I stumbled across the possibility of venturing to South Korea when I was introduced to the world of K-pop, and South Korea has been on my bucket list ever since.
With so many points of interest, beautiful and interesting tourist attractions from Royal Palaces, Namsan mountain, Bukchon Ancient Village to the shopping malls with quality domestic brands and good prices as well as vast promotions. Not forgetting to mention the exotic Korean food! And these are only a slice of the pile of reasons why I longed to visit South Korea!
Seoul has a neighbourhood for everyone, and it sure has something for you. Here we have put together a five-day Seoul itinerary with all the best things to do in Seoul. If you do not have five days, then feel free to cherry pick your favourite days and things to see and do, and create your own two or three-day Seoul itinerary.
This is a basic itinerary that does not take into account seasonal attractions like the cherry blossoms or skiing.
For more about Seoul’s many exciting neighbourhoods and our favourite Seoul hotels, click here to read our ultimate guide to Where to Stay in Seoul.
Take note that the 5-day Seoul itinerary below does not take into account your arrival day in Seoul.
The Ultimate 5 Day Seoul Itinerary
Day 1 – Namdaemun market, Myeongdong, N Seoul Tower, Korea House, and Deoksugung
⇒ Area: Jung-gu
The public train, subway and metro systems in Seoul are superb! They take you all over Seoul in a blink, with a net of connected stations all over the city.
This first day, after breakfast, head to the nearest subway station to your hotel and take subway line 4 to Hoehyeon station heading towards Namdaemun market.
Hoehyeon Underground Shopping Center – We love this place! You can get distracted here before you actually reach Namdaemun. It is also connected to Shinsegae Shopping Center.
- Namdaemun Market
Namdaemun is the biggest traditional market in Korea, it is a fantastic place to pick up inexpensive clothing, daily miscellaneous goods, kitchenware and local and imported products. But it is easy to get turned around here, as there are thousands of shops located in the 30 or so multi-story buildings, not to mention an endless sprawl of street-vendor stalls.
Ventured into one of the wholesale buildings and if one does not have an objective in mind and just browsing only, you could totally get overwhelming by the sheer vastness and variety of goods sold here.
You also can take the opportunity to graze at the dozens of food stalls. This market is seriously crowded, so be prepared to get bumped around. The market is seemingly open round-the-clock (though a few retailers closed on Sunday).
From Namdaemun you can walk about 15 minutes to Myeongdong. It is a very famous shopping spot in Seoul. Many travellers and shopaholic will stop by this popular shopping paradise when they come to Seoul. This is a place where you can find many well-known and discounts Korean skincare and cosmetics products.
When you stroll along the streets, you will notice many stores has provided different promotion. The young promoters will stand in front of their stores and attract you in with free samples of beauty products.
Things to do in Myeongdong:
- Reclaim your youth on Myeongdong Shopping Street.
- Visit Myeongdong NANTA Theatre.
- Take a picture of Myeongdong Cathedral.
- Eat yummy kalguksu at Myeongdong Kyoja.
- Shop at Lotte Department Store.
- N Seoul Tower
To get to N Seoul Tower you can walk from Myeongdong Station through Exit 3, you will have to walk until you reach the Hoehyeon intersection and then turn left. The free elevator to access the Namsan Cable Cars can be found after a walk uphill. Again, just keep your eyes peeled for the arrows.
N Seoul Tower or commonly known as the Namsan Tower is one of Seoul’s most recognizable landmarks today. It is frequented by both locals and foreigners alike, and is very popularly known as that place with all the love locks.
With the top of the tower is at almost 480m above sea level, including Namsan Mountain (243m) and the tower’s own height (236.7m), making it one of the tallest towers in Seoul.
To reach the tower, there are two options; First, ride the Namsan cable car up the Mt. Namsan. Then walk for about 10-15 minutes following the right side of the Pacific Hotel, after coming out of the exit 3 of Myeongdong Station (Line 4). On the way from Pacific Hotel to cable car station, you will see the Namsan Guest House building. The second option is walking to the tower through Namsan Park. If you have time, you can choose this way and enjoy the beautiful nature of Namsan Park.
Admission Fee: KRW 9,000
Operating Hours: 10:00 – 22:30
- Korea House
After you finish admire the view from the observatory deck, make your way to the Korea House. Located just 10 minutes away from Myeongdong station, the Korea House Folk Performance has staged over 15,000 shows and entertained over 15 million people since it opened in 1981. The programs are produced based on the changing seasons, using various arts to create these unique presentations of Korean culture.
Korea House is famous for the luxury traditional Korean Cuisine, where you can sit down for a culinary experience prepared by professional chefs using the finest ingredients. You can experience fine Korean dining and watch an exceptional traditional performance for an unforgettable experience.
Operating Hours: Daily 09:00 – 21:30 (Closed every third Monday and Chuseok)
- Deoksugung Palace
Visiting one of the five grand Palaces in the evening was quite an experience. After meal, make your way to Deoksugung Palace, the Palace is relatively small, so it won’t take too much time to explore the whole palace.
Located at the corner of Seoul’s busiest downtown intersection, Deoksugung Palace is famous for its elegant stone-wall road. It is also the only palace that sits alongside a series of western style buildings that add to the uniqueness of the surrounding scenery.
Not quite as splendid as the other palaces, Deoksugung Palace is overlooked by the tall grey towers of the City Hall business and embassy area, and includes a couple of Western-style buildings.
The palace dates back to when the “Hermit Kingdom” in the latter part of the Joseon dynasty was being forcibly opened up to trade. These neoclassical structures remain the most notable on the complex.
Admission Fee: KRW 1,000 (free admission for visitors wearing Hanbok)
Operating Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 09:00 – 21:00 (Closed on Monday)
Getting There: City Hall Station (Seoul Subway Line 1, 2), Exit 2.
Walk straight 100m to arrive at Daehanmun Gate on the right.
Day 2 – The Demilitarized Zone & JSA tour
⇒ Area: Panmunjom
The Korea Demilitarized Zone separating North Korea and South Korea is an extraordinary place unlike anywhere else on earth. The DMZ & JSA tour is the most sought-after tour by travellers to South Korea’s DMZ because it is the closest place to North Korean soil that anyone can step into without getting arrested or shot. Needless to say, this experience takes you to the “front lines” and you can see up close the tension between the two countries.
The tour will take you to the following highlights…
You will begin the tour with a drive along the “Freedom Highway”, where you can catch a glimpse of North Korea, before passed through the “Unification Village”. From the Unification Village, you will make your way to Camp Bonifas, a United Nations military outpost, where you can watch an educational documentary presentation about the DMZ, which will give you a better understanding of the DMZ and its significance in Korean history.
At this point, you will be signing a waiver that absolves South Korea, the UN, and the USA in case any incidents will arise as you agree to this statement:
“The visit to the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom will entail entry into a hostile area and possibility of injury or death as a direct result of enemy action.”
Next stop is the Joint Security Area, which can be found within the DMZ. The JSA has a fascinating and thought-provoking history, which your tour guide will provide a lot of interesting history and explanations, as you will be escorted through…
- Unification Bridge – You will pass by this bridge which was opened in 1998 in order to prepare for supplies exchange between North and South Korea. Checkpoints are usually found before and after to this point.
- Freedom House – This is South Korea’s “propaganda palace” that faces the Demarcation Line and the Panmon Hall (which is North Korea’s equivalent of the Freedom House).
- Demarcation Line and MAC Building – You will find blue buildings that are positioned on top of the “Demarcation Line” and smacked between Freedom House and Panmon Hall. One of these blue houses is the MAC (Military Armistice Commission) building where negotiations take place and where you can technically “step into” North Korean soil.
- Bridge of No Return – You will also pass by another bridge but this one crosses the Demarcation Line. Basically, this used to be a place where prisoner exchanges were done at the end of the Korean War.
After you had some traditional Korean lunch, you will visit the “Third Tunnel”, built by the North Koreans and discovered in 1978, implying aggression towards the South.
Your final stop will be Dora Observatory, built on top of Mount Dora, this is your best chance to look over the border into North Korea using telescopes. Then continue to Dorasan Station, the last station before the border with North Korea, where you can get a souvenir stamp that mimics an immigration stamp.
On your journey back to the pickup point, you will have a chance to reflect on what you have learned today and be satisfied with the knowledge you had the opportunity to witness living history.
If one day these countries do make peace, the story of North and South Korea will be told for many years to come, and with this toured, you have your own story to tell!
Click here to read our experience visiting DMZ packed with important things you need to know before visiting DMZ and list of top-rated tours can be booked online.
End of tour you will be drop at your picked-up point.
Day 3 – Grand Palaces, Bukchon Hanok Village, Jongmyo Royal Shrine, and Insadong
⇒ Area: Jongno-gu
- Visiting Grand Palaces
Best to choose one especially if you are not a palace lover. Changdeokgung Palace and Gyeongbukgung Palace are similar but different. Gyeongbukgung Palace was the best palace in Joseon Dynasty, and it is grander than Changdeokgung Palace. On the other hand, Changdeokgung Palace is a UNESCO world heritage site and It is famous for its secret garden.
- Gyeongbokgung Palace
Start your day at Gyeongbokgung Palace is the first and largest of the royal palaces built during the Joseon Dynasty. Entrance fee is KRW 3,000 and there is often a changing of guard ceremony outside the main entrance. Inside you will find the throne of the Korean king, a meditation pond, and other buildings used by the royal court. You can also visit the National Folk Museum (in the rear) for free, where many Korean traditional costumes and the various kinds of kimchi are on display.
Admission Fee: KRW 3,000 (free admission for visitors wearing Hanbok)
Operating Hours: Wednesday to Monday 09:00 – 17:00 (Closed on Tuesday)
Getting There: Take Subway Line 3 to Gyeongbokgung Station (Exit 5) OR Take Subway Line 5 to Gwanghwamun Station (Exit 2)
Nearby, Tosokchon is a famous Korean restaurant serving samgyetang (chicken soup with a whole chicken, rice, ginseng, etc), open from 10am to 10pm. There is usually a very long line during busy hours. If you do not want to wait, try an alternative, Goryo Samgyetang near the Sejong Performing Arts Center.
In front of the Palace is Gwanghwamun Plaza, that is a public open space on Sejongno, Jongno-gu in Seoul. Here you can find the huge golden King Sejong Statue at the nearby Gwanghwamun Square. (King Sejong is best remembered as the inventor of “Hangeul” or the Korean alphabet) and walking south of the statue of the great King Sejong brings you to the towering statue of Admiral Yi Sun Shin.
- Changdeokgung Palace and Huwon Secret Garden (UNESCO World Heritage)
While Gyeongbokgung Palace is bigger in size, Changdeokgung is the best preserved. Changdeokgung Palace was designated as UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage in 1997.
Changdeokgung Palace was the second royal villa built following the construction of Gyeongbukgung Palace in 1405. It was the principal palace for many kings of the Joseon Dynasty, and is the most well-preserved of the five remaining royal Joseon palaces. The palace grounds are comprised of a public palace area, a royal family residence building, and the rear garden.
An interesting feature of this place is its “Secret Garden”; and there are only a limited number of admission slots per day that are given out.
Admission Fee: KRW 3,000
Operating Hours: Changdeokgung Palace & Huwon Course – Tuesday to Sunday 09:00 – 17:00 (Closed on Monday).
Getting There: Take Subway Line 3 to Anguk Station (Exit 3). Then walk straight from the exit (towards east) for about 5-min to the palace entrance.
If you have spare time, you can consider visiting Changgyeonggung Palace as well.
- Changgyeonggung Palace
Changgyeonggung Palace is located nearby the area which can be access through Changdeokgung Palace. Changgyeonggung Palace was originally built as Suganggung Palace by the 4th ruler of the Joseon Dynasty, King Sejong (r.1418-1450), for his retiring father, King Taejong. It often served as residential quarters for queens and concubines.
During the reign of King Seongjong (r.1469-1494), the palace was renovated and renamed to Changgyeonggung Palace. It later became a park with a zoo and a botanical garden during Japanese colonial rule. The palace grounds remained this way until 1983 when restoration of its old grace was completed.
Admission Fee: KRW 1,000 (free admission for visitors wearing Hanbok)
Operating Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 09:00 – 17:00 (Closed on Monday)
Getting There: Take Subway Line 3 to Anguk Station (Exit 3). Walk straight from the exit (east) along Yulgok-ro for about 1 km then turn left (north) onto Changgyeonggung-ro and walk about 300m to find the palace entrance on the left.
- Bukchon Hanok Village
Bukchon Hanok Village is located between Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace and Jongmyo Royal Shrine. Basically, only one stop from Gyeongbokgung Station to Anguk station.
Bukchon Hanok Village is a great place for you to experience the Korean village environment and see the old houses in Korea. The traditional village is composed of lots of alleys, hanok and is preserved to show a 600-year-old urban environment. There is no doubt that visiting Bukchon Hanok Village is one of the top things to do in Seoul.
Getting There: Take Seoul Subway Line 3 to Anguk Station (Exit 2)
- Jongmyo Shrine (UNESCO World Heritage)
Another UNESCO world Heritage site and one of the world’s oldest and best-preserved Confucian royal shrines. Jongmyo Shrine is dedicated to the deceased kings and queens of the Joseon dynasty. The spirit tablets of the kings and queens are kept here and ritual ceremonies with music and dance still take place. It is a good example of a Confucian royal ancestral shrine.
This shrine has guided tours in Korean, Japanese, English and Chinese at specific times, be sure to organised your tour schedule before arriving. We found the tour experience was excellent. If you are in to history, we highly recommended.
Interpretation Services Offered
- Korean – every hour from 09:20 to 16:20, (tour at 17:00 only offered March to September only)
- English – 10:00, 12:00, 14:00, 16:00
- Japanese – 09:00, 09:40, 10:40, 11:40, 12:40, 13:40, 14:40, 15:40, and (tour at 16:40 only offered from March to September only)
- Chinese – 11:00, 13:00, 15:00
- Korean nationals may join a foreign language guided tour when accompanying international visitors.
Admission Fee: KRW 1,000
Operating Hours: Wednesday to Monday 09:00 – 17:30 (Closed on Tuesday)
Getting There: Take Subway Line 1, 3, 5 to Jongno3(sam)-ga Station (Exit 11)
Insadong – the place to come to for artwork and antiques, is a great place to enjoy the afternoon combing store front windows and alleyways for all things authentically Korean. There are numerous shops and galleries where you can find art, traditional handicraft, pottery and even handmade Korean candy.
As you walk along, you will reach Ssamziegil, which has been marked as the “Special Insadong within Insadong”. This unique area was designed in such a way by connecting its charming alleys in the form of a spiral-like stairway, that as you walk into it, the floor spirals its way up until the roof.
There are also a few of good restaurants, cafes and tea-houses here, but you need to walk around.
A short walk north is the quaint stretch of Samcheong-dong, an area awash with many fashionable clothing and accessory shops – most of which are run by designers themselves. The stylish strip is lined with numerous European cafes, restaurants, and wine bars that make for an enticing, romantic retreat after a hearty day of shopping.
Getting There: Take Subway Line 3 to Anguk Station (Exit 6)
Day 4 – Hwaseong Fortress, and Korean Folk Village
⇒ Area: Suwon
- Hwaseong Fortress (UNESCO World Heritage)
Early in the morning, head to south of Seoul and the Hwaseong Fortress. This is where the famous fortified wall was built to surround the entire city and protect a tomb of Prince Sado. Now the city expands far past the walls of Hwaseong Fortress and it is a popular tourist attraction. The fortress walls were severely damaged in the Korean War but has since been restored. The site was designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1997.
The fortress wall includes many different sites including the fortress gates, a temple, palace and museum. A variety of performances, events are held at the fortress every day and Suwon Hwaseong Cultural Festival takes place here in autumn.
Considering that it takes about an hour to get here from Seoul, make sure you plan enough time. You will be impressed with how enormous the grounds are and how much there is to see here. Hwaseong Temporary Palace is located just on the northwest corner of the fortress. In addition to that, the city of Suwon itself may be worth exploring as well.
Suwon Hwaseong Fortress: KRW 1,000 per adult
Hwaseong Haenggung Palace: KRW 1,500 per adult
Hwaseong Fortress Tourist Trolley: KRW 3,000 per adult
Gukgung (Korean Traditional Archery): KRW 2,000 per game (10 arrows)
Bell of Hyowon: KRW 1,000 (1-2 people)
Integrated ticket: KRW 3,500 per adult (Suwon Hwaseong Fortress, Hwaseong Haenggung Palace, Suwon Museum, Suwon Hwaseong Museum)
Note: Combination ticket is not available on the first Monday of every month due to the closing of museums.
09:00 – 18:00 (March – October)
09:00 – 17:00 (November – February)
Getting to Suwon from Seoul
The best way to get to Suwon is by train, and there are three types of trains that can take you there; slow, fast and fastest.
- Subway Metro Line 1 is the cheapest option and of course the slowest, takes about an hour.
- KORAIL train from Seoul Station to Suwon cost nearly double the price of Subway Line 1 but gets you to Suwon in half the time and you get a reserved seat.
- KTX trains are the fastest. It will zip you from Seoul Station to Suwon Station in 25 minutes, you get a reserved seat too.
Getting to Hwaseong Fortress from Suwon
From Suwon Station, exit the station and cross the street to get to the bus stop. It is a big open-air bus stop so you won’t miss it. Take bus # 5 or 7 and get off at Jangan Park stop, the ride takes about 10-15 minutes. You will see Hwaseong Fortress on your right.
Alternatively, take a bus to Paldamun Gate bus stop, which is located on the south end of Suwon Hwaseong Fortress.
Bus to Paldamun Gate from Suwon Station
- Get on intra-city bus numbers; 11, 13, 36 or 39
The bus stop is located literally outside of the tourist info centre so you won’t miss it at all. The ride takes about 10-15 minutes to reach Paldamun Gate. The bus numbers are clearly marked on the bus’s digital display at the front and side of the bus.
To get back to Suwon station, cross the street and take any bus that stops at Suwon. Many buses will stop at Suwon Station because it is a major station. You will see the route for each bus at the bus stop.
- Korean Folk Village
If you still have time to spare, you can consider visiting the Korean Folk Village. It is an outdoor folk museum that brings visitors back in time, where you can experience the culture and lifestyle during the Joseon Dynasty period.
The 243 acres of land is a re-creation of a typical village, where 270 of those houses are the actual structures that were either restored or relocated.
Touring around the village is sure to be interesting. You can participate in different activities and experience the day to day lives of the villagers where customs from the past are regularly on display.
Many performances including Folk music concerts, martial art on horseback, traditional wedding ceremony, and other special events performed regularly. In particular, “Welcome to Joseon”, held every May is a performance featuring time travel back to the olden days.
Admission Fees: KRW 18,000 per adult (One-day ticket: KRW 27,000 per adult)
(February – April) Weekdays 09:30 – 18:00 / Weekends 09:30 – 18:30
(May – September) Weekdays 09:30 – 18:30 / Weekends 09:30 – 19:00
(October) Weekdays 09:30 – 18:00 / Weekends 09:30 – 18:30
(November – January) Weekdays 09:30 – 17:30 / Weekends 09:30 – 18:00
Getting to Korean Folk Village
From Suwon Station, (Exit 5) then take Bus # 10-5 or 37 to Korean Folk Village or Nagok Village.
(Korean Folk Village ↔ Suwon Station)
Suwon Station → Korean Folk Village: 10:30, 12:30, 14:30
Korean Folk Village → Suwon Station: 14:00, 15:30, 16:30
- Group passengers require reservation in advance
- Tickets must be purchased prior to boarding. Inquiries regarding ticket purchase will be answered at the tourist information centre
- Tourist information centre is located 50m from Suwon Station, (Exit 5)
- The 5th shuttle bus will not operate during winter season
- Bus schedules may subject to changes. Please visit the official website or make a phone-inquiry before visiting.
Day 5 – The War Memorial of Korea, National Museum of Korea, Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, and Itaewon
⇒ Area: Yongsan-gu
- The War Memorial of Korea
Start your day at The War Memorial of Korea. This is a must go when you are in Seoul, the War Memorial Museum exhibits and preserve materials related to the Korean War and serves as a national moral educational venue. It was established to commemorate the noble sacrifice of patriotic martyrs by the War Memorial Service Korea Society on 10th June 1994.
There are more than 33,000 items of all sizes on display indoor and outdoor. Each exhibition hall has its own theme: Memorial Hall, War History, Korean War, Expeditionary Forces, ROK Armed Forces, Big Equipment and the outside exhibition area.
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 09:30 – 18:00 (Closed on Monday)
By Subway – Take Subway Line 6 to Samgakji Station (Exit 1, 11 or 12) OR Take Subway Line 1 to Namyeong Station (Exit 1).
By Bus – Take Bus 110A, 110B, 740, or 421 and get off at The War Memorial of Korea Bus Stop.
- National Museum of Korea
This is the sixth largest museum in the world. The museum is divided into three floors. On the first floor is the Archaeological Gallery, displaying 4,500 artefacts from the Palaeolithic to the Unified Silla era, and the Historical Gallery, featuring the culture and history of the Joseon and other periods.
The second floor contains the Fine Arts Gallery One, containing about 900 pieces of traditional and religious art, and the Donation Gallery, which has 800 pieces of donated art from private collections.
The third floor holds the Fine Arts Gallery Two containing over 600 pieces of Buddhist sculpture and craft-work. The Asian Arts Gallery is also on the third floor with nearly 1,000 pieces from Japan, China, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere.
Operating Hours: 10:00 – 18:00
Getting There: Take Subway Line 4 and Gyeongui-Jungang line to Ichon Station (Exit 2) – The subway station is connected to the museum via an underpass called Bakmulgwan Nadeul-gil or Moving Museum.
- Leeum Samsung Museum of Art
The museum is run by the Samsung Foundation of Culture and has two main sections. The first building designed by Mario Botta, is focused completely towards traditional Korean art which includes pottery, calligraphy, traditional paintings and jewellery (14th century daggers, crowns, earrings and ornaments).
The second building designed by Jean Nouvel, is based on the contemporary art, featuring both Korean and international artists. Rem Koolhaas created the Samsung Child Education & Culture Center that is only accessible on specific occasions or events. This is a great museum if you are looking for the perfect Instagram picture.
Admission Fee: KRW 10,000
Operating Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 10:30 – 18:00 (Closed on Monday, New Year’s Day, Seollal, Chuseok)
Getting There: Take Subway Line 6 to Hangangjin Station (Exit 1) Walk straight for 100m in the direction of Itaewon then go into the first alley to the right, which will be signposted for the museum and walk up the hill for about 5 minutes.
Itaewon is the hot spot for foreigners. When walking around you won’t have the feeling of being in Korea as the bustling streets are filled with foreign food restaurants, foreigner bars, foreign markets, etc. In here you also will find fashion catered to foreign tastes. The clothes here are generally bigger in size. There are also shops offering custom tailored suits, hip-hop street wear, and an underground market for ladies’ bags.
While you are in here, you can indulge in delicious pastries at Passion 5 Patisserie, is a bakery/café in Itaewon that is widely touted to be one of the best patisseries in Seoul! Other than serving freshly baked breads, the patisserie also offers delicious sweet pastries and desserts.
You can explore International Cuisines behind Hotel Hamilton, along this short stretch of road, we found restaurants serving a wide variety of international cuisines. If you want to try something different from Korean food, this is the place to visit.
Opening Hours: Daily 9:00 – 21:00 (varies by shop)
Getting There: Take Subway Line 6 to Itaewon Station
This will be your last evening in Seoul and it is the perfect way to end your trip.
These are the highlights of things to do in Seoul in our opinion, packed into five pretty intense days. We hope you find this article helpful when deciding what to do in Seoul.
Feel free to pick and choose from what interests you most in this itinerary.
Note: The information provided in this post was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service.