For a world traveler, seeing incredible sights, experiencing unique local cultures, sampling fantastic food, and meeting amazing new people are key to having an amazing travel experience. South Korea offers all of that and so much more. But most people who visit usually stick to the main cities of Seoul and Busan. However, there are also quite a few things you must do in Daegu, South Korea’s fourth-largest city.
With over 2.5 million residents, Daegu technically isn’t a hidden gem, but it’s still off the beaten path for most. While Seoul is the epicenter of modern Korean culture, Daegu is more of a mix of modern and traditional.
Remnants of the Joseon Dynasty, including traditional markets, stand shoulder-to-shoulder with modern attractions like 83 Tower. It’s a city that needs to be on everyone’s South Korea itinerary! I had only one day in the city, and by the end of it, I wished I’d had more time to dedicate to the city, because there was so much more I wanted to explore. That said, these are the 5 things you must do in Daegu, South Korea.
Get a Bird’s-Eye View of Daegu at 83 Tower
One of the best ways to get a real sense of what a city is all about is by seeing it from above. You get to see the lay of the land, different communities and districts, and much more. The best spot in Daegu to get a bird’s-eye view of the city is 83 Tower. This tower has (yep, you guessed it) 83 floors and an octagonal observation deck on its 77th floor. Visiting it is one of the things you must do in Daegu, especially if you enjoy seeing things from new perspectives!
At its base is a recreational area with fountains and gardens, as well as restaurants selling both Korean and Western food. It costs 10,000 won, or roughly $8.25 U.S., for an adult to visit the observation deck. After you take the elevator up to the 77th floor, you’ll be greeted with the most spectacular views of the entire city.
The 83 Tower Observation Deck
From the ground, Daegu may not seem nearly as expansive as it actually is, but the full breadth of the city is awe-inspiring when you see it from above. The city is nestled in a valley between lots of mountains and is a lot more spread-out than I’d initially thought. I could see everything from the large windows, including a park, a stadium, and an amusement park!
While you enjoy the views, don’t miss the display on the walls that shows 83 Tower’s height in relation to other prominent towers around the world, including the Eiffel Tower and Sydney Tower. I realized that I had visited most of the towers depicted there!
There is also a café on the observation deck. I highly recommend trying the matcha espresso latte there, which was cold and refreshing and exactly what I needed on a hot, late spring day. There is also a restaurant on the 78th floor if you’d like to have a full meal.
After you leave 83 Tower, you can choose to take the Skyway cable cars back down to the city. The ride is free and will give you yet another aerial perspective of the city. You’ll also get a very good view of the amusement park that you likely saw from the observation deck. Riding the Skyway cable car is easily another thing you must do in Daegu!
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Visit Seomun Market
I’m a sucker for awesome history and an interesting street market, and Daegu combines the two with Seomun Market. It’s the largest traditional market in Daegu and the only one left from the Joseon Dynasty. While it’s best known for its sewing services and the sale of textiles to Daegu’s fashion industry, there is also lots of incredible street food there!
As my buddy Sam and I walked the lanes of the market, it was apparent that we were the only Western tourists there, which is exactly how I like it. Being the only foreigner allows you to people watch and get a real sense of what daily life in a location is like.
Savory and Sweet
After finding some kitchenware and pots used to store spices, we found some buchu-jeon. This dish is a savory, Korean pancake with lots of leeks, and is served with soy sauce with onion. We also tried another pancake with cabbage, called baechu-jeon.
You must try the buchu-jeon when you visit Seomun Market! It also had some chili in it, which added some heat, and had very little batter. I loved how healthy it was, and the flavor was simply outstanding. The cabbage pancake was decent, but honestly, it wasn’t my favorite. After trying kimchi, I prefer my cabbage fermented and spicy! If you get one of each, look to spend around 2,500 won, or a little over $2 U.S.
If you’d like a sweeter breakfast item, you can find a delicious waffle ball (hodu-gwaja) that contains a walnut and red bean paste that is quite tasty.
Spicy Hot Pot
We also came across a stall selling tons of spicy hot pot items, including two of my favorites: a blood sausage called sundae and the dense, Korean rice cakes doused in gochujang sauce known as tteok-bokki. If, somehow, you’ve missed trying tteok-bokki before arriving in South Korea’s fourth-largest city, it’s one of the things you must do in Daegu!
The blood sausage had a wonderful texture and a nice amount of heat, while the tteok-bokki was heavenly, even though I’d had spicier varieties in the past. There was also a spongy fish cake called odeng that was delightful and bursting with herbal flavor. Those who still have a sweet tooth can find a sugary doughnut-like pastry called hotteok. They’re served scorching hot and is almost identical to an elephant ear you’d buy at an American fair.
Drinks and Shopping
Drink-wise, I recommend finding someone selling some sikhye, a refreshing rice drink that has grains floating on the bottom. It’s somewhat similar to the fresh sugarcane juice I often seek out when I travel to India.
As I mentioned earlier, Seomun Market has more than just food, so if you’re looking for clothing, the market has got you covered. I found some cute clothes for my daughters, including some Spider-Man and Iron Man t-shirts for just $7 U.S.
Traditional markets like Seomun are some of my favorites to explore and it did not disappoint! Take a trip there to experience one of the top things you must do in Daegu!
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Explore Kim Kwang-Seok Memorial Street
As many people already know, music is an extremely important part of Korean culture. The youth scene there practically revolves around the phenomenon known as K-Pop. But long before acts like BTS became the worldwide face of Korean music, there was Kim Kwang-Seok.
This legendary folk-rock musician was known for his hit songs, which were known for their depiction of sorrow and frustration. With over 5 million records sold—a tough feat to accomplish in South Korea—he was arguably the country’s most popular singer in late 1980s and 1990s. He was a huge star in Korea until his untimely death in 1996 and remains an often-studied figure in Korean pop culture.
Kim Kwang-Seok’s legacy has not been forgotten in Daegu, as there is an entire street set up in his honor there. Located near Bangcheon Market, Kim Kwang-Seok Memorial Street is a celebration of his life and creativity.
Wander the 350-meter-long street to find murals and statues dedicated to the singer. Budding musicians like to perform there, and there is even a Kim Kwang-Seok singing competition held at a nearby amphitheater every autumn. Even if you don’t attend the competition, visiting this street is among the things you must do in Daegu.
Eat Galbi Jjim
There is so much to love about authentic Korean food. From it’s divine fried chicken, to the fresh seafood and vegetables, to the tteok-bokki I ate nearly every day on my trip, South Korea is gastronomical heaven! Another of my favorite dishes to eat there is braised short ribs, known locally as galbi jjim. This mouthwatering Daegu specialty originated in the 1970s and has only grown in popularity since. Seriously, it’s one of the top things you must do in Daegu!
My buddy Sam and I headed to an area that’s famous for its galbi jjim, called Dongin-Dong, where there are 12 restaurants that sell this meaty, delicious treat. We decided on a restaurant called Bongsan Jjimgalbi. There, we were served a massive spread that included several banchan, or sides.
The sides included sweet, honey-glazed peanuts, a cold and relatively bland white radish soup, a soybean soup with tender beef and fresh mushrooms, some yummy seaweed with sesame seeds, a creamy cabbage salad with mayo and raisins and carrots, and a salty and fiery glazed fish!
The main event, the galbi jjim, practically melted in my mouth. I loved the tenderness and the way it practically fell off the bone. It wasn’t very spicy, but had a texture and flavor that reminded me of hot pot beef. The best way to eat it is to wrap it in a lettuce leaf, or the other, more aromatic leaf that’s supplied, and shove it into your mouth in one bite.
After our meal, Sam and I had the pleasure of meeting Bongsan Jjimgalbi’s owner, Tony Choi, a super friendly guy who was incredibly hospitable. He helped make our time at his restaurant a lot of fun. Go there to enjoy one of the five things you must do in Daegu!
Visit Bongsan Jjimgalbi here: 9-18, Dongdeok-ro 36-gil, Jung-gu, Daegu 41908, South Korea +82 53-425-4203
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Ride the KTX Bullet Train
I’ve become addicted to riding bullet trains ever since my trip to Japan in January of 2019. Since then, I’ve ridden them in both China and South Korea. Each one has been an awesome experience that I highly recommend.
To get to and from Daegu from Seoul or Busan, the most convenient mode of transportation is the KTX, or Korean Express. This high-speed train connects Seoul in the northwest with Busan in the southeast, with stops in Daegu and Daejeon in-between. My time in Daegu was a day trip from Busan, which served as my home base during part of my South Korea trip.
Unlike in China, you can wait on the platform before its arrival time. It takes away a lot of the worry that you may miss your train!
A KTX train ride between Dongdaegu Station in Daegu and Busan Station should take 38-44 minutes and cost about 17,100 won, or just under $15 U.S. Trains usually depart every 20-30 minutes, so you never have to wait too long for the next one.
The ride between Daegu and Busan is a quick and easy trip that’s convenient and relatively inexpensive. Don’t miss out on it—riding a bullet train is one of the things you must do in Daegu!
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Daegu may not be on everyone’s radar, but in all honesty, it should be. This city is rich in history and culture while still allowing its people and society to progress. It’s the type of city that offered much more than I anticipated. My whirlwind day in Daegu was one for the ages! I hope this guide helps you should you ever go there yourself. Which you should. Book a trip to South Korea today to visit this amazing city!
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