The Ultimate Seoul Itinerary 5 Days

Putting together a Seoul Itinerary 5 Days? If you are planning a trip to discover South Korea, you most likely have Seoul on your desired destination list – it is an important stop on any Korea itinerary.

As the capital of the country, Seoul is the main point of entry into South Korea and boasts a wide variety of fun, interesting and tasty experiences to try.

The following Seoul travel blog consists of my top suggestions for 5 days in Seoul. However, depending on how many days in seoul you wish to stay, you can also adapt the bucket list for 3 days in Seoul.

white lanterns in seoul korea

Seoul Itinerary 5 Days: How to get there and how to get around

Seoul is the capital of Korea and Incheon International Airport has many options for international flights both in and out of the country. Seoul also has a second international airport Gimpo which is smaller than Incheon Airport Korea and mostly offers flights to and from japan, China and Taiwan as well as domestic flights.

Flights to Seoul

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Incheon Airport is 49km from Seoul. Traffic in Seoul can be bad so depending on the time of day a taxi can be an expensive lengthy journey (expect it to take at least one hour).

⇒ And definitely log in to 12Go when you’re organising how you’re going to get around South Korea. This super easy to use platform has all modes of transport on the one platform and allows you to compare based on time, cost, and reviews.

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The gorgeous detail at one of the many places of interest in Korea Seoul

The other options for getting from the airport to Seoul are the Limousine City Bus which takes 70 minutes or the Express Train (45 mins) or All Stop Train (60 mins). Personally I took the Express train from Incheon Airport to Seoul and this was an excellent option.

Gimpo Airport is only 16kms from Seoul and a taxi will generally take about 25 minutes. The All Stop Train also goes to Gimpo Airport from Seoul Station and only takes 22 minutes. The final option is to take a bus to Gimpo Airport Seoul which takes about 45 minutes.

A Little Language Goes a Long Way
Knowing even a small amount of the local language can add a whole new level of enjoyment to any trip. Why not learn some basic Korean before you leave home?
back streets of seoul korea

Do you need a Visa for your Korea Trip?

It can be a real pain trying to figure out if you need a visa for a country and then all the hassle of figuring out how to apply, how long you can go without your passport, when the embassy is open etc.

iVisa has completely revolutionised this process and put it all online and make it super simple and paper and hassle-free! Using iVisa is one of my top travel tips!

NB: Citizens of the United States, Great Britain, Australia and Canada do not need a Visa for Korea if they are staying less than 90 days. Do double check that this still holds when you book your airfares.

Check if you need a Visa for Korea

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Colourful stairs in Ilhwa Mural Village, one of the cool places to visit in Seoul

Getting around Seoul

 Seoul is one of the biggest cities in the world and can be quite intimidating.  The Seoul subway station system is great but it is not the easiest to understand as I have never seen so many stops on an underground! And the Seoul subway stations are huge!

It is critical to check which is the best station exit for you to use for where you are going or you could get very confused. And very sore feet! But the subway is one of the best ways to discover Seoul.

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Some friendly Street Art in Seoul

There are 2 excellent options for tourists wishing to get around Seoul via subway. The first is to purchase an MPass card. This card is exclusively for tourists and offers 20 rides a day for whichever pass duration you choose (passes cover 1, 2, 3, 5 or 7 days).

The second option is the Discover Seoul Pass. This card offers transport coverage for 24, 48 or 72 hours. It also includes free admission to many major tourist sites as well as discounts.

Both of these Seoul transport cards can be purchased at subway stations or convenience stores.

Of course, it is possible to take taxis around Seoul. However, if you are planning to do this do make sure you have the name of your destination in Korean and/or an image if possible.

Or even better have your hotel or a Korean person who speaks English let your driver know where you would like to go.

Do note some taxi drivers in Korea don’t read the Korean language and this can make communication in taxis very tricky.

⇒ Check out my posts on the best Seoul Day Trips, 8 fantastic Things to do in Incheon, 13 things to do in Myeongdong, my Seoul Itinerary 5 Days, 7 Fantastic Seoul Boutique Hotels and the best things to do in Gangnam.

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5 Day Itinerary Seoul Korea: Day 1:

It is easy to be overwhelmed when you first arrive in Seoul – even for seasoned travellers.  The cosmopolitan city is ultra-modern and is home to 25 million citizens – this is more than half of Korea’s population.

My suggestion for your first day in Seoul is to experience one memorable activity to settle in, rather than moving between many.

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A visit to the DMZ – one of the best day trips from Seoul

Visit the DMZ

The DMZ, also known by its full name ‘The Demilitarized Zone’, is the area that lies on the border between North and South Korea. A trip to the DMZ is the most popular of the Seoul day trips options.

A tour of the DMZ shares interesting insights into the history of the Korean War. Included in these points of interest are the 3rd Tunnel and the Dora Observatory where travellers can view North Korea through a telescope.

Do make sure you book the DMZ Tour ahead – this Korea tour sells out fast. A bus will take you towards the border. There are then several stops on the way to the DMZ. The train station that never happened. The Bridge to Nowhere.

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An officer on the border at the DMZ, one of the best places to visit in Korea Seoul

To be able to experience this unique part of Seoul, you have to be a part of a guided tour. These DMZ tours can either be a half day or a full day in duration, depending on how much time (and energy) you have to complete the experience.

Itinerary for Seoul – Day 2:

Now that you are a little bit more rested and settled in, you should be ready to escalate your South Korea itinerary. Day two has a few gems that are must go in Seoul for any visitor.

Visit Seoul’s Two Palaces: Gyeongbokgung and Changgyeonggung

Opened in 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace is an integral part of Seoul’s history. As the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty, Gyeongbokgung Palace is commonly referred to as the Northern Palace due to its location in the north of Seoul.

⇒ Planning on travelling beyond Seoul in Korea? Check out my posts on the best things to do in Daegu , where to stay in Busan, the best things to do in JeJu Island, 26 Beautiful Places in South Korea and plan your trip with my Korea Itinerary, Jeju Itinerary and Busan Itinerary.

Changgyeonggung palace seoul korea
Changgyeonggung Palace Seoul Korea

Today, this Seoul palace is restored and available for visitors to explore the rich history and beautiful grounds.

Changgyeonggung Palace is located in the heart of Seoul and originally served as the residential quarters for queens and concubines during the 15th century.

During the Japanese colonial rule of Korea, it temporarily became an amusement park comprising of a botanical garden and a zoo before being restored to the palace that it is today. Be advised that this Korean palace is closed to visitors on Mondays.

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Gyeongbokgung Palace, one of the Seoul best places to visit

To help you decide where to go, you can visit these palaces, and more, on a cultural guided day tour of Seoul.

Beat the Queues and book your visit to Gyeongbokgung Palace before you go

Visit Insa-dong

Insa-dong is one of the more vibrant, livelier areas within Seoul, well known for the vast array of shops and restaurants that line the streets.

While there is plenty to do and see in Insa-dong, I definitely suggest that you take the time to visit Shin Old Tea House, one of the best cafés in Seoul. The cosy haven offers a peaceful escape from the heat (and bustle) of the city.

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Insa-dong

The area of Insa-dong is also home to several captivating museums such as Kyung-in Museum of Fine Art, the Beautiful Tea Museum and the quirky Alive Museum

Take a Small Group Food Tour

Chances are that you’ve probably heard of kimchi, a traditional Korean side dish of salted and fermented vegetables. However, Korean cuisine expands a lot further than kimchi, with many other dishes that are as unique and tasty.

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Spicy seafood in Seoul

The best way to experience these flavours is to book a small group for a food tour with a local guide to assist you in both tasting the local food and drink as well as teaching you about the history of the food. Food tours are also a great way to make new friends.

What To Do in Korea On Day 3:

The long list of must-do activities in Seoul continues with a focus on the weird and wonderful hotspots of the great Asian city.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza

Also called the DDP, Dongdaemun Design Plaza is a major urban development. The design of the development is described as neo-futuristic and is characterized by boldly curved formations. Admired as South Korea’s fashion hub, the DDP Seoul also boasts several ecological features such as solar panel and a recycling water system.

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Dongdaemun Design Plaza Seoul Korea

A visit to the cutting edge landmark is not only inspiring and beautiful but visitors can also marvel at the many public features including shopping, cafes, exhibition halls and a design museum.

Visit a Cat Café

Cat cafés are the perfect way for a cat-lover to unwind, decompress and catch their breath in-between visiting tourist attractions in Seoul. There are several excellent cat cafés in Seoul where patrons can enjoy sipping on freshly-brewed coffee while petting silky felines.

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Hmm are they ordering or does she have treats?

While there are several great cat cafés in Seoul to choose from, I would recommend Lily Cat Café and Cat Attic, both of which have a cosy atmosphere and super friendly cats. 

Shop ‘till You Drop In Myeongdong Shopping Street

The Myeongdong shopping district is loved as a shopper’s paradise for locals and international travellers alike. A lot of people flock to the Myeongdong to buy famous Korean skincare and cosmetic products, as well as branded fashion and accessories

Myeongdong Shopping Street seoul korea
Myeongdong Shopping Street Seoul Korea

As evening approaches, vendors push their food carts to the streets and the smell of delicious Korean snacks fill the air, giving you the much-needed energy to continue exploring the stores.

Seoul Tower

Also known as Namsan Seoul Tower, or just ‘N Tower’, Seoul Tower was the first tower-styled tourism attraction in Seoul. The tower’s height of 236.7 metres makes it one of the tallest towers in the Orient, and definitely worth a visit.

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Seoul Tower Korea

The communication and observation tower can be found on Namsan Moutain in the centre of Seoul. Many visitors use the Namsan cable car to the mountain and then walk to the tower.

Be sure to stick around and catch the nighttime view of Seoul Tower which is truly something special as the entire structure gets brightly lit up in LED lights.

Day 4 in Seoul:

The following activities are particularly special for those with a love of architecture, culture and history. The excitement continues with your Seoul itinerary 4 days in.

Seoul Wall

The Fortress Wall of Seoul, locally known as Hanyangdoseong, is a wall made up of various materials with the historical aim of protecting the city from invaders. First built in 1396, Seoul wall stretches along a length of 18.6 kilometres. Today, there is a 12-kilometre section that is preserved as a historical site. 

2 weeks in south korea
Walking the Walls over Seoul Korea

A popular way for travellers to enjoy the beauty and history of the Seoul walls is to hike alongside it. There are various Seoul Wall hiking trails to choose from, each with their own offering of beauty and discovery. One of the more popular routes ends at Naksan Park which has stunning panoramic views of the city.

Ihwa Mural Village

Also near Naksan Park is the Ihwa Mural Village which consists of the paintings and installation art of over 70 artists. The area was previously considered a bit of a slum until the ‘Art in the City Project’ in 2006 which injected vibrant life back into this area of Seoul.

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Artowrk in Ihwa Mural Village Seoul Korea

The lively hub is an artistic tourism landmark and one of Seoul’s hidden treasures. If you make your way up to Ihwa Mural Village, be sure to appreciate the beautiful art, but also be respectful that it is, in fact, a residential area.

Korean War Memorial

Previously the site of the army headquarters, the Korean War Memorial documents the military history of Korea. The intention of its existence is to educate people about the Korean War and in turn, prevent a future war with the same devastating effects but rather highlight the desire for the peaceful reunification of the country.

The Korean War Memorial Seoul is open from 09:30 am to 06:00 pm every day, except for Mondays, for visitors to explore the various exhibition halls and learn about the rich military history. There is also an expansive outdoor section of the memorial where visitors can picnic and enjoy the scenery.

Day 5 in Seoul:

Continuing to make the most of your time in Seoul, the Korea travel guide for day five is just as enriching as the first four days. 

Bukchon Hanok Village

Bukchon Hanok Village is a traditional Korean village located near other iconic attractions such as Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace and Jongmyo Shrine. The village is full of traditional Korean houses called ‘hanoks’. Today, many of these ‘hanoks’ operate as cultural centres, restaurants and tea houses.

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bukchon hanok village

A visit to Bukchon Hanok Village Seoul offers guests an authentic cultural experience that simply cannot be compared to anything else. There is no admission fee to visit the village, which makes a visit to Buckchon not only incredibly special but also free.

Jogyesa Temple

The Jogyesa Temple is the centre of Korean Buddism and is the main venue for several faith-related happenings such as holding rituals and ceremonies. The temple is located in Insa-dong and is open all year-round for visitors to experience the calm environment and incredible building.

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Be sure to visit Daeungjeon Hall where the famous statue of the seated Buddha is enshrined. Jogyesa Temple’s tranquil setting is largely made up of the surrounding nature. There is even a rare 500-year-old Baeksong lacebark tree to marvel at!

⇒ Don’t miss my other posts on Korea – from best things to do in Daegu, my complete Korea Itinerary, the best Seoul day trips and the most fun things to do in Jeju Island.

Korean Food Tour with BBQ Lunch

The Korean BBQ is an important part of Korea’s culinary scene and travellers cannot leave the city without experiencing a taste. The best way to experience the BBQ lunch (and the snacks that typically precede it) is to book a walking food tour.

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Market Food ready to go in Seoul!

In this way, you can taste the goods from several different vendors while learning about the interesting food history and culture of Korea. With a cooking demonstration included – you may even be able to go home and show off the flavours to your friends and family.

Gwangjang Market

If you still have space after the food tour, then a stop at Gwangjang Market is a must! As one of Korea’s largest traditional markets, Gwangjang Market Seoul is a great way to further discover the street food of Korea.

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Gwangjang Market Seoul

In addition to the tasty morsels, the market is also full of stalls selling quality silk products, linen, hand-made products and even a vintage clothing arcade. The market is particularly popular among young people but has something special for everyone.

Due to its popularity, Gwangjang market can get very crowded and I would definitely suggest that you shop around a bit before committing to a purchase.

⇒ Working out where to go in Asia? Check out my Hong Kong Travel Blog, Hoi An blog in Vietnam, One Day in Singapore, Where to Stay in Bali, Kamalaya in Thailand, and Kuala Lumpur in One Day for some travel planning inspiration.

Shortcut Travel Toolkit
Ready to Book? Here are my travel favourites:

⇒ For accommodation Booking.com – great prices, great clear layout of accommodation options & brilliant for cancellation (& good photos!)

⇒ Or feel like a local by staying at an airbnb or having one of their great local experiences Airbnb

⇒ For flights skyscanner.net – always have the cheapest prices and great tools to help easily figure out if it would be better to leave the day before etc

⇒ For car hire rentalcars.com – huge range of options and a price match guarantee

⇒ Every trip is improved if you know at least a little bit of the local language – Rosetta Stone is the best and often have great getting started deals.

Skip the Line tours – Viator have over 14,000 of these – I am always so happy when I have pre-booked one of these! And you can cancel most Viator tours with full money back if you’re more than 24 hours out

⇒ And finally and super important – Roam Right for Travel Insurance have an excellent rating and lots of choice. I particularly like their policies that just cover medical or car rental. They also have great options for adventurous travellers.

Where to Stay in Seoul

In Seoul, Glad Live is in the now-famous Gangnam area. This is a stylish and sleek boutique hotel which starts at a very reasonable £66.

Compare prices on TripAdvisorBook Now

Also in Seoul is another Glad Hotel – Glad Hotel Yeouido. This one is in the high-rise part of Seoul and wonderfully describes itself as a poetic express in brick! Prices start at £70.

Compare prices on TripAdvisorBook Now

⇒ One of the loveliest places to go in Asia is Bali. Check out my posts on the best 10 Days Itinerary Bali, Where to Stay in Bali, where to stay in Ubud and the best boutique hotels in Ubud, Bali Retreats for Singles, Bali Boutique Hotels, where to stay in Canggu and the best boutique hotels Seminyak has on offer.

seoul korea street at night
Seoul by night

The Splaisir Hotel in Dongdaemun has an absolutely fantastic location right near the stunning Dongdaemun Design Centre. It is also very close to several full-on shopping centres with lots of interesting food places.

Splaisir Hotel Dongdaemun Seoul is quite stylish and importantly has friendly staff who can speak English!

Compare prices on TripAdvisorBook Now

The IP Boutique hotel is under Namsan Mountain and has a strong design aesthetic. Lots of glass outside and they love some strong colours inside and out. Prices start at £70.

Compare prices on TripAdvisorBook Now

Down the road from the KY Heritage Hotel is the JW Marriott. I am not normally a Marriott person as it doesn’t meet my usual boutique standards but they had a rooftop bar and white wine by the glass and that was more than enough to get my custom in Seoul!!

The JW Marriott Seoul did seem like a good place to stay – nice hotel and lots of good food options. Prices start at £260.

Compare prices on TripAdvisorBook Now

The most economic way to travel South Korea by train is the Korea Rail Pass. This pass is only available to foreign travellers. The KR pass covers 600 stations and 80 different high speed routes with unlimited rides. It is available in 3 or 5 consecutive days or flexible 2 and 4 days.

korea cherry blossoms

If you want to go very upmarket the lovely Banyan Tree has a hotel and spa in the former Tower Hotel building. Each guestroom is inspired by the four seasons of the year and the five oriental elements: water, fire, metal, wood and earth.

Prices from £240.

⇒ Compare prices on TripAdvisorBook Now

⇒ Read my complete post on the 7 Best Seoul Boutique Hotels.

⇒ Beautiful Japan is one of my favourite countries to visit. Check out my posts on One Day in Tokyo, 2 Day Itinerary Kyoto, 10 Day Japan Itinerary, the best things to do in Kanazawa and what to expect on the Nakasendo Trail.

Where to Eat in Seoul

When visiting Korea, eating amazing food is always a highlight! Here are some of my favourite places to eat in this city.

Tosokchon Samgyetang

Located near Gyeongbokgung Palace, this gem of a restaurants serves up top-notch local food. The soups at Tosokchon Samgyetang are amazing, as is the ginseng chicken stuffed with rice. You can expect hearty, traditional fare at Tosokchon Samgyetang Seoul in a relaxed and friendly environment.

Hanchu

This casual spot is absolutely perfect for winding down after a busy day with a cold beer and some Korean fried chicken – a must eat when in Seoul.

The food at Hanchu is simple and delicious, while the restaurant is always busy. The soju, stuffed fried peppers, and spicy soondubu are all major highlights at Hanchu Seoul.

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Seoul by night

Omiga Sinsa

This hidden gem located in Gangnam-Gu has so much to offer. The interesting menu at Omiga Sinsa is well varied, with meals for all kinds of palates. The food is made with love by the friendly, warm staff.

The restaurant is modern, comfortable and homely. You will love every bite at Omiga Sinsa Seoul and will definitely want to return.

Gaehwaok

If you are looking for some of the best, authentic Koren food in Seoul, then Gaehwaok is the place to go! This restaurant serves amazing bibimbap and Korean BBQ, with some delicious kimchi on offer as well. Located on Sinsa-Dong, Gaehwaok Seoul is the perfect place to end your busy day in the city.

⇒ Interested in Nepal? Check out my posts on the Nepal tea house, a full Everest Base Camp packing list, an Everest Base Camp trek itinerary and a day by day Everest base camp trek blog And for post-trek the fantastic boutique hotel Dwarika Hotel Kathmandu, the Dhulikhel Resort and the best places to visit in Kathmandu.

Little Taiwan

Located in Yeonnam-dong, Little Taiwan is an absolute favourite. This restaurant serves up some stellar Taiwanese fried chicken, soups, and noodle dishes. The bubble tea is great too! Little Taiwan is a fun and trendy spot for the great taste of Seoul.

When to Visit Seoul

Seoul summers are long, hot and muggy and Seoul in winter is dry and freezing. Annoyingly summers tend to be cloudy and winters clear so it can be frustrating for photographers!

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Check out all the cats you might meet at the Cat Cafe in Seoul

The ideal times to visit Seoul for comfortable weather are late May to early July and from late August to early October.

Final Thoughts on a Seoul Itinerary 5 Days Long

I hope that this Seoul blog helps to guide you in the right direction of where to start when visiting the incredible city. There are so many things to do in Korea, and a visit to Seoul will definitely give you a good taste for what is to come.

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Seoul Tower

For a longer trip to Korea including the best things to do in Daegu and things to do in Jeju Island, you can check out my recent Korea Itinerary

Seoul is such a magical place to visit, with so much history, culture and good food. Whether you are travelling as a solo traveller, or with your friends or family – the city promises special memories to cherish forever.

Who Paid for What in this Post?

I covered all of the costs associated with producing this Seoul itinerary 5 days post. However, this post does contain affiliate links. This means if you click through on some of the links and end up making a purchase I may well receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure that you were aware of this.

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images from Seoul South Korea
mural of bunny people in pastel colours from seoul korea
colourful badges on a wall in seoul
pink flowers on a roof in seoul
woman at a market and image of items for sale at Insadong

8 thoughts on “The Ultimate Seoul Itinerary 5 Days

  1. Nele says:

    Seoul has been on my wishlist for soooo long! After finally visiting Japan a few years back, Korea is number 1 on my list at the moment. Hopefully I can save up enough money to go and I’ll definitely have to save this post for then – so much great info 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  2. Bettina says:

    Seoul looks amazing and I would love to visit South Korea one day. Thank you for sharing! I will definitely save this post!

  3. Margarita says:

    Great itinerary! I haven’t been to Seoul, but now I feel like I know the city a little. The hanok village reminds me of hutong villages in Beijing. When I lived there hutongs were all there was, but now only a few are left, preserved as cultural monuments.

  4. Cristina says:

    I have never considered visiting South Korea, but your blog has inspired me to visit it in the future. I didn’t know there were so many great things to do. I especially want to visit the Jogyesa Temple 🙂

  5. DAVID BINION says:

    I had plan for visiting Seoul, but the pandemic stood in the way. I’ve never been there. I really envy you after this. LOL. I’ll bookmark this and visit these places once I’m there 😀

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