After one week following this itinerary in Seoul, South Korea, I had eaten ox tongue, stood on both sides of one of the most complicated country borders in the world, and sipped imaginary tea with a non-imaginary giant frog. If you want to experience food, history, and culture unlike anywhere else in the world, Seoul has it. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Everyone I’ve spoken to who has traveled to Seoul has great things to say. Yet, it’s relatively less-touristed than other heavy-hitting Asia destinations like Japan or Hong Kong. If you have chosen Seoul for your travels you’ve already made one good choice. Keep reading my super-detailed, do-it-all itinerary for one week in Seoul, and you’ll be one more good decision closer to an epic trip.
Here’s what you’ll find in my comprehensive one week itinerary in Seoul.
How to Get to Seoul
Most likely you will be arriving to South Korea by air and flying into the Incheon International Airport. This is a major international airport with direct flights from all over the world, and most global airlines can get you here.
The airport itself is about an hour from Seoul, so once you land, clear immigration (don’t forget to check visa requirements for citizens from your country!), and collect your luggage, your next step is to take transportation to Seoul.
You have a few options for getting to Seoul from the airport:
- Taxi – this will be the most expensive option, and depending on traffic could take longer than other options. If you decide to take a taxi opt for an official airport taxi company. They should have a booth in the arrivals hall.
- AREX Airport Express Train – this is an affordable option at about $5 USD one way and takes 43 minutes from the Incheon International Airport to downtown Seoul. There are no stops along the way.
- AREX All Stop Train – this is a good option if you don’t mind your trip taking a little longer due to the many stops, and you want to connect to other metro lines to bring you closer to your accommodation in Seoul.
- Airport bus – this option may be best depending on where you are staying Seoul, as there may be a bus stop near your accommodation.
Where to Stay in Seoul
This area is conveniently located near most of the major tourist attractions in Seoul, making a good place to stay for your first visit to the city.
- High-end: Banyan Tree Club and Spa Seoul
- Midrange: Small House Big Door
- Budget/backpacker: Lazy Fox Hostel
This is the busiest part of Seoul, full of shopping and bustle. This is a great option of you want to be immersed in the action of the city.
This area is full of bars and restaurants, as well as some good shopping. If you want easy access to night life, this is a great place to stay.
- High-end: Imperial Palace Boutique Hotel
- Midrange: Itaewon Crown Hotel
- Budget/backpacker: Itaewon Inn
Yes, this is the Gangnam the world has come to know thanks to Psy’s “Gangnam Style” hit song. If you like KPOP and nightclubs, this is a good option for you.
- High-end: Oakwood Premier Coex Center
- Midrange: Ibis Styles Ambassador Seoul Gangnam
- Budget/backpacker: Prince Hotel
Day-by-day One Week Seoul Itinerary
Day 1 in Seoul – Arrival
Fly to Seoul, South Korea.
Depending on what time you arrive and how much day you have left, you could use this first day to get an orientation of the city.
Day 2 in Seoul – Itaewon
Explore the Itaewon area. This is a great area to just walk around and get a feel for contemporary Korean culture. There are a ton of shops, bars and restaurants.
If you want to visit a store that is quintessential contemporary Korea culture, I recommend visiting the Line Friends store. These adorable cartoon characters are on metro cards, clothing, office supplies, and more. People love them, and there’s no better way to acquaint yourself with this unique and fun aspect of Seoul than by visiting the source. Plus, it’s a cute place for selfies!
If you’re there on a weekend night, definitely consider bar hopping around this neighborhood. Depending on the night of the week, you could also sign up for a pub crawl. These types of activities are great for meeting other travelers. We saw a lot of signs for Seoul Gone Wild but weren’t in town on the nights they offer; otherwise we would have signed up.
Itaewon is also a great place to try traditional Korean BBQ. A night of Korean BBQ entails lots of meat, eaten in lettuce wraps with toppings such as garlic, onions and sauces. There are a ton of places with varying levels of service and cost. Cheaper places will put the raw meat and toppings on your table, and you’ll cook and cut the meat yourself on your table. Nicer places will cook for you at your table.
If you’re feeling thirsty, soju is a Koran rice liquor that accompanies festive BBQ nights! Don’t underestimate it though – this stuff is STRONG.
Day 3 in Seoul – War Memorial of Korea
Visit the War Memorial of Korea. This moving museum tells the history of not only the Korean War of the 1950s, but the history of war on that peninsula from prehistoric times to today. The multimedia exhibits and free volunteer guides ensure you’ll learn a lot on your visit.
Day 4 in Seoul – DMZ/JSA
Now that you have learned all about the Korean War, take a day trip outside of Seoul to visit the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and Joint Security Area (JSA), where the North and South meet to discuss matters (including peace talks). This area is heavily guarded by military from both North and South Korea.
For more information and to help you determine if this tour is right for you, check out my detailed guide on how to visit the JSA and DMZ.
Day 5 in Seoul – Gyeongbokgung Palace and Bukchon Hanok
Soak up some of Seoul’s older history by visiting one of the many palaces in the city. I recommend Gyeongbokgung Palace, especially if you can visit at 10 am or 2 pm when they do a reenactment of the elaborate and beautiful changing of the guards. The best part is that watching this spectacle is free for all! It was a highlight of our visit. Entrance to the palace costs 3000 won (less than $3 USD).
From this palace, you may also consider visiting Bukchon Hanok village, a short walk away. This area is known for homes in a traditional architectural style. You’ll see many locals dressing up in traditional clothing, called a hanbok, (which you can rent for about $10 USD from one of the many nearby shops!) to take photos in this area.
Changdeokgung Palace is also a great place to visit for its stunning gardens, especially if you’re in Seoul during the spring or summer.
Day 6 in Seoul – Nami Island
In good weather, Namiseom Island, or Nami Island for short, is a highly-recommended day trip from Seoul. It’s easily accessible by metro from the city. Since we visited in winter, we didn’t go, but on our next trip we definitely will!
They have gardens to explore, a miniature faux-French village, a sculpture park and more!
Day 7 in Seoul – Departure
Fly out of Seoul for your next destination.
Additional Tips for Seoul
- Don’t forget to check out my complete guide on what to expect when you visit the DMZ/JSA!
- Hear me and other experts discuss travel in South Korea on the World Nomads Podcast!
I´d love to hear what you think of this one week itinerary for Seoul. Drop me a comment below or feel free to contact me!