from the river, especially during and after sunset, a river cruise is a great idea. The city will shine bright and you will even see the colorful Bampo Bridge.
When you book a tour, once the cruise is over, the guide will take you to one of the most popular local markets where you will get to taste some delicious local dishes. You will feel like part of that popular Netflix show!
Another tour option would take you for a picnic in Hangang Park, where you will taste traditional Korean fried chicken and a local rice liquor called Makgeolli.
Party until you drop
Yes, the “Gangnam Style” was about partying like the people in this district do. You will find here some of the coolest and most exclusive restaurants and bars in town, where people come to have fun (and of course, to show off).
Learn about the young Korean generation
June, a local historian will take you around Gangnam and help you understand why Korea has today the highest suicide rate, the lowest birthrate, intense education, what lies behind the plastic surgery culture, and more.
He chose Gangnam because this is the most developed part of the city (and country), but a symbol for the “unhappiest country in the world”.
Go and see a celebrity hairstylist
You might not come all the way to Seoul to have your hair done, but once you know about this option, you might consider it.
Jenny House styles over 500 celebrities and is located in the heart of the Gangnam district. If you want to take advantage of discounts, I strongly encourage you to book online, ahead of time.
Choose a Beauty Tour: Cosmetic & Medical Consultations in Gangnam
An English-speaking guide and translator will take you to some of the most famous beauty clinics in Gangnam.
She will help you better understand beauty procedure options, have consultations with specialists, and finish your tour with a beauty plan.
I know from experience it is almost impossible to really have a consultation in English in Gangnam, so if this is on your list, a guide is worth paying for.
Walk around Seokchon Lake (during spring or fall)
Of course, you can go there anytime, but the lake is surrounded by cherry trees making it a scenic walk, especially during those two seasons.
Address: 잠실6동 Songpa-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Go shopping at the Lotte World Mall or Lotte Department Store Castle Plaza
The two huge shopping malls are right next to one another and you can choose the one you want to explore depending on your budget.
Also, come here for the Instagrammable stairs in the Lotte Department Store, or their stunning Christmas displays during winter.
Address: 240 Olympic-ro, Songpa-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Banpo Bridge Moonlight Rainbow Fountain
People gather on the Han River’s banks to watch the show of lights, colors, and water at Banpo Bridge.
Address: South Korea, Seoul, Seocho-gu, 반포2동
Go for a stroll and see the Seolleung (Tomb of King Seongjong) and the Tomb of Queen Jeonghyeon.
Take a picture at Art Monster
Since we lived in Hong Kong for one year and a half before moving to Seoul, this place is not so special. However, if you haven’t been, it is worth going at least for a picture.
Entertainment companies for K-pop lovers
Similar to Digital Media City, Gangnam is home to many of the most important Korean entertainment companies. If you are a K-Pop fan, don’t miss
SMTOWN – 83-21, Wangsimni-ro, Seongdong-gu, Seoul
JYP – 205, Gangdong-daero, Gangdong-gu, Seoul
Sip a glass of tea at Basilur or TWG Tea
TWG Tea might be one of the best teas in the world, and you can taste it in Lotte Department Store.
Basilur, on the other hand, comes from Sri Lanka, and apart from delicious teas has also a great picture-perfect location.
Templestay at Bongeunsa Temple
Do you want to learn more about the Buddhist religion? Did you know that you can choose to stay at a temple while in South Korea?
Bongeunsa Temple has such a program and you can stay at the temple for 2 days, learn about the art of meditation, take part in a tea ceremony, wake up with the monks, and more.
Look for the road between Apgujeong Rodeo Station exit 2 and the Cheongdam crossroads because that’s where you will find the famous K-Star Road.
Here you will find various idol dolls – some large bear dolls with idol images printed on them. Some of them are even signed by the famous entertainers themselves.
Gangnam Station Underground Shopping Center
If you want to do some budget shopping, here is the place to come to. Over 200 trendy shops offer the latest K-fashion items.
Where to stay in Gangnam
Luxury hotels in Gangnam
InterContinental Seoul COEX – set right next to the COEX Mall famous for its impressive library, you will also be steps away from a subway stop, and one of the most beautiful temples in town: Bongeunsa Temple.
You will have access to an internal swimming pool, and rooms with breathtaking city views.
Mid-range hotels in Gangnam
L7 Gangnam by Lotte – a 4* fancy hotel, set in the business area, with rooms boasting incredible city views. You will be close to subway line 2 which will take you anywhere in town, the interior design is luxurious, and on the 10th floor, you’ll find an Italian restaurant and bar.
Budget-friendly hotels in Gangnam
Princess Hotel – while this hotel is set in the most expensive area – Apgujeong – it is yet a budget hotel without much of an interior design or facilities. However, it is close to many restaurants and stores, rooms are clean and comfortable.
Getting from Incheon to Gangnam
Looking at Seoul’s map, you will see the popular district set in the southeastern part of the city. While Hongdae or Myeongdong are much more easily accessible from Incheon airport, you will find it easy to get to Gangnam as well.
Before you go, get your T-Money Card + Data SIM
Take the Airport Railway train to Hongik University Station, and switch to the green line number 2 all the way to Gangnam Station. Check out timetables and routes here.
With only one transfer and a cost of 4950 won, this is pretty ok in my opinion.
Another option would be to book your private transfer from the airport directly to your hotel in Gangnam.
Do you need a visa for South Korea?
Generally, South Korea requires visas for most visitors, but the specific requirements depend on your nationality and the purpose and duration of your stay.
South Korea has a visa exemption agreement with many countries, allowing their citizens to enter for short stays without a visa. However, the duration of visa-free stays and the conditions for entry can vary.
Getting around Seoul
Navigating Seoul is generally not difficult as the city has a well-developed and efficient transportation system.
You can take advantage of an extensive subway system, a fast and reliable bus system, taxis, and Bicycles.
You will need to have a T-Money card in order to use any of the above-mentioned transportation options (apart from taxis).
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