Seoul Travel Guide – Exploring the Soul of South Korea

South Korea has become a mainstream travel destination and it continues to attract even more tourists, not just from its neighbouring countries in Asia but also from the other parts of the globe. The nation, especially its capital, Seoul, is known not just for its K-Pop culture which recently made its mark in the global entertainment scene, but also for its bustling metropolis, cultural heritage, and food that will surely satisfy your taste buds. 

About Seoul

The Metropolis is the 16th world’s largest city and given its vastness, it has all the reasons why it became a haven for people searching for a travel experience, allowing anyone to immerse in its modern city life and rediscover its cultural and historical significance. 

Their citizens mostly speak in their native tongue, but some of them could speak English. 

Planning a Seoul-o-trip or a Seoul-ful trip? Then we hope that this article could help you prepare for it. 

Best season to visit Seoul

South Korea has all the four seasons. Their seasonal calendar (2017) is shown below:

Best-Season-to-Visit-Seoul

The weather all year-round is great but if you’re from a tropical country and you’re looking for a different experience, then you should visit during the spring season to witness how cherry blossoms bloom and also during autumn to see the leaves turn from green to red or yellow.

Winter is also a great time to visit (and experience snow) but if you have a low tolerance for cold temperature, make sure to pack up enough layers and winter clothes. How to survive the winter? Check our tips through this link.

Getting around
Incheon Airport to Seoul

By Train – Airport Railroad Express (AREX)

You could ride the AREX Express Train (non-stop) to Seoul Station which will take approximately 45 minutes. The first train from Incheon International Airport to Seoul departs at 5:20AM and the last train departs at 11:50PM. A train leaves every 30 minutes. Cost: Adult 9,000 Korean Won (KRW) and 7,000 KRW for children.

Not in a hurry and on a tight budget? Then you could take the AREX All-stop trains which are connected to Seoul’s Metro Line Stations. The trip will take approximately 60 minutes. For the fare details, please see photo below from AREX’s website:

AREX-ALL-STOP-TRAIN-FARES

Fares shown above are for adults’ Single Journey/Prepaid Tickets. Note that if you’d be using a single journey ticket, you’ll have to pay additional 100KRW.

Roaming around Seoul

It is best to purchase a K-Tour Card (shown below). The reloadable card available for tourists that could be used for subways and buses. It also comes with perks such as shopping, dining, and attraction discounts. Check out this link to know more about K-Tour Card.K-Tour-Card

You can purchase it at almost every convenience store or at the subway station itself. The card price is worth 4,000KRW and you could top-up any amount you will need in any convenience stores and subway kiosks.

We recommend that you top-up at least 10,000KRW for every day that you stay in Seoul. Should you have excess money left after your trip, you could refund the amount at Subway Stations.

Where to Stay in Seoul

Book an accommodation near a Subway Station or near the centre of the city. We recommend booking near Myeong-Dong which is one of the busiest destinations in the city. The cost per night depends on the type of accommodation that you will book. See sample rates below from Traveloka.

Room for two: Filtered to show the hotels with the lowest price per night.

Where-to-Stay-in-Seoul

Hostels: If you’re traveling alone, staying in a hostel can be a more practical alternative. See the below rates per night per person in Myeong-Dong from Booking.com.

Where-to-Stay-In-Myeong-Dong

Destinations

Here are the destinations that you shouldn’t miss in Seoul:

1. Gyeongbokgung Palace – Also known as the North Palace, it is the biggest and grandest of all the Five Grand Palaces of Seoul. It’s built in 1395 but was destroyed during a war between 1592-1598. The palace was restored during the reign of King Gojong between years 1852 – 1919.WebsitePhotos-20

Gyeongbokgung remains to be one of the iconic landmarks in Seoul to this date. One of the must-sees in the Palace is the Royal Guard Changing Ceremony. A tradition held back in the Joseon Dynasty which is relived up to this day to give everyone a glimpse of how Royal Guards march and parade back in the ancient era. (Read: Gyeongbokgung Palace)

Address: 161, Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 사직로 161 (세종로))

Access: Gyeongbokgung Station (Seoul Subway Line 3) and Exit 5 or Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3) and Exit 1. 

Admission Fee: Adult 3,300 KRW and 1,500 KRW for children

Operating Hours: The Palace’s hours of operation vary depending on the month of your visit. See below.

November – February  9:00AM – 5:00PM
March-May and September- October 9:00AM -6:00PM
June-August 9:00AM – 6:30PM

 

2. Changdeokgung Palace – It is one of South Korea’s World UNESCO Heritage sites due to its historical significance and its role during the Joseon Dynasty. It served as the Royal Palace for many of the Kings of said Dynasty and is also the most preserved palace in Seoul.WebsitePhotos-21Huwon-Secret-Garden

Address: 99, Yulgok-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 율곡로 99 (와룡동))

Access: Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 3. 

Admission Fee: Adult aged 24 and above, 3,000 KRW. If you plan on visiting the Huwon Secret Garden, you would need to pay an additional 2,000 KRW. (Photo shown above)

Operating Hours: The Palace’s hours of operation vary depending on the month of your visit. See below. It is also closed every Monday.

February -May and September to October 9:00AM – 6:00PM
June -August  9:00 – 6:30PM
November – January 9:00AM – 5:30PM

 

3. Myeong-dong – Considered by many as the main shopping hub of Seoul, Myeong-Dong has a variety of shops to splurge on. It is busy all year-round and is often one of the destinations tourists head to. Myeongdong

Address: Myeongdong-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 중구 명동길 (명동1가))

Access: Euljiro 1(il)-ga Station (Seoul Subway Line 2), Exits 5, 6 & 7 or Myeong-dong Station (Seoul Subway Line 4), Exits 5, 6, 7 & 8

Admission Fee: n/a

Operating Hours: The shopping street is open 24 hours but stores may close depending on their respective schedules.

 

4. Bukchon Hanok Village – If you want to see traditional Korean houses called Hanok, then this is the best place to go to. Its alleys are full of traditional houses that’ll definitely transport you back in ancient eras of South Korea. Due to its proximity to two of the five Grand Palaces, it also became a district that is home to noble and high-ranking officials back in Joseon Dynasty.

Check out our blog about Bukchon Hanok Village for more photos and details.WebsitePhotos-1

Address: 37, Gyedong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 계동길 37 (계동))

Access: Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 1 or 2.

Admission Fee: n/a

Operating Hours: Open all year-round

 

5. N Seoul Tower – The Namsan Seoul Tower is one of the City’s most prominent landmarks and is also the highest point in Seoul standing at 497 meters! Not to mention, it is also popular for hopeful romantics wanting to put their love locks, or those wishing for true love. It also has an observatory where you could get 360° view of Seoul’s City skyline.

Read our blog about N Seoul Tower via this link for more details.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BQ-hSBuDuzg/?taken-by=harv_world

Address: 105, Namsangongwon-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 용산구 남산공원길 105 (용산동2가))

Access: Take the Namsan Circular Bus 3 from Seoul Station (Seoul Subway Line 1,4 – Exit 9), Itaewon Station (Seoul Subway Line 6 – exit 4), or Hangangjin Station (Seoul Subway Line 6 – Exit 2). 

Admission Fee: None if you’ll just be observing from the ground. But if you want to enter the Observatory to see the Seoul skyline, it will cost 10,000 KRW for adults and 8,000 KRW for children.

Operating Hours: For the Observatory — Sunday-Friday: 10:00AM – 11:00PM while on Saturday: 10:00AM – 12:00 MN.

6. Hongdae – One of the main shopping districts in Seoul and is located near Hongik University, it is where you could buy almost everything at a cheaper price. Hongdae is also home to Seoul’s Hello Kitty and One Piece Cafe.Hongdae

Address: Hongik-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 마포구 홍익로 (서교동))

Access: Hongik University Station (Seoul Subway Line 2, Gyeongui-Jungang, AREX), Exit 8 or 9. 

Admission Fee: n/a

Operating Hours: The shopping street is open 24 hours but stores may close depending on their respective schedules.

 

7. Ehwa Women’s University – It is a private university in Seoul for women. Aside from the University’s stunning modern architecture, it is also a popular place to shop. The street leading to the University is filled with shops selling goodies at a low price.Ehwa-Womans-University

Address: 52, Ewhayeodae-gil, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 서대문구 이화여대길 52 (대현동,이화여자대학교))

Access: Line 2 (Green) to Ewha Womans University Exit 2 or 3

Admission Fee: n/a

Operating Hours: The shopping street near the university is open 24 hours but stores may close depending on their respective schedules.

 

8. Insa-dong – Looking for traditional goods and wanting to visit traditional Korean galleries? Then Insa-dong is the best place for you. Located right in the centre of the city, this district is full of shops, tea houses, and over a hundred of galleries scattered around the area. The galleries show a variety of Korean arts, from sculptures to paintings.Insadong

Address: 62, Insadong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 인사동길 62 (관훈동) 일대)

Access: Subway Line 3 to Anguk Station (Exit 6) or Subway Line 1 to Jonggak Station (Exit 3)

Admission Fee: n/a

Operating Hours: The shopping street is open 24 hours but stores may close depending on their respective schedules.

 

9. Gwangjang Market – This is definitely not your ordinary market. It has shops that sell silk and other traditional clothes but the main reason why tourists flock to this destination is that of the food. The moment you enter Gwangjang Market, you’d be welcomed by the festive aroma of Korean delicacies that will surely captivate your senses and your tummy.Gwangjang-Market

Address: 88, Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 창경궁로 88 (예지)동)

Access: Jongno 5-ga Station (Seoul Subway Line 1), Exit 8 or Euljiro 4-ga Station (Seoul Subway Line 2 & 5), Exit 4.

Admission Fee: n/a

Operating Hours: General stores 8:30AM – 6:00PM; Restaurants 8:30AM – 11:00PM; Clothing stores 9:00PM – 10:00AM (the next day). The market is closed every Sunday.

 

10. Gangnam – This district is becoming the centre of fashion and K-pop culture. Most of Korea’s entertainment giants are based here. One of them, SMTOWN (shown below), the home of BoA and Super Juniors, can be visited in Gangnam. Legends say that you get a chance to see K-Pop artists casually roaming around the district, too.SM-Town--Gangnam

Address: Teheran-ro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 강남구 테헤란로 (역삼동))

Access: Gangnam Station (Seoul Subway Line 2), Exit 10 or 11.

Admission Fee: n/a

Operating Hours: n/a

 

Seoul Itinerary Map

Here’s a map of all the important spots that you could include in your itinerary.

Harv Experiences

In Seoul

1. Dine in Gwangjang Market – The stores in the market offer Korean noodles and soups, traditional street food, and even the freshest of fruits. If you visit during winter, you must dine in one of the soup stalls that are sure to warm up your tummy. Their seats also have warmers to keep your butt warm, too!

Gwang-Jang-Market

2. Wear a Hanbok in one of the Palaces – You may find this odd, but if you really want to feel like a Korean, go ahead and wear a Hanbok which is the traditional clothing worn since the reign of the Korean Dynasties. Renting a Hanbok would cost from 13,000 KRW to 15,000 KRW depending on the design.

Wearing-Hanbok-in-Korea

Outside Seoul

Head to Nami Island – Locally known as Namiseon Island, it is famous for its picturesque tree-lined roads that are truly stunning regardless of the season.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BfTIGIgAVkR/?taken-by=nink_nawarat

Nami-island

Aside from Nami Island’s relaxing scenery, it is also where you could find General Nami’s grave — the one “who led a great victory against the rebels in the 13th year of the 7th king of the Joseon Dynasty, King Sejo (reign 1455-1468).” 

Click on this link on how to go to Nami Island.

Shopping

The best places to shop are in Myeong-dong and Hongdae. If you want to know more, check out our blog Best places to shop in Seoul by clicking/tapping on the photo below.

WebsitePhotos-23

Important tips and reminders

1. Get an Integrated Ticket to visit the Grand Palaces – If you plan on visiting Gyeongbokgung, Deoksugung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, plus the Jongmyo Shrine, get an Integrated Ticket. In total, you would have to pay 14,000 KRW to visit all of the destinations. However, if you get an Integrated Ticket, you’ll automatically save 4,000 KRWs.

2. Heat packs could help you survive the winter – The temperature in Seoul during winter can be tolerable so long as you pack enough winter clothes. But, know that winter in Seoul always comes with strong chilly winds, too. If the cold bothers you, buy heat packs in convenience stores and bring them with you to give you temporary relief.

3. Riding taxis could cost a lot of money – The cabs’ flag down rates start at 3,000 – 10,000KRW (night time) and a trip from a destination to another could cost 10,000KRW++. If you could take the subway, it would be a lot cheaper and faster, too! However, if you’re traveling with a group, you may find it cheaper to commute via a cab.

 

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