Seoul represents the futuristic race South Korea has run over the past years.
The city was mostly flattened after the Korean War, the pace at which this city has been undergoing development since then is similar to those of Chinese cities.
The few historical buildings that survived the war are now surrounded by modern skyscrapers. 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.
In this Seoul travel blog post, we share a complete Seoul itinerary for 3 to 7 days.
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Seoul Itinerary E-guide
Take this comprehensive 3 to 7 days Seoul itinerary with you on your mobile phone.
This nicely formatted e-guide contains all the information we cover in this article and helps you explore the city like a local.
We have also added 2 maps, 1 of Gangnam and 1 of the city palaces.
All this for the price of just one beer!
Not yet convinced, click here for a preview of this beautiful E-guide.
General information for Seoul, South Korea
What is the best time to visit Seoul in South Korea?
The best months to visit Seoul are April, May, and October.
In May the cherry blossoms start to bloom. In September and October, the autumn colors make the landscapes very photogenic.
South Korea visa requirements
We didn’t need a visa and you probably won’t either except if you’re living in Africa or Asia.
Here you can check if you need a visa.
Cheap flights to Seoul
If you love getting cheap flights in your mailbox, we recommend joining the Dollar Flight Club.
Joining is free and it can literally save you thousands of dollars.
Do I need travel insurance
Flights are usually one of the most expensive and least flexible items in your travel expenses. To find a good deal on airfares you usually need to book a few months in advance and when you want a flexible rate you need to pay a two- or threefold of the normal fares.
Compare that with hotel bookings which you can book a few weeks in advance and where you only need to add a few euros to get the flexibility to cancel for free on the same day or one or two days in advance.
It would be a shame to lose this investment in a beautiful holiday through a stupid accident. Believe me, many things can happen in the run-up to your vacation. We once broke our leg in the last weeks before our vacation and had to cancel our travel plans.
That’s why we always get travel insurance. Travel insurance is much cheaper than paying for flexible airline tickets and protects you from any losses in case you need to cancel or change your plans. In addition, it covers a whole range of other things.
How many days in Seoul?
The highlights of Seoul can be visited in a few days but you will need weeks to discover all areas of this stretched-out megapolis.
3 days is a good amount of time to visit the highlights of the city.
4 to 7 days will give you the time to go hiking, to visit more of the beaten path attractions or to take a few day trips from Seoul.
Here you will find a list of 39 amazing things to do in Seoul.
Seoul Money saving tips
Let us start with some money-saving tips.
Save money with The Discover Seoul pass
If you plan on visiting a lot of Seoul’s tourist attractions, you should purchase a Discover Seoul Pass.
With this Discover Seoul Pass, you enjoy free access to 35 tourist attractions and get a discount at another 30 attractions and locations.
It also has a T-money function ( that keeps working after the duration of your pass) which means you can use it as a rechargeable card for public transport.
This will save you the ₩2,500 from buying a separate T-Money card.
As an extra benefit, you get one free one-way A’rex Express train ride. The A’rex Express is the train that connects Incheon airport with the city center.
This 1-3 day pass will save you a lot of money.
After you buy one online you can pick it up at Incheon international airport, Gimpo airport or the Myeongdong Tourist Information Center and you can directly enjoy all the benefits.
Buy tickets for attractions online
It’s almost always cheaper to book your tickets for attractions online in Seoul.
Most attractions offer discounts from 10% to 50% for tickets that have been bought online.
We recommend booking your tours with GetYourGuide and Klook.
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 often has great deals and ultra-low prices but they also have stricter cancellation rules.
Cash is king for visitors
Koreans can swipe their cards everywhere but foreign cards are not always accepted. We were surprised by the number of ATM’s at Incheon airport. We have been trying ATM’s for at least an hour before we found one that worked for us.
We were not the only ones who had problems. Tourists were helping each other pointing out other ATM’s to their fellow-tourists. It wasn’t easy to get cash.
Once we had left the airport things didn’t get better. It was always a hit or miss with the ATM’s we tried. There was no particular bank where we could say with certainty that our card would work. The majority of times it wouldn’t work but luckily every once in a while the machine would start counting bills, a noise that made us very happy at that time. 🙂
We hardly ever suggest to take cash with you but it looks like it may be a good idea to do this when going to South Korea. And once you have found an ATM that gives you cash make sure to withdraw enough!
Internet in South Korea
South Korea has super-fast internet and many places offer free wifi. We don’t know why, but often our phones wouldn’t connect to these wifi hotspots.
Because we used several apps to help us travel around Seoul we also bought a local sim card.
This way we were certain that we always had internet.
Handy South Korean apps
Korea Seoul Metro Navi will guide you quickly and efficiently through Seoul’s extended subway network. The app calculates the fastest route to your destination.
Mangoplate is a good app to check for restaurant reviews and the best places to eat.
Naver Maps is an excellent GPS companion for your road trip. Google Maps navigation is not working in South Korea and despite some people that reported that Waze worked for them it didn’t work 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.
How to get from Incheon or Gimpo airport to Seoul?
Gimpo Airport to Seoul
Gimpo airport is Seoul’s smallest airport and lies about 50 minutes from downtown Seoul.
It is often used for domestic flights and offers a shuttle service to Tokyo.
Gimpo Airport can be easily reached with subway Line 5 and with the all-stop A’REX Airport Express.
How to get from Incheon airport to Seoul
Most international passengers will arrive at Incheon International Airport.
South Korea’s largest airport is 47km from Seoul Station, which is considered to be the center of Seoul. The airport is well connected to this station.
Some hotels have courtesy shuttles to Seoul station but if they don’t you could continue your journey with the subway, the train or organize a private transfer.
The fastest and cheapest way
The fastest and cheapest way to get from Incheon International Airport to Seoul Station is using the A’REX Airport Express.
Take a private and direct transfer
Depending on the location of your hotel and the length of your flight (and the amount of sleep you could get) you might not be looking forward to train and subway rides in your first hours in Seoul.
After a long flight, a private and direct transfer from the airport to your hotel will be a lot more comfortable.
How to get around Seoul?
The easiest way to travel around Seoul is to use the subway.
Seoul’s subway is well-connected and quite cheap.
Single ride cards can be purchased on vending machines with coins and bills, credit cards are not accepted.
To avoid the hassle of buying tickets for each and every ride you can opt for the T-money recharge card.
T-money recharge card
The card can be used on subways, buses, and taxis and you will save ₩100 on each subway and bus ride if you pay with this card.
The card can be recharged at the vending machines with coins and bills, credit cards are not accepted.
The card costs ₩2500 and this fee is not refundable.
At the end of your trip, you can get a refund of the funds that are still on the card minus a transaction fee of ₩500.
We used an M-pass card.
This is a transportation card exclusively for international tourists traveling in the Seoul metropolitan area and Jeju.
M-PASS comes in five different durations: 1-day, 2-day, 3-day, 5-day, and 7-day passes.
For the duration of the pass, you can do 20 free rides a day on the subway, on the bus or with the all-stop A’rex airport express.
20 rides a day is normally more than enough but you can load extra funds on the card if needed as it basically is just another T-money card.
You can buy your M-pass card at Incheon airport or at Seoul station.
The card can be purchased with cash only.
Discover Seoul Pass
If you plan to visit a lot of Seoul’s tourist attractions then the above described Discover Seoul Pass is perfect for you.
The pass has a 1day, 2-day, and 3-day variant and gives you discounted or free access to many top tourist destinations.
It also has a T-money function that will save you ₩2,500 of buying a separate T-Money card. As an extra benefit, you get one free one-way A’rex Express train ride.
If you don’t feel at ease using the subway, you can always jump on one of the hop-on-hop-off buses to see the highlights of Seoul.
Where to stay in Seoul
Seoul is a large city with lots of districts each with their own styles and attractions.
Here we share the best places to stay for tourist 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 lots of delicious street food and plenty of restaurant options. We had some of the best dak-galbi in this district. By staying in Myeongdong you are close to the Namsan Seoul Tower and the Namdaemun Sungnyemun gate.
The Metro Hotel
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.
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.
The Sunbee hotel
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.
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 worlds 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 lot larger here compared to the city center.
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. 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 options and coffee shops.
Nice rooms with great service. Friendly and helpful staff.
Organized Seoul tours
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 selected 3 great tours in Seoul just for you.
Seoul City Tour
If you want to comfortably discover the highlights of Seoul in a short amount of time, this tour is for you. You will see popular sights such as Gyeongbokgung Palace, Buckchon Hanok village, Insadong and more.
In one day you will discover the top city attractions and learn about Seoul’s history and culture.
Perfect for first-time visitors who want to discover Seoul in one day.
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 from Seoul and can only be visited with a guided tour. 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.
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.
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.
Explore Seoul with a private walking tour
Go on a walking tour in Seoul and discover Seoul as a resident. The guide will tailor the tour to your interests.
Perfect to get more insights into Korean culture and life.
Here we share our recommended Seoul travel itinerary for 3-7 days. So read on to discover which places you absolutely need to visit in Seoul.
Seoul itinerary 3 days – What to do in Seoul for 3 days
Here we describe what you can do in Seoul in 3 days.
Day 1: Discover the palaces, Bukchon Hannok village, and Insadong
The palaces in Seoul
The Joseon Dynasty was the last kingdom in Korea.
Over the reign of this dynasty, Seoul became the capital city and center of state affairs.
Throughout the years, the kings had many grand palaces built here.
5 of them are currently open to the public.
If you can only go to one palace during your Seoul trip, I suggest you visit Gyeongbokgung Palace, because it is the main royal palace and also the largest of the 5.
It’s also the most popular and often regarded as the most beautiful as well.
Try to be there during Royal guard Changing Ceremonies.
The Royal Guard (Sumunjang) changing ceremony can be seen for free daily, except on Tuesdays, at 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM in front of Gwanghwamun. This is the main gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace.
If these time slots don’t work for you, you can also witness a Guard-on-Duty Performance at the Gwanghwamun gate at 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM or a Sumungun (Gatekeeper) Military Training at the Hyeopsaengmun Gate at 09:35 AM and 1:35 PM.
There is a free guided tour of the Palace building in English at 11.00AM, 1.30 PM and 3.30PM. Check the schedule on the official website to make sure the hours are still correct.
₩3,000 or included in the combined Four Palaces ticket (see below). Free entrance if you’re wearing a complete and correct Hanbok. (see the explanation on the website of what exactly qualifies) Free entrance with the Discover Seoul Pass.
Changdeokgung was the second royal villa built after the construction of Gyeongbokgung was completed in 1405.
It was the main palace for many kings of the Joseon Dynasty and is the most well-preserved of the five remaining palaces.
It has been recognized as a World Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO in 1997.
The “Secret Garden” (Huwon) in Changdeokgung remains a little bit mysterious up until today because there are only a limited number of people admitted each day.
The secret garden boasts a gigantic tree that is over 300 years old, a small pond and a pavilion.
It’s a beautiful place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Be sure to reserve your tour online well upfront if you want to visit the garden. (click on tour reservation on top of the page)
There is a free guided tour of the Palace building in English at 10.15 AM and 1.15PM. Check the schedule on the official website to make sure the hours are still correct.
₩3,000 for the palace building or ₩8,000 for the palace building area including the Secret garden. Access to both is included in the combined Four Palaces ticket (see below). Free entrance to the palace building if you’re wearing a Hanbok. Free entrance with the Discover Seoul Pass.
Deoksugung Palace is located at the corner of Seoul’s busiest downtown intersection and is famous for its elegant stone-walled road.
The palace is also worth a visit because it is the only palace that sits alongside a series of western style buildings that contribute to the uniqueness of the surrounding scenery.
Deoksugung Palace has its own Changing of the Royal Guards Ceremony. It is held at 11:00 AM, 2:00 PM, and 3:30 PM daily, except on Mondays. Due to another event, the ceremonies on Saturday afternoon are often canceled.
There is a free guided tour in English at 10.45 AM and 1.30PM. Check the schedule on the official website to make sure the hours are still correct.
₩1,000 or included in the combined Four Palaces ticket (see below). Free entrance if you’re wearing a Hanbok. Free entrance with the Discover Seoul Pass.
Changgyeonggung and Changdeokgun Palace
Changgyeonggung Palace is located in the heart of Seoul. It is located next to Changdeokgun.
Both palaces used to share the rear garden and were commonly known as the East palaces as they are located East of Gyeongbokgung Palace.
The palace was often used as residential quarters for queens and concubines.
During the Japanese colonial rule, it became a park with a zoo and a botanical garden.
In 1983 the government of Korea decided to remove the zoo and began working on the restoration of the palace.
The botanical garden was preserved and gradually the palace is regaining its old glory.
₩1,000 or included in the combined Four Palaces ticket (see below). Free entrance if you’re wearing a Hanbok. Free entrance with the Discover Seoul Pass.
Gyeonghuigung Palace is located Southwest of Gyeongbokgung Palace and towards Deoksugung Palace.
Gyeonghuigung Palace served as the secondary palace for the king in the latter half of the Joseon period.
The secondary palace is there where the King would move in case of an emergency. The palace was also called Seogwol which means ” a palace of the west”, as at that time it was located on the west side of Seoul.
You can also choose to visit a 6th palace, Unhyeongung.
It’s one of Seoul’s smaller and less touristic palaces and is located near Bukchon.
A visit is therefore easy to combine with a visit to Bukchon Hanok Village.
If you plan on visiting all the palaces you can save by buying the Four Palaces ticket which grants you access to Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace, Changgyenggung Palace, Deoksugung Palace and the Jongmyo Royal Ancestral Shrine for ₩10,000.
The ticket can be bought at any of these locations and is valid for 3 months from the date of purchase.
If you’ve always dreamed of being a Prince or a Princess you can make those dreams come true in Seoul. The pictures with the traditional clothing in front of the palaces will be great memories and the Hanbok will grant you a free entrance to the palaces.
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Bukchon Hanok Village
From Unhyeoungung you can make your way to Bukchon to stroll between the traditional Hanok houses.
This district is composed of many streets and alleys. You’re free to wander around and explore the cozy inner courtyards as long as you respect the privacy of the people who live there.
Some of the beautiful traditional Korean Houses that you will pass date back to around 600 years ago. All of them have been renovated with great respect for the cultural heritage.
There are many small alleyways and long roads for great pictures.
Bukchon lies on a hill, so there will be some uphill climbing involved.
Nearest subway station: Anguk Station, Exit #2
From Bukchon it’s not far to Insadong, one of the most traditional and cultural districts in Seoul. It is one of those places you absolutely must visit while you are in Seoul. It’s full of coffee shops, art galleries and restaurants.
A great place for lunch and for souvenir buying.
If you like to spoil yourself with a good brunch, take a look at the best places to brunch in Seoul.
Things to do in Insadong?
Make sure to drop by the beautifully decorated Jogyesa temple.
Noteworthy museums are the Kimchi Museum (Renamed to Museum Kimchikan in 2015) and The Alive Museum. Museum Kimchikan is situated in the center of the cultural street of Insa-Dong on the 4th, 5th and 6th floors of the Insa-dong Maru building. It was named one of top 11 best food museums by CNN in 2015.
Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish and often recognized as one of the healthiest foods in the world. Koreans eat Kimchi with almost every meal but only recently does it start to appear on tables outside the Korean borders.
A little bit further out and technically not in Insadong, 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 a 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.
Nearest subway station: Anguk Station, Exit #6
Day 2: Namsan Park, Seoul tower, Myeongdong and Hongdae
Visit Namsan Park and N Seoul Tower
Mt. Namsan – Namsan Park is a symbolic place in the center of Seoul. It is the largest park in Seoul attracting over 20,000 people a day. Most visitors come to this park to enjoy nature, to see the city skyline or to hike one of the trails.
A number of events take place at the park and one of the biggest is the annual cherry blossom festival in April. The Cherry Blossom Path in Namsan Park is the longest trail of cherry trees anywhere in the city and is spectacular in full bloom.
To get up the mountain you can ride the Namsan cable car or take the Yellow Bus. To get to the base station of the Cable car you take the metro to Myeongdong Station where you take exit 3 and head South.
The cable car is probably the most convenient option to reach the top. The Yellow bus stops at Exit 2 of Chungmuro Station or Exit 6 of Dongguk University Station.
Alternatively, you can also just simply walk to the top of the mountain. There is a pedestrian walkway that starts about 50 meters from the parking lot of the Namsan Cable Car. If you keep a steady pace you will be at the foot of the N Seoul Tower 30 minutes later.
At the bottom of N Seoul Tower, you have some dramatic views on the Skyline of Seoul and the surrounding area. Better yet are the vistas from the viewing platform of the N Seoul Tower.
Since 1980, the N Seoul Tower has been a landmark of the skyline of downtown. It’s also the first tower-type tourism spot in South Korea. Rising at almost 480m above sea level, it is one of the tallest towers in Asia.
The great vistas on Seoul from Mt. Namsan are completely free if you walk to the top, you have to buy a ticket for the cable car or bus.
Shop till you drop in the Myeongdong district that is situated at the foot of Mt. Namsan.
This is a good place for shopping in Seoul. Here you will find everything you want from skincare to makeup, clothes and more!
Starting at 4 pm vendors will get their carts in place and it becomes one of the best places to try the delicious Korean street food.
You will be surprised by the huge variety from sweet to spicy snacks that you can buy. In Myeongdon you can feast on grilled lobster, tteokgalbi meatballs and other delicacies in addition to the classics like bungeoppang (fish shaped waffle), gyerranppang (waffle with egg on top) and gimbap (Korean version of sushi).
A great place to get a snack after you come down from Mt. Namsan.
Make sure you have some spare cash for the street food as credit cards are usually not accepted.
Nearest subway station: Myeongdong Station
Its location near a few of Seoul’s colleges makes Hongdae the mecca of nightlife, shopping, cafes, and activities.
It’s also home to one of the funniest museums in Seoul, the Trick Eye Museum.
The Trick Eye Museum is an interactive museum that gives off impressive optical illusions.
A trip to Hongdae will also be incomplete without taking a look at the colorful collection of street art in the area.
Every Saturday from March to November, there is the Hongdae Free market where you will find an array of local artist work.
Nearest subway station: Hongik University Station, Exit #9
Day 3 Visit DMZ
A visit to the DMZ is a must-see when you’re in South Korea. The DMZ area is located around 60 km up north from Seoul and can only be visited with a guided tour.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t do this excursion because our visit fell together with inter-Korean Summit and therefor the JSA was closed to visitors.
Maybe we should plan another trip to South Korea…
Make sure to book your tour well in advance as they are often sold out. Trips to the DMZ run Tuesday to Friday.
We recommend booking a full-day tour that includes the JSA, the Joint Security Area. This is the official building with the conference room where the leaders of both countries meet.
The conference room is built on the border and you can step across the room, passing the border, to spend a few minutes in North Korea. Don’t forget your passport on the day of the excursion!
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Seoul itinerary 4 days – 4 days in Seoul
If you are looking for a 4 day Seoul itinerary, take a look here.
Day 4: Go hiking in Bukhansan National Park
If you are like us and you like nature you should definitely spend a day at Bukhansan National Park. Bukhansan National Park borders Seoul in the North. It’s the perfect place to unwind after some busy days in the city.
How to get to Bukhansan National Park
The park is quite large and has 10 different entrances. We started our hike at the Jeongneung Visitor Center as we came by car and this is one of few entrances with a parking lot.
It may not be the best entrance if you use public transportation. In that case, you might opt for the Weondobong entrance further north at the Bukhansan National Park Dobong office.
Nearest subway station: The Dobongson metro station (Line 1 or 7, exit 1) is just 10 minutes walking from this entrance.
You should be able to follow the Koreans in their colorful hiking clothes to the entrance, hiking is very popular in Korea.
Directions to all entrances are very well explained on the National Park’s website.
Things to do at Bukhansan National Park
There are different walks of different lengths. You should be able to find a hike in accordance to the time you want to spend in the park.
We hiked up Munsubong peak to the Bogungmun gate.
The climb is strenuous and demanding but the view from the top is awesome.
I dare to say this might have been the best view on Seoul we had.
At the top can either follow the old city enclosures further to the North or to the South. We continued our way south and continued to follow the ramparts to get one beautiful vista after another on the skyline of Seoul below us.
Once we got to the Daeseongmun gate we descended back towards the entrance of the park.
This loop took us approximately 2.5 hours with the occasional stop to take pictures and enjoy the magnificent views.
This is just one of the many hikes that you can do.
On the National Park’s website, you will find much more hikes along with their start locations and their difficulty grade. You can get a map that shows all trails at the visitor centers.
Seoul itinerary 5 days – 5 days in Seoul
Day 5: Gangnam
If you are 5 days in Seoul, you definitely should visit Gangnam.
Gangnam is very known from Psy’s song Gangnam style. Gangnam literally means ‘south of the river,’ the neighborhood borders the southern banks of the Han river.
It’s a district where many wealthy South Koreans live. You should reserve a day to explore this exclusive upscale district.
Fun things to do in Gangnam
Shop til you drop
The Gangnam district is one of the most popular districts to go shopping. It counts many shopping malls and department stores. They are spread out across various areas in this district.
The main areas are Apgujeong, Garosugil, COEX, and Gangnam Station.
At Gangnam station, there is a large underground shopping center with loads of stalls with affordable clothing, fashion items, shoes, etc.
The mall is mainly aimed at millennials and is a great place to keep up with the so-called “Gangnam Style”.
The underground shopping center below Gangnam station is your best bet to shop if you are looking for bargains in the chic Gangnam District.
Stroll along the streets of Gangnam
As we walked along the wide boulevards that traverse Gangnam we felt like actors playing a role in a futuristic movie. It seemed like any minute we could expect a flying car to pass buzzing above our heads.
Nothing as futuristic as that happened but those flying cars wouldn’t be out of place in the pictures of this district.
The huge boulevards are lined with skyscrapers and are best enjoyed after dark when Gangnam comes alive and the huge billboards lighten up the neighborhood.
We enjoyed discovering this neighborhood and admired the classy architecture and the shiny cars that are parked in front of the exclusive bars, restaurants and nightlife venues.
Visit the Bongeunsa Buddhist Temple
Bongeunsa is a Buddhist Temple in the center of Gangnam.
The moment you cross the doorstep of the temple you leave the bustle of the city behind and you will find yourself surrounded by the serenity of the Buddhist mantras and the peaceful landscape of the temple’s gardens.
Twice a day, at 4:10 PM and 6:40 PM, a percussion ceremony using four instruments is performed by the monks of the temple.
This ceremony is meant to save and awaken beings on the ground using the drum, beings underwater using the wooden fish, beings in the sky using the cloud drum, and beings under the ground using the gong.
Take Subway Line 9 to Bongeunsa Temple Station (Exit 1)
COEX – Shopping Mall and Aquarium
It underwent a complete renovation in 2014.
It is a shopping mecca for international brand name stores but besides stores, it also contains a movie theater, a concert hall, an aquarium, and an extensive food court just as well as several fine dining restaurants.
Note that the Kimchi museum used to be located in the COEX mall but has moved to Insa-Dong in 2015. (see higher)
Take Subway Line 2 to Samseong Station (Exit 6) or Subway Line 7 to Cheongdam Station (Exit 2).
Seoul Olympic Park
Seoul Olympic Park, often referred to as Olpark, is absolutely enormous and a popular date spot for the Seoul residents.
It’s also popular with families with small children, people playing sports and couples strolling.
There are bikes, kites, balls, and skates, all of which visitors can rent at a low price. It costs about 15,000 won to rent the bike for an hour.
The park is divided into several zones and houses impressive leisure facilities legacy of the 1988 games. But besides the 6 sports stadiums that are all still in use, you also find a large collection of art and sculptures.
At the entrance of the park, near the peace square, is the winged world peace gate that symbolizes the ability of the Korean people and peace and harmony.
Recent efforts have also succeeded in re-introducing animals like raccoons, ducks, woodpeckers, pheasants and many more.
The vast area covers approximately 1.4 million square meters and it takes about 3 hours to explore the park completely.
Jamsil (Green Line 2, Pink Line 8) and Mongchontoseong (Olympic Park) Station (Purple Line 5)
Samsung D’light is a global promotional and exhibition center that showcases the latest technology founded by Samsung. The name is derived from the company’s vision of being ‘a guiding light to the digital world’. The center occupies three floors in the Samsung Electronics building.
The first floor is an exhibition space for Samsung’s technology and devices.
The second floor is a showcase of the possibilities of the future with Samsung solutions.
The basement floor houses Samsung’s flagship store.
All Samsung devices are available for purchase but ironically foreigners can often find Samsung devices cheaper in their home countries.
Line 2 Gangnam Station (subway line 2, Shinbundang Line) exit 8
Lotte World Adventure, Magic Island & Aquarium
Lotte World Adventure in Jamsil, just outside Gangnam, is the world’s largest indoor amusement park. It’s a Korean version of Disneyland and a great place to go if you’re traveling with kids.
The park can get crowded, certainly during holidays and on weekends when you may have to queue for 90 to 120 minutes for some of the popular attractions.
Next door is Lotte World Magic Island (entrance is included with your ticket for Lotte World Adventure) with many outside attractions. The magic castle on the magic island looks like an exact copy of Disney’s castle.
On the opposite side of the road is the Lotte World Mall that houses the Lotte World Aquarium.
You can buy a combi-ticket to visit all three parks on the same day but in Lotte World Adventure and Magic Island you can easily spend a day.
Jamsil (Green Line 2, Pink Line 8) Exit 4
Seoul Sky @ Lotte World Tower
The Lotte World Tower completed in 2017 is Seoul’s tallest tower and is ranked as the 5th tallest building in the world. The top floors of this 123-floor skyscraper house Seoul Sky, the highest observation platform on Seoul which is also the world’s highest glass-floored observation deck.
Tickets are not cheap but worth every cent as Seoul Sky offers a great experience and a fantastic view over Seoul.
Jamsil (Green Line 2, Pink Line 8) Exit 1,2,10 or 11
Seoul itinerary 7 days
If you have 7 days in Seoul we would recommend you to take some day trips from Seoul. One of the highlights of our Seoul trip was a day trip to Seoraksan National Park.
Day 6- 7: a trip to Seoraksan National Park
Seoraksan National Park lies in the Northeast of Korea.
It offers some of the most beautiful sceneries of Korea and is a must-visit if you are 7 days in Seoul.
How to get to Seoraksan National Park
The easiest way to reach Seoraksan National Park is by car or on an organized day trip from Seoul.
If you have a car, it’s a 3h easy drive to the Park along the Yeongdong Highway ( road 50).
It’s very easy to do a road trip in South Korea, we wrote an article about hiring a car and driving in South Korea in which we share some useful tips.
It’s quite a hassle to reach the park from Seoul with public transport.
You would first need to take a bus from the Seoul Express Bus Terminal to Sokcho from where you continue your trip to the park with bus number 7 or 7-1.
The first part from Seoul to Sokcho takes 2 hours and a half and it takes an additional 45 minutes to get from Sokcho to the park.
What to do in Seoraksan National Park
You can choose from a whole selection of hikes, the shortest take just a few hours the longest treks take 3 days.
We hiked to the top of the Ulsanbawi Rock, it took us somewhere between 3 to 4 hours.
This is seen as the best hike if you don’t want to camp overnight in the park.
The description on the national park’s website lists 2 hours and 20 minutes but that’s quite a challenge knowing that the last kilometer of the hike is one giant flight of stairs that takes you steeply uphill along the mountainside.
It’s possible to get an impression of the park in one (long) day. The interesting and impressive hikes will probably all take you up rocks or mountains and will require at least 4 hours.
That’s why we recommend spending the night in Sokcho so that you don’t need to rush and instead enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the park.
If you’re spending the night in Sokcho and want to combine your visit to the park with some other nearby activities you may find some inspiration and reviews on Tripadvisor.
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Where to stay in Seoraksan
Kensington Stars Hotel
The Kensington Stars hotel lies a 5 min walk from the entrance to the National Park. Clean but quite old rooms with small bathrooms. Fabulous view from the rooftop cafe.
Ramada Gangwon Sokcho Hotel
We stayed in the Ramada Sokcho hotel. It was a 30-minute drive to the park. We had a big comfortable room with a balcony where we could see how the boats sailed in and out of the harbor. We liked the extensive breakfast buffet although the restaurant isn’t really cozy.
A great place to stay if you like seafood. It’s right next to the harbor. Boats arriving at the port drop their catch at one of the many seafood restaurants along the pier.
3 days in Seoul are enough to see the highlights of this city. If you want to spend some time in the impressive nature parks we recommend you to stay 5 to 7 days. You can visit Seoraksan with a day trip from Seoul but to truly appreciate the beauty of this park it’s better to stay overnight in Sokcho.
Make sure to check in advance if buying a Discover Seoul pass is worth it.
Bring some spare cash, so you don’t need to stress out at the airport when the ATM machines don’t seem to work.
South Korea travel tips
Here we will share some more South Korea travel tips.
Here is more information if you are planning a one week Korea itinerary.
South Korea can easily be discovered with a self-drive. You don’t need a car in Seoul. This city has a top-notch public transportation network. A side-trip to Busan and Gyeongju is easy thanks to the excellent train connection. To visit other places we do recommend a rental car. Here you find all the information you need to know to do the perfect South Korean road trip.