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The perfect 7 days Korea itinerary for first timers

Are you heading to Korea and looking for the perfect 7 days Korea itinerary? You came to the right place. Here we share what to do and where to go when you have 7 days in South Korea.

South Korea is a fascinating country. It has a rich history and offers its visitors everything from the ultra-modern capital city of Seoul to villages like Andong where it seems that time has stood still. 

The country has countless National Parks, one of them even adjacent to Seoul, where we did some impressive but tiring hikes. 

So, there’s a lot to explore in South Korea and the hospitable Koreans made our stay impeccable. 

In this Korea trip blog post we share our complete day-by-day South Korea itinerary together with some travel tips for South Korea.

Perfect for your first time in Korea.

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In a hurry? Here we share our South Korea itinerary overview

If you don’t have time to read through the full 7 days Korea itinerary,  use this overview to get an idea of the things to do on each day and save it for later.

  • Day 1-2 Seoul: Palaces, Insadong, traditional Hanok houses, Gwangjang market, Myeongdong, DMZ
  • Day 3-4 Gyeongju: Andong Hahoe Folk Village, Royal tombs, Bulgasaka temple
  • Day 5-6 Busan: Haeundae beach, Gwangandaegyo bridge, Taejongdae Resort Park, Jagalchi Fish Market, Busan Tower, Water Temple, Gamcheon cultural village
  • Day 7 Seoul: Seoul tower, Bukhansan National Park

1 week in South Korea: Our South Korea itinerary 

Just like many other travelers we started our Korea trip in Seoul. 

Day 1 -2: Seoul

Take our Seoul E-guide with you 

E-guide Seoul

For the price of a single cup of coffee, you can get our 3-7 days Seoul itinerary as a nicely formatted PDF document.

It contains all the information of this post.

You can print it or store it on your phone so you can access it anytime during your visit to Seoul.

Have a look here for more information and a preview.

Things to do in Seoul

Seoul represents the futuristic race the country has run over the past years.  The pace at which this city has been undergoing development is similar to those of Chinese cities. 

Seoul expanded enormously over the years and now houses almost 12 million people. It borders Incheon in the West and Bukhansan National Park in the North. 

The highlights can be visited in a few days but you will need weeks to discover all areas of this stretched-out megapolis.

Seoul Cheonggycheon river walk, South Korea
Don’t forget to stroll around the Cheonggyecheon stream during your Korea itinerary.

The city counts 5 palaces.  We visited Gyeongbokgung Palace, the most popular one, to watch the changing of the guards but went to Unhyeoungung Palace and later on Deosugung Palace for a complete and tranquil visit. 

From Unhyeoungung we made our way to Bukchon Hanok Village, one of the most beautiful places in South Korea to stroll between the traditional Hanok houses. 

From Bukchon it’s not far to Insa-dong, one of the most traditional and cultural districts in Seoul and a great place for lunch. 

Make sure to drop by the beautifully decorated Jogyesa temple.

A little bit further out, but worth the detour, is Gwangjang market. 

This is a traditional street market where you can mingle with the Koreans to taste some of the local street-food delicacies.

Have a look at the stalls that sell San-nakji which is raw octopus that is killed by cutting it in pieces on your plate so that the tentacles are still moving while it is served. 

I can assure you that we did not try this either but there’s a lot more you can enjoy like the Soonday (blood sausage), different kinds of rice rolls, and bindaetteok, a kind of pancake.

Seoul, Gwangjang market, South Korea
Korea travel tip: Visit the Gwangjang market while you are in Seoul.

Coming back from Gwangjang we took a left at the futuristic Jongno tower towards Myeong-dong

You will find several food trucks where you cross the Cheoggycheon river. 

After you have discovered the Myeong-dong shopping district you can make your way to the modern city hall and walk along the wide Sejong-daero boulevard back towards Gyeongbokgung palace.

Read also: The ultimate Seoul itinerary for 3-7 days, 39 of the best things to do in Seoul and the 4 day Seoul itinerary. 

Organized Tours in Seoul 

Here is an overview of the best-organized tours in Seoul.  An organized tour saves you time and, moreover, the tour guide will enlighten you about the different sights you visit.

We partnered up with GetYourGuide and Klook for these activities. 

We love GetYourGuide because they’re flexible.  Sometimes your plans change last minute and then you want to be able to cancel your tickets and get your money back.  It’s also good to know that GetYourGuide has your back when the local tour operator doesn’t show up or cancels your trip.

Klook is a trustworthy travel company headquartered in Hong Kong that teams up with local operators to offer all kinds of travel experiences.

We selected 4 excellent tours in Seoul just for you.

Visit the DMZ 
Dorosan train station, DMZ, Seoul

Visiting the DMZ is a must-do when you are in Seoul. The DMZ area is located around 60 km up north from Seoul and can only be visited with a guided tour.

Make sure to book your tours well in advance as they often sell-out.  Trips to the DMZ run Tuesday to Friday.

Book a full-day tour that includes the JSA, the Joint Security Area, the place where the 2 countries meet, and where you can step across the border and be in North Korea for a few minutes.

You can read more about the DMZ in day 3 of this itinerary and we have a full article online that compares the different tours that you can book to visit the DMZ.

Join a Seoul city tour

Seoul, Jogyesa temple, South Korea
The beautiful Jogyesa temple.

If you want to discover the highlights of Seoul but you are short on time, this tour is for you. In one day you will discover the top city attractions and learn about Seoul’s history and culture.

Perfect for first-time visitors.

Check prices and availability:
Seoul city tour

Experience a Nanta show in Myeongdong or Hongdae
Nanta show Myeongdong Theatre

If you are looking for a fun night out in Seoul this nonverbal Nanta show is perfect for you. The narrative centers around 3 charismatic chefs and integrates the traditional rhythms ofSamulnori with comedy and drama. 

Lots of fun and perfect for the whole family.

For this activity, we decided to partner up with Klook because they often have the cheapest tickets for the Nanta show.

Check prices and availability:
Nanta show

Go on a walking tour with a North Korean Defector
Gyeongbokgung palace Seoul, South Korea

Explore Seoul with a North Korean defector and professional tour guide. This tour gives you the opportunity to create your own itinerary.

Perfect if you don’t like pre-organized group tours and you want to learn more about the history of the two Koreas.

Where to stay in Seoul? 

Seoul is a large city with lots of districts each with its own styles and attractions.

Here we share the best places to stay for tourists and first-timers based on our own experience.

Myeongdong – City Center

Myeongdong is right in the heart of Seoul’s city center.

This is one of the most popular places to stay. 

The district does draw large crowds of tourists as well as shoppers and once the sun settles people flock to the streets to stroll along the pop-up food stalls and enjoy some of the best street food that Seoul has to offer. 

You will also find plenty of restaurant options, we had some of the best dakgalbi in this district. 

By staying in Myeongdong you are close to the Namsan Seoul Tower and the Namdaemun Sungnyemun gate.

Metro hotel
Metro hotel Myendong South Korea

The Metro hotel is within walking distance to shopping areas, street food, and public transportation. 

Small clean rooms with complimentary water, tea and coffee facilities.

The hotel offers a complimentary smartphone which you can use to make local calls and take out when exploring.

The hotel offers a free massage chair to use in the main lobby which is nice after a tiring day sightseeing.

Check prices and availability:

Insa-Dong – Palace Quarter

Insa-dong is one of the most traditional and cultural districts in Seoul and a very touristy district.  The streets are lined with souvenir shops, restaurants, and tea houses.

You are within walking distance of most palaces, the Jogyesa Buddhist Temple, Bukchon Hanok village and Gwanghwamum square. 

This is probably the best location if you’re short on time and want to visit the highlights on foot.

Sunbee hotel
Sunbee Hotel Insadong South Korea

The Sunbee hotel is close to 2 subway stations, the Bukchon Hanok Village and Seoul city center.

There are many nice restaurants, tea houses, and cafes near the hotel.

This is an excellent location for sightseeing.  The rooms are large and have good beds.  

The hotel staff is always friendly and willing to help and most of them speak English.

Check prices and availability:


We stayed in Gangnam the commercial district of Seoul that attracts the rich and young crowds who come here to spend their hard-earned money in the many exclusive bars, restaurants and nightlife venues. 

Its huge boulevards are lined with skyscrapers and are best enjoyed after dark when Gangnam comes alive and the huge billboards lighten up the neighborhood.

Gangnam is a little outside of the traditional tourist spots and might not be ideal if this is your first visit to Seoul.

Seoul has one of the world’s largest subway networks and the trains run frequently.  Still, it took us 45 minutes to get from Gangnam to Anguk, one of the major stations in Insa-Dong, the Palace District.

The advantage of staying in Gangnam is that the hotel rooms tend to be a tad larger here compared to the city center.

Aloft Seoul Gangnam
Seoul Aloft Gangnam, South Korea

Aloft Seoul Gangnam is about 5 mins walk to Cheongdam station (line 7). The subway system takes you relatively easy and fast to all the places of interest.

It is very easy to get to from Incheon (Airport Bus 6006 literally stops in front of it) and is in the nice Cheongdam Area with a bunch of good food and coffee shops.

Nice rooms with great service. Friendly and helpful staff.

Check prices and availability:

Read Also:

If you aren’t convinced of the above-mentioned hotels have a look at our other Seoul accommodations posts.

Day 3 -4: Gyeongju

As soon as we had left Seoul we were surrounded by the idyllic countryside that we had missed so much during our trip in Japan.

Endless green landscapes were crossed by rugged mountains.

We continued our 1 week Korea itinerary in Gyeongju.

South Korea Gyeongju Donggung Palace Wolji Pond
The beautiful Donggung Palace in Gyeongju. This is a must-visit on your South-Korea itinerary.

The Andong Hahoe Folk Village

Gyeongju used to be the capital of Korea during the Silla dynasty and till today it is still recognized as the cultural capital of the country.

It’s a must-visit on your 7 day Korea itinerary.

On your way from Seoul to Gyeongju, you will pass the Andong Hahoe Folk Village.

Allow 2 hours for a visit to this folkloristic city. We had mixed feelings about our visit.  This is an ordinary, albeit well-preserved, village.

All houses are inhabited and most are hidden behind high ramparts and closed gates.  Therefore you cannot visit the houses, you can only stroll through the streets or drive through them with a golf cart as many Asian tourists do. 

It feels strange to pay an entrance fee just to walk through the streets of an ordinary village. 

I hope our entrance fee helps the inhabitants to conserve their village but as a visitor, I would have loved to see the inside of some of these houses and some more historical context like you get in most folk villages.

Without a stop in Andong, it would take you 4 hours to drive to Gyeongju.

Gyeongju Woljeonggyo Bridge, South Korea
We also saw the Woljeonggyo Bridge during our one week in Korea.

Things to do in Gyeongju

You can combine many of the highlights of Gyeongju by walking from the city center past the Royal Tombs (often compared to Teletubbies houses) and the observation tower to the Donggung Palace with the Wolji Pond. 

The most charming moment to visit the Palace is after dark when the reflection of the palace in the water turns your visit into a fairytale story.

Still, it is a good idea to buy your tickets during the day so that when you come back in the evening you can walk straight in and skip the huge lines at the ticket machines.

Bulgaksa is a popular temple near Gyeongju.  Recognized as Unesco World heritage it houses 7 of South Korea’s national treasures. 

From the temple, you can hike to the nearby Seokguram Grotto which is part of the temple and also recognized as Unesco World heritage. 

It’s a scenic 45-minute uphill walk.  It is a small but peaceful temple with a stone-carved Buddha in the cave. 

No photographing is allowed and a glass wall has been put up to protect the interior of the cave.

Where to stay in Gyeongju

Gyeongju GG Tourist Hotel

Gg tourist hotel Gyeongju South Korea

We stayed at the Gyeongju GG Tourist Hotel. The hotel lies in a good location right in the city center near the bus terminal.

It’s easy to walk to the Royal tombs as well as the other UNESCO World Heritage sites in the ancient tomb complex.

The hotel has spacious and comfortable rooms with a big bathroom.

The only negative that we can say is that the walls of the room are quite thin. We had a lot of noise from our neighbors who were arguing until late at night. But I suppose we were just unlucky with our neighbors this night.

Check prices and availability:

If you have a car you can also opt for a hotel near the Bomun lake where you can take long walks around the lake.

Hotel Hyundai Gyeongju
Hotel Hyundai Gyeongju South Korea

Hotel Hyundai Gyeongju offers comfortable rooms with a balcony.

The hotel is in a great location next to the lake, a stroll around the lake is lovely, certainly during the cherry blossom season.

The hotel has a buffet restaurant, Chinese restaurant, coffee shop, bakery & wine shop, kids play area, and video gaming room. 

The professional hotel staff speaks English.

Check prices and availability:

Busan Haeundae Beach, South Korea
Haeundae Beach in Busan

Day 5 – 6: Busan

Things to do in Busan

We continued our one week in South Korea in Busan.

Busan is a short 1-hour drive away from Gyeongju. 

Here you will find yourself near the beach. 

Haeundae beach is a nice place to stay if you fancy a romantic stroll on the beach before you retire to your hotel room.

The nearby Dongbaek park offers splendid nocturnal views on the 7-km long Gwangandaegyo bridge, better known as the Diamond bridge.

Busan Diamond Bridge Gwangandaegyo, South Korea
The beautiful Diamond Bridge at night.

On hot days you can cool down in the Shinsegae Centum city shopping center.  Holding the record of the world’s largest shopping complex you will be able to tie on your ice skates and practice some rounds on the ice rink or relax in Spa Land.

An enormous spa complex with 22 different spas and a mixture of 13 different  Korean traditional ‘Jjimjil-bang’ saunas and saunas from all over the world.

Read Also:

There are over 3500 islands to discover in South Korea. One of the most famous and beautiful is Jeju island.

A little outside of Busan is Taejongdae Resort Park, a peninsula that offers breathtaking views. 

A nice hike but we would have loved it more if you could hike apart from the paved road that’s also being used by the shuttle.

We skipped the Oryukdo Skywalk after reading mostly negative reviews and we skipped the Sea Life Busan Aquarium as well. 

It’s highly regarded but mostly so by couples with kids.  If you do go you can save a lot of money by buying your tickets online here.

Lastly, there is the colorful cultural village of Gamcheon.  Due to the photogenic stacked houses, this place is very popular with tourists.

Read Also:

Organized Tours in Busan

Here we share the best Busan tours.

These tours are perfect if you are short on time or you don’t want to spend time plotting out your own itinerary.

Busan Private Tour with a Local
Lotte Department Store Seomyeon Busan South Korea

If you are like us and you don’t like group tours, this private tour might be something for you. 

With this tour, you will have the chance to explore Busan with a local guide who will customize your tour in line with your personal interests.

Perfect if you want to learn more about Busan but you don’t like group tours.

Busan Night City Tour 
Busan by night, South Korea

Busan is well known for its amazing night views. This tour is for you if you want to discover the city and night and take awesome night pictures.

If you didn’t find what you were looking for, take a look at our overview with the best Busan day tours. 

Where to stay in Busan

This is our selection of the best hotels to stay in Busan.

 Shilla Stay Haeundae
Busan Haeundae Shilla Stay, South Korea

We stayed in the brand new Shilla Stay Haeundae hotel, located right in front of Haeundae beach.

The hotel has soberly decorated modern and comfortable rooms.

They have a rooftop bar which is a great place to hang out. The hotel is within walking distance of many restaurants.

Check prices and availability:

Read Also:

Bukhansan National Park, South Korea
Bukhansan National Park is a great place for hiking near Seoul

Day 7: Seoul

The last day of your 7 days South Korea travel itinerary takes us back to Seoul to spend more time in this huge metropolis.

Seoul, Seoul Tower Love locks, South Korea
The Seoul tower is an unmissable stop on your Korea itinerary

Several viewpoints offer dramatic views on the vastness of Seoul.  

The Seoul tower and Seoul sky (in the Lotte world center) are perhaps the 2 most known and most accessible but we had one of the most beautiful views on Seoul from Bukhansan National Park.

The walk to the Bogungmun gate of the old fort leads you all the way upwards but once you get there you are rewarded with a beautiful view of the park and the vast city.

From here you can follow the ramparts of the old fort to the Daeseongmun gate. 

From there you can go back down via another road.

South Korea travel tips

Let’s end this Korea itinerary blog with some Korean travel tips.

What’s the best time to visit South Korea?

May, September, and October are the best months to visit South Korea. 

June, July, and August are rainier and hotter with temperatures reaching 25 to 30 degrees.  Moreover, the risk of typhoons is also greater. 

In May everything starts to bloom and in September and October, the autumn colors make the landscapes very photogenic.

We visited South Korea in April and had 2 rainy days over the course of 2 weeks and a half.

Going independent or joining an organized tour

We found it easy and straightforward to create our own travel itinerary for South Korea. Korea is a very modern country, we could book and arrange everything online.

We also found it pretty easy to travel around the country independently. 

But if you don’t want to travel independently you could join an organized tour. Tourradar is a trustworthy company where you can book an organized tour. 

Read Also:

If you prefer an organized tour, have a look at our overview of the best Korea package tours. 

Cheap flights to South Korea

If you want to score cheap flights to Korea we advise you to have a look at Momondo and Skyscanner.  

Both are flight aggregators that compare several hundreds of booking sites and give you an overview of the best flights and the cheapest sites to book them. 

Momondo and Skyscanner are both very good at finding good deals, of the two, Momondo is probably the one with the most intuitive user interface.

Do I need travel insurance for Korea?

Travel Insurance is something that can be overlooked when you prepare for your vacation. 

Certainly when you’re traveling to a safe and civilized country.  We didn’t get travel insurance for our first vacations. 

A few years later we both took out new credit cards that came with travel insurance and relied on those.  We know better now…

Overall, chances are slim that you will encounter any problems while traveling through a civilized country such as Korea. But when things go wrong in civilized countries, the medical costs can be high. 

We learned it the hard way when we once had to visit the hospital in the United States.  The medical care was excellent but we had high out-of-pocket expenses as it turned out the insurance that came without credit cards didn’t cover these costs.  It turned out we were underinsured.

Drawing up a travel insurance policy may seem expensive at first but it can potentially save you a significant sum, significantly more than the small insurance fee. 

Good travel insurance, such as the one from World Nomads, covers things like medical expenses, trip cancellation, overseas medical costs, evacuation, baggage damage or loss, and theft.

We personally love World Nomads insurance for their excellent coverage.

Exploring South Korea by car

We would encourage you to explore South Korea by car. There’s nothing wrong with the public transit system in cities like Seoul. But there’s nothing that can beat the freedom of having your own car. 

You’re the master of your own schedule and you just need to load your bags in your trunk. 

Taking the train often means that you will be dragging your bags up and down several flights of stairs.

Yes, there’re elevators but they’re not always very easy to find.

So here we will share what you need to know to do the perfect South Korean road trip. 


Money in South Korea 

Cash is king for visitors.  Koreans can swipe their cards everywhere but foreign cards are not always accepted.

There’re many ATM’s at Incheon airport and it took us at least an hour to find one where we could withdraw cash.  Most tourists were helping each other pointing out other ATMs to their fellow-tourists. It seems all foreigners were having the same problems.

Once we had left the airport things didn’t get better.  It was always a hit or miss with the ATM’s we tried. 

Most wouldn’t accept our cards, some did. Usually, we never suggest bringing cash but it looks like it may be a good idea to bring some cash to South Korea.

And once you have found an ATM that gives you cash make sure to withdraw enough! We couldn’t use our credit cards for toll fees.  We had better luck in restaurants and gas stations where our cards were usually accepted.

Seoul, Bukchon Hanok Village, South Korea
Bukchon Hanok Village is a must-visit during your 7 days Korea itinerary

Safety in South Korea 

We didn’t encounter any problems whatsoever (except getting cash :-)) during our week in Korea but if you would you can call the travel hotline in 4 languages (Korean, English, Japanese and Chinese) 24/7.

Internet in South Korea 

South Korea has the fastest internet in the world. A lot of places offer free wifi. We don’t know why, but we didn’t always manage to get on the wifi.

Because we used quite a few apps to help us to travel around Seoul and to check for the best places to eat we bought a local sim card.

This way we were certain that we always had internet.

You can purchase your SIM card here or read our full post about what’s the best SIM card for tourists.

We used our own Pocket WIFI device to share the 4G connection but if you don’t have a device of your own you can also rent one online and pick it up at the airport. 

Purchase your Pocket WIFI device or read our full post about the best Pocket WIFI device.

Handy South Korean apps

Mangoplate is the app to check for restaurant reviews and the best places to eat.

Naver Maps is your GPS companion for your road trip. 

Google Maps navigation is not working in South Korea and despite some people that reported that Waze was working for them it was not for us. 

The Naver Maps app is available in English (their website is only in Korean) and the app’s look and feel is very intuitive and very much similar to any other GPS app.

Available on: Google PlayApple
(This app is not getting much love for its Apple version.  We used the Android version which worked like a charm)

Korea Seoul Metro Navi will guide you quickly and efficiently through Seoul’s extended subway system.  The app calculates the fastest route to your destination.

Available on: Google PlayApple

Did you ever visit Korea? What do you think is the best itinerary for South Korea? 

Let us know in the comments. 

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7 days South Korea itinerary
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