7 days in Seoul – what to do in Seoul for a week

Hidden Garden Seoul Autumn - 7 days in Seoul itinerary

South Korea’s capital is such an impressive metropolis, with plenty of things to do and see, especially when you plan on spending 7 days in Seoul.

My first visit to the city was short, but I was lucky to come back and live there for almost one year. Even with that amount of time, I still couldn’t really see it all, andall the great day trips outside of Seoul.

However, if you are planning for your first visit, I will do my best to provide all the information you need, for an unforgettable one week in Seoul. From valuable tips on where to stay, how to get around, what money to bring, what to see, where to go, and what to eat. You will find it all in this comprehensive guide, written itinerary-style so that you won’t have to worry about a thing.

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Table of Contents

7 days in Seoul – what to do in Seoul for a week

Useful Travel Information for your Seoul vacation

For those traveling to South Korea for the first time, things might look a bit complicated and overwhelming. From getting around town to finding the right apps to use or even ordering at the restaurant.

We have seen so many questions asked on all of the above and more, that we decided to organize all the information so that you will find it easy to access and digest.

Here are a few articles you might want to check out first:

The articles are packed with useful information, but here are a few other points you might want to get clarification on.

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)

Wifi Egg or SIM Card?

This is one of the questions we see a lot coming from people that travel to South Korea for the first time.

While both options are great, you can choose your preferred one based on your needs, group size, and budget.

A SIM Card will offer you unlimited data for the period you have selected (3, 5, 10, 20, or 30 days), along with the possibility to make and receive local calls and send and receive text messages. However, this comes with 2 minor downsides: you will have a local phone number that will replace your own (you can also bring along another phone to use with this SIM), and the SIM can only be used by one person (of course, you can always use your phone as a personal hotspot with your friends or family).

You can book your SIM card online and pick it up from the airport in Seoul. I chose to do this on my first trip to Seoul and I found it easy and affordable.

A WIFI Egg will provide you with mobile data, on a pay-per-day basis. In most cases, the amount of data available with portable wifi is usually greater than the one offered by a SIM card, but not necessarily.

This option is great when you are traveling with your family or in a larger group because more people will be able to connect to the wifi.

However, the downside is that you won’t be able to make local calls, and the battery life of a WIFI Egg is anywhere between 6-8 hours – I would imagine your phone lasts longer.

How do you pay for things in South Korea? How much cash should you have?

Truth be told, South Korea is one of the most cashless places I have ever been to. During our stay there, we’ve only used cash in the first week or so.

You can pay for anything by card, no matter the amount, and tipping is not custom (restaurants, or taxis). Moreover, there are stores that only accept payment by card.

However, there are only a few exceptions you will need cash for: buying your T-Money card and/or buying individual train or transportation tickets from vending machines. You will be requested to pay cash for the card itself, but you can top it up by using your card.

You will be happy to learn that there is a workaround for this as well: this option offers both a SIM card with unlimited 4G data and acts as a  T-Money card. You can book it and pay for it online, and pick it up from the airport upon your arrival.

Another option would be to purchase the 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. Moreover, the card can have a T-money transportation card function.

If however, you would feel safer by having some local money, I wouldn’t have more than 50 USD, and I would either withdraw from an ATM or exchange it at one of the many exchange offices in Myeongdon.

How to get from the airport to Seoul

Communication and transportation

Getting around South Korea

Other useful tips & links

Where to stay in Seoul

Where to stay in Seoul

In a city as large as Seoul, choosing the right place to stay can prove to be challenging. Especially when there are so many things to do and see scattered all over the city.

Getting around by public transportation is easy and affordable, but you will still spend a lot of time commuting from one place to the other.

That’s why, choosing the right area to stay in, should be done depending on what you want to see and do in the city.

For this itinerary, the best areas to stay would be anywhere around Insadong, Myeongdong, or even Hongdae.

If you are planning to go on many day trips outside of Seoul, I would also advise staying close to Seoul Station – you will also be close to many of the important tourist attractions.

Read also: The top 8 best areas to stay in Seoul on your first visit

On our first visit to the city, we chose to stay at the Courtyard by Marriott Seoul Namdaemun. The hotel is relatively close to Seoul Station, and within walking distance of Myeongdong, Insadong, and the Palaces.

We had a room overlooking Namsan Tower and the Namdaemun Gate. The beds were extremely comfortable, and we were welcomed with some ginseng face masks and some local sweets. You might find breakfast a bit too local, but they do have a cafe on the ground floor and another one in the building in front.

When is the best time to spend 7 days in Seoul?

View from Namsan Mountain

While you could visit the city in all seasons and still love it, winter and summer have extreme temperatures which might make it difficult to visit.

Winter in Seoul is cold and humid, you really feel it in your bones. However, I did visit during December and I managed to see a lot of attractions.

Summer in Seoul brings high temperatures and humidity, with typhoons hitting the country every now and then.

For that reason, visiting Seoul during spring or autumn would be the best choice in our opinion. During spring you can admire the cherry blossom and the city coming to life, while fall comes with beautiful foliage and some of the most breathtaking landscapes.

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.

Map of Seoul Districts
By 안우석 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Your 7 days in Seoul itinerary overview

Day 1 – Land in Seoul, transfer to your hotel, go out and eat something, and arrange all your things (exchange money, get your T-Money card, activate your SIM, etc)

Day 2 – Insadong, Bukchon Hanok Village, Jogyesa Temple, Cheonggyecheon stream, Hongdae

Day 3 – Day trip to DMZ

Day 4 – Visiting the Palaces in Seoul, rent a hanbok & photoshoot, Myeongdong

Day 5 – Day trip to Nami Island, Garden of the Morning Calm

Day 6 – Yeouido, Gangnam, Lotte Tower

Day 7 – Namdaemun Market & NSeoul Tower & Itaewon

Day 1 of your one-week in Seoul itinerary

I suggest you keep this day relatively empty and use it to get used to the city and get all your things in order.

Depending on your flight schedule and time spent traveling here, you might need to adjust to the local time zone.

Don’t worry about traveling from the airport to your hotel, and book a private transfer ahead of time – the price is similar to the one you will pay for a taxi, but the driver speaks English and has your final destination details.

Before you leave the airport, get your SIM card or Wifi Egg.

If you need to exchange money, Myeongdong is the area you will head to – there are plenty of exchange shops. Additionally, you can eat here at one of the many restaurants.

If you arrive early enough and have the energy, in the evening, you could also take part in a Nanta cooking Show.

It takes place in Myeongdong and is one of the most popular attractions in the city, thus you will have to book ahead of time if you want to catch a spot.

If you try to book directly on their website, you might encounter issues – many local websites don’t accept payments by international cards. The workaround for that is to book on an international website such as Klook. They always have offers and special prices, and you won’t have any issues related to payments.

Day 2 of your 7 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

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.’

You can also enjoy a Makgeolli Spa & Jjimjilbang experience at Rakkojae Hanok Hotel in Bukchon Hanok Village!

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.

Address: Jongno-gu, 계동길 37

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% are Christian, 22% are Buddhists, and less than 1% are Confucianists. You’ll surely notice the numerous churches once you arrive in 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 Saturday.

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.

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.

Hongdae

Hongdae Seoul

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!

Read also: Where to buy skincare in Seoul

Day 3 of your 7 days in Seoul itinerary

Day trip to DMZ: how to choose the best tour

Today you will go on a day trip to DMZ – the Demilitarized Zone, at the border with North Korea.

Unsurprisingly the area dubbed as ‘the world’s most dangerous border’ is also the number 1 tourist attraction in South Korea; over 1.2 million visitors flock every year to the infamous Korean Demilitarized Zone or DMZ. If you too are looking for the best day trip to DMZ from Seoul, this guide will help you make the right choice!

The JSA is the only point of the DMZ where the two opposing militaries actually meet. It is also where politicians from opposing sides can meet and discuss; Trump met Kim Jong-Un here a few years ago.

Given the sensitive nature of the JSA, there are strict security rules for visiting.

Day 4 of your 7 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).

Changdeokgung Palace

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.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung-Palace-Secret-Garden

‘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.

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.

Extra TIP: If you plan on renting a hanbok, book a professional photo session as well. This was one of our favorite things to do and we will forever have those beautiful pictures to remind us of the time we spent in Seoul.

Deoksugung Palace

Changdeokgung Palace

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 Kingdoms period of Korean history. Actually, the palace was built specifically to replace Gyeongbuk.

Changdeokgung Palace Seoul

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!

End your day in Myeongdong

Myeongdong 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 5 of your one week in Seoul

Garden of the Morning Calm

Today you will go to one of our favorite destinations outside of Seoul. These places will be particularly charming when you are visiting during spring or fall.

Nami Island and the Garden of the Morning Calm are two of the main attractions and things to do from Seoul.

We tried to visit Nami island on a Saturday during the fall, but it was impossible to find a parking space anywhere in the city around the island. On top of that, we waited for one hour in line before we could actually see the parking lot.

Needless to say, we would strongly suggest you choose to go during the week and choose a tour so you won’t have to worry about parking spaces or the bus schedule.

Day trip from Seoul: Garden of the Morning Calm

The Garden of Morning Calm is a vast arboretum that lies to the east of Seoul, nestled between several mountain peaks.

It houses over 5000 plant species, some of them rare or endangered.

The garden is divided into twenty sections, each a micro-ecosystem of its own. For example, one section is dedicated to a thousand flower species from all over Korea. Another one represents a Japanese garden. There is even a part evoking the gardens of Victorian England, with a nice cottage included. Moreover, visitors can admire tropical plants in a dedicated greenhouse section.

The 2 attractions are usually visited together, and we suggest you book a private day tour ahead of time.

Day 6 of your 7 days in Seoul itinerary

Today you will cross the river and head to the southern part of the city.

Yeouido

Yeouido 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

Gangnam-gu (district) became famous thanks to PSY, the Korean artist that broke Youtube with his video back in 2012.

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 WorldLotte Sky Tower & Aquarium, and much more.

Extra TIP: If you are planning to see at least 2 of these attractions in Gangnam, it might be worth it to buy the Klook Pass Seoul. You choose and purchase your ideal pass and save on some of the best attractions in town. See more here!

Lotte Sky Tower

Day 7 of your one week in Seoul itinerary

This itinerary was one of my favorites during my stay in Seoul. You get mild exercise, get to see the city from above, visit some of the most popular attractions in town, and get to taste some delicious local food.

If you choose to stay at the hotel we stayed at during our first visit to Seoul, you will only have to cross the street and you will reach the Namdaemun Market – your first attraction of the day.

Shop for souvenirs, buy some affordable Korean cosmetics, eat some street food, or simply look around – allow yourself to get emerged into this authentic place.

On the other side of the market, start your climb towards Namsan Park and Namsan Tower.

Namsan Tower

I strongly suggest you climb to the top on foot, you will be surprised by plenty of stunning views. However, if you would rather take the bus or cable car, here is a complete guide for getting to Namsan Tower.

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.

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. 

Book your ticket for the Namsan Tower Panoramic Deck here!

End the day in Itaewon – the expat friendly neigborhood

Itaewon Seoul

Easily reached from Namsan Tower, 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.

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.

Other things worth doing in Seoul

If you would like to replace some of the activities on this list or add some more, here are a few other Seoul popular attractions to choose from:

Skip Lotte World and hear over to Everland – one of the world’s largest and best theme parks. Book your entry ticket here and your return shuttle bus here!

Go on a Eland Hangang River Cruise and enjoy Seoul’s skyline as the sun sets.

Take a full-day small group private tour of the city and learn about its history from a local guide.

Don’t skip taking a Korean Cooking Class with Full-Course Meal & Local Market Tour in Seoul – you will learn to cook some of the most popular local dishes, and also get to taste a 10-course dinner at a local’s home.

Other Seoul and South Korea itineraries

Check out these ready-made Seoul itineraries:

Or if you have more time, here are some South Korea itineraries:

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