All that stuff you do because it’s in Lonely Planet and on TripAdvisor and you have a major case of #FOMO.

Step 1: Palaces

There are a lot of them. They’re big. They’re made of wood so they’ve burned down at various times in history. They’re kind of empty inside like my soul after a marathon day visiting 3 of them.

At Gyeongbokgung, there’s a colorful changing of the guard ceremony:

You get in for free if you’re wearing traditional dress, which makes for some fun photo ops:

At Changdeokgung, there’s an English-language tour where you’ll be surrounded by a sea of t-shirts bearing the names of different U.S. cities. There’s a secret garden that you have to book tours of in advance, and less secret gardens that are on the tour. There are lots and lots of Korean school children and it is entirely possible to get lost in a group of them — I did.

Step 2: Museums

Go to the National Museum. It’s free. It’s a museum. A big art museum with many pre-modern items. Lots and lots of ceramics. Also, a big pagoda in the middle. 

My favorite part of the Museum was the garden and “Dragon Falls.”

If you’re feeling more ambitious and less dutiful, check out the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA).

It’s exciting in that never-know-what-you’ll-get way that modern art museums are, and enjoyable. When we went it had a special exhibit called “The Paranoid Zone” – a series of immersive rooms complete with a 50’ tall silver pigeon that reflected different images from a projector. How can you say no to that?

Step 3: Temple(s)

Go see Jogyesa. Right now. If right now is May and the lanterns are up for Buddha’s birthday.

Step 4: Buckchon Hanok Village

It seems like every town has one or more well-preserved historical streets/neighborhoods, and this is Seoul’s. You’ll see some old houses,and some tourists taking photos of the old houses. If you’re lucky, you might even see a Korean Pop Star. Or, at least, see a crowd of screaming teenagers take photos of someone who you assume is a KPop star.

Step 4: Buckchon Hanok Village

It seems like every town has one or more well-preserved historical streets/neighborhoods, and this is Seoul’s. You’ll see some old houses,and some tourists taking photos of the old houses. If you’re lucky, you might even see a Korean Pop Star. Or, at least, see a crowd of screaming teenagers take photos of someone who you assume is a KPop star.

Step 5: Eat

If you’re feeling unadventurous, go to a mall food court and enjoy listening to the white dude behind you express his surprise that Korea has things like bikes and rice. If you’re feeling like being overwhelmed, go to a department store basement — NOT THE SAME as a food court. Otherwise, eat dumplings or bibimbap or Korean barbecue or go to a traditional restaurant and sit on the floor and drink soju. Make sure you try the beer and fried chicken —  the chicken and waffles of Asia.

Step 6: Have an Adventure

Wander around Insa-dong and find the world’s most amazing outdoor shopping center. Spend an afternoon visiting a sheep cafe. Ride the subway and marvel at it’s cleanliness and vending machines. Eat honey butter potato chips and drink self-serve instant pour over coffee. Just watch out for the smog.