Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is one of the most modern and technologically advanced cities in whole Asia.
We came here when we were living in Vietnam, taking advantage of one of the many cheap flights available in Southeast Asia.
Covering a wide area on both sides of the Han River, every neighbourhood in Seoul is very different from the other. There are so many sights that you would need weeks to see them all, so here’s a list of what not to miss when in Seoul.
One of the many royal palaces in town, and our favourite.
Differently from the others, it blends naturally with the topography around, and is nestled within a lush green area. The icing on the cake is the tranquil Secret Garden, a hidden retreat where the king and his family used to rest.
-TIP: book your Secret Garden ticket in advance here, as it’s accessible by a limited number of visitors hourly.
Gyeongbokgung Palace is the largest and most important former royal residence.
Having been systematically bombed and destroyed by the Japanese Forces in early 20th century, Gyeongbokgung is continuously under renovation. It is therefore the best kept palace and a must see in our Seoul itinerary.
The only downside is that it’s more visited and often crowded. If you have enough time, you could visit two or more palaces, but we suggest not to do both in the same day, because it might be overwhelming.
You can find more info about Gyeongbokgung Palace here.
Seoul is a very citizen friendly place to live in. Large parks and green areas pop numerously around the city, and Cheonggyecheon Stream is one of them.
Head down to this city stream every time you need a break: cool water fountains, stone bridges, nice murals, trees and plants will make you feel revitalized in the heart of Seoul.
Myeong-Dong is known for being Seoul’s most lively neighbourhood.
It offers plenty of Korean cosmetic and clothes shops, other than various food options. A street market is held every night.
Here you can also find one of Korea’s most important symbols of catholicism, Myeong-Dong cathedral.
In the evening there’s a large choice for dinner, we recommend Korean BBQ and the trendy Chicken&Beer places!
As said earlier, Seoul offers great places to cool down. Seoullo 7017 is an elevated park built on a former road overpass. Hosting over 24,000 plants, it is also known as Seoul Skygarden.
The number 7017 is made up from ’70, the year when the overpass was originally constructed, and ’17, the inauguration year of the Seoullo.
The Skygarden includes flowers, terraces, and exhibitions, featuring species found throughout all South Korea.
Another interesting area is Insa-Dong.
Purely art&culture oriented, here you can find narrow alleys on either side of the main road housing galleries, artisan shops, traditional restaurants, tea-houses, cafes, and street food carts.
-TIP: don’t hesitate to try the fire grilled octopus sticks!
BUKCHON HANOK VILLAGE
Bukchon is one of the few remaining traditional villages in Seoul: it rises on a hill, so be ready to hike up and down.
Your reward for the effort will be stunning photo spots among gorgeous traditional Korean houses.
You’ll not be the only one around though. Avid Instagram spot hunters (like us) come here for the best shots.
-TIP: Come early to avoid crowds.
Perhaps the most iconic symbol of Seoul, the N-Tower rises on top of Namsan peak.
Hop on a shuttle bus at Myeongdong Station to get here and enjoy the best 360° views of the city.
If you don’t feel like dedicating few hours to go up there, you can still tick it off your Seoul itinerary by simply admiring it from different locations. It is especially cool when lit up at night time.
If you do want to go there, you can check ticket prices on their website.
DONGDAEMUN DESIGN PLAZA
If you want to have a glimpse of Korean modern arts and technology, come to the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), a futuristic building occupying an entire square.
The design construction blends interestingly with the area around, creating a unique urban setting.
Inside the DDP you will find unusual displays and alternative expositions.
Another example of modernity in Seoul is the Coex, the biggest underground mall in the world: you can find literally everything here, from a super tall library to a cinema, a huge aquarium and a casino.
The Coex is located in Gangnam, the financial district of Seoul.
-TIP: If you are a Psy fan, you can include in your Seoul itinerary the arms-crossed sculpture built to celebrate his Gangnam Style song.
EWHA UNIVERSITY – HONGIK
Hongik is the University neighbourhood, thus full of youth around.
Ewha Womans University is the biggest of its kind in the world.
The choice for lunch is wide in this zone, and also quirky cafés are numerous and fight each other for young customers: if you want to see what a Raccoon café or Merkat coffee is about, come have a look here!
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RIVERSIDE, BANPO BRIDGE
One more place to cool down is the Han River. Its banks are great for a stroll, cycling, or just relaxing while sitting on a bench and enjoying the view.
Recreational areas populate both sides of the river, providing wide spaces for activities both at day and evening time. You’ll see lots of Koreans fishing along the river.
Banpo Bridge, one of the many bridges crossing Han River, offers a water fountain show every evening in summertime, for 20 minutes up to 6 times a day depending on weather.
Our Seoul itinerary guide ends here. Now that you more about Seoul, you are ready to start planning your trip to South Korea!
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Have fun in Seoul!
WHERE TO EAT IN SEOUL?
Follow locals! Seoul has a huge offer, we recommend Myeong-Dong area: Korean BBQ restaurant are a must if you are a meat lover, try delicious Bulgogi! Chicken&Beer places are also good for large groups.
HOTELS – WHERE TO STAY IN SEOUL?
- BUDGET: For a cheap and friendly hostel, check Fully Hong Insadong Hostel: close to subway and Cheonggyecheon Stream.
- MID-RANGE: Stay in the heart of Seoul at Hotel New Oriental Myeongdong, at walking distance from the Palaces and street market zone.
- LUXURY: Hotel Skypark Central Myeongdong is a gorgeous hotel perfectly located in the centre of Seoul. They sometimes offer special rooms for about 110€ a night when booking in advance.
For more hotel inspiration in Seoul, you can have a look here.
TRAIN, BUS, SUBWAY – HOW TO BOOK TICKETS IN SEOUL?
Every transport facility in Seoul has touch screen displays that will assist you in buying any kind of tickets. Credit/debit card and cash friendly.
- Seoul Incheon International Airport is located 49 km from the city. You can get to/from there by taxi, bus, or train.
- TAXI: available 24/7, 60 minutes trip, 44,000 Won (33€).
- LIMOUSINE BUS: every 25 minutes, 70 min trip, 9,000 Won (7€).
- AREX EXPRESS TRAIN: 9,500 Won, 40 minutes.
- AREX ALL STOPS TRAIN: 4,150 Won, 60 minutes.
The South Korean currency is called Korean Won. 1€ equals around 1,300 Won. You can exchange money at several bureaus around the city or at the airport (don’t change too much at airports because commissions are higher).
Or you can withdraw local currency from your international debit card we noo fees. We strongly recommend Revolut to pay and withdraw in any currency worldwide with no fees! Get your free Revolut Card here.
DO I NEED A TRAVEL INSURANCE?
Yes you do. Never leave home without a reliable travel insurance. Even if you trust yourself, you can’t always trust others. Better safe than sorry! Get your quote here.
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