7-day South Korea itinerary: what to do and where to go in 2024

Last Updated on June 2, 2024 by Alex

Planning a 7-day South Korea itinerary can be challenging, especially if you are visiting for the first time.

With only seven days at your disposal, there is so much you can do and see. However, with a good itinerary, you will make the most of your time in the country and tick as many places as possible off your bucket list.

We lived in South Korea for a year and explored as much as possible. Draw on our experience so you have a holiday to remember.

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Table of Contents

7-Day South Korea Itinerary for first timers – Seoul and Busan

Any first-time traveler should visit at least the two most important cities in South Korea: Seoul and Busan.

We lived in Seoul and traveled to Busan as often as we could. The ocean-side city is much more colorful than South Korea’s capital.

Having this in mind, we prepared to following itinerary:

Day 1: Seoul: Palaces, Bukchon Hanok, Insadong, Hongdae
Day 2: Seoul: Namdaemun Market, Namdaemun Park, NSeoul Tower, Itaewon, Myeongdong
Day 3-5: Busan
Day 6: Seoul: Gangnam (Lotte World)
Day 7: Day trip from Seoul (DMZ, Suwon, etc)
Itinerary at a Glance

Where to stay in Seoul

The South Korean capital is a huge metropolis home to millions of people. So, choosing where to stay can affect the commuting time between the different things to see.

If you want to be relatively near most attractions, I suggest you stay in either the Myeongdong or Hongdae areas. They are central areas with great connections and various restaurants and entertainment options.

For a detailed overview, please check our comprehensive guide to the best areas to stay in Seoul here.

Click here to book your hotel.

Day 1 – Seoul: Palaces, Bukchon Hanok, Insadong, Hongdae

visiting the palaces in Seoul
Palaces in Spring / Ingrid

Start your first day in Seoul by visiting one or two of the famous 5 Palaces.

If you also want to do something else, you won’t have the time to see all of them. Worry not; if you see one or two, that’s just enough.

Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace are within walking distance, and the famous Bukchon Hanok Village is between them.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Seoul in one day
A guard at Gyeongbokgung Palace in winter / Ingrid

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

Stepping through the grand gates, you’re immediately transported back to the Joseon dynasty, as the palace’s intricate architecture and sprawling grounds evoke a sense of awe and wonder.

The imposing presence of Gyeongbokgung, with its vibrant hues and traditional designs, offers a glimpse into the luxury of Korea’s royal past.

Seoul in Spring
Pavillion at Gyeongbokgung Palace in spring / Ingrid

Walking along the meticulously manicured gardens and serene ponds, you can almost hear the echoes of history whispering through the air.

Exploring the palace’s various halls, pavilions, and courtyards reveals a treasure trove of artifacts and stories, each corner brimming with centuries of tradition and significance.

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.

Official website

Changdeokgung Palace

Changdeokgung Palace Seoul
Changdeokgung Palace in winter / Ingrid

Move forward to the Changdeokgung Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Its seamless integration with the surrounding landscape, particularly the majestic Huwon Secret Garden, showcases the meticulous harmony between nature and human ingenuity.

Changdeokgung Palace on your 7-day South Korea itinerary
Changdeokgung Palace gardens in spring / Ingrid

Walking through the palace’s ornate halls, pavilions, and courtyards, visitors are transported to an era of royal splendor, where every detail reflects the grace and elegance of Korean aesthetics.

From the iconic Injeongjeon Hall to the garden’s tranquil ponds and winding paths, each corner of Changdeokgung Palace invites exploration and contemplation.

Address: 99, Yulgok-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Subway: Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 3.

Bukchon Hanok Village

7-day South Korea itinerary - Bukchon Hanok Village
Ingrid at Green Mile cafe in Bukchon Hanok Village

One of our favorite areas in town, the Bukchon Hanok Village, is packed with pretty cafes, art museums, and local traditional restaurants.

The neighborhood boasts a labyrinth of narrow alleyways lined with beautifully preserved hanok houses, showcasing the elegance of traditional Korean architecture.

The perfect area to explore during spring or fall that’s when Seoul transforms itself and becomes incredibly photogenic.

Renting a Hanbok in Bukchon Hanok Village
Ingrid at tea house in Bukchon Hanok Village

Rent a premium hanbok and stroll through the quaint streets. By doing so, you will be transported back in time, immersed in the tranquil ambiance of centuries-old courtyards, tiled roofs, and graceful eaves. 

The village’s timeless charm is further enhanced by its panoramic views of the city skyline and nearby historic landmarks, including Gyeongbokgung Palace and Jongmyo Shrine.

Insadong

what to buy in Seoul
Insadong main street / Ingrid

Across the street from the Bukchon Hanok Village lays the famous Insadong area.

Renowned as a hub for traditional Korean arts and crafts, Insadong’s bustling streets are adorned with galleries, teahouses, and shops showcasing a diverse array of handmade pottery, paintings, calligraphy, and other cultural treasures.

Eat at one of the local restaurants and try some traditional pastries – hotteok (sweet pancakes) and bindaetteok (mung bean pancakes).

Jogyesa Temple in fall / Ingrid

Don’t miss a visit to Jogyesa Temple. The temple’s main hall, Daeungjeon, is a masterpiece of traditional architecture, housing exquisite Buddhist relics and statues, including a majestic golden Buddha.

Moreover, the temple is decorated with colorful lanterns or flowers on special occasions.

Hongdae

5 day South Korea itinerary
Streets in Hongdae / Ingrid

End your day in Hongdae, one of the most vibrant areas in town.

You can quickly get there by subway (on line number 3, green) or by bus. However, we always preferred to go by bus because that’s the best way to see the city.

Lined with trendy cafes, indie boutiques, and street performers, Hongdae exudes an atmosphere of constant excitement and innovation.

By day, the streets teem with shoppers browsing unique fashion finds and enjoying quirky coffee shops. At the same time, by night, the area transforms into a lively hub of music, dance, and revelry, with numerous clubs and bars hosting live performances and DJ sets.

Read also: Things to do in Hongdae | Where to stay in Hongdae, best hotels

Day 2: Namdaemun Market, Namdaemun Park, NSeoul Tower, Itaewon, Myeongdong

Namdaemun Market

Namdaemun Square / Ingrid

Start your day with a visit to the Namdaemun Market in the city’s heart.

As one of Seoul’s premier shopping destinations, Namdaemun Market exudes a vibrant and chaotic energy, with the lively calls of vendors mingling with the chatter of shoppers.

Namdaemun Park and Namsan Mountain

How to get to Namsan Tower
Namdaemun Park / Ingrid

Cross the street from the market, enter the beautiful park, and climb Namsan Mountain toward N Seoul Tower. As you move forward, you will be welcomed by stunning city views.

Otherwise, if you don’t feel like walking, there are plenty of other ways to get to Namsan Tower. For example, you can take the bus, the cable car, or a taxi if you want to get there quickly and easily.

NSeoul Tower
NSeoul Tower / Ingrid

As one of the city’s most recognizable symbols, the tower, at 236 meters, provides visitors with an unparalleled vantage point from which to admire the beauty of the South Korean capital.

Whether by day or night, the observation decks offer stunning vistas, with distant mountains, skyscrapers, and the winding Han River stretching as far as the eye can see.

Beyond its panoramic allure, N Seoul Tower is also a cultural hub, featuring attractions like the Teddy Bear Museum and numerous restaurants, cafes, and souvenir shops.

Itaewon

Itaewon Seoul
Cafe in Itaewon / Ingrid

Crossing on the other side of Namsan Mountain, you will get to the famous Itaewon district.

As a melting pot of cultures, Itaewon attracts visitors from all around the globe, offering a kaleidoscope of experiences catering to every taste and interest.

Its bustling streets are lined with an eclectic mix of trendy boutiques, art galleries, vintage shops, and an array of international restaurants, cafes, and bars.

You can spend the evening at one of the many restaurants or bars here or head to the next stop.

Myeongdong

Things to do in Myeongdong-instagrammable place in Seoul
Myeongdong at night / Ingrid

A popular neighborhood packed with cosmetics stores, restaurants, cafes, and street food vendors. You can shop till you drop, have dinner at one of the local places, see a show at Nanta, or visit a cat cafe.

There are countless options for what you can do in Myeongdong.

Read also: Where to stay in Myeongdong

Day 3-5 of your one week in South Korea itinerary: Busan

Haeundae fishing port
Haeundae Fishing Port / Ingrid

Getting from Seoul to Busan is easy and relatively fast when traveling by high-speed train (KTX) or plane.

If you ask us, we always travel by KTX—it is fast, convenient, and comfortable. The train station is close to the city center in both cities. As a result, you don’t waste any more time on the commute. Book your Korea Rail Pass here!

Where to stay in Busan?

We love Busan and have repeatedly returned to the ocean-side city. Perhaps there was also a bit of nostalgia involved since it reminded us of Hong Kong, our previous place of residence, before relocating to Seoul.

It has sandy beaches, busy waterfronts, and hillside neighborhoods. Given the size of the port city, though, visiting them all in just two days might be tricky.

In our experience, Seomyeon is the best area to stay in Busan. It is centrally located, and both the eastern and western sides of the city are within reach.

Lotte Hotel Busan and Browndot Business Seomyeon are good options for your stay.

Day 1 Gamcheon Cultural Village, Jagalchi Fish Market, Yeongdo Island, Jeoryeong Coastal Walk, Yongdusan Park and Busan Tower

Gamcheon Cultural Village
Gamcheon Village Busan - 7-day South Korea itinerary
Ingrid at Gamcheon Cultural Village

One of the most popular attractions in town, the Gamcheon Cultural Village attracts many tourists daily.

Nestled on the hillside, the colorful village offers stunning views.

7-day South Korea itinerary - Gamcheon Cultural Village, Busan
Ingrid at Gamcheon Cultural Village

Once a humble settlement for refugees during the Korean War, the village became a lively cultural hub. It is adorned with vibrant murals, sculptures, and installations by local artists.

From quaint cafes and art galleries to cozy boutiques and handicraft workshops, Gamcheon exudes a palpable sense of community and artistic expression.

Jagalchi Fish Market
Busan travel
Busan from above / Ingrid

Take the bus and head to one of the most famous local fish markets: Jagalchi Fish Market.

As one of the largest fish markets in Korea, Jagalchi is a sensory feast. Rows upon rows of stalls brim with an astonishing variety of fresh seafood. They range from familiar favorites like octopus and shrimp to more exotic offerings such as sea squirts and sea cucumbers.

The market’s vibrant atmosphere is heightened by the lively calls of vendors hawking their wares and the frenetic energy of shoppers bargaining for the best catch of the day.

Book a Jagalchi Fish Market & Korean Food Market Tour

Yeongdo Island
2 days in Busan itinerary
Jeoryeong Coastal Walk Busan / Ingrid

Cross the bridge and head to Yeongdo Island.

The island is home to several historic sites, including the towering Yeongdo Lighthouse and the historic Taejongdae Park, which boasts dramatic cliffs, dense forests, and sweeping coastline vistas.

However, the most popular attraction is the Jeoryeong Coastal Walk. It has colorful streets, cafes with scenic views, and a perfect walk along the ocean.

Jeoryeong Coastal Walk busan
Jeoryeong Coastal Walk Busan / Ingrid
Yongdusan Park and climb Busan Tower (부산타워)
Busan Tower
Busan Tower / Ingrid

Standing 118 meters tall atop Yongdusan Park, this observation tower has symbolized Busan’s modernity and progress since its construction in 1973.

You can ascend to the tower’s observation deck via a high-speed elevator. From here, you are treated to breathtaking views of the city’s sprawling metropolis, picturesque coastline, and surrounding mountains.

Beyond its scenic allure, Busan Tower also houses a cultural exhibition hall showcasing the city’s history and achievements.

As an important side note, the Busan Pass might save you some money on different entrance fees. Before getting it, check out the list of covered attractions here.

Day 2 – Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, The Blue Line Park Sky Capsule & Train, Haeundae Beach, Gwangalli Beach

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
Source: Depositphotos.com

Start your day at the temple and make your way back towards the city.

Unlike many other temples nestled in the mountains, Haedong Yonggungsa’s oceanfront location imbues a unique and tranquil ambiance. This makes it a popular destination for both spiritual seekers and tourists.

The temple, believed to have been first built in the 14th century, boasts a rich history steeped in legend and devotion.

Adorned with colorful lanterns, intricate pagodas, and ornate statues, the temple’s architecture harmonizes beautifully with its natural surroundings. It offers breathtaking views of the sea and surrounding cliffs.

Take the Blue Train or Sky Capsule from Cheongsapo Station (청사포정거장)
How to get around Busan
Sky Capsule at Cheongsapo Station / Ingrid

From the temple, take the bus to Cheongsapo Station, the end of the Blue Train line.

One of the most popular attractions in town, the train links Cheongsapo to Mipo Station, and it rides along the ocean, offering breathtaking scenic views.

Sky Capsule Haeundae Beach Busan
Sky Capsule in Busan / Ingrid

For the rest of the trip, choose to go on the Sky Capsule because it is a unique experience.

If you want to know more, read our complete Sky Capsule and Blue Line Train Guide.

Haeundae Beach
Haeundae Beach at night
Haeundae Beach at night / Ingrid

Mipo Station is minutes from Korea’s most famous beach – Haeundae Beach.

Haeundae stretches for approximately 1.5 kilometers, offering ample space for relaxation and recreation against the sparkling East Sea.

With its soft sands, crystal-clear waters, and panoramic views of nearby islands and mountains, Haeundae Beach provides the perfect setting for sunbathing, swimming, or simply unwinding by the shore.

things to do in Haeundae Beach Busan
Haeundae Beach / Ingrid

The beachfront promenade is lined with restaurants, cafes, and shops. They offer diverse local delicacies, refreshing beverages, and souvenirs.

During the summer, the beach comes alive with vibrant energy as locals and tourists flock to enjoy festivals, fireworks displays, and cultural performances.

Go for a SPA treatment with Korean beauty products at the famous SPA 1899 near the Haeundae beach. Book your treatment here!

Don’t miss the Sea Life Busan Aquarium – an impressive immersion into sea life. You will learn about hundreds of species of fish and marine animals. Moreover, you can also feed sharks. Book your ticket here!

Gwangalli Beach
Gwangalli-Beach-Busan
Ingrid at Gwangalli Beach

End your day with dinner and a sunset view at Gwangalli Beach.

Unlike its more crowded counterpart, Haeundae Beach, Gwangalli is known for its laid-back vibe and picturesque setting, making it a favorite among locals and tourists seeking a more relaxed seaside experience.

In the evenings, the beach transforms into a dazzling spectacle as the Gwangan Bridge illuminates the night sky with its vibrant lights, casting a magical glow over the waterfront.

Day 6 – Gangnam (Lotte World)

cropped-Gangnam-screen.jpg
Gangnam

The district, made famous by the global hit song “Gangnam Style,” has become synonymous with luxury, fashion, and entertainment.

Its towering skyscrapers, glitzy shopping centers, and chic boutiques cater to a sophisticated clientele, offering a wide array of designer brands, trendy cafes, and gourmet restaurants.

Bongeunsa Temple Seoul
Tea house at Bongeunsa Temple

You can explore Gangnam by having tea at Bongeunsa Temple, taking a picture with the famous COEX Mall Library, seeing the Samsung Display, shopping for luxury brands in Garosu-gil, or doing any one of these cool things to do in Gangnam.

You can also spend almost all day at the famous Lotte World – the most popular adventure park in South Korea.

As the day ends, climb Lotte Sky Tower, South Korea’s tallest building.

There are so many things you can fit into one day in Gangnam.

Day 7: day trip outside of Seoul (DMZ, Suwon, etc)

The options for day trips outside of Seoul are endless. However, visiting the DMZ should be on any new visitor’s list.

As one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world, the DMZ serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing conflict and the enduring hope for reunification.

Tours to the DMZ typically include stops at key landmarks such as the Joint Security Area (JSA), where visitors can observe soldiers from both sides standing face-to-face, and the Dora Observatory provides panoramic views of the border and glimpses into North Korea’s countryside.

Visitors also have the opportunity to explore the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel, dug by North Korea in an attempt to infiltrate the South, and the DMZ Exhibition Hall, which offers insightful exhibits on the area’s history and significance.

If that is not of interest to you, don’t worry! We have a comprehensive list covering many options for day trips outside of Seoul.

Incheon, The Garden of Morning Calm, Suwon, and Hwaseong Fortress are only a few of the amazing places you should see in South Korea that are also easily reached from Seoul.

I hope that our post was helpful and you are already planning your 7-day South Korea itinerary.

Other things to know when planning for one week in South Korea

If you are about to embark on a 7-day South Korea itinerary, here are some travel resources you will find useful.

Book your SIM Card & T-Money Card and pick it up at the airport when you arrive.

Travel by train and get the best ticket price with a Korea Rail Pass.

To save some money, book your tours ahead of time on Klook, Viator, or GetYourGuide.

By Ingrid & Alex

Ingrid A former financial professional, I have been passionate about photography since an early age. My fascination with Korean culture was one of the reasons Alex accepted a business role in Seoul. Alex A former corporate business executive, I am a historical fiction writer. My business career allowed us to live in Seoul and explore South Korea for one year. We fell in love with the country, its culture, food, and people, and we strongly believe you will love it too! Because we know how difficult planning a trip can be, especially to South Korea, we are here to help you out and ensure you have an awesome time there.

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