The Perfect​ Seoul Itinerary For 5 Days + Culture & Food!

Seoul itinerary

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First let me say, I love Seoul. I want to move there. It’s my favourite place in South Korea, hands-down. I hope my tried-and-tested Seoul itinerary for 5 days helps you fall in love with this magnificent megacity, too!

Seoul is a city of contrast. It’s modern yet traditional, urban yet green. There’s something for everyone and you could spend weeks, months or years attempting to do it all.

SEOUL ESSENTIALS

Accommodation: Booking.com / Hostelworld

Activities: Viator / GetYourGuide

Getting there: air (Kayak) / Train (Trip.com) / bus

Getting around: Subway, bus, taxi

Pre-book private airport to hotel transfer

Related read: ultimate 2 week South Korea itinerary

Getting to Seoul

There are two airports in Seoul but international flights generally arrive at Incheon Airport, 48km from Seoul.

Gimpo Airport, 16km from Seoul, connects other destinations in South Korea like Busan and Jeju Island as well as nearby countries like China and Japan.

To get the best flight prices, I use Kayak to compare and book flights.

old shin tea house korea
Insasong neighbourhood was a highlight of my Seoul itinerary

Getting around Seoul

Seoul is a huge city so expect some journeys to take a while. It’s worth being smart about which attractions are closeby to avoid unnecessary travel time (though don’t worry, this 5 day Seoul itinerary is planned for convenience). The main ways to get around are:

  • Subway. Take a look at the subway map and you’ll be blown away by the size of Seoul and the number of stations. Don’t worry, it’s all pretty self-explanatory and you can buy tickets at the station machines.
  • Bus. These are regular and a great way to see the sights as you travel around. They also run later than the subway.
  • Taxi – download Kakao Taxi, South Korea’s answer to Uber. You’ll need a KakaoTalk account (like Whatsapp) so download this first.

Top tip – if you’ve got 5 days in Seoul, pick up a Tmoney or Cashbee card. You can top these up and use them on subway trains and buses. They cost 2,500 won and 2,000 of this is refundable.

Getting to and from Seoul airports

Gimpo Airport to Seoul: take Line 5 Subway or the AREX shuttle bus for 22 minutes (approx 4,000 won). The 6021 bus takes 45 minutes and costs 7,000 won. Finally, you can take a taxi.

Incheon Airport to Seoul: the larger international airport is connected to Seoul Station by subway or you can catch the Express train, All Stop Train, bus or taxi.

From either airport, you can pre-book private airport to hotel transfer.

Where to stay during 5 days in Seoul

I really enjoyed staying in Hongdae because it’s in the heart of the action, yet there’s peace in the quiet side streets. Myeongdong is another fun and lively base.

If you’re travelling Korea on a budget, there are plenty of affordable accomodation options.

Hostel: If you’re a backpacker, you can’t do better than Bunk Guesthouse. This hostel was totally spotless and my 6-bed dorm room had its own private living room and kitchen. How’s that for backpack life? Breakfast and coffee are included and the friendly Brian remembers every guest’s name. Seriously, what a skill! The location in the heart of Hongdae also couldn’t be better.

Hotel: For a little more luxury, I suggest 9 Brick Hotel (Hongdae) for panoramic views from your comfy room and a decadent breakfast buffet. Prices start at $75pn. Check availability here.

Apartment: For total privacy in a charming little apartment with a kitchen and double bedroom, you will love Artravel Apartment (Myeongdong) for $55pn. Click for availability.

Staying connected in Seoul

Affordable SIM cards are basically impossible to come by unless you have a Korean residence card. The best option is to get a tourist SIM (4g) to collect at Seoul airport.

Pocket Wi-Fi tends to be cheaper so you might want to hire a device for your stay. Rent a pocket Wi-Fi device to collect at Seoul airport or bring your own mobile Wi-Fi hotspot to bring with you.

Folk Museum korea
Seoul Folk Museum

A word about Google Maps in South Korea

Yeah, it doesn’t work. Well, public transport journeys do but walking and driving distances don’t. Even if you Google walking directions between two locations just minutes from each other, it will tell you to take public transport. I’d recommend downloading a Korean maps app like Naver.

Read next: all my Korea travel tips

How many days in Seoul?

Seoul is such a vibrant metropolis with so much to see and do that I wouldn’t recommend going for less than three days. In my opinion, five days is enough in Seoul for a first trip. You’ll be able to whiz around the highlights and soak up the history and culture… But you’ll still probably be planning a future trip!

Is the Seoul Pass worth it?

If you’re planning to see several attractions in a short space of time, it’s worth looking into the Seoul Pass. This 24, 48 or 72-hour pass includes free access to attractions like the Seoul Tower and Trickeye Museum, and doubles up as a Tmoney card saving you cash and time when using the subway.

Research and book your Seoul Pass.

sunset seoul

5 day Seoul itinerary

There’s no ‘right way’ to see Seoul and you could mix up the order of these days below. This Seoul itinerary for 5 days avoids excessive travel time and ties in some delicious local meals.

The nightlife in Seoul is excellent, especially the karaoke and clubs in Hongdae. You can go out any night that takes your fancy.

Itinerary overview

  • Day 1: National Museum of Korean Contemporary History, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Tongin Market, National Folk Museum of Korea, MMCA.
  • Day 2: Bukchon Hanok Village, Insa-dong, Myeongdong, N Seoul Tower
  • Day 3: Gangnam (Starfield Library, Bongeunsa Temple), Sinsa-dong, Hongdae
  • Day 4: Ihwa Mural Village, Gwangjang Market, Seoul City Walls
  • Day 5: DMZ, Cheonggyecheon Stream/Itaewon.

Here’s what I’d recommend for your adventures in Seoul…

DAY 1 – BE A CULTURE VULTURE

I don’t know about you but I love getting to grips with the history and culture when I arrive in a new place. I find everything I see and experience makes so much sense after that.

National Museum of Korean Contemporary History

Visit the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History to learn about how modern-day South Korea came to be. Covering the 19th century to the present day, this engaging museum is a fantastic first port of call to understand modern South Korea and its recent history.

Entrance fee: free.

Opening times: 10am-6pm daily.

Next, cross the road to…

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Changing of the guards ceremony Gyeongbokgung Palace Seoul
The changing of the guards

Gyeongbokgung Palace is a stunning royal residence dating back to 1395. This was the first palace built in the Joseon Dynasty and remains one of the most popular to visit in modern Seoul.

Visit at 10am or 2pm to watch the changing of the guards ceremony.

Entry fee: 3,000 won.

Opening times: 9am-6pm, Weds-Mon (closed Tuesday).

Lunch – Tongin Market

Korean lunchbox meal Tongin market
Lunchbox life

Feast out at Tongin Market. For 5,000 won ($4) you can purchase a set of tokens and a lunchbox at the entrance, then fill up the box as you exchange tokens for dishes.

Opening times: 7am-9pm.

National Folk Museum of Korea

Head back towards the palace to visit a second museum. Instead of learning about contemporary history, the National Folk Museum of Korea goes back much further, educating guests on how daily life would have been for Koreans. The sunny grounds and period buildings are great to wander.

Entry price: free with the Gyeongbokgung Palace ticket.

Opening times: 9am-6pm (until 5pm Nox-Feb).

MMCA

Modern art exhibit at MMCA Seoul
A modern art sculpture at MMCA

Also nearby the other museums, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art explores poignant themes like social media and self-worth.

Entry price: 12,000 won.

Opening times: 10am-6pm daily, until 9pm on Wednesdays.

Nighttime activities in Seoul

Although your days in Seoul will be busy, I suggest preserving a little energy because there are fantastic evening activities in Seoul whether you’re a big partygoer or not.

Things to do in Seoul at night include:

  • Cook your own delicious dinner during a Korean cooking class in a local home
  • Uncover the dark side of Seoul with an eerie evening walking tour
  • Watch live K-pop and dance performances on the streets of Hongdae
  • Hit Hongdae’s bars and clubs! If you’re travelling solo, take a Seoul pub crawl
  • Eat spectacular Seoul street food at night markets including Myeondong Night Market, Hongdae Food Stands and Dongdaemun Night Market. To eat as much as possible, take a food tour
  • See sunset and stay for nighttime city views at the N Seoul Tower or Lotte World Tower.

DAY 2 – TRADITIONAL & MODERN SEOUL

In this itinerary for 5 days in Seoul, I’ll walk you through the traditional and modern. Today, we’ll explore oldest and most traditional neighbourhoods in the morning, and a thriving, neon part of town in the afternoon.

Bukchon Hanok Village

This charming suburb is a must for your Seoul itinerary, dating back centuries and showcasing the traditional homes that Koreans lived in prior to days of high-rise apartment blocks. Locals and tourists alike can hire a hanbok in Seoul to stroll the streets of Bukchon.

Getting to Bukchon Hanok Village – take the subway to Anguk Station via Line 3. Take exit 3 and walk towards the start of the village.

Entry is free. It’s more like an open museum than a ticketed attraction.

Insa-dong

Drinking tea at Shin Old Tea House Insadong

Head back to central Seoul and explore the old-fashioned neighbourhood of Insadong. For lunch, there are plenty of street food stalls, cafes and an excellent (and very affordable) dumpling restaurant beside Ssamzie-gil Market (this collection of cool shops is worth visiting in its own right). Afterwards, take a walk in Tapgol Park.

Don’t miss Shin Old Tea House which is a gorgeous old-fashioned cafe with traditional fruit teas and snacks.

Afternoon in Myeongdong

This modern, fashionable neighbourhood not far from Insa-dong couldn’t be more different from the areas you’ve seen during the morning. Myeongdong is known as the beauty district of Seoul famous for its cosmetic stores, many of which will give you free gifts like face masks in exchange for looking inside.

There are some fantastic street food stands running through Myeondong. Gorge on tteokbokki, tempura, Korean fried chicken and desserts!

Read next: where to eat street food in Seoul

Evening – the N Seoul Tower

From Myeongdong, walk a few minutes and catch the Namsan Cable Car Station (close to Myeongdong station exit 3) to the base of the Seoul Tower. This 236m tower offers the best panoramic views of Seoul from the glass viewing deck. It’s open from 10am-11pm daily but the best time to visit is sunset.

Entry price: 16,000 won.

Word of warning – I would suggest avoiding the Seoul Tower at weekends as it’s packed. Also, prepare for long queues when boarding the cable car and waiting for the lift to the top. If long lines and lots of people sounds exhausting, skip the Seoul Tower altogether!

DAY 3 – COOL NEIGHBOURHOODS

Today we’re going to check out 2 Seoul neighbourhoods essential for a 5 day Seoul itinerary.

Gangnam neigbourhood

Today we’re off to somewhere I bet you’ve heard of before! Gangnam was put on the map by a certain annoyingly catchy song and the area has embraced it by building a giant gold set of hands to commemorate the Gangnam dance.

While in Gangnam, don’t miss Insta-worthy Starfield Library or ancient Bongeunsa Temple: yet more proof that Seoul blends the modern and traditional with ease.

For lunch, make your way to the Sinsa-dong neighbourhood (20 minutes by subway) where there are lots of cool cafes for lunch and snacks.

Hongdae

You’re in for a treat because this is one of the coolest parts of Seoul. With cat, sheep, raccoon and even poop-themed cafes (yes really), there are endless quirky things to do in Hongdae. Take cool photos at the Trickeye Museum, shop at cute boutiques and indulge in the food scene. There are Korean barbecue restaurants and street food stands aplenty.

Flower street art in Hongdae Seoul
Cool corners of Hongdae

Stay for the night and you’re in for the best nightlife in Seoul! There are sophisticated cocktail bars, grimy student pubs and endless clubs in Hongdae.

DAY 4 – NORTH SEOUL & CITY WALLS

I wanted this 5 day Seoul itinerary to include all corners of the city. For that reason, I suggest you begin your day at a cool and quirky part of Seoul…

Ihwa Mural Village

This hilltop community on the outskirts of Seoul has a smalltown feel that’s far removed from the bustling city. In an effort to bring tourism to this lesser-visited area, a community project was carried out to cover the buildings in vibrant street art murals.

Spend an hour or two wandering around Ihwa Mural Village, snapping photos and stopping for coffee at one of the many cafes.

Wing street art Ihwa Mural Village Seoul
Ihwa Mural Village

Getting to Ihwa Mural Village: We caught a bus but the other option is the subway to Euljiro 4-ga Station followed by a 20-minute walk. Another option is taking a Seoul tour that includes Ihwa in the itinerary.

Lunch at Gwangjang Market

Noodles at kimchi at Gwangjang Market Seoul
Fresh dumplings and kimchi

Walk from Ihwa Mural Village to Gwangjang Market. This bustling market came to fame when one lady’s knife-cut noodles were featured on the Netflix Street Food documentary.

These tasty noodles and dumplings are served with a side of kimchi for 5,000 won. There’s a Netflix poster at her stand so you can’t miss it.

Of course, there are hundreds of other stalls and Korean dishes to try like gimbap, tteokbokki and bindaetteok (mung bean pancake).

Afternoon – Walk Seoul City Walls

Seoul City Walls

Proving this city truly has it all, let’s add nature and hiking to our Seoul itinerary. Construction of the Fortress Wall of Seoul began in the 1300s to demonstrate the boundaries of the city and protect the Joseon Dynasty from invaders.

Nowadays, the sprawling megacity has surpassed the city walls and then some! Yet the walls have survived to this day, making for an impressive walking route. For an active thing to do in Seoul, hike the Naksan Mountain Trail (free, open 24 hours) from Hyehwamun Gate to Heunginjimun Gate takes an hour along a 2km section of the wall.

The Baegak Mountain Trail is a longer route of 4.7km that can be accessed only during the day. Since it passes a military area, you’ll be asked to wear a numbered badge.

Tip – wear comfy shoes and bring water and sun protection. There’s little shade and nowhere to buy supplies.

Alternative day 4 – Bukhansan National Park

If Ihwa Mural Village doesn’t sound up your street and you’d prefer a full day experiencing Korea’s striking nature, consider a day trip to Bukhansan National Park. Hiking Bukhansan Peak is a fantastic summer activity in South Korea that takes 4-5 hours and requires a relative level of fitness. Still, the views are worth the effort!

To get there, take subway Line 3 to Daehwa Station then bus 704 from exit 1 (or you can ride the bus all the way from Seoul) OR book a day hiking tour including hotel pick-up, guides & lunch.

DAY 5 – THE DMZ

Take a day tour to the DMZ. This is one of the most important trips to make during 5 days in Seoul and will enable you to understand so much more about the situation with North Korea.

Read next: What to expect when visiting the DMZ from Seoul

The only way to visit the DMZ is with a guided day tour from Seoul. Luckily, these are affordable. Currently, €58 tours run on weekends and €70 tours are available 7 days a week.

Generally, you can see most of the important sites during a half-day trip (including Imjingak Park, the Freedom Bridge, 3rd Tunnel and Dora Observatory) but you may wish to book a full-day trip to see the War Memorial of Korea (these used to include the JSA zone but these are currently not running).

Day 5 afternoon

Options for your last afternoon include:

  • Walk alongside peaceful Cheonggyecheon Stream spotting birds, fish and other wildlife. To arrive, take subway Line 5 to Gwanghwamun Station (exit 5).
  • Head for food and coffee in quirky Itaewon district (take Line 6 to Itaewon station). Don’t miss the best sandwiches in the hemisphere at Casablanca Sandwicherie. This neighbourhood is also a popular party hotspot so stay for drinks if you’re keen to round off your Seoul itinerary in style!
Cheonggyecheon Stream Seoul
Cheonggyecheon Stream
Lamb sandwich at Casablanca Sandwicherie Seoul
Lunch of dreams at Casablanca Sandwicherie

Thanks for reading my Seoul itinerary for 5 days!

Check out my other South Korea blogs:

See you next time for more adventures,

Rose

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seoul itinerary

VISITING SOUTH KOREA?
These are my trusted resources:

Getting around by air – it’s easy. toget between cities by flight. I use Skyscanner and Kayak.

Buses – buses are comfy and efficient. It’s tricky for foreigners to book online so it’s best to turn up on the day.

Trainsuse Trip.com, partner of Korail (the official railway network of Korea) to book your tickets in advance. The website accepts international payment options, unlike Korean rail websites. Click the three stripes in the top right corner then the flag to change it to English.

Driving in Korea – use Rentalcars.com to compare car rentals. Hiring a car will be especially useful on Jeju Island.

Confused about visas? I use iVisa to check visa requirements and apply for visas online

For hotels in Korea, I use Booking.com – they also have self-catering apartments. You can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.

Browse South Korea tours and activities on GetYourGuide. I also check Viator and Klook in case they have a better price.

For food tours with passionate local chefs and foodies, check out EatWith.

Need travel insurance? I use World Nomads. They cover 150 countries and have 24-hour emergency assistance. 

Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and tips!

4 thoughts on “The Perfect​ Seoul Itinerary For 5 Days + Culture & Food!

  1. Chrissy K says:

    Wow, great post! I felt as I was with you on your journey. It looks amazing there. Seoul has been on my list and I hope to make it there soon.

  2. Francesca says:

    This just makes me want to go to Seol so much! Looks absolutely lovely!

  3. Josy A says:

    Oooh I would love to visit Seoul and go hiking in the Bukhansan National Park! And all that food looks amaaaazing. Did you have a favourite dish?

  4. Farrah says:

    I’ve never been to Korea but it’s definitely on my travel bucket list! That library looks amazing and the food looks so good!

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