Going on a vacation with friends? If you’re looking for historic sites, pop culture, shopping, or just about any fun activity, look no further than Seoul. This megacity in South Korea offers you a taste of both traditional and contemporary attractions that will keep you and your friends busy for days.
Go Seoul searching with your barkada in SoKor with this fun Seoul itinerary for five days:
Day 1: Museum-hopping + Dongdaemun District
One of the best things about Seoul is you don’t have to wander far to appreciate art and history. You can find museums in Itaewon and Yongsan, including Seoul that has several noteworthy museums to visit.
- National Museum of Korea. Each year, about three million people visit the National Museum of Korea, which houses the country’s biggest collection of history and art pieces.
- The War Memorial of Korea. Previously the headquarters of Korea’s army, the War Memorial of Korea features indoor and outdoor exhibitions filled with war memorabilia.
- Leeum Samsung Museum of Art. This museum showcases both traditional and contemporary Korean art, some of which are declared national treasures.
- Explore Dongdaemun. The Dongdaemun District is famous for Heunginjimun—one of The Eight Gates in the Fortress Wall of Seoul built during the Joseon dynasty—and the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), an impressive events and exhibit venue.
- Shop in Dongdaemun Market. It’s brimming with specialty items from up-and-coming designers and is open until 3 AM.
Day 2: Get a glimpse of ancient Korea in Jongno
The Jongno District is home to Seoul’s five famous palaces and traditional houses, all built centuries ago.
- Gyeongbokgung Palace. Seoul’s first and biggest palace. Check out the National Palace Museum and the National Folk Museum. Rent a hanbok and walk around Gwanghwamun Square, witness the guard changing ceremony, and see the statue of King Sejong, the king behind the Hangulalphabet.
- Changdeokgung Palace. This UNESCO Heritage Site is the second largest in Seoul and is famous for its secret garden, which is filled with temples and lush foliage.
- Jongmyo Shrine. This historic shrine is acclaimed by UNESCO as the world’s “oldest and most authentic royal Confucian shrine” to have been preserved. It lies next to Changdeokgung Palace.
- Deoksugung Palace. Resting from across Cheonggyecheon Stream—itself a famous attraction—Deoksugung Palace is a famous spot during autumn.
- Changgyeonggung Palace. This palace served as the residence of the queen, along with the king’s concubines during the Joseon dynasty then was later transformed into a botanical garden by the Japanese.
- Gyeonghuigung Palace. Behind the Deoksugung Palace lies the king’s secondary palace.
- Bukchon Hanok Village. A must if you want a traditional Korean experience. Here, you will find more than 400 traditional Korean houses called hanok, charming cafés and traditional teahouses, and handicraft stores. It’s located in the middle of Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung palaces.
Read Top 10 Things to do in South Korea for First-Timers
Read 10 Seoul Tourist Spots That You Shouldn’t Miss
Day 3: See Seoul from atop a mountain
Although South Korea is a relatively small country, it’s surrounded by well-preserved national parks and mountains. In Seoul alone, there’s Mount Namsan, and just a short ride away are Bukhansan National Park and Inwangsan Mountain.
- Bukhansan National Park. This national park is home to Mount Bukhansan. The challenging four-hour trek passes through gorges, streams, granite formations, and the Doseonsa Temple. Adventure seekers get to enjoy an unparalleled view of the city from the 836-m summit.
- Inwangsan Mountain. An easier hike is Inwangsan Mountain, which overlooks Gyeongbokgung Palace, Mount Namsan, and Han River. The 338-m high mountain is accessible through a one- or two-hour hike via a well-marked path with stairs. The mountain is home to Guksadang Shrine.
- Mount Namsan. If you are not too keen on hiking, Mount Namsan’s peak can be accessed by a cable car, which can also take you to N Seoul Tower Seoul’s second-highest point. At 236m, the tower’s observatory affords you a spectacular city view, day or night.
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Day 4: Go to the DMZ
The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is the border that divides North and South Korea and is located about 60km north of Seoul. Given its history, it is advisable to visit it through a guided tour. On-site shops sell items made in North Korea, including confectionery and money.
- Joint Security Area (JSA). If you want to step foot on North Korea, the JSA is the farthest you can go as a tourist. At the JSA, you can take photos with North Korean border guards. It is accessible only with a whole day tour of the DMZ.
- Dora Observatory. This observatory gives you a peek at North Korean life through binoculars.
- Dorasan Station. This station lies on the Gyeongui Line, 650m from the DMZ. While the station connects South Korea to North Korea, there are no passenger trains that go that route.
- Incursion tunnels. The incursion tunnels are four tunnels crossing the DMZ border to South Korea, which are believed to have been dug by North Korea for military invasion. Today, the second to fourth tunnels may be accessed by visitors from South Korea but only through guided tours.
Day 5: Dine and shop in Insadong, Gangnam, and Myeongdong
Seoul is a shopper’s paradise, but the bustling districts of Insadong, Gangnam, and Myeongdong stand out from the rest.
- Head to Insadong for traditional Korean products. If you are into handicraft and traditional goods, Insadong is one of the best places to go to in Seoul. You’ll find souvenir shops and galleries selling them at reasonable prices, plus quaint teahouses that serve authentic Korean tea.
- Discover Gangnam’s nightlife. Many visitors end up staying until night time for a taste of Gangnam’s world-famous night clubs, including Club Octagon, which is ranked among the world’s best.
- Kpop Fanatic. Music lovers head here for a tour of KPop museums and music label companies, or a photo at the COEX Mall, where a statue of Gangnam Style (yes, from the dance that singer Psy made famous) stands.
- Buy skincare and fashion goods in Myeongdong designer stores. Bring home items from popular Korean cosmetic brands like Etude House. Gangnam is an upscale neighborhood frequented by people looking for luxury brands.
- Taste local food. Grilled lobster, tteokgalbi meatballs, gyeran bbang (egg bread), and fried milk. Have a full meal or drink in one of several cat and dog cafés. Savor Korean delicacies from cart vendors in Myeongdong’s street food alley.
- Gadget aficionados. Visit Samsung D’light, an interesting exhibition of the popular Korean phone brand.
Read The Ultimate Guide to Shopping in Seoul
Where to Stay
Be well-rested for the day ahead with the best hotels in Seoul. Each neighborhood offers several options depending on your budget and preferences.
One of the most expensive cities in Seoul, Gangnam is surrounded by KPop music labels, designer shops, cosmetic clinics, and upscale restaurants.
- Best for: The Gangnam District is one of the hippest neighborhoods for travelers who are into shopping and entertainment. It’s also ideal for luxury travelers, as it is home to an assortment of upscale hotels.
- Nearby attractions: COEX Mall, Club Octagon, and Bongeunsa Temple
Recommended Accommodations in Gangnam
1. Novotel Ambassador Seoul Gangnam
2. InterContinental Seoul COEX
3. ibis Styles Ambassador Seoul Gangnam
4. L7 Gangnam by LOTTE
5. GLAD LIVE GANGNAM
6. Dormy Inn Premium Seoul Garosugil
7. Mercure Ambassador Seoul Gangnam Sodowe
8. Imperial Palace Seoul
9. Shilla Stay Yeoksam
10. Stay Hotel Gangnam
Home to a large collection of foreign restaurants, clubs, hotels, and shops, Itaewon is popular with foreign travelers. It is the most culturally diverse place in Seoul and is home to Korea’s sole mosque.
- Best for: Itaewon is great for travelers who like being surrounded by diverse cultures, as well as budget travelers and backpackers who prefer economical inns and hostels.
- Nearby destinations: Namsangol Hanok Village, N Seoul Tower
Recommended Accommodations in Itaewon
1. N guesthouse Itawon – Hostel
2. GV Residence
3. G Guesthouse Itaewon – Hostel
4. Philstay Itaewon
5. Grand Hyatt Seoul
6. Cube Guesthouse
7. Guesthouse Dodam I – Hostel
8. Amuse Guesthouse
9. MOSC Guesthouse
10. Itaewon Crown Hotel
For the rebel and art aficionado, there’s Hongdae, a hip neighborhood famous for its art and indie music scene.
- Best for: Hongdae is an excellent choice for travelers who love art and underground culture.
- Nearby attractions: Noraebangs, Hongik University Shopping Street, Trick Eye Museum, Hongdae Mural Street
Recommended Accommodations in Hongdae
1. L7 Hongdae by Lotte
2. Jun Guesthouse – Hostel
3. Kpop Stay Hostel
4. Lazy Fox Hostel
5. Holiday Inn Express Seoul Hongdae
6. Cocoa Guesthouse
7. Bunk Guesthouse – Hostel
8. Hongdae Pencil Guesthouse
9. Hotel The-Ore
10. SIS N BRO Hostel
Part of Jongno District, Insadong hosts a dizzying array of shops and restaurants, along with some of the most memorable remnants of the Joseon dynasty, including grand palaces.
- Best for: If you’re a history buff or simply prefer a neighborhood with great access to Jongno’s famous attractions, Insadong is for you.
- Nearby attractions: Kyung-in Museum of Fine Art, Tapgol Park, Ssamziegil, Beautiful Tea Museum
Recommended Accommodations in Insadong
1. Insadong Hostel
2. Center Mark Hotel
3. Hotel Gaon Insa-dong
4. In Seoul Guest House
5. YEHADOYE Guest House
6. Orakai Insadong Suites
7. Seoul YMCA Hotel
8. Saerim Hotel
9. Hotel Kuretakeso Insa-dong Seoul
10. Hotel Factory
Travel Tips for Seoul
- Check the local weather. South Korea is known for extreme temperatures, and Seoul is not exempted. During winter, temperatures may plummet to -2.4°C or lower—particularly in January, the coldest month in Seoul—and up to 40°C during the summer. Plan what to wear ahead of time.
- Prepare for rain during the summer. In the summer months of June to September, Seoul experiences about two to five thunderstorms a month, with July being the rainiest month. Strong winds and heavy rainfall are expected, particularly in coastal areas.
- Bring an F-type travel adapter. Like many European cities, Seoul’s sockets are suited for F-type plugs, so be sure to bring an adapter for your gadgets.
- Rent a WiFi egg. Although all-in-one prepaid SIM cards are great for calls and SMS, a pocket WiFi or WiFi egg lets you enjoy around 1GB of data per day—a lot bigger than a SIM card’s. Up to five people can connect to the egg at any given time, which is great if you are traveling with friends. You can rent one at the airport.
- Get a day pass. The Discover Seoul Pass allows you to visit 35 well-renowned tourist attractions in the city. Choose from 24-, 48-, or 72-hour passes. The pass also entitles you to discounts in duty-free shops even after expiration.
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