National Museum of Korea at night

National Museum of Korea

Top choice in Itaewon & Yongsan-gu

This vast and imposing concrete slab of a museum takes visitors on a fascinating journey through Korea's past from prehistory all the way to the Korean Empire period (1897–1910). If you're short on time, prioritise the Joseon Dynasty gallery (1392–1897). Among the must-see exhibits in the ground-floor galleries are the Baekje Incense Burner, an extraordinary example of the artistry of the 6th- to 7th-century Baekje Kingdom; and the Golden Treasures from the Great Tomb of Hwangham.

In the 3rd-floor sculpture and craft galleries, search out the Pensive Bodhisattva from the 7th century. Also look down on the top of the Goryeo-dynasty Ten Storey Pagoda, carved from marble.

Hour-long, English-language tours leave from the Great Hall lobby at 11am and 2pm. If you have a smartphone, get on the free museum wi-fi and download the museum's own app, which also serves as an excellent audioguide, triggered by Bluetooth as you pass exhibits.

The surrounding park is best appreciated in good weather, when the Great Hall is perfectly reflected in the large Reflecting Pond. The original Bosingak Bell is in the grounds near the picturesque Dragon Falls.

Opposite the museum's main entrance is the Special Exhibition Hall, which hosts blockbuster shows on anything from Renaissance painting to the Silk Road, with tickets costing around ₩10,000. Those interested in Korean language can visit the National Hanguel Museum, which provides an overview of its relatively recent history.

Kids don't miss out either with the Children's Museum offering a snapshot of Korean culture with plenty of hands-on features and play spaces.

For picnic snacks in the park, there’s a convenience store near the main entrance, as well as several cafes and restaurants in the complex.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Itaewon & Yongsan-gu attractions

1. National Hangeul Museum


Give your Korean-language skills a brush up with this museum dedicated to hangeul, the much-lauded Korean alphabet and writing system created in the 15th…

2. War Memorial of Korea

0.91 MILES

This huge museum documents the history of the Korean War (1950–53) using multimedia exhibits and black-and-white documentary footage, along with artefacts…

3. Itaewon Bugundang History Park


Even longtime residents of Itaewon might be surprised if you tell them that it is indeed possible to find historical relics in the heart of the…

4. Stairway Flea Market

1.15 MILES

Held on the last Saturday of each month, this market attracts hundreds of shoppers to Usadan-ro on top of Itaewon Hill, where local artists sell their…

5. Seoul Central Mosque

1.18 MILES

Its twin minarets rising tall and resplendent over 'Halal Hill', Seoul's impressive mosque, which opened in 1976, caters primarily to the Arabic, Asian…

6. Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain

1.18 MILES

Covered with 10,000 lights, the Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain's coloured water rains down in messy arcs from the double-decker Banpo Bridge. More…

7. Some Sevit


At the south end of Banpo Bridge are these three artificial floating islands interconnected by walkways. Each features futuristic buildings in a complex…