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 exhausting hikes. The park is very mountainous…
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 for 7 days. We end with some travel tips for South Korea.
Perfect for your first time in Korea.
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 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
How to travel around South Korea
We rented a car and went on a road trip in South Korea.
You won’t need your car in Seoul so our advice would be to pick up your car from one of the many downtown locations when you leave for Gyeongju.
Here is all the information you need about renting a car and driving in Korea.
If you prefer not to drive you can use the train. Both Gyeongju and Busan have good train connections. If you travel this itinerary by train you will save with the Korea Rail Pass.
1 week in South Korea: Our South Korea itinerary
Most international flights arrive in Seoul. This makes it the logical city to start our tour.
Day 1 -2: 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.
Seoul city walk
Depending on what time you arrive in Seoul you can do (part of this) walk to get a good first impression of this fantastic city.
The city counts 5 palaces. We visited Gyeongbokgung Palace, the most popular one, to watch the changing of the guards. Later on, we also went to Unhyeoungung Palace and Deosugung Palace. Those palaces are not as popular which makes them ideal for a complete and tranquil visit.
From Unhyeoungung you can continue 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 Insadong, 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 into 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.
Coming back from Gwangjang take a left at the futuristic Jongno tower towards Myeongdong.
Where you cross the Cheonggyecheon River, you will find several food trucks.
After you have discovered the Myeongdong shopping district you can make your way to the modern city hall and walk along the wide Sejong-daero boulevard back towards Gyeongbokgung palace.
Now that you’ve already got a first impression of this thriving capital it’s time to explore it further.
You can easily spend a day exploring the city’s palaces and Bukchon Hanok Village. A second day can be spent going to Namsan Park where you can go up the Seoul Tower. Afterward, you can visit Myeongdong and Hongdae.
If you ask us, the DMZ is also something not to be missed.
As you can see there is more than enough to do for 2 days.
We won’t go into more detail here. Instead, have a look at our detailed 3-7 day Seoul Itinerary. Our recommendation would be to focus on the first 2 days of this itinerary, but of course, you are free to create your own itinerary based on the different activities that we describe.
Take our Seoul E-guide with you
For the price of a single cup of coffee, you can get our 3-7 days Seoul itinerary as a nicely formatted PDF document.
You can print it or store it on your phone so you can access it anytime during your visit to Seoul.
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 selected 3 excellent tours in Seoul just for you.
Visit the DMZ
Visiting the DMZ is a must-do when you are in Seoul. The DMZ area is located around 60 km up north of Seoul and can only be visited with a guided tour.
Join a Seoul City Bus Tour
If you want to discover the highlights of Seoul but you are short on time, this bus tour is for you. Hop on the bus and discover the top city attractions with ease.
Perfect for first-time visitors.
Check prices and availability:
Seoul City Bus Tour
Experience a Nanta show in Myeongdong or Hongdae
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 of Samulnori with comedy and drama.
Check prices and availability:
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.
The Metro hotel is within walking distance of shopping areas, street food, and public transportation.
The rooms are small but clean and all have 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.
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.
The Sunbee hotel is close to 2 subway stations, the Bukchon Hanok Village, and Seoul’s 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.
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.
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 InsaDong, the Palace District.
Aloft Seoul Gangnam
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.
The hotel is very easy to reach from Incheon airport (Airport Bus 6006 literally stops in front of the entrance) and is in the nice Cheongdam Area with a bunch of good food options and coffee shops.
Nice rooms with great service. Friendly and helpful staff.
Day 3 -4: Gyeongju
The next stop on our 1-week Korea itinerary is Gyeongju.
As soon as you leave Seoul you will find yourself surrounded by high mountains and idyllic countryside. A stark contrast with the urban jungle of Seoul.
For the next 2 to 6 hours you will see endless green landscapes that occasionally have to make way for rugged mountain tops.
Gyeongju used to be the capital of Korea during the Silla dynasty and today it is still recognized as the cultural capital of the country.
This makes Gyeongju a must-visit on your 7-day Korea itinerary.
How to get to Gyeongju from Seoul
The fastest and easiest way is by KTX train. KTX trains travel between Seoul station and Singyeongju Station. The journey takes around 2 hours. From Singyeongju you can take a bus to Gyeongju. The bus ride adds another 30 minutes.
Having a rental car offers more freedom but you won’t be able to beat the time it takes for the train to reach the city. Using turnpikes the journey takes 4 hours, if you want to avoid tolls it will take somewhere between 5 and 6 hours.
The advantage of self-driving is that you can enjoy the beautiful landscape at your own pace, and make a stopover in the Andong Hahoe Folk village.
The Andong Hahoe Folk Village
On your way from Seoul to Gyeongju, you will pass the Andong Hahoe Folk Village.
Allow 2 hours for a visit to this folkloristic village. We had mixed feelings about our visit. This well-preserved village forms a valuable part of Korean culture and is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. But it is not an open-air museum.
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 inhabited village.
That’s why I would recommend taking a guide who can give you some context about the things you see. He or she can teach you all kinds of things about Korean culture, architecture, and religion. I’m sure we would have appreciated our visit more with a guide.
If you want to visit the Andong Hahoe Folk Village but don’t want to drive there yourself you can join an organized day tour from Seoul. If you’re a party of 3 or more you can arrange your own private group trip.
Things to do in Gyeongju
Gyeongju is a relatively small town and most sights are within walking distance.
You can see most 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.
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.
Where to stay in Gyeongju
Gyeongju GG Tourist Hotel
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.
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 Lahan Select Gyeongju
Hotel Lahan Select 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.
Day 5 – 6: Busan
Next on our list is Busan, South Korea’s fastest-growing city. A fishing village bursting at the seams.
Getting to Busan
If you travel by train, the journey from Gyeongju to Busan takes about 1 hour.
You will first need to jump on the bus to Singyeongju station where you can board a KTX train for Busan.
If you drive yourself it will take 2 hours if you use the toll roads or 30 minutes more if you avoid them.
Things to do in Busan
Busan is located along South Korea’s southeastern coast. It has some wonderful beaches and draws huge crowds during the summer months.
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.
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.
Busan’s Sea Life Aquarium is also in Haeundae. It’s highly regarded, certainly by couples with kids. If you visit the aquarium you can save a lot of money by buying discount tickets online here.
In the center of Busan, you will find the Busan tower and the Nampodong & Jagalchi markets.
A little outside of the city is Taejongdae Resort Park, a peninsula that offers breathtaking views, and the Instagram-worthy Haedong Yonggungsa temple.
Busan has loads more to offer. We recommend that you follow our 2-day Busan itinerary.
Organized Tours in Busan
Busan lacks the efficient public transportation network of Seoul. There is a metro network but many of the tourist sights are far from the subway stops and will require a ride by bus. A car is therefore still useful in this city.
For those who do not have a rental car, we share some organized tours below. With these organized tours, you can efficiently visit the different sights.
Busan Private Tour with a Local
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.
Check prices and availability:
Private customizable Busan Tour
Busan Night City Tour
Busan is well known for its amazing night views. This tour is for you if you want to discover the city at night and take awesome night pictures.
Check prices and availability:
Busan night tour
Where to stay in Busan
Here’s a complete list of excellent places to stay in Busan.
Below is the hotel where we stayed during our last visit to Busan.
Shilla Stay Haeundae
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.
Day 7: Seoul
The last day of your 7-day South Korea travel itinerary takes us back to Seoul to spend more time in this huge metropolis.
Several viewpoints offer dramatic views of the vastness of Seoul.
The Seoul tower and Seoul sky (in the Lotte world center) are perhaps the 2 most known and most accessible while the vistas from Bukhansan National Park are not as widely known.
The views from the park are at least as good and we absolutely recommend that nature lovers reserve some time to visit the park.
The trail that leads up to the Bogungmun gate of the old fort is tiring but once you reach the top 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 where you can go back down via another path.
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.
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.
Cheap flights to South Korea
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.
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.
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.
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 ATMs 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 by 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 ATMs we tried.
Most wouldn’t accept our cards, but 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.
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.
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 reporting 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.
Korea Seoul Metro Navi
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.
If you plan on taking taxis, we recommend that you use the Kakao Taxi app.
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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