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.