So you have 5 days in Seoul and you want to make the best out of your time? With the city being such a huge metropolis, carefully planning your itinerary will take you a long way.
We have seen these mistakes from people not familiar with the city and the country: trying to fit too much in a short time or grouping attractions that are too far away from one another on the same day.
If you don’t do your research beforehand, you risk wasting a lot of time and money commuting from one place to the other. Additionally, you won’t get to experience everything the city and its surroundings have to offer.
But worry not, this comprehensive guide has all the information you need to plan your itinerary to the point. Because when we first moved to Seoul we had no idea about anything in the city, and we don’t even speak Korean. But even so, after one year in Seoul, and lots of exploring, we can help you plan the vacation of your dreams!
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Table of Contents
- 5 days in Seoul – an easy-to-follow guide
- Useful information
- Getting around Seoul
- Is Seoul a walkable city?
- Where to stay for 5 days in Seoul
- Is 5 days in Seoul Enough?
- How much money do you need for 5 days in Seoul?
- Do you need cash in Seoul?
- When is the best time to spend 5 days in Seoul?
- Understanding Seoul
- Your 5 days in Seoul itinerary overview
- Day 1 of your 5 days in Seoul itinerary
- Day 2 of your 5 days in Seoul itinerary
- Day 3 of your 5 days in Seoul itinerary
- Day 4 of your 5 days in Seoul itinerary
- Day 5 of your 5 days in Seoul itinerary
- What & where to eat in Seoul
- Is food expensive in South Korea?
- Is Seoul expensive?
- Is Seoul Safe?
- Alternative things to do in Seoul in 5 days
- Beautiful cafes in Seoul
- What souvenirs to buy in Seoul
5 days in Seoul – an easy-to-follow guide
Before we get started with the actual itinerary, there are certain things worth knowing, especially if this is your first trip to South Korea.
We have gathered the most important General Travel Information here, but here are a few points worth mentioning.
VISA & K-ETA
Depending on where you are traveling from, you will or won’t need a visa. Check your Visa requirements here!
Currently, South Korea has in place a visa-free online application process for certain eligible countries (you can check the list here) that you must obtain before your trip.
K-ETA or the Korean Electronic Travel Authorization must be obtained before boarding a flight or ship. Here is some useful information regarding the K-ETA visa:
- The approval process takes more than 72 hours, thus it is useful to apply in advance;
- You will need to have accommodation booked before applying for the K-ETA, the address is one of the required information.
- The validity of the K-ETA visa is of 2 years from the date of approval;
- With the K-ETA you can stay in South Korea for 30 to 90 days;
- However, if you are visiting for travel purposes, and plan to return after your first visit, you will have to come back and update your visa with the new hotel address;
- One person can apply for up to 30 persons and can pay for all at once;
- K-ETA price: 10.000 won (around 9-10 USD)
Other useful information
Public transportation in Seoul is amazing, really easy to use, and well-connected. However, you will need a T-Money card – a rechargeable card that can be used on all means of transportation.
Google Maps won’t do much for you. Instead, you must download and have Naver Maps (for IOS | for Android) or Kakao maps (for IOS | for Android). I found Naver easier to use and have it installed on my phone.
Should you get a Seoul City Pass? That depends a lot on what you plan to do and see, and how many paid attractions you want to include on your list of things to do in Seoul. Usually, if you plan to see a few, the price of the City Pass will allow you to save significantly.
Getting around Seoul
First things first, you will want to know how to get from the airport (Incheon or Gimpo) to the area you choose to stay in.
If you choose to stay in any of these popular areas, here are our step-by-step complete guides:
The fastest way to get to the city is by train/subway. You will only need a T-Money Card. However, this is not a great way to travel from the airport to the city if you have large luggage.
The most affordable way to get to the city is by taking the Seoul Limousine Bus. There are 5 available routes linking Incheon Airport to some of the main destinations in Seoul (Myeong-dong, Gangnam, Cty Hall, Dongdaemun/Namsan, and Jamsil/Dongseoul). You can read our comprehensive guide for taking the Seoul Limousine Bus here.
The most comfortable way to get to the city is, of course, also the most expensive: booking a private transfer. You don’t have to worry about taking a taxi, thinking about having cash, or the driver not understanding where you need to go, simply by booking your transfer online here.
When it comes to getting around Seoul, there are plenty of transportation options you can choose from. Subway, buses, taxis, and more. Read the complete guide here!
Is Seoul a walkable city?
Yes, Seoul is a very walkable city. With an extensive subway system and well-maintained sidewalks, visitors can easily explore the fascinating sights of Korea’s capital. T
The pedestrian-friendly layout makes sightseeing easier and more enjoyable, allowing visitors to take in the many attractions like Gyeongbok Palace and Namdaemun Market with ease.
Furthermore, travelers can avoid traffic jams by walking or biking from one destination to another in one of Asia’s most exciting cities.
However, you will still need to use public transportation, since Seoul is a huge metropolis.
Where to stay for 5 days in Seoul
Choosing the best area to stay in Seoul could sometimes prove to be a bit challenging. However, the most important tourist attractions are easily reached from a few of these popular locations:
Also, staying close to Seoul Station is another great option, especially when you want to spend a few days outside of the city, or even when you plan for a longer South Korea itinerary.
If you don’t feel like going through the above-mentioned guides, here are a few great hotel options in Seoul:
Courtyard by Marriott Seoul Namdaemun – with a view of Namsan Mountain, the famous tower, and the Sungnyemun Gate, this hotel offered us access to the most important attractions in town. Breakfast had many Korean-specific dishes, which was not appealing to me at the time of my first visit – however, you might like it if you are already used to Korean food (which is absolutely delicious!).
L’Escape Hotel Seoul – in the same area, this hidden gem is designed to emulate the culture and elegance of the City of Love, providing state-of-the-art accommodation with all the modern amenities you would expect from a luxury hotel.
Nine Tree Hotel Myeongdong – perfectly located in the middle of Myeongdong, this hotel was on our list for the first visit to the city. There are endless options for good food and shopping around the hotel. Also, by staying here you will be only one minute away from the metro station.
Sitting in the heart of the city, you’ll find yourself surrounded by a wealth of shopping options and an eclectic mix of local and westerner style eateries.
With multiple forms of public transportation readily available, you can easily explore the city and get where you need to go.
Nestled in the heart of Seoul near the bustling area of Myeongdong, Namsan Park is a mere 5-minute walk away from this hotel. Here, guests can take in stunning views from either the bar and restaurant or from select rooms with panoramic views of Namsan Tower.
Start your day right with a delicious buffet breakfast at the hotel. After a long day, take some time to relax in the hotel’s wonderful indoor pool, which is perfect for swimming and lounging.
Guests loved how comfortable, clean, and how modern the rooms are, but also the hotel’s ideal location.
The hotel is linked to Seoul Station by Seoullo – a nice pedestrian walkway that makes it extremely accessible.
Is 5 days in Seoul Enough?
If you only have 5 days in Seoul, with the right itinerary you can get to see most of the important tourist attractions. Get the right information, plan ahead of time, and you can make the best out of your time in the city.
How much money do you need for 5 days in Seoul?
When exploring Seoul, one can expect to spend a considerable amount of money on food. Though it may vary depending on individual preferences and dietary habits, an average budget of 50,000 won (roughly $45 USD) should be set aside for meals if one is eating more local dishes such as bibimbap or naengmyeon.
Of course, if one is looking for a more upscale experience or prefers to eat Korean BBQ, the budget should be much higher – up to 100,000 won ($90 USD) per meal.
To ensure that your purse strings remain intact during your day in Seoul, consider the range of options available for transportation, dining, and activities.
Taking public transportation is usually a great value since Seoul’s subway system is comprehensive and fares are quite reasonable. Plus, the subway is a great way to get around the city and explore various neighborhoods.
Of course, there are ways in which you can save money (getting the Go City Seoul Pass for example), but you can also spend much more when you choose high-end restaurants or enjoy shopping.
Do you need cash in Seoul?
In Seoul, you can pay almost anywhere by credit card. On my first visit to the city, I had a Revolut card and it work everywhere.
Many people might tell you to bring cash, and indeed you will need a little bit (to buy your T-Money card, to pay for street food, or to buy things from the market for example ). However, don’t worry too much, during our year in South Korea we almost never used cash.
In addition, some shops and restaurants are cash-free and will only accept payment by card.
When is the best time to spend 5 days in Seoul?
South Korea is known for its temperate climate, which consists of four distinct seasons – spring, summer, autumn, and winter.
The spring season brings warm weather with blooming flowers and mild temperatures, while the summer months are hot and humid. Autumn is a beautiful time with golden leaves on the trees and cool breezes in the air.
The shoulder season is the perfect time of year to explore the stunning scenery and experience pleasant temperatures. With just enough precipitation, this is an ideal season for outdoor activities and sightseeing. From vibrant foliage in the fall to budding wildflowers in the spring, the shoulder season offers a diverse array of natural beauty.
Splitting the bustling Korean metropolis of Seoul, the Han River serves to divide two distinct parts of the city. To the north lies a vibrant array of historical sites and cultural attractions; to the south of the river rests an entirely different atmosphere; here you will find lively neighborhoods home to trendy cafes and boutiques, as well as some of Seoul’s most popular nightlife spots.
On both banks of the river, you’ll find green spaces and bike trails that offer stunning panoramic views of the city skyline.
Seoul is split into districts (gu) and neighborhoods (dong), with the river passing below Mapo-gu, Yongsan-gu, and Seongdong-gu.
Your 5 days in Seoul itinerary overview
Day 1 – Insadong, Bukchon Hanok Village, Jogyesa Temple, Cheonggyecheon stream, Hongdae.
Day 2 – Visiting the Palaces in Seoul, rent a hanbok & photoshoot, Myeongdong
Day 3 – Day trip outside of Seoul
Day 4 – Yeouido, Gangnam, Lotte Tower
Day 5 – Seoul off the beaten path or Namdaemun Market & NSeoul Tower & Itaewon
Day 1 of your 5 days in Seoul itinerary
Today you will spend your time exploring the central & old part of the city.
Getting from one place to the other is easy, by walking or by public transportation. We will add for each step information on how to get from one place to the other, together with the time needed.
Today you will visit Insadong, Bukchon Hanok Village, Jogyesa Temple, Cheonggyecheon Stream, and Hongdae.
A mix of old and new, Insadong concentrates the most art and antique shops in Seoul.
Stop to buy some valuable souvenirs, grab a bite at one of the traditional restaurants hidden on the narrow streets, or grab a cup of tea at Osulloc Tea House.
From here, make your way north towards Bukchon Hanok Village. You can walk there and won’t have to take any bus or means of public transportation.
Bukchon Hanok Village
If you’d like to see what a 600 years-old traditional village would look like in the middle of a high-tech, global metropolis, you must visit Bukchon Hanok.
Bukchon, literally the North Village, was the residential area of the nobility and high-ranking government officials during the Joseon period; it was the Beverly Hills of its day, the playground of the rich and famous. As its name suggests, it consists of numerous hanoks, traditional Korean houses.
According to polls, it is one of the favorite areas of foreign tourists. However, it became wildly popular with the locals after it was featured in the South Korean reality show ‘1 Night 2 Days’ and the TV series ‘Personal Taste.’
The area hosts several museums, coffee shops, and restaurants. And it is also a good place to rent a hanbok from. So you can start the day with a coffee in Bukchon Hanok Village, then dress up and walk its history-filled streets under the admiring gaze of the passerby.
You can also enjoy a Makgeolli Spa & Jjimjilbang experience at Rakkojae Hanok Hotel in Bukchon Hanok Village!
Address: Jongno-gu, 계동길 37
How to get to Jogyesa Temple: walk for 21 minutes
Jogyesa is considered to be the main temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism and serves as a spiritual center for many Koreans.
The temple was built in 1395 during the Goryeo Dynasty and has been restored several times since then. It features beautiful architecture with intricate sculptures, statues, and paintings that have stood the test of time.
Visitors can explore its gardens, halls, pavilions, pagodas and other structures while learning about Korean Buddhism.
From attending meditation classes to participating in traditional ceremonies such as Lotus Lantern Festival or Dharma Chanting Ceremony, visitors will experience a unique cultural journey at this sacred place.
Jogyesa Temple is also a great place to find peace and tranquility in the bustling city of Seoul.
The Buddhist Orders were persecuted during the Joseon period. Instead, the new rulers favored Neo-Confucianism as the basis of their society; its strong influences still permeate modern Korean culture, although most religious South Koreans are Christians. According to government statistics from 2015, almost half of the population is irreligious, nearly 30% is Christian, 22% are Buddhists, and less than 1% are Confucianists. You’ll surely notice the numerous churches once you arrive in Seoul.
The Jogyesa temple dates back to the dawn of Joseon in the late XIV century, and it became the center of the Jogye Order in 1936. Initially called Gakhwangsa Temple, it changed its name in 1954 to reflect its central position in the Jogye Order.
Apart from the temple itself, the courtyard hosts a couple of unique trees over 500 years old: a White Pine tree, brought by Chinese missionaries, and a Chinese Scholar tree. Can you imagine that these trees were already hundreds of years old at the time of the American Revolutionary War?
The temple is an excellent spot for visitors to experience traditional Korean culture. It’s open year-round, so you can explore its grounds regardless of the season.
While exploring, visitors can try their luck at fortune telling or buy souvenirs from the many shops located around the temple. With its rich history and cultural significance, Jogyesa Temple is a must-see for anyone visiting Seoul.
Whether you’re looking to learn more about Buddhism or simply want to unwind in a peaceful environment, this temple has something for everyone.
Guided tours in English, are held daily except Saturdays from 10 AM, 12 AM, 14 PM, and 16 PM. The only day when you can see the temple whenever you want, without a guided tour, is Saturdays.
Admission Fee: Adults 1000 won; Children: 500 won
Address: 55, Ujeongguk-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Extra: If you want to learn more and live the authentic experience at the temple, try the Jogyesa Templestay.
How to get to the Cheonggyecheon stream: walk for 10 minutes toward Jogno 1 Ga subway station.
A river in the heart of the city, where even though you will be in between skyscrapers and concrete, you will have the chance to reconnect to nature.
The 10.9 km long stream flows from west to east through downtown Seoul and empties into the Han River.
It was once an open sewer filled with industrial waste, but today it has been transformed into a lush green public park where people can relax and enjoy nature in the middle of a bustling cityscape.
Along its banks are numerous bridges and paths lined with trees, shrubs, wildflowers and sculptures that make for a pleasant walk or bike ride even on hot summer days.
The Cheonggyecheon also provides much-needed respite from air pollution as well as cooling during hot months due to the shade provided by its many trees.
This popular attraction draws locals and tourists alike who come to appreciate its beauty or simply take time out of their day for relaxation and contemplation.
Walk along the stream and admire the beautiful displays available for different occasions throughout the year.
How to get to Hongdae: 19 minutes away when you take the subway line 2 from Euljiro 1(il)-ga Station to Hongik Univ. Station. Or you can always go by bus and admire the city – bus number 271 will leave you exactly at Hongik Univ. and you will have a shorter walk.
Hongdae might be one of the most popular areas in Seoul, especially among youngsters. Because no trip to South Korea’s capital would be complete without a stroll in this area, I have put together the top things to do in Hongdae.
Home to some of Seoul’s most prestigious universities, perfectly linked to the airport, and packed with quirky cafes and countless shops, Hongdae is the place to go for a day of fun.
Since we lived relatively close, I loved going out and simply strolling around this area. There is something for everyone, and you could not get bored in Hongdae!
Come here in the evening for delicious meals and nights filled with fun!
Day 2 of your 5 days in Seoul itinerary
Today you will have the chance to feel like a Korean prince or princess because you will not only get to visit the Palaces in Seoul, but you will also dress up (if you would like that, of course).
Visiting the Palaces in Seoul
While you might not have the time to see all 5 palaces in one day and also rent a hanbok, you must choose a few of your favorite ones to see.
Getting from one palace to the other is easy on foot, thus you won’t have to worry about public transportation.
Each palace has an admissions fee, but if you come wearing a hanbok the entrance is free.
Here is a map of the location of each palace in Seoul:
If I were you, I would at least try to visit 2 or 3 palaces, with Gyeongbokgung Palace as the main attraction.
One of the 6 palaces in Seoul, Gyeongbokgung Palace served as the main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty from 1395 to 1868 and was one of the most important structures during that period.
The palace was destroyed by fire during the Imjin War of the 1590s and reconstructed in 1867.
Today, it’s one of the most visited tourist attractions in Seoul. You can explore the various buildings and structures on the palace grounds, such as Geunjeongjeon (the throne hall), Gyeonghoeru Pavilion, Amisan Garden, and more.
The changing of the guard ceremony is also a must-see for visitors.
Its name is derived from two syllables: ‘gyeong’ meaning brilliance and ‘bok’ meaning fortune. So by naming it Gyeongbok, the government expressed its desire for a bright future.
Strolling through the complex today and seeing the traditional clothing of the many visitors makes it difficult to imagine its past history of violence.
Our favorite part of the palace was its Secret Garden no matter if we visited during spring, summer, or fall; you can sit by the pond and be easily transported to a world without worries. The majestic mountain in the background enhances the tranquil ambience. Furthermore, if you are lucky to visit during the cherry blossom season or fall foliage, you will have the chance of taking great Instagramable pictures.
Adults (ages 19-64): 3,000 won / Groups (10 people or more): 2,400 won
Children (ages 7-18): 1,500 won / Groups (10 people or more): 1,200 won
Free on the last Wednesday of the month and while wearing a hanbok.
Address: 161, Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Gyeongbokgung Station (Seoul Subway Line 3) and Exit 5.
Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3) and Exit 1.
The magnificent Palace of Prospering Virtue, otherwise known as Changdeokgung, is a revered architectural masterpiece. It was the favored palace for many rulers of the Joseon Dynasty, and hosted the royal court for two out of its three-century period between Gyeongbukgung’s first destruction and its eventual reconstruction in 1868.
The palace grounds are made up of five main areas: the Donhwamun, Injeongmun, Seonjeongmun, Nakseonjae and Huijeongdang. From the grandiose central throne hall to the more intimate quarters of the king and queen, each area has its own unique purpose and beauty.
Despite being destroyed during the Imjin War (1592-1598) and World War II, Changdeokgung continues to stand as a testament to Korean culture and history. It was especially well known for its beautiful gardens, specifically Huwon or ‘Secret Garden‘, which still remain today.
The Palace of Prospering Virtue not only offers a glimpse into the refined lifestyle of Korea’s former royal rulers, but also provides visitors with much to enjoy and appreciate.
Changdeokgung is a must-see for anyone visiting Seoul. It has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, making it one of the most visited attractions in the city. Whether you’re looking to learn more about Korean culture and history or just appreciate some beautiful architecture, this palace will surely leave a lasting impression!
Don’t come here only for the historical buildings, the palace is home to a plethora of stunning gardens that are considered one of the main attractions of the area, the Secret Garden in particular.
The Huwon, or Rear Garden, is a lush and beautiful garden designed for the enjoyment of the royal family and palace women. The centerpiece of this space is the stunning lotus pond, with its vibrant blossoms surrounded by hundreds of different species of trees; some of these majestic trees have been thriving here for more than three centuries! Not to be outdone, the Jade Stream area features a U-shaped water channel that was once used for floating wine cups. A cascading waterfall cascades above this area, creating an exquisite and serene atmosphere.
The Gemuwon, or Forbidden Garden, was destined for the exclusive use of the king. Today, many Koreans call it Biwon, or Secret Garden.
One popular historical K-drama, ‘The Jewel in the Palace,’ was mostly filmed at Changdeokgung.
Adults (ages 25-64): 3,000 won / Group (over 10 people): 2,400 won / Youth ( ages 7-18): 1500 won
Students (ages 24 and under): Free (* Except for foreign visitors)
On the last Wednesday of the month, and when wearing a hanbok dress, the entrance is free.
Address: 99, Yulgok-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Subway: Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 3.
Tip: If you would rather go with a guide and learn everything you can about the history of these 2 palaces, but also experience other popular attractions in the area, book a full day Royal Palace guided tour!
Rent a Hanbok
The Korean hanbok, a traditional form of dress for semi-formal or formal occasions, is descended from clothing worn during the Joseon dynasty.
It consists of two distinct pieces – the jeogori, an upper garment covering the arms and torso for both genders; and for women, a long wrap-around skirt called the chima; while men typically wear trousers known as baji.
The jeogori is usually made of a lightweight, brightly-colored material such as satin or silk and can come in various styles depending on the occasion – for example, slightly longer jackets are often worn to semi-formal events.
The traditional hanbok is usually accompanied by accessories such as hairpieces, ribbons, and shoes. These items are often used to highlight the wearer’s style or communicate social status. For example, a woman may accessorize her hanbok with beads or embroidery on her jeogori; while a man may add bright, contrasting colors to his trousers.
Today, the hanbok is still popular for special occasions and holidays such as Lunar New Year and Chuseok. It also remains a staple of Korean culture, with many young people wearing it to attend traditional performances or festivals in the summer months.
How much does it cost to rent a hanbok in Seoul?
That depends on the hanbok type and style you choose because there are 3 different styles you can choose from.
Book your own unforgettable photo session with a local professional photographer here!
End your day in Myeongdong
Set in Seoul’s very heart, there’s no wonder this area attracts mainly tourists. Packed with cool cafes and shops, Myeongdong lights up as night falls and becomes one of the most vibrant areas in town.
Even though I visited Seoul with a friend during a cold winter (before actually living there), no matter how cold the weather was, we couldn’t help but go back to explore more of this area.
Here are the top things to do in Myeongdong!
Day 3 of your 5 days in Seoul itinerary
You have already spent 2 full days exploring the city, so why not go on a day trip outside of Seoul today?
With plenty of options, it is up to you to choose what you want to do and see today. Here are a few of our favorite places, but also some of the most popular with tourists:
The Garden of Morning Calm, Nami Island, and Petite France – a mix of places with breathtaking landscapes you will be happy you have seen. We absolutely loved the Garden of Morning Calm, and Nami Island should not be missed during spring or fall. See more here!
Suwon and Hwaseong Fortress – About 30 km south of Seoul, it’s the city of Suwon. It is linked to the capital by train, so it is easy and convenient to get there.
Bukhansan Hiking – you can go on an organized tour if you don’t feel confident enough in exploring the mountains close to Seoul on your own.
See the Namhansanseong UNESCO Historical Sites on a day tour along with the Korean Folk Museum.
Unleash the child within at Everland or Lotte World Theme Park on a day of fun outside of Seoul.
Visit the Andong Hahoe Village, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the oldest villages in South Korea.
Day 4 of your 5 days in Seoul itinerary
Today, you will cross over to the southern part of the river, and explore some of the most modern neighborhoods in Seoul.
Home to the Yeouido Cherry Blossoms Festival, this area has some of the fanciest hotels.
The financial area of Seoul will also place you close to the Han River and its beautiful park, but also right next to the most popular department store packed with shops and restaurants.
Come here for the park, grab a coffee from one of my favorite coffee places in Seoul, do some (window) shopping, and head over to Gangnam.
How to get to Yeouido: take line 5 (purple line) to Yeouido or Yeouinaru Station.
How to get to Gangnam Station: walk to Yeouido Station and take Line 9 to Gangnam Station
Gangnam-gu is a district in Seoul that shot to fame due to the South Korean musician PSY, whose catchy song and accompanying video skyrocketed in popularity on YouTube back in 2012.
But for many people living in Seoul, it’s recognized as an area much broader than just the district – encompassing the whole region south of the Han River. The Korean phrase ‘Gangnam’ literally translates to “south of the river”, which helps explain why it’s come to represent such a large area.
With so many things to do in Gangnam, you might need a bit more than a few hours to spend here. I have put together a comprehensive list of all the cool things to do in Gangnam and you should read it first.
Visit COEX Mall and its famous Library and Aquarium, don’t skip Bongeunsa Temple, luxury SPA treatments, cool cafes, famous restaurants, Olimpic Park, Lotte World, Lotte Sky Tower & Aquarium, and much more.
Day 5 of your 5 days in Seoul itinerary
We will offer you 2 options for spending your last day in the city.
Depending on what you prefer, you can skip the crowds and go for some of the low-key off the beaten path destinations in Seoul, or stick to the tourist places.
Places like Buam-dong, Ikseon-dong, or Seongsu-dong are not too popular with tourists but are all very cool areas in Seoul.
However, if you would rather stick to the popular tourist attractions, here is your itinerary for the day: Namdaemun Market & NSeoul Tower, and finish your day off in Itaewon.
Namndaemun Market is one of the most popular markets in town, mainly because of its location in the city center, close to Seoul Station, but also because here you can find pretty much anything.
Stop by to shop for souvenirs, and don’t leave without some red ginseng or K-beauty products.
Namsan Park and NSeoul Tower
Namsan Seoul Tower, one of the most renowned tourist attractions in Seoul, has been an iconic symbol of the city since it was initially built in 1971. Standing 236.7 meters tall on the peak of Namsan Mountain – a 243 meter-high mountain situated in the center of the capital – this broadcasting tower provides visitors with unparalleled views of the city. Furthermore, it houses many restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops and more.
For a bird’s eye view of Seoul from the highest point in town, take the cable car up to Namsan Seoul Tower’s observation deck. Here, you can see panoramic views of rooftops and mountains in the horizon, and the city lit up like a twinkling diamond at night.
If you’re looking for an even more unique experience, why not reserve your spot in one of the tower’s open-air rooftop terraces? Here, you can enjoy an intimate meal or drinks while admiring the romantic views of Seoul below.
Read everything you must know about climbing Namsan Mountain and visiting the Namsan Tower!
End your day in Itaewon
Itaewon is a district of Seoul, South Korea that is known for its diverse international community. It’s one of the most cosmopolitan areas in the city and is popular with both locals and tourists alike for its international restaurants, shopping, and nightlife. It’s also the location of many embassies and consulates from foreign countries.
If you’re looking to experience something a little different from Seoul’s bustling city life, take a walk on the Culture Trace Journey where you can learn about Seoul and this part of town. It is also an area packed with beautiful murals and hidden cafes.
I easily spend half of the day walking up and down the hilly streets and enjoying a delicious meal with a Namsan Mountain view.
You can experience the wonders of The Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art; examine the architecture of the Itaewon Mosque, go shopping for antiques on the antique street, or enjoy some flavorful international oriental dishes.
End your day with a traditional dinner at the Korea House restaurant. The setting is impressive, the food is delicious, and they often have shows or wedding ceremonies you can admire.
What & where to eat in Seoul
The first time I ever visited Seoul I left thinking Koreans have mainly spicy food, and I couldn’t really say their food made it on my list.
However, after moving there, I discovered their amazing cuisine and fell in love with almost anything I tried.
If you are a foodie, you will love your 5 days in Seoul!
It is worth knowing that If you are not a proficient chopstick user, it is recommended to carry a fork in your bag. We cover here everything worth knowing about dining in Korea. It can be overwhelming for someone unfamiliar with Korean culture.
Food worth trying in Seoul:
- Korean bbq
- Korean fried chicken
- Ginseng chicken soup
Here are some of our favorite restaurants you must try:
두툼 – Delicious Korean BBQ close to Seoul Station and Seullo.
Jaha Son Mandu – a Michelin-star restaurant worth waiting in line for. The food is delicious, and if you are lucky you might catch a seat by the window. Try the cinnamon sweet drink at the end of your meal, you won’t regret it!
Keunkiwajip (큰기와집) – the best soy sauce marinated crab in Seoul.
Pildong Myeonok (필동면옥) – No 1. cold noodle (Pyeongyang cold noodle: originated from North Korea, Pyeongyang). Water cold noodle is the main, and Seasoned cold noodle is the second option. Try to eat water cold noodles (물냉면).
Marusim (마루심) – a Japanese-style restaurant frequented by many Korean celebrities. Try the bowl of boiled eel and rice. It is located in Banpo near Gangnam.
Is food expensive in South Korea?
That depends a lot on what and where you choose to eat. As in many places around the world, there are very affordable local restaurants, but also high-end restaurants.
If you choose to eat at a local diner, you can expect to pay anywhere between 5 to 15 dollars. However, for Korean BBQ or other restaurants serving several course meals, you can pay between 50-100 dollars per person.
Another thing worth knowing when it comes to food prices is that westerner type food will always be more expensive than local one. And not once you will see that the taste is not similar to what you are used to.
Is Seoul expensive?
The answer to this question depends a lot on the place you are traveling from, and the prices you are used to. You can see Seoul on a budget when you plan your itinerary wisely, book ahead of time, choose to walk a lot and eat at very local places. However, as in any city, there are some activities, hotels, and restaurants that will be pricey.
Is Seoul Safe?
Yes, Seoul is generally considered to be a safe city. According to the Global Peace Index, it is one of the safest cities in the world with a score of 1.63, which is lower than New York and London. Crime rates are low, and public transit systems are reliable and well-secured making it easy to get around safely.
As a female who spent a lot of time exploring alone, I would rate Seoul as one of the safest places in the world. However, you need to be mindful of your surroundings and always use common sense when making a decision.
Of course, if you choose to spend the night out, be careful as you would in any similar situation. As an expat living in Seoul, I’ve heard stories of stalking or guys following women around, so again, pay attention if you plan to go out at night.
Alternative things to do in Seoul in 5 days
Eat your heart out at a local food market
Seoul is a foodie’s paradise, with its vibrant and diverse food markets. From traditional outdoor markets to modern-day shopping centers, Seoul offers an array of options for any type of food lover.
Traditional open-air markets like Dongdaemun Market, Namdaemun Market, and Gwangjang Market offer a range of fresh produce, prepared foods, snacks, and other items from local vendors.
For those looking for more upscale dining choices, modern shopping malls such as COEX Mall or Starfield Goyang boast dozens of restaurants featuring cuisine from around the world.
Hiking in Bukansan
Hiking in Bukansan is an amazing experience, especially for those who love to explore nature.
Located in the heart of South Korea, Bukansan National Park is a beautiful and secluded mountain range that features stunning scenery and plenty of hiking trails.
The park boasts diverse terrain with rocky peaks, deep valleys, lush forests, and pristine rivers.
Whether you are looking for a leisurely stroll or a challenging hike up one of its many mountains, there is something here for everyone to enjoy.
With breathtaking views from the summit and plenty of opportunities for wildlife spotting along the way, it’s no wonder why hikers flock to this national treasure every year.
Ikseon-dong is a vibrant neighborhood located in the heart of Seoul, South Korea.
It is known for its traditional Korean architecture and cobblestone streets that are lined with trendy restaurants, cafes, bars, and boutiques.
The area has been growing rapidly due to an influx of young people who appreciate the unique atmosphere it offers. Ikseon-dong also houses many art galleries that display works from both local and international artists.
This bustling district has become popular among locals and tourists alike for its diverse selection of activities, making it one of the most sought-after areas in all of Seoul.
Ihwa Mural Village
Ihwa Mural Village is a unique and vibrant neighborhood. It is known for its stunning street art, trendy cafes, and quaint shops.
The village has been around since the late 1990s when artists began to spray paint murals on public walls as part of an urban renewal project.
Since then it has become one of Seoul’s most popular tourist destinations with visitors from all over the world coming to admire its beauty.
Eunpyeong Hanok Village (은평한옥마을)
Eunpyeong Hanok Village is a unique and beautiful village.
It is an area with traditional Korean houses that have been preserved since the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). This charming village offers visitors a glimpse into the past, as well as provides stunning views of Mount Bukhan and the surrounding nature.
Visitors can explore the old streets lined with traditional hanoks and experience authentic Korean culture through activities such as tea ceremonies, calligraphy classes, pottery-making lessons, or even participating in a kimchi-making workshop.
There are also plenty of restaurants and cafes serving delicious local food to enjoy while taking in all of Eunpyeong’s beauty.
Beautiful cafes in Seoul
Koreans love their coffee, but they also love beautiful cafes, with special designs and picture-perfect views. Since I also looove coffee and cafes, I did my best to explore and test as many as possible while in Seoul (and not only).
Here are a few of my favorite ones you might want to try, for the coffee or for the view.
Greenmile Coffee Bukchon 그린 마일커피 북촌점 – offers great views over the hanok houses, it is easily accessible because of its location, and they do have great specialty coffee.
1인1상 in Eunpyeong Hanok Village – a really nice place, with a restaurant on the first floor serving fancy traditional food, a cafe on the second floor, and a rooftop terrace offering stunning views of the Bukhansan Mountain.
Cafe Colline in Hongdae – for flower lovers!
The Royal Food and Drink in Yongsan – delicious food and perfect NSeoul Tower view from the terrace.
Osulloc Tea House Bukchon 오설록 티하우스 북촌점 – ok, it is not a cafe, but a tea house. It is however a stunning place you should not miss.
Cafe Onion Anguk – Ingrid’s all-time favorite cafe, easily accessible from Aguk subway station, thus really crowded. Be ready to take off your shoes if you want to stay inside.
Noop Cafe is open until midnight and has a terrace with a stunning view over the Namsan Tower.
What souvenirs to buy in Seoul
I see this question asked so many times, especially by people traveling to Seoul for the first time. On my first trip I knew nothing about the city or the country, thus I know exactly how you feel.
Here are a few great ideas for souvenirs to take home, things people will actually like!
Cosmetics – K-beauty has taken the world by storm for many years already, and for a good reason. Brands like Innisfree, the Beauty of Joseon, Sulwhasoo, The History of Who, Hera, Iope, are all very popular in South Korea. I have put together a comprehensive list of places to go to buy skincare in Seoul.
Korean chopstix – these are different than any other Asian chopstix, resembling more tweezers. They are made of steel and some have nice decorations and come in colorful packages. You can find them in local markets or in Insa-dong.
Korean sweets – while I’m not a huge fan, people love to try different types of Korean sweets (especially the HBAF peanuts with different sweet flavors). You can get them at department stores but also at Emart or Homeplus.
Korean hair masks – as skincare, hair products are really good and affordable. Try the ginseng hair mask, or the Miseenscene Perfect Repair Treatment (which I really love).
K-Fashion – Korean clothes are cheaper and have good quality. The downside is that most of the time they only have a universal size, thus they are not suitable for everyone. You can find small boutiques around Bukchon Hanok, but also in the underground shopping area at Myeongdong or at the Gangnam Bus Terminal Shopping area.
Seaweed snacks – they are very popular with Koreans, and can make a great souvenir if you like seaweed.
Instant tea – I love the ginger or cinnamon drinks you get at some restaurants to help you with digestion. And the good news is you can buy those as instant packages at convenience stores. I still have a good friend in Hong Kong who always brings me boxes whenever she comes to Europe.
Osulloc Tea – the Korean number 1 green tea brand, you can find very nice boxes with various flavors at this shop in Insa-dong.
Korean Red Ginseng – that’s the usual gift Koreans make because ginseng is known to have so many health benefits, and it is not a cheap gift either.
Kakao Friends merch – choose from the many options you can find at their flagship stores in Myeong-dong, Hongdae, or Gangnam.
Jeju pomegranate snacks