Seoul is the soul of South Korea. The nation’s economic, political and cultural centre. A vibrant modern Asian metropolis with gleaming skyscrapers, magnificent historic sites, and lots of flavourful authentic foods to savour. The best time to visit is from spring through early fall, when the weather is most welcoming.
Travelling around Seoul is actually pretty easy thanks to the extensive public transport network. So if you’re planning for a visit, here’s our special 3-day guide to ensure you have a rewarding and enriching experience!
Where to stay in Seoul
First, let’s get you settled when you land there. Depending on your budget and the vibe you prefer, we have 3 recommended districts for your stay:
Myeongdong/Junggu District is at the bustling heart of Seoul. Home to popular malls and near the central metro train stops. Overall, accommodations here are a little pricier, but you can still find a range of them from luxury and boutique hotels, to cosy mid-class and budget-friendly lodgings. If you’re new to Seoul, want easy access to transport, and enjoy the urban vibe, this is the place to stay.
Itaewon District is the international neighbourhood where expats congregate. Filled with rousing bars and party spots, as well as cuisines from around the world. Perfect for those who want to immerse in the city’s nightlife.
Hongdae District is home to the young and hip, with an artsy vibe, colourful local cafés, eateries, and shopping spots. A haven for budget travellers and foodies. Accommodations here can range from 4-star and mid-range hotels to budget hostels around the neighbourhood.
Alright, now let’s go explore Seoul!
Day 1: The historic side of Seoul
Gwangjang Market is one of the oldest traditional markets in South Korea. Established to evade Japanese colonial trade control during the early 1900s. Today, it is a massive wholesale market, and a famed street food hub that offers a plethora of gastronomic goodies. Start your day with a hearty traditional meal of Mandu-guk dumpling soup, satiating Bibimbap rice bowl, or scrumptious Bindae-Tteok mung bean pancakes.
Changdeokgung Palace is near the Gwangjang Market. Among Seoul’s Five Grand Palaces, Changdeokgung is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built during the Joseon Dynasty, and often hailed as the most beautiful of Seoul’s grand palaces, with stunning architecture in a large park. Rent a traditional Hanbok costume to wear and visit the palace for free! Also be sure to book a guided tour to enter the famed Secret Garden that features a lotus pond, pavilions and scenic lawns.
Bukchon Hanok Village
A short walk or a quick ride on the bus from the palace takes you to the Bukchon Hanok Village. Located on a hilltop, all the houses here are wooden-built in exquisite traditional design; like a time capsule of ancient Korea. People still live here, too. So do be mindful and respectful during your visit.
Near the Bukchon Hanok Village stands the Gyeongbokgung Palace. A historic compound of lush gardens, intricate sculptures, grand imperial structures, as well as a museum. Book a guided tour to visit all of them. And like Changdeokgung Palace, wearing a Hanbok grants you free entry here as well. Don’t miss the royal guard changing ceremony – we won’t spoil it for you, but it is mesmerizing to watch!
Insadong Shopping Street
The palace visits will take most of your day. To wind down into evening, head over to Insadong Shopping Street. A neighbourhood where tradition meets modern trends. A great place to enjoy an authentic Korean dinner, pick up unique souvenirs at the outdoor bazaar, and savour some traditional Korean tea at a teahouse. Also be sure to check out the near-acrobatic skills of the Dragon Beard Candy vendors in the area.
Day 2: The Modern Side of Seoul
Namsan Park & N Seoul Tower
Begin Day 2 at Seoul’s largest mountain park! Namsan is a beautiful landscape of scenic garden walks, hiking trails and picnic spots. Hop on the cable car to the N Seoul Tower on the park’s mountain peak, which offers a spellbinding view of the city skyline, with awesome restaurants to enjoy your meals.
Next, head over to the Namdaemun Market. The largest traditional market in Seoul with massive selections of goods, and a kaleidoscope of authentic Korean street food. Savour the Kimchi Mandu dumplings or the Kalguksu seafood broth with hand-cut noodles – both are among the market’s beloved signature dishes.
As mentioned in the accommodations section above, Myeongdong District is located at Seoul’s city centre. A bustling modern commerce hub with malls and specialty shops. There’s more than enough for you to explore till late afternoon, when street food vendors open up for another round of gastronomic adventure!
Dongdaemum Design Plaza
For the evening, immerse yourself in the gorgeous Korean arts and design culture at the Dongdaemum Design Plaza – created by the world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid. A vibrant hub of art installations and unique galleries that showcases the cutting edge of Korean creativity. And, just a short walk from here is the popular Korean BBQ restaurant, Geumdwaeji Skidang or ‘Golden Pig’. Perfect to wrap the day with a hearty dinner and drinks.
Day 3: The Spiritual & Leisure Sides of Seoul
Start Day 3 with an easy breakfast and travel to the Bongeunsa Temple in Gangnam District. Located on the slope of Sudo Mountain, the historic Buddhist temple has survived many tribulations and remains one of Seoul’s most impressive sights – with the towering Mireuk Daebul statue of the Bodhisattva Maitreya, the prophesized Buddha of the future. Take in the tranquil vibe and witness the unique percussion ceremony performed by the monks.
Explore the Gangnam District for the afternoon. If you’re a fan of South Korean pop culture, you probably know this is considered the most luxurious part of Seoul. Visit Apgujeong-dong for a taste of classy Korean culture. Replete with branded shops, high-end malls, as well as unique modern Korean restaurants and cafés to enjoy an exquisite lunch. Next, head over to the Starfield COEX Mall in Samseong-dong. A glittering modern mall with the awesome Starfield Library at its centre, which features floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and comfy reading spots. A great place to chill after your shopping adventure.
Gangnam District is actually along the south bank of Han River, and there are plenty of sights to enjoy. Most notably the Lotte World Tower – among the 10 world’s tallest buildings. Savour the evening at Sky Terrace and Sky Café within the tower, and relish the mesmerising Seoul city skyline during nightfall.
Visit Korea Year 2023-2024
Seoul is always charming, exciting and unforgettable. An eclectic metropolis of age-old traditions, rich culture, energetic modernity, and delicious foods that are sure to wow your senses and taste-buds. So have your next holiday adventure in the soul of South Korea. Discover more at Visit Korea Year 2023-2024 and Korea Tourism Organization websites.