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Seoul searching on a budget. Must-see museums for free.

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Stepping into a good museum is a bit like a sophisticated car ad where the cool looking guy walks through a busy city, gets into his gleaming vehicle and the whole world hushes. A museum is an escape from the ordinary, where there's calm, wonder and inspiration to be found. And amazingly enough, often the whole experience is free of charge.

Another great advantage of a free museum is that you won’t feel guilty about how long you spend there. You don’t have to get your money’s worth, or see every last artifact, useful with kids! Not your thing? Then just move on!

Stories from Seoul

The best museums tell great stories, and Seoul occupies an area on the Han River that has been inhabited for thousands of years. Consequently, its museums have many tales to tell.

Seoul is the country’s cultural centre. It is the home of the National Academy of Arts, the National Academy of Sciences, and nearly all the country’s learned societies and libraries.

Budget Direct Insurance offers tips for exploring free museums in Seoul.

National Museum of Korea

Located in the Yongsan Family park this is a great museum to combine with a picnic or play in the park. Many tourists say that marvelling at the building is worth a visit on its own. It’s a massive cavernous space with plenty of areas for sitting and taking in the atmosphere.

This is the museum to learn everything there is to know about Korean art, culture and history. Wander from Paleolithic and Neolithic Rooms, to calligraphy to beautiful royal treasures.

Look out for free guided tours. All exhibits are in English.

Located at
137 Seobinggo-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul.
Getting there
Ichon Station, Line 4, exit 2.
Permanent exhibitions and the children’s museum are free.
Opening hours
Tues, Thurs & Fri: 9am-6pm; Wed & Sat: 9am-9pm; Sun: 9am-7pm.

National Palace Museum of Korea

First established in 1908, this museum has had many names and locations over the years. It now rests in the grounds of the Gyeongbokgung Palace and is the go-to place for everything you want to know about Korean royal culture from the Joseon Dynasty in the late 14th century.

With around 50,000 items on display you’ll find everything from royal instruments, clothes, royal seals, displays about royal childbirth and even Emperor Sunjong’s royal vehicle – a 1918 General Motors Cadillac limousine.

Located at
12, Hyoja-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Getting there
Subway Line 3 to Gyeongbokgung Station (Exit 5).
Take Subway Line 5 to Gwanghwamun Station (Exit 2).
Opening hours
Weekdays 9am to 6pm, weekends 9am-7pm.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza

An art, architecture and design lovers paradise, this building will inspire even the most jaded eye.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza  - free museums in Seoul

Designed by world renowned architect, Zaha Hadid, it has five halls – Art Hall, Museum, Design Lab, Design Market, and Dongdaemun History and Culture Park. Some exhibitions have an entrance fee but this futuristic-looking building is worth visiting for its structure, so walk around and take photos for free.

Located at
281 Eulji-ro, Gwanghui-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul.
Getting there
Approx. 5-min walk from Dongdaemun Station
There is a charge for some exhibitions, some are free.
Opening hours
Tue - Thu and Sun 10am - 7pm. Fri - Sat 10am - 9pm. Closed on Mondays.

Ihwa Mural Village

Not a museum, The Ihwa Mural Village is an area of Seoul, great for a stroll and feeling like you're actually taking part in an art project.

The neighbourhood of Ihwa-dong, Seoul near Naksan Park was once a rundown and ramshackle area of factories and shacks. Rejuvenated by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in 2006, there are now around 70 art installations, street murals, signboards and sculptures. There’s still a slight rundown feel to the whole place but for some this adds to the hipster feel.

Be prepared for quite a walk, not only to take in the artwork, but there’s a 20 minute walk uphill from the train station. The views over the city at night are great which makes Ihwa worth visiting in the evening. Part of the city wall is located here.

Located at
Go through Naksan park to get to the village.
Getting there
 Take subway line 4 to Hyehwa Station and take Exit 2.
Opening hours
Free and never closed!

Getting to Seoul

AirAsia probably has the cheapest direct flights to Seoul. Prices can fluctuate, but you can get flights for less that S$500 return. Asiana and Korean Air also fly cheaply to Seoul. Watch out for promotions and last minute deals. Flight time is 6 hours and 20 minutes from Singapore

Staying in Seoul

Accommodation is pretty reasonable and of a good standard. Room rates can vary significantly. At the lower end of the budget the STAZ Hotel Myeongdong I had rooms on a discounted rate for upwards of S$85 per night for two people. Rated 3* the room had generally good reviews and is near a subway station and restaurants.

Wherever you go, whatever you do, remember it’s vital to have good Travel cover.
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