Seoul is a bustling city, lively during both in the day and at night, with many things to do and places to visit. So, it’s not surprising that you’ll have a hard time deciding what exactly to do and where to go while you are in Seoul. That is why this blog exists, to help you out, and give you some ideas of what you could do for 5 days in Seoul.
1. Rent hanbok and roam the palaces
South Korea is known for its elegant traditional costume called ‘hanbok’. It’s worn mostly during special occasions such as weddings, or family gatherings during Seolnal (Korean New Years) and Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving). That doesn’t mean you have to celebrate these dates to wear them, because in Seoul you can rent a hanbok and roam around anywhere you like. There are multiple hanbok designs you can choose from so don’t worry about not being able to find a pretty costume, because there are plenty of designs, from hanbok designs worn by ancient kings and queens of Korea to beautiful designs with patterns, flowers or pictures on them.
The Joseon Dynasty was the last kingdom in Korea. Over the reign of this dynasty, Seoul became the capital city and center of state affairs. Throughout the years, the kings had many grand palaces built here. 5 of them are currently open to the public, and did you know? When you rent a hanbok, entry into Korean palaces is free!
You can also opt to wear Korean Hanbok and do a photoshoot in multiple locations around Seoul!
Here are the 6 palaces you can visit on your first day.
1) Gyeongbokgung Palace
This is the main royal palace and is also the largest of the 5. It’s also the most popular and often regarded as the most beautiful as well. Try to be there during the Royal Guard Changing Ceremonies.
The Royal Guard (Sumunjang) Changing Ceremony can be seen for free daily, except on Tuesdays, at 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM in front of Gwanghwamun. This is the main gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace. There is also a free guided tour of the Palace building in English. Check the schedule on the official website to make sure of the time slots.
2) Changdeokgung Palace
This is the second royal palace built after the construction of Gyeongbokgung. It was the main palace for many kings of the Joseon Dynasty and is the most well-preserved of the 5 remaining palaces. It has been recognized as a World Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO in 1997.
The “Secret Garden” (Huwon) in Changdeokgung remains a little bit mysterious up until today because only a limited number of people are admitted each day. The Secret Garden boasts a gigantic tree that is over 300 years old, a small pond and a pavilion. It’s a beautiful place to escape from the bustle of the city. Changdeokgung also offers a free guided tour of the palace building in English.
3) Deoksugung Palace
The palace is located at the corner of Seoul’s busiest downtown intersection and is famous for its elegant stone-wall road. Many people come to Deoksugung to fetch Instagram-worthy profile pics here. The palace is also worth a visit because it is the only palace that sits alongside a series of western style buildings that blend in well and add to the uniqueness of the surrounding scenery.
Deoksugung Palace has its own Changing of the Royal Guards Ceremony. It is held at 11:00 AM, 2:00 PM, and 3:30 PM daily, except on Mondays.
4) Changyeonggung Palace
Changyeongung palace is located in the heart of Seoul next to Changdeokgung. Both palaces used to share the rear garden and were commonly known as the East palaces as they were located to the east of the main Gyeongbokgung Palace. The palace was often used as residential quarters for queens and concubines. During the Japanese colonial rule, it became a park with a zoo and a botanical garden. In 1983 the government of Korea decided to remove the zoo and began working on the restoration of the palace. The botanical garden was preserved, gradually regaining its old glory.
5) Gyeonghuigung Palace
Gyeonghuigung palace is located to the southwest of Gyeongbokgung Palace and towards Deoksugung palace. Gyeonghuigung palace served as the secondary palace for the king in the latter half of the Joseon period. The secondary palace is where the King would evacuate to in case of an emergency. It was also called ‘Seogwol’ meaning “The palace in the west”, as at that time it was located on the west side of Seoul.
6) Unhyeongung Palace – leads to Bukchon Hanok Village
Unhyeongung is one of the smaller palaces, a lot less touristic but is still beautiful to have a look through. From here, you can make your way to Bukchon Hanok Village because it’s very close to the village. If you want to visit the palaces, then we recommend that you visit them with an accompanying guide, which you can find in the link below.
2. Visit Bukchon Hanok Village
This place is another iconic place to visit in Seoul because the entire district is composed of traditional Korean houses called ‘Hanok’. Bukchon is intertwined with many streets and alleys, and if you are lucky you may bump into a hidden hot place like a souvenir shop, a restaurant or a cafe that only a few people know!
Bukchon is also one of the best places to take beautiful photographs at. The walls of hanok are perfect backgrounds for a photo of you wearing elegant hanbok! It doesn’t just offer great photo opportunities but you can do several activities as well!
- Korean Cooking Class in Bukchon Hanok Village
- Seoul by Foot: Secret Garden & Bukchon Hanok Village Walking Tour
- Korean Tea Ceremony in Bukchon Hanok Village
- Traditional Knot Ornament Making Experience in Bukchon Hanok Village
- Make Your Own Canvas Tote Bag with Korean Traditional Indigo Dyeing
1. Visit Seoul’s landmarks by Seoul City Tour bus
In the day, we recommend you explore Seoul freely while you hop on and off a bus! Since Seoul is large and there are so many places to go, going on a Seoul City Bus tour is convenient for you, since it’ll take you to the landmarks and most famous places all over Seoul. Check out Han River, Namsan Mountain, and many more places! Take your time and check out the landmarks of Seoul!
2. Go to N Seoul Tower
Another place you could check out is the N Seoul Tower, which is one of the popular landmarks of Seoul. The tower is 480 m above sea level, and Namsan mountain, which is where the N Seoul Tower stands is one of the best places to get an overview of Seoul. The view both during the day and night are breathtaking in its own ways.
3. Or go to 63 Building Observatory
With 63 floors measuring a total height of 249 meters, 63 Building is one of Korea’s tallest and most recognized building. 63 building boasts spectacular views of the Han River and the surrounding Bugaksan, Namsan and Gwanaksan mountains. The building also offers an outstanding vantage point when viewing the sunset over the city, as well as an art gallery and aquarium.
4. Feasting on street food at the night markets
Just like any other Asian countries, Seoul has no shortage of night markets, so why not drop by any of these night markets and take care of dinner!
1) Bamdokkaebi (Goblin) Night Market
It originally opened in Yeouido but has since expanded to several locations such as DDP, Banpo Hangang Park, Cheonggyecheon Stream, and Oil Tank Culture Park. It’s not one of the old traditional markets you may expect to see, because it’s not just food that you’ll be able to find in the Bamdokkaebi Night Market. There are other areas in each of the areas that hold events or small performances on a stage provided, so it’s a lot of fun!
2) Dongdaemun Night Market
Take note that this is different from the Night Market in DDP! Apart from the retail haven found in this area, you will also find the ‘Open market’ with its bright tents, all selling various apparel, souvenirs and items at affordable prices starting from 10:00PM up to 5:00AM. If you’re rather looking for delicious Korean eats, drop by Meokja Golmok at exit 8 of Dongdaemun Station to feast on Korean snacks to warm you up during the cold winters of Korea.
3) Myeongdong Night Market
Even if this is not one of those ‘traditional’ night markets, it remains to be a popular destination for travelers as it is set in the bustling shopping district of Myeongdong that holds some of the biggest stores like Lotte and Shinsegae Shopping Mall as well as cosmetic brands of all kinds. Food stalls will begin to open and fill up the main street once its time to open!
4) Namdaemun Night Market
Open from 11:00PM till 4:00AM, this traditional night market is the largest in Seoul and it has every possible item you can think of – food, clothes, accessories, you name it! They have it all!
5) Gwangjang Market
If Namdaemun is the largest, Gwangjang is the oldest in Seoul, making it a common go-to place for many Korean shoppers. You can actually find this place close by Dongdaemun and DDP so it’s possible to check off several of those night markets on the same night if you wish. Gwangjang is one of the go-to places to look for either a light snack or take care of dinner! there are so many things to eat, that you’ll have a hard time choosing what to have.
6) Noryangjin Fish Market
Operating 24 hours a day, this place is more than just a night market. If you come in the early morning, you can witness a bustling fish auction. The fun part about this place is that you can buy some fresh seafood and then have it cooked by a restaurant located on the 2nd floor of the marketplace itself. If you’re brave enough, maybe you can try the infamous activity of eating Sannakji? (LIVE octopus)
1. Check out the best theme parks or aquariums in Seoul
1) Lotte World
Lotte World is a theme park located in Seoul, which has both indoor and outdoor theme park areas which are both lots of fun. To get here, all you have to do is take the subway line 2 and get off at Jamsil station.
If you want to go to Lotte World, you’re in luck! Because you can get tickets to Lotte World at a discounted price! just check out these two links below!
As for Everland, it is the largest theme park in Korea and is most famous for its T Express ride: the fastest, longest, and steepest (77 degrees!) roller coaster in the country. Also, Everland is 7x bigger than Lotte World!
However, it is a bit further from Seoul, in Yongin, so you can decide to take a car or a bus to the place, or just get on the subway Bundang line and get off at Gilheung station, from where you’ll need to transfer to Yongin Ever line to reach the theme park! If you’re too lazy to do that then how about a shuttle bus package!
If theme parks aren’t your thing, how about checking out some aquariums in Seoul?
3) Lotte Aquarium
Underneath the Lotte tower, a deep and wide world of the ocean is spread out in front of you. The aquarium is filled with all sorts of marine life from the five oceans exhibited in 13 different themes. Walk under the longest underwater tunnel and look at all kinds of fish, from the freshwaters of Korea to gigantic ones from the Amazon, or meet the mysterious Beluga, sea lions, sharks and much more! Lotte World Aquarium is filled with aquatic wonders. So come and check out the wonderful sea creatures! Click the link below!
4) COEX Aquarium
There is also an aquarium in COEX, which houses 40,000 sea creatures, 650 species divided into 16 different themes. The highest number of sharks and the largest variety of species in Korea are living in this aquarium. Come check out the sharks and manatees that are in this incredible aquarium. Don’t miss this chance to see all the incredible sea creatures in COEX aquarium, click the link below!
1. Delve into Korea’s past in the DMZ
On your 4th day in Seoul, why not take a trip to the DMZ (De-Militarized Zone) and the JSA (Joint-Security Area) and learn about the sad history that led to the separation of the two Koreas. You can only visit the DMZ through a guided tour. These tours also sell out quite quickly so make sure you make your bookings early in advance so you won’t miss your chance to visit this place. If you wish to learn about Korea’s history, check out these tours you can go to!
2. Or Enjoy the beauty of nature in Nami Island Tour
Featuring beautiful tree lanes, woodlands, riverside walks and many more, Nami Island offers picture-perfect scenery all year round. It is just surprising how this small island has it all! Thanks to its incredible scenery, Nami Island has been used as the location for many Korean dramas. Most particularly, the hit Korean drama, “Winter Sonata,” has led to the island’s huge popularity among overseas guests.
Each season has it’s the unique charm on Nami Island, and any time of the year, you can experience a different vibe from Nami Island.
You can also decide to book a combined Nami Island tour package of Petit France or Garden of Morning Calm. Petit France is a cute cultural village designed to look like a small European village. it’s famous for being the shooting locations for several K dramas.
Garden of Morning Calm is a botanical garden which is totally different when going in the day and at night. When going during the day, it is a peaceful botanical garden, but when the sun sets and it becomes dark, the entire garden illuminates and becomes a world of bright lights! They are both an amazing sight to see, so check them out below!
1. Go on a shopping spree!
You know you can’t return from a holiday without having done some shopping for everything and anything right? That’s exactly why on your 5th and final day in Seoul, we recommend you to check out some of the most famous shopping areas you can visit as well as some famous cafe alleys for you to rest from all that shopping you will do.
Hongdae District is a fashion-forward neighborhood in Seoul known for its bright and youthful ambience, underground culture, and freedom of self-expression. Like most places in Seoul, the fastest way to get to Hongdae District is via subway; take the Seoul Subway Line 2 and get off at Hongik University Station (Exit 9). It is home to plenty of fashion outlets and independent boutiques that stay open until midnight, where visitors can shop for an array of merchandise ranging from handmade clothes to luxury goods.
Sangsang Madang is a prominent shopping mall in Hongdae, offering seven floors of clothing, crafts, and accessories by local designers, an exhibition space, art gallery, and restaurants that overlook the vibrant neighborhood. Hongdae District’s main draw is its weekend ‘Free Market’ at Hongik Children’s Park, where local artists and crafters showcase their handmade crafts, accessories, stationery, paintings, and music CDs.
A visit to Myeongdong is going to be a blast. It is dubbed as the center of shopping in South Korea, with big names such as H&M, Zara, UNIQLO, Nike, and more calling the district home. A quick walk down the street will also prove how much Koreans love their beauty products. There is an abundance of skincare and beauty stores all around Myeongdong. This is where you find all the cult Korean brands and the popular names that you always see Korean models and YouTubers endorse.
Shopping enthusiasts also flock to Myeongdong Market to get their hands on the latest skincare and cosmetics items, as there are over 1000 Korean brands here such as Nature Republic, Etude House, The Face Shop, Missha.
The best part is that a number of the stores in Myeongdong offer shopping discounts for tourists, so be sure to check with the sale staff before you shop! While you are doing so, do not forget to indulge in Myeongdong’s best street food as well!
2. Look for the most peculiar cafes!
First is Garosu-gil in Gangnam; the street itself is alive with charming shop fronts that will make you feel like you’re walking straight into an Instagram feed. Here you will also find some of the most interesting coffee shop concepts there is. Each of the cafes catches the attention of any passerby with bright colored walls or props, and you can’t help but peep into the windows to see what’s going on.
Ikseon-dong is an area that has become immensely popular among young locals for its shops and cafes bringing new life to renovated traditional Korean houses (hanok). Here, traditional architecture and modern Korean culture merge. This hanok have been converted into cafes, shops, and restaurants. Many of these cafes are decorated in a way that makes them very cozy to be in, which is why you need to step foot into these cafes and try their coffee.
Samcheong-dong is home to distinctive cafés, shops, and galleries. The area is filled with European-style cafes and trendy shops that have blended into the traditional landscape of hanok. For those interested in shopping, the area delivers an array for colorful accessory shops along both Main Street in Samcheongdong.
How’s that for an awesome itinerary? Lots of things to do and places to go right? Hope our itinerary will help you build your very own 5 days in Seoul, and make it a trip to remember! If you want to look for more things to do in Seoul, don’t forget to check out Trazy.com!
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