Trip Itinerary: 7 Days in Seoul, South Korea

By March 16, 2015East Asia, Trip Planner

Is South Korea top on your list of places to visit? Probably not, but it should be.

Here’s why.

After living in Seoul for the past two years, I’ve seen a LOT of what this spectacular city has to offer. While there are lots of beautiful and astounding places to see outside of the city, this month’s itinerary focuses on the food, sights, culture, and history that make this ancient capital city worth exploring.

Over the recent Lunar New Year holiday, my mother-in-law came to visit. Needless to say, I was worried about keeping her entertained. Though much of the city shuts down for this important holiday, there’s still plenty to do and see in the (real) city that never sleeps. There’s also plenty more to do in the warmer summer months, so keep in mind this is more of a winter itinerary. Despite the freezing weather, we still saw a whole lot in just 7 days.

This Seoul itinerary doesn’t involve living in the lap of luxury, but it also doesn’t involve eating street food for every meal. We ate out a few times a day, enjoyed frequent cocktails, and bought souvenirs when it struck our fancy. If there’s one strange thing about Seoul, you can spend as much or as little as you want and still have a great time.


Also, if you’re looking for a travel guide, I highly recommend this one. Even living in Seoul, we used this guide on a weekly basis. Their “Seoul’s Best” lists are 100% spot-on and we did every single one of them in our time there. Includes lots of places within a few hours of the city as well. OK, let’s get started.

Points of Interest

 

seoul itinerary map

click for interactive features!

 

The Breakdown

Budget: $1200
Cost of Flight (from CLT): FREE with miles!
Accommodation: ~$510
Travel Expenses: ~$500
Amount Under Budget: $190
Comfort Level: Grown-up Tourist

 

seoul itinerary

all the things!

 

This Seoul itinerary is super-duper detailed, so be prepared.

Day 1: Namsan Tower, Noksapyeong BBQ, Noraebang

If you’re like me, you will stay in a cheap hostel in the center of town. But since our guest was not a seasoned traveler, we opted for the Kensington Hotel in Yeouido. (FKA: The Lexington Hotel). Luxurious, great views, and centrally located so it’s easy to get to lots of places. And at $100 a night including a great breakfast buffet, it isn’t gonna break the bank before you even leave your room.

The top of Namsan is a 10 minute walk from Noksapyeong Station followed by a quick 20 minute hike. Heading to the top of Namsan Tower means expansive views of the city in every direction. Unless of course the whole city is blanketed in a thick haze. But you’ll get used to that here.

 

seoul itinerary namsan

namesan tower: locks of love

 

On your way walking back to the subway station, you will pass a BBQ restaurant on a corner on your right. It’s pinned on the map to help you find it. Eat there. Order the samgyeopsal, the dwegi galbi, and the galbisal. You’re welcome.

best bbq seoul itinerary

eat here. trust me.

 

If the soju and beer has loosened you up enough, then find your way to a noraebang. These private karaoke rooms are an inescapable part of the Seoul landscape. Stumble into any one you please, order some beers and sojus, and start singing. Noraebangs never close so don’t be surprised if you accidentally sing until sunrise.

Day 2: Noryangjin Fish Market, Hongdae Trick Eye Museum, Dalk Galbi

I’ll be honest, I didn’t love Noryangjin market. But, it’s pretty crazy to see 800 different kinds of seafood in one place. Buy some and then have it cooked for you, or just eat some live octopus.

 

3 nights in grand teton national park

so many seafoods!

 

Make your way to Hongdae, the most famous university neighborhood. There is no shortage of great restaurants here and I highly recommend just walking around until you stumble upon something you like. Visit the Trick Eye Museum, take photos, and do some shopping at the endless stalls and boutiques. Once it’s dinner time, find yourself some dalk galbi. Even though I recently found out our favorite place is actually just like Korean Applebee’s, it’s still delicious. Head out Exit 9 from Hongik Station, make a left, then a right and it’s across from a bar called Vent. The chain is called 유가네 (Yooganae).

Day 3: Gwangjang Market, Dongdaemun, Cheonggyecheon Stream, Galmaegisal

Gwangjang market is the oldest market in Seoul, and it is by far my favorite. Head upstairs to find the largest selection of thrift store clothes you will ever see. Haggling is encouraged here. Downstairs, pull up a stool and get some bindaetteok, or mung bean pancakes. Don’t forget to order a bottle of makggeoli and toast all the old Korean dudes drinking there.

 

gwangjang market seoul

bindaetteok lady looks mad

 

Walk from there to Dongdaemun and Cheonggyecheon Stream and maybe buy stuff or maybe don’t, but there’s no shortage of things to purchase. You should probably get some funky socks while you’re in Korea. Because why not?When it comes time for dinner, make your way to Yangpyeong Station. A tiny gem of a restaurant is tucked inside this sleepy neighborhood. From Exit 1, make a right and walk down about a block. On your right will be a BBQ place with a picture of a samurai on the billboard. Hence why we call this place Samurai even though it has a real name. Order the kalmaegisal and thank me later.

Day 4: DMZ Tour, Bukchon Hanok Village, Insadong, Hyehwa, Shabu Shabu, Naksan Fortress Walk

Visiting the DMZ is a must-see for anyone visiting Seoul. It’s truly an indescribable experience. If you can, do the full day USO tour that includes a visit to the JSA where you can actually step into North Korea! If the JSA tours are not operating because of a holiday, it’s still worth it to do a half day tour.

 

3 nights in grand teton national park

we’re in north korea!

 

When you come back from the tour it will be time to check into your hanok guest house. A hanok is a traditional style ondol room where the floors are heated and you sleep right on them in a pile of blankets. Surprisingly comfy! There are dozens of these guest houses around the main palace, though we stayed in Raon Hanok Guesthouse. It was cozy, authentic, and the service was great. As you’re right in the middle of Bukchon Hanok Village, it’s very easy to explore before walking down Insa-dong Street. Here you will find endless amounts of gift shops stuffed with beautifully crafted pottery. Street food abounds so help yourself to some hottoek: a hot pancake filled with delicious cinnamon syrup. Yummm.If you’re in a walking mood (which I almost always am), make your way towards Hyehwa Station. It’s about a thirty minute walk through a university neighborhood. When you reach Exit 4 of the station, make a left and walk up about a block. There you will find the best shabu shabu in the whole wide world. It’s in a basement next to a store called Art Box. And I actually know the name! Jung Sun Bon Shabu Suki! Delicious meats and veggies cook in broth right in front of your eyes before the dreamiest fresh udon noodles in the world are added. The dish is finished by adding a raw egg and rice and turning the leftover broth into a creamy porridge. It’s so good.

 

hyehwa shabu shabu

just getting started…

 

Just a few blocks from shabu shabu there is a short hike along one of Seoul’s fortress walls. The walk up Naksan takes only about 15 minutes and the views over the city center at night are spectacular. Do it the Korean way and bring a bottle of makgeolli for the summit! Then treat yourself to a cab back to your guest house.

Day 5: Korean War Memorial, Itaewon, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Makgeolli Bar

Of all the museums in Seoul, the Korean War Memorial is one of the best. The history is detailed (although clearly dusted with a strong anti-Japanese sentiment) and the Korean War rooms take you step-by-step through the conflict with North Korea. After the museum, walk 15 minutes up the road from Samgakji Station towards Itaewon.

Itaewon is the foreigner’s district and it is pretty much the only place in Seoul you can find cuisine from around the world. It’s also a pretty big party once the sun sets. If you’re craving some Western food, then stop at Suji’s for brunch or Rye Post for the best damn sandwiches in Seoul. Itaewon is also the place to buy all those crappy souvenirs your friends will be expecting. Keychains, magnets, socks, and t-shirts are all sold from vendors lining the one main strip.
Definitely haggle if you’re buying more than one item from the same stall.

Once you’ve had your fill of Itaewon, head back towards Gyeongbokgung Palace. This is the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty and by far the most visited. There are 5 main palaces in Seoul, but in my opinion this is the one to see. With over 7,700 rooms inside the sprawling palatial walls, it’s an awesome sight, even with 10,000 other tourists milling about. If you’re super into history, there is an integrated palace pass that gives you admission to all 5 palaces for ₩10,000 (about $9).

 

gyeongbokgung palace seoul

경복궁 (Gyeongbokgung Palace)

 

When the sun starts to set and it’s time to get off your feet, head to your nearest makgeolli bar. What is this makgeolli I keep talking about? Makgeolli is a Korean rice beer available in myriad different flavors. On Insa-dong Street there is a great place on the 2nd floor with pine needle and quince makgeolli that are both surprisingly delicious. If you still feeling like venturing further out, head to Moon Jar in Gangnam, but make sure to make a reservation before you go. And if you’re out in Gangnam after the sun sets, there are no shortage of places to party. For a rowdy night, try Monkey Beach in Apgujeong. A little more laid back? Try Woodstock. If you’re in for the long haul, head to Pandora Cocktail Lounge. Unlimited drinks for $15? Get your liver ready. But don’t stay out too late. You’ve got a busy day tomorrow!

Day 6: Gwanghwamun, Inwangsan, 63 Building, Kimbap Cheongguk, Hof drinking times.

Staying in the center of the city means easy access to one of the greatest (and easiest) hikes in Seoul. Head down to Gwanghwamun Square to check out the famous statue of King Sejong before heading to hike Inwangsan. Details for the hike can be found here, and it’s easy enough that anyone can do it.

 

hiking inwangsan seoul itinerary

Inwangsan!

 

After the hike you may want to rest and relax and grab some lunch before heading to the 63 Building. Kimbap Cheongguk are tiny little restaurants that serve delicious traditional Korean dishes and everything is basically $5. You will recognize them by all the plastic food displayed in the window. They are scattered all over the city and it’s almost impossible not to stumble upon one when you’re walking around. Kimbap (김밥), kimchi jiggae (김치 찌개), bibimbap (비빔밥), and donkas (돈가스) are staples here.Now that you’ve eaten, it’s time to head to Yeouinaru Station. The best time to go to the 63 Building is right before sunset so you can see the sun fading as the lights of the city begin to sparkle all around you. Have a coffee or a beer at the top and watch the magic happen.

 

63 building seoul itinerary

prettiest traffic ever

 

Once you’ve had your fill of the views, it’s time to kick back Korean style. In almost any neighborhood you will find about a dozen hofs. Drinking establishments where you are expected to order food and it is always shared with the table. You can get twigim (fried things), sausages, noodle dishes, pajeon, and other yummy snacks. Plus you can play the awesome Korean drinking game, Titanic.If you decide two nights in a hanok is enough, you can always opt to stay in a Korean love motel for your last night. There is a whole strip of them in my neighborhood of Hwagok-dong and it will even have you closer to the airport in the morning! It’s also a much more authentically Korean neighborhood than the rest of the touristy city you’ve been seeing all week. Love motels are usually only about ₩40,000 a night, so you’ll be saving some money, though the rooms aren’t always pristine.

Day 7: Haejangguk and Jimjilbang

OK, so you’re probably a little hungover from all that drinking last night and you just want to relax a little before you catch your flight. Well there is no better hangover cure in Korea than ppyeo haejangguk(뼈해장국). It literally translates as “soup to chase away hangover” in Korean. One of my favorite places is right down the street from my house. A similar dish, gamjatang is shared among the table instead of served in individual bowls.

 

3 nights in grand teton national park

the power of the pork spine!

The last thing you must do before leaving Korea is go to a jimjilbang. These nude spas may seem strange to Westerners at first, but trust me, it ain’t no thang. Check out this post to answer any questions you may have about the experience. You can also stay overnight in a jimjilbang for just a couple extra bucks, so it’s a great way to save on accommodation!

Once you’re thoroughly relaxed, head to the airport and make your way to wherever it is you’re going next! If you have any questions about visiting Seoul, or the rest of Korea, don’t hesitate to ask!

FYI: All links to Agoda on my site are affiliate links, which means I make a lil money if you book through them, but it costs you nothing extra! Which is awesome for everyone because Agoda is the best booking site ever.

My Picks for Your Trip

Travel Insurance

The World Nomads standard package will cover you for all the hiking and adventure stuff you’ll be doing in Seoul. Click to get a quote!

The Best Seoul Guide Book

This guide book was indispensable during my time in Seoul. I think I did 90% of the things in there. Also their “Top 10 for Seoul” is spot-on.

Seoul Travel Adapter

Cause duh. And don’t forget that with the voltage different (220V compared to 120 in the US) you won’t be able to use your hair dryer or straightener over there!

Samsung Phone

No one in Korea is caught dead without their smartphone. Scoop the latest Korean wonderphone and impress everyone on the subway!

32 Comments

  • Charisse says:

    Love it! I haven’t thourouly visit Seoul just yet. I keep going for weekend trips and love your itinerary and the details of your visit. I will definitley reference this post on my next visit. I can cross of the War Musuem and will be doing the DMZ tour next month.

    Your organization skills and tour planning was astounding! I would hire you as a guide. Do you speak Korean? Thanks for this post. Love your site.

  • Really great itinerary you guys, and as always, super helpful and easy to share. I will definitely be pointing people to this post, because we haven’t made our own and are always asked what to do in Seoul! 😛
    Evan and Rachel recently posted…2014 Wrap-up – WE’RE ALIVE!My Profile

  • Dom says:

    Very cool and well done. Just shared it on our page.
    Dom recently posted…The Many Kinds of Banchan InfographicMy Profile

  • Laura says:

    How have I still not done so many of these things? I have never been to Gwangjang market – I clearly need to go there like this weekend. I also have not been to a makgeolli bar. This too needs to be rectified before I leave Korea. Thanks for sharing!
    Laura recently posted…Expat Diaries with Meaghan of The Meager MuseMy Profile

    • Taylor says:

      Ahhh makgeolli bars are my favorite. So many flavors to choose from. And who doesn’t love drinking out of bowls? Also, gwangjang is my heaven. Just bought some old vintage overalls there! I may try them out for the first time today!

  • Duke Stewart says:

    I was super happy to receive this in advance, thanks to being on your email list. You’ve already listed a few that I want to see, including Inwangsan. It’s so overwhelming to think about Seoul and actually knocking these things out in 7 days. I’m lame and would throw in a lazy sauna day at Dragon Hill or something, just to break it up.
    Duke Stewart recently posted…Hipmunk City Love: Venice’s 9 Best HotelsMy Profile

  • Hannah Luching says:

    Hi. I am traveling to South Korea by the end of October. Is it extremely cold by then? Or still tolerable? Thank you. 😀

    • Taylor says:

      Hi, sorry for the delay in responding. September/October is one of the best times of year to visit Seoul! The summer heat has finally broken but it still isn’t cold yet. Definitely bring warm clothes though, it’s definitely fall by then!

  • angie says:

    Hi, I’m visiting Korea by the end of January. Is it too cold? Do I need to bring umbrella?

    Thank you!

    • Taylor says:

      Yes it will be VERY cold in Korea in January. Bring a parka and gloves and a scarf and a hat and socks. Maybe not an umbrella, but bring everything else.

  • Jovivivi says:

    Planning a trip to Korea, around the October month. Stumbled upon your page and appreciate all the information. Some questions:
    – Weather in October will be pleasant aye?
    – Will it be a challenge to go around with a baby and a pram?
    – What are the facilities like in terms of baby change rooms, etc.

    Thanks!

    • Taylor says:

      Korea is GREAT for babies and strollers. There are changing tables in every bathroom in the subway and elevators in every station as well. The weather is perfect in October (maybe a bit chilly, but beautiful and colors changing everywhere). Restaurant bathrooms are a different story as many places share a bathroom with other restaurants that exists in an alley and is often just a squatter toilet. But as long as you can find a subway station (they’re everywhere!) you’ll be golden. Hope you have a great time!

  • Jesse Pierre Tan says:

    Awesome itinerary! Love how detailed it is, I’m sure it’ll make it very easy for first time Korea travellers. I’m gonna be in Seoul come Feb 2016 for 10 days, I reckon I can easily just follow everything in this itinerary! Awesome guys!

  • Rosydi says:

    Hi! How did you book the DMZ tour?

  • Joanne says:

    Hi, Taylor
    I’m going to Seoul in mid May with a fren for 7 nights. & we really like to follow ur awesome itinerary especially on the food & bars. Could u pls recommend some good budget guesthouse in the center of the town ?
    Thx so much

    • Taylor says:

      Yes the budget guesthouse I mention in my post was great! Right near the main palace called Roan. You can follow the link in the post, have fun!

  • Hi Taylor!

    This is a great blog! Looked at it for a couple of minutes to browse and it sure tells a lot. I’ll be in Seoul from March 19 until 25 and staying in Sinchon.
    Will be going to Bukhansan on the 21st! If you are planning to go we sure can add one more (but we’re just two women, so if does that count? LOL). Keep writing, keep inspiring! 🙂

    Best,
    Cam

    • Taylor says:

      Hi Camille! I’m actually living in Texas these days, but have a great time on Bukhansan. Definitely one of my favorite hikes in Seoul!

  • John says:

    Hi! I will be going Korea on early of June! Guess it is summer season right? Will it be very hot? 🙁

    • Taylor says:

      Awesome! It will definitely be warm in June, but July and August are the really hot months. May and June should be lovely weather!

  • Qinghui says:

    Hi taylor! Thanks for the wonderful post! It took me some time to find your post but it’s really good!! Will definitely keep a lookout for the food and drinking places you mentioned. Didnt know noraebangs open 24h! (: So excited abt my first trip to Seoul next mth.

  • Upasana says:

    Hey, amazing itinerary – planning to visit end of July – I heard its terribly hot but I am from Dubai, UAE and we get around 50 degree celcius with 90% humidity here. Can it get any worse than that??

    • Taylor says:

      Haha no it shouldn’t get any hotter than maybe 40 but the humidity is so thick (like 100%) that you will definitely be sweating. And Koreans don’t really sweat so they think people sweating is pretty weird. Also, end of July is the middle of Monsoon season, so you may or may not get caught in the rain a few times. There are cheap umbrellas for sale all over the city though, so don’t worry about it!

  • Ernest says:

    Thanks for the great itinerary. My girlfriend and I are planning on going to Seoul in September and would definitely check out the places you’ve mentioned!

  • Nina says:

    Hi! Nice itinerary! Me and my friends are planning our Seoul trip, but still undecided when to go. Can you recommend the best time to visit Seoul? And some tip for us first time travellers. Thanks in advance!

    • Taylor says:

      The best time to visit Seoul is definitely in April/May/June or September/October, either before it’s too hot or before it’s too cold. Also, in April the cherry blossoms will be out all over the city, and in fall all the ginkgo trees turn yellow which is also gorgeous! Over July and August, Seoul is incredibly hot and humid and also it’s the rainy season. I think I included all my tips in the blog post, but I guess I would say eat BBQ as many times as possible!

  • Azime Özvarlık says:

    Hi Taylor,thanks for your wonderful itinerary!!
    I am going to have a trip to Seul on 8th march for ten days.At last found your detailed advices,it will help me and my sister to visit and see most part of the lovely,interesting city.
    We can easily follow your directions.İs the weather too cold to be outside,or can we have a tour on foot by ourselves?
    Thank you Taylor,please keep on writing,I will follow your trip advices for the other cities around the world…
    Love your website…I am looking forward to hear your new itinerary…

  • Raquel says:

    Hi Taylor, thank you for your itinerary.
    We are visiting Seoul at end of June 2017 for a week together with my family. My children ages 16, 12 and 7 yrs old. Do I need to book a tour guide or we can manage without tour guide with the itinerary you’ve posted?
    Thank you and God bless.

    • Taylor says:

      You definitely don’t need a tour guide! Seoul is very easy to navigate on your own and all of the subway signs and announcements are in English. I would download the Seoul Subway app before you go which will help you find the trains you need. Here is a link to the app (and some other helpful ones too). You can also download Kakao Talk so your whole family can stay in touch if you don’t have cell service. There is free wifi all over Korea (including in every subway station and on every train) so having a wifi-based messaging app is invaluable. Hope this helps!

  • […] Trip Itinerary: 7 Days in Seoul, South Korea […]

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge