Seoul – a bustling city with about 10m population has been undergoing major developments for a while now. I expected that it would fascinate us and it definitely didn’t disappoint. Anyone, whatever their interests, will find something to do here.
When I was planning our itinerary, as usual it turned out to be packed, as I never want to miss anything 😊 People told me it would mean running around, but honestly I prefer packed days to sitting and relaxing in a park (that is certainly nice too but can be done anywhere, while we had a short time). Either way, here is my 5-day itinerary for Seoul according to our experience. If you like walking and seeing a lot of things, this is for you. If not – you will still get some ideas for what you prefer to do out of these.
Please, note that this itinerary doesn’t include the attraction parks or shopping. If you are interested in those, I can give some tips separately. But as much as we would have liked to do both (I would check out some of the attractions and buy some Korean clothes), those were by far not our priorities in our short timeframe.
Several tips for making your itinerary:
- Keep in mind that many Palaces and Museums are closed on either Monday or Tuesday, so if you travel on those days, rearrange your itinerary accordingly.
- Most historical locations in Korea don’t need to be prebooked. However, for some attractions, such as Lotte World or maybe Secret Garden, you probably better prebook to avoid the hassle and queues (more on that below).
- If you like guided tours – Seoul offers a number of free walking tours, inside the palaces, along the city wall, in different districts, etc. the Visit Seoul website has the list of all tours and you can reserve from here. Most of these tours need to be reserved, although some you may be able to join on the spot – enquire in advance.
- If you rent a Hanbok (traditional Korean attire), you can enter any of the palaces for free. Many people do this, as Koreans don’t consider it cultural appropriation, but appreciation. So if you would like, feel free to visit one of the numerous hanbok rentals. One tip – avoid the ones closest to Gyeongbokgung, and find somewhat farther ones.
Discover Seoul Pass or Klook Pass
Consider whether you should get either of the passes only after you make a list of all attractions you want to see in Seoul.
Here is the detailed information about the types of Discover Seoul passes, as well as suggested 2, 3 and 4-day itineraries with the pass. I don’t suggest using the pass on the days you will be going to palaces or museums. It’s worth it, if you are planning to visit attraction parks and other expensive places.
With Klook pass, Lotte World and Everland are add-ons, but there are a few more expensive attractions that may make it worth it. You have more flexibility with this pass, as you can choose 2, 3 or 4 attractions and get relevant discount. See the list and prices here.
Like with the Discover Seoul pass, this pass wasn’t worth it for us either, as we did none of the expensive attractions on the list.
Short summary of the itinerary
I am not counting this day in the itinerary. if you arrive early in the morning and not after an overnight flight, you may be able to follow from first day. Otherwise, just grab the T-money card at the airport, pick up the pre-ordered sim card, exchange some money and head to your hotel area.
Day 1 highlights – Gyeongbokgung, Blue House, Bukchon Hanok Village, Jogyesa, Insadong, Ikseondong Hanok Village, HiKR, Myeongdong
If you have only one day in Seoul follow this itinerary, just head to the Namsan park in the evening – the cable car works till 11pm, so does the Namsan tower, if you wish to go (the views from Namsan park is already wonderful, so there’s no need to go up the tower really).
Day 2 highlights – Jongmyo Shrine, Changdeokgung and Secret Garden, Changgyeoggung, Ihwa Mural Village, Seoul City wall walk, Dongdaemun, Gwangjang
If you have only two days in Seoul follow this itinerary, but skip Gwangjang and head to Hongdae in the evening (you can find details in the day 4 itinerary).
Day 3 highlights – Gyeonghuigung, Donuimun Village, Deoksugung, City Hall, Myeongdong, Namsangol Village, Namsan Tower
If you have only three days in Seoul skip the palaces and Donuimun village in the morning and head to Hongdae instead, then head to the City Hall and follow this itinerary. In the evening, after Namsan tower, visit Banpo Hangang park for the fountain show.
Day 4 highlights – Seokchon Lake, Starfiel Coex Library, Bongeunsa, Yeouido Park, Hongdae
If you have only four days in Seoul follow this itinerary.
Day 5 highlights – Seouillo Walkway, Namdaemun Market, National Museum, Itaewon, Banpo Hangang Park
If you have five days in Seoul you can follow this itinerary or replace day 5 with one of the trips outside Seoul, like DMZ or Suwon. In my opinion Nami and Garden of Morning calm aren’t worth it unless you have more than 5 days.
- Suwon and Korean Folk village (that is often used, as a set in K dramas) – day trip from Seoul
- Nami island and Garden of Morning calm – day trip from Seoul
- DMZ tour – day trip from Seoul