Over the years, Seoul has secured a prominent position as one of the trendiest and most artistic cities in the world. With that said, the art museums in Seoul have played an immense role in Seoul’s development into a cultural hub. They have served not only as an exhibition space but also as a community of art-lovers and a source of inspiration. Here are the best art museums in Seoul for you to check out!
*Please note that the museums’ opening hours may vary. Check the official museum website or social media for up-to-date opening hours before your visit.
1. National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea
The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) was founded in 1969 as a state-owned museum in order to raise art and cultural awareness in Korea through exhibitions, educational research, and international exchanges.
MCAA has four branches – two of which are in Seoul: the Deoksugung branch and Seoul branch. The Deoksugung branch is located inside the Deoksugung Palace, in the Seokjojeon Annex. Seokjojeon was considered an epitome of modernized architecture in Korea at the time it was built and thus, now is used as a modern art museum in recognition of the edifice’s lasting cultural impact.
The Seoul Branch is located near Gyeongbokgung Palace. Its location in the neighborhood of the ancient palace and the museum’s contemporary architecture creates an interesting juxtaposition that is difficult to come by.
*Tip: Deoksugung, which is where MMCA Deoksugung is located, is the only palace that has incorporated Western-style buildings in its palace grounds. Visit Deoksugung with a tour guide who can tell you about the tragic history in regards to the palace and its royal residents. Book a tour to Doeksugung here!
- MMCA Deoksugung – Tue, Thu, Fri, Sun: 10:00am ~ 7:00pm / Wed, Sat: 10:00am ~ 9:00pm (*Last admission: 1 hour before closing time)
- MMCA Seoul – Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Sun : 10:00am~ 6:00pm / Fri, Sat : 10:00 ~ 9:00pm (6:00pm ~ 9:00pm : free) (*Last admission: 1 hour before closing time)
- MMCA Deoksugung – 99 Sejong-daero, Jung-gu, Seoul
- MMCA Seoul – 30 Samcheong-ro, Samcheong-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
2. Daelim Museum & D Museum
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Daelim Museum is another modern art museum located near the Gyeongbokgung Palace. The museum first opened in 1996 as a photography museum in Daejeon before relocating to Seoul and expanding to different mediums of art. The museum has held exhibitions of world-renowned artists, such as the late fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, photographer Juergen Teller, and furniture designer Finn Juhl.
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In 2012, Daelim Museum opened an extension of its museum, named D Project Space, established to introduce up-and-coming artists through exhibitions. In 2016, Daelim Museum marked their 20th anniversary by founding D Museum in Hannam-dong, a luxurious residential area. Since its establishment, the D Museum has been especially loved by millenials for its unique curation and aesthetic use of space. For things to do and see around D Project Space and D Museum, click here for a complete guide on Hannam-dong!
*Tip: The Gyeongbokgung Palace is right across the street from Daelim Museum. Visiting the two sites in one day can give you a good look at how Korea has evolved over the years. To fully immerse yourself in Korean heritage, click here to rent a hanbok (traditional Korea clothing) and stroll around the palace!
- Daelim Museum – Tue, Wed, Sun: 10:00am~7:00pm / Thu, Fri, Sat 10:00am~8:00pm (*Last admission: 30 mins before closing time)
- D Project Space – Tue~Sun: 12:00pm~8:00pm (*Last admission: 30 mins before closing time)
- D Museum – Tue, Wed, Sun: 10:00am~6:00pm / Thu~Sat: 10:00am~8:00pm (*Last admission: 30 mins before closing time)
- Daelim Museum – 21, Jahamun-ro 4-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
- D Project Space – B3, 85, Dokseodang-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
- D Museum – 5-6, Dokseodang-ro 29-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
3. Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art
Leeum Museum is a museum owned by the global conglomerate, Samsung. The museum which is located in Hannam-dong was designed by the world-renowned architects, Mario Botta, Jean Nouvel, and Rem Koolhaus. The museum has two sections: Museum 1 and Museum 2. Museum 1 of Leeum mostly houses traditional Korean art, including 36 national treasure pieces. Meanwhile, Museum 2 is a space dedicated to modern and contemporary art. Its permanent collection contains artworks from legendary artists like Damien Hirst, Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko, Yves Klein, and Donald Judd.
Perhaps the most principal area in the museum is the rotunda in Museum 1. A colorful hanging art piece created by a Korean artist, Jung-Hwa Choi, drops down through the snow-white rotunda. If you are looking for an extensive art collection in Seoul, the Leeum Museum is the place to be.
*Tip: Namsan Mountain is located within a 15-minute drive from Leeum. We recommend you visit the Namsan Mountain, especially the N Seoul Tower, before or after your visit to Leeum. The N Seoul Tower Observatory offers an absolutely stunning view of Seoul from above the Namsan Mountain. Get tickets to the N Seoul Tower Observatory from here!
Opening Hours: Tue~Sun: 10:30am~6:30pm
Address: 60-16 Itaewon-ro 55-gil, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu
4. Seoul Museum of Art – Main Branch
Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA) is a museum operated by the Seoul City Council. The building which the main branch of the museum is located in was previously occupied by the Supreme Court of Korea prior to the relocation of the court. The museum is in a walking distance from Deoksugung and the stone-walled path that leads from Deoksugung to SeMA is one of the most beautiful streets in Korea. The museum carries a large collection of masterpieces created by prominent Korean artists such as Nam June Paik, Ufan Lee, Seobo Park, and Whangi Kim. SeMA also plays a big role in promoting young Korean artists through means like financial support, professional consulting, exhibition promotion, and residence programs.
*Tip: After getting a close look at the artistic culture of Korea at SeMA, go to the nearby Jeongdong Theater to watch The Palace ‘Jang Nok-Su-Jeon’ Show, a traditional Korean performance that encompasses decorative and musical aspects of ancient Korea. Click here to grab your tickets right now!
Opening Hours: Tue~Fri: 10:00am~8:00pm / Sat,Sun: 10:00pm~7:00pm (Mar~Oct), 10:00pm~6:00pm (Nov~Feb)
Address: 43 Insa-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Art museums in Seoul have had a defining presence on the city’s unique culture. Whether you are looking to be inspired or you just want a cool and aesthetic space to rest your head in, these art museums in Seoul will always offer more than what you are looking for! For more attractions in Seoul, read our other blog posts or visit Trazy.com!