A Guide to Museums in Seoul

Category : Korean Cultures
Nov 28, 2014

Seoul is a huge metropolitan city, and it’s no surprise that the city is home to loads of impressive institutions. The national museums and art museums are considered the best in the city. There are exhibitions from around the world and interactive displays about Korea, Korean art, history, and politics—depending on which museum you wander through. It’s easy to get burnt out of museums though, so choose what truly interests you. If you have no idea what might suit your fancy, try one or all of the first 5 listed in the first chart—National/Major Museums in Seoul. If you’re tired of the national museum scene or you’re just in the mood for something unique browse the next chart of privately owned museums. The Kimchi Museum in COEX Mall, the Gansong Museum of Art and Leeum Samsung Museum of Art are all popular choices, whereas the Owl Art and Craft Museum or the Seoul Museum of Chicken Art are just plain quirky.

 

What to Expect?

Museums in Korea tend to be piled high with artifacts. There is unfortunately little English or even Korean signage. Unless you’re a Korean history professor, the artifacts are meaningless without context. There are rooms after room of glass cases filled with any old thing that could possibly come to mind. Earthenware pots, jars and cups seem to be especially popular. After about 10 minutes of clay, it’s easy to become exhausted. Despite the potential boredom factor, don’t just skip all the museums while you’re here. Follow these tips and your hours (or days) at the museums in Seoul won’t have you wishing you could curl up in your bed for a powernap:

 

  1. Grab a guide or an audio guide. The guides are knowledgeable and fascinated in the history behind the artifacts. They will elaborate on stories and symbolism. Guides will be able to speak English well and the audio guides have plenty of language options. To boot, guides are either free or a few thousand won extra. It’s 100% worth it.
  2. Take advantage of the cheap admission fees. Most museums are either free or under 5,000 KRW. They are worth a visit simply to stroll around and chat with a friend. A visit to a museum makes for a nice alternative to a coffee shop. If you’re not bent on learning everything you possibly can about Korean history, you’ll have a great day.
  3. Check out the international/visiting exhibitions. The permanent collections can be dull but the temporary exhibitions at most places, especially the art museums, are excellent. Of course you’ll want to learn something about Korea while in Korea, so opt for those Korean temporary shows. The curators always put more time and effort into the shows that won’t be here to stay.
  4. Pick up a history book or a travel book. Spend a few hours on the plane ride over to Korea reading about Korean history and culture. When you are hitting the museum trail you’ll have a better idea of what you’re looking at and it won’t all seem like one large mass of pottery.
  5. Choose a museum based on your interests. You’ll get a quick idea of what interests you by following tip #4: history (natural, human or cultural), the period of time (the three kingdoms period and prehistoric times, the Joseon Dynasty-early, middle and late, Japanese colonialism, the Korean War, and independence and democratization.), art and culture (Korean or foreign, contemporary or historical), science and technology, or unique collections. Rather than set out to see everything, be selective. You’ll get much more out of it.

 

National / Major Museums in Seoul

 

Museum

What

Location

Hours

Phone / Website

Entrance Fee

National Museum of Korea

The largest museum in Asia with permanent and temporary collections about world history and Korean history. Over 150,000 artifacts.

Yongsan-gu, Ichon Stn, Line 4 or Joongang Line, Exit 2

9:00-18:00 (Tue, Thur, Fri), 9:00-21:00 (Wed, Sat), 9:00-19:00 (Sun, Holidays)

2077-9545

2077-9547

www.museum.go.kr

FREE but exhibitions have tickets sold separately

Seodaemun Prison Museum

Formally a political prison for Koreans who defied the Japanese colonial power. It’s a dark but powerful museum reminding visitors of a terrible time in Korean history

Dongnimmun Station, Line 3, Exit 5

9:30-18:00 (Mar to Oct), 9:30-17:00 (Nov-Feb), closed Mon.

360-8590

1,000 KRW

War Memorial of Korea

Museum dedicated to the war history of Korea starting from the Three Kingdoms Era to present day

Samgakji Stn, Line 4 or 6, Exit 12

9:00-18:00, closed Mon.

709-3139

www.warmemo.or.kr

3,000 KRW

Seoul Museum of History

Presents the human history of Korea from prehistoric times to modern day

City Hall,

City Hall Stn, Line 1 or Line 2

Weekdays: 9:00-21:00, Weekends and holidays: 10:00-19:00 (Mar to Oct), 10:00-18:00 (Nov to Feb)

724-0114

http://museum.seoul.kr

700 KRW

National Museum of Contemporary Art-Gwacheon

Beautiful building housing an enormous collection of contemporary works. Artists featured are Korean and foreign. This museum is connected to the National museum at Deoksugung Palace. This one is much larger and more impressive.

Gwacheon, Seoul Grand Park Stn, Line 4, Exit 2. Take the “Elephant Train” from Exit 2

Mar to Oct, weekdays: 10:00-18:00,

Weekends: 10:00-21:00.

Nov to Feb,

weekdays: 10:00-17:00,

weekends: 10:00-20:00

2188-6000

www.moca.go.kr

700 KRW

National Museum of Contemporary Art-Downtown

Large art exhibitions from Korea and the world held here.

Deoksugung Palace Grounds, City Hall Stn, Line 1, Exit 2 or Line 2, Exit 12.

9:00-20:30, closed Mon.

368-1414

10,000 KRW plus 1,000 KRW for entrance to the palace grounds

National Palace Museum of Korea

40,000 artifacts from the Royal Court of the Joseon Kingdom

Gyeongbokgung Palace Grounds, Gyeongbokgung Stn, Line 3, Exit 5 or Gwanghwamun Stn, Line 5, Exit 1

Weekdays: 9:00-18:00,

Weekends: 9:00-19:00, closed Mon.

3701-7500

www.gogung.go.kr

3,000 KRW for Palace grounds entrance and both museums on site

National Folk Museum Of Korea

Aims to preserve traditional Korean folk culture. Over 2,240 traditional artifacts

Gyeongbokgung Palace Grounds, Gyeongbokgung Stn, Line 3, Exit 5 or Anguk Stn, Line 3, Exit 1

9:00-18:00 (Mar to Oct, 9:00-17:00 (Nov to Feb), 9:00-19:00 (Sat and holidays), closed Mon.

3705-3114

www.nfm.go.kr

3,000 KRW for Palace grounds entrance and both museums on site

Seoul Museum of Art

Huge collections of contemporary art, including 93 paintings by Cheon Kyung-Ja- a famous Korean painter

Jeong-dong, City Hall Station, Line 1, Exit 2 or Line 2, Exit 12

10:00-21:00, closed Mon.

723-2491,

http://seoulmoa.seoul.go.kr

700 KRW

 

Privately-Owned Museums in Seoul

 

Museum

What

Location

Hours

Phone/ Website

Entrance Fee

Silk Road Museum

Relics from Chinese, Japanese and Korean Dynasties

Samcheong-dong, Anguk Stn, Line 3, Exit 1

10:00-19:00, closed Mon.

720-9675

www.silkraodnet.net

5,000 KRW

World Jewelry Museum

3,000 pieces of jewelry from around the world

Samcheong-dong, Anguk Stn, Line 3, Exit 1

11:00-17:30, closed Mon.

730-1610

www.wjmuseum.com

5,000 KRW

Owl Art and Craft Museum

Over 2,000 owl-related items (mostly owl art)

Samcheong-dong, Anguk Stn, Line 3, Exit 1

10:00-19:00, closed Mon.

3210-2902

www.owlmuseum.co.kr

5,000 KRW

TOYKINO Museum

200,000 character figurines from movies. “Kino” is the Russian word for movies.

Samcheong-dong, Anguk Stn, Line 3, Exit 1

13:00-19:30, closed Mon.

723-2690

www.toykino.com

5,000 KRW

Gahoe Museum

Traditional paintings and drawings housed in a Hanok building

Bukchon, Anguk Stn, Line 3, Exit 1, 2 or 3

10:00-18:00, closed Mon.

741-0466

www.gahoemuseum.org

3,000 KRW

Seoul Museum of Chicken Art

Chicken-related art

Bukchon, Anguk Stn, Line 3, Exit 1, 2 or 3

10:00-18:00, closed Mon.

763-9995

www.kokodac.com

3,000 KRW

Han Sang-Su Embroidery Museum

The work of Han Sang-Su is on display. Classes available

Bukchon, Anguk Stn, Line 3, Exit 1, 2 or 3

10:00-17:00, closed Mon.

744-1545

www.hansangsoo.com

3,000 KRW

Dong-Lim Knot Museum

All about maedeup, Korean traditional decorative knots. Classes available.

Bukchon, Anguk Stn, Line 3, Exit 1, 2 or 3

10:00-18:00, closed Mon.

3673-2778

www.shimyeongmi.com

FREE

Mokin Museum

8,000 wooden figures of people and animals from the Joseon period to present day.

Insa-dong, North-end: Anguk Stn, Line 3, Exit 1, 2 or 3.

South-end: Jongno 3-ga Stn, Line 1, Exit 3 or 5

10:00-19:00

722-5066

www.mokinmuseum.com

5,000 KRW

Ilmin Museum of Art

Previous headquarters of The Dong-A Ilbo newspaper, now a huge collection of contemporary and historical art.

City Hall,

City Hall Stn, Line 1 or Line 2

11:00-19:00, closed Mon.

2020-2055

FREE

Bank of Korea Museum

Headquarters of the Bank of Joseon, the central bank of the Joseon Dynasty. Documents Korean banking history

Myeong-Dong, Myeongdong Stn, Line 4, Euljiro 1-ga, Line 2

10:00-17:00,

Closed Mon.

759-4881

FREE

Gansong Museum of Art

Korea’s first private art museum, houses national treasures and art by Korean artists.

Seongbuk-dong,

Hansung Univeristy Stn, Line 4, then bus #: 1111 or 2112, stop : Hongik Middle and High School.

10:00-18:00

(only has exhibits twice per year in May and Oct. closed at all other times)

 

762-0442

FREE

Whanki Museum

Works by modern Korean painter, Kim Whanki

Buam-dong, Gyeongbokgung Stn, Line 3, Exit 3, then bus # 1020, 7022, 7018, stop: Buam-dong Office

10:00-18:00, closed Mon.

 

391-7701/391-7702

3,000 KRW

Leeum Samsung Museum of Art

The museum was started by the founder of Samsung and houses Korean and western art

Itaewon-dong,

Itaewon Stn, Line 6, Exit 2, walk off the main-drag and up towards Namsan Mt.

10:30-18:00, closed Mon.

2014-6900

10,000 KRW

Seoul Waterworks Museum

Teaches visitors about Seoul’s water system. Previous building of Seoul Waterworks founded by two Americans in 1903

Beside Seoul Forest, Ttukseom Stn, Line 2 Exit 8, walk 5 minutes

Weekdays: 10:00-20:00, Weekends: (10:00-19:00), closed Mon.

460-2926

FREE

Kimchi Field Museum

Dedicated to everything about Kimchi

COEX Mall (Samseong-dong), Samseong Stn, Line 2

10:00-18:00, closed Mon.

6002-6456

3,000 KRW

Seoul Calligraphy Art Museum

Only museum in the world dedicated to calligraphy exclusively

Seoul Arts Center, Nambu Terminal, Line 3

11:00-20:00 (Mar to Oct) 11:00-19:00 (Nov to Feb)

580-1301

FREE

 

Museums in Gyeonggi-Do

Although these museums are not in the Seoul city, they are all nearby and highly recommended. The Cheonan Independence Hall makes for a lovely day excursion, and not just a few hours of museum touring. The Haegang Ceramics Museum has hands on programming, so it’s more interactive than other museums, while the Ho-Am Art Museum is located in a stunning garden.

Museum

What

Location

Hours

Phone/ Website

Entrance Fee

Ho-Am Art Museum

Large private museum housing Korean art

Yongin, Gyeonggi-do;

Taxi or free shuttle from Everland, bus 5002 from Gangnam Stn, Line 2 Exit 10

10:00-18:00, closed Mon.

031-320-1801

031-320-1802

4,000 KRW

Cheonan Independence Hall

Dedicated to the history of Korean independence

Cheonan, Gyeonggi-do, Cheonan Stn, Line 1, then take bus 400

9:30-18:00 (Mar to Oct), 9:30-17:00 (Nov to Feb), closed Mon.

041-560-0114

www.i815.or.kr

FREE

Haegang Ceramics Museum

Founded by ceramics master, Yoo Kun-Hyung. Classes available

Icheon, Gyeonggi-do, Bus from Seoul to Icheon, then take a taxi

9:30-17:30, closed Mon.

031-634-2266

031-634-2267

www.haegang.org

2,000 KRW

 

Image Source

Tags : Art. Culture. History. Museum.

Lindsey lived and worked in Seoul, South Korea for over 5 years. While there, she dabbled in different areas of work and explored the culture. She spent time teaching elementary students, business English to adults and high school students about college preparation. She also studied Korean, wrote blogs and tasted as many foods as she possibly could including fermented skate fish. Over the years, Lindsey developed a love for Korea and the culture. She is keen to share her knowledge of Korea with others and she will always consider Korea a second home.

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