5 days in Seoul: the easy-to-follow itinerary

5 days in Seoul itinerary

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

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

For group tours or activities, Trazy.com or Viator are your go-to websites! They offer the largest variety of activities, and you can save up to 60% so you can spend less and see more.

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:

How to get to Seoul from Incheon Airport

Incheon to Myeongdong

Incheon to Hongdae

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!

Don’t want to read it all? Here are the most important options:

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:

Hongdae

Gangnam

Myeongdong

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 NSeoul tower and the Sungnyemun Gate, I found this place to be perfectly located. Breakfast even though varied was not really my cup of tea, with so many Korean-specific dishes.

Check out their prices here!

L’Escape Hotel Seoul – in the same area, try this hotel if you are looking for “A Parisian Escape in the heart of Seoul”. A boutique hotel providing a hidden Parisian experience.

See their superb design here!

Nine Tree Hotel Myeongdong – I must admit this was our first choice when it came to hotels in Seoul, but somehow we ended up with the Courtyard one (and I don’t regret it a bit). This one is perfectly located and offers a great quality vs price ratio.

Take a look at their prices here!

Tmark Grand Hotel Myeongdong

Choose to stay here and you will be in the middle of a shopping area, packed with local restaurants and public transportation options to anywhere you want to go.

Namsan Park is also 5 minutes away, as well as the bustling area of Myeongdong. The view from the hotel’s bar and restaurant is stunning, and some of the rooms have Namsan Tower views as well.

A buffet breakfast is served daily, and the hotel boasts a great indoor pool where you can relax at the end of the day.

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.

See more here!

When is the best time to spend 5 days in Seoul?

The best hotels in Gangnam : where to stay in Gangnam

With a temperate climate, South Korea has 4 seasons – some more appropriate than others.

Spring and fall would be the best possible times for your visit to South Korea’s capital city. With mild temperatures, beautiful sights, and moderate precipitation, the shoulder season will always offer you great days for exploration.

Understanding Seoul

An impressive metropolis, Seoul is split by the Han River into two parts. The north of the river is more traditional and has the most important historical sights and attractions. The south of the river holds its hip neighborhoods and modern hang-out spots.

On both sides, along the river, you will find parks and bike lanes offering some of the best city skylines.

Seoul is split into districts (gu) and neighborhoods (dong), with the river passing below Mapo-gu, Yongsan-gu, and Seongdong-gu.

By 안우석 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

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.

Insadong

Insadong Seoul

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

spring in Seoul

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 Temple

Jogyesa Temple Seoul

Jogyesa is the chief temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.

The Jogye Order is the representative order of traditional Korean Seon Buddhism. Its roots are over 1200 years old when the Latter Silla Master Doui brought Seon from China (‘Seon’ is what we call ‘Zen’ in the West).

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?

Jogyesa Temple Seoul

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 on Saturdays.

Admission Fee: Adults 1000 won; Children: 500 won

Address: 55, Ujeongguk-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Extra: If you would like 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.

Cheonggyecheon stream

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.

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

Incheon to Hongdae

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:

Click on the map to open it in Google Maps

If I were you, I would at least try to visit 2 or 3 palaces, with Gyeongbokgung Palace as the main attraction.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Seoul in Spring

Unlike the Cantonese Chinese names that I easily memorized when we lived in Hong Kong, I had difficulties learning the Korean ones after moving to Seoul. And inevitably, Gyeongbokgung was one of the first place names I came across. However, once I realized that the names are a combination of words, things got a lot easier.

‘Gyeong’ can mean Brilliance, Honor, Respect. In Sino-Korean could also mean ‘Capital City. ‘Bok’ usually means Fortune, while ‘Gung’ means Palace. So by naming it Gyeongbok, the government expressed its desire for a bright future.

Constructed in 1395 AD by the first Joseon king, Taejo, its name was devised by an influential minister called Jeong Dojeon. It was the kingdom’s main palace complex, housing the royal household and most of the government.

Gyeongbokgung-Palace-Secret-Garden

Walking through the complex today while admiring the many visitors dressed in traditional clothing, one wouldn’t guess the place’s violent history.

We loved visiting the palace’s Secret Garden; sitting by the pond can easily transport you to a world without worries. The majestic mountain in the background adds to the serene atmosphere. Furthermore, if you are lucky to visit during the cherry blossom season, you will have the chance of taking great Instagramable pictures.

Admission Fees
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

Subway:

Gyeongbokgung Station (Seoul Subway Line 3) and Exit 5.
Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3) and Exit 1.

Changdeokgung Palace

Changdeokgung Palace Seoul

The Palace of Prospering Virtue, known in Korean as Changdeokgung, was the favorite palace of many Joseon rulers. Moreover, it was the site of the royal court during two out of the three centuries that passed between Gyeongbukgung’s first destruction and its eventual reconstruction in 1868.

Changdeok stands out compared to Gyeongbukgung because its buildings blend in with the natural topography instead of dominating it; its construction style retains elements of the previous Three Kingdom’s period of Korean history. Actually, the palace was built specifically to replace Gyeongbuk.

Changdeokgung Palace

Apart from the impressive historical buildings, today’s main points of attraction are Changdeok’s gardens.

The Huwon, or Rear Garden, was originally constructed for the use of the royal family and palace women. The lotus pond is surrounded by hundreds of different trees and plant species; some trees are more than 300 years old. The Jade Stream area contains a U-shaped water channel initially used for floating wine cups; there is a small waterfall above it.

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.

Admission Fees
[Changdeokgung Palace]
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

Deoksugung Palace_Hanbok

The Korean hanbok is a dress for semi-formal or formal attire during traditional occasions. The term literally means “Korean clothing”, but the term used today makes reference specifically to the clothing worn during the Joseon dynasty period.

The hanbok consists of a “jeogori” – the upper garment, which covers the arms and upper part of the body both for men and women; and a “chima” – the wrap-around skirt or “baji” – when it comes to the men’s costumes.

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.

Rent your hanbok for the day here or read everything about our experience of renting a hanbok!

Book your own unforgettable photo session with a local professional photographer on Flytographer.com. They have been featured everywhere from The New York Times to Martha Stewart Weddings and have been called “The Future of Travel Photography” by Conde Nast Traveler and “The #1 Gift for Travelers” by Forbes. Book your session here!

End your day in Myeongdong

Things to do in Myeongdong-instagrammable place in Seoul

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?

Majang Lake Paju

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:

DMZ – Korean Demilitarized Zone – can be only visited by organized tour, and you can read our comprehensive guide or book a half day tour or full-day private tour.

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

Yeouido Seoul

Today, you will cross over to the southern part of the river, and explore some of the most modern neighborhoods in Seoul.

Yeouido

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

Things to do in Gangnam

Gangnam-gu (district) became famous thanks to PSY, the Korean artist that broke Youtube with his video back in 2012. Nevertheless, if you ask anyone in Seoul what to do in Gangnam they would think of the whole area south of the Han River. That’s because “Gangnam” literally means “south of the river”.

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

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

How to get to Namsan Tower

Even though it might look otherwise, Namsan Seoul Tower is more than just a broadcasting tower, being one of the most important tourist attractions worth seeing in Seoul. Built-in 1971, on top of Namsan Mountain, at the heart of South Korea’s capital city, the tower offers panoramic views from its Observation Deck, but also lots of other ways to spend your time. 

Inside the tower, you’ll find restaurants, cafes, photo spots, observation decks, and much more. Come here on a clear day and you can get an unobstructed 360-degree view of the city. 

The tower is 236.7m high and sits on top of the highest mountain you can find in the center of the city, at 243m above sea level.

Read everything you must know about climbing Namsan Mountain and visiting the Namsan Tower!

Or just book your ticket for the Namsan Tower Panoramic Deck here!

End your day in Itaewon

The area is well known for Koreans and not only as the “ex-pat” district since this is where most expats and tourists choose as their base camp.

However, Itaewon is a colorful and vibrant area, packed with murals, trendy cafes, stunning views, and a Culture Trace Journey where you can learn about Seoul and this part of town.

One can easily spend half of the day walking up and down the hilly streets and enjoying a delicious meal.

Itaewon streets Seoul

Visit The Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art; explore the Itaewon Mosque, shop on the antique street, or simply taste some international oriental cuisine.

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.

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