Whether you have two days or two weeks to travel, my Seoul city guide covers the must-see sites, local food recommendations, an example 48 hour itinerary, and how to get to and from the airport.
When I visited the capital city of Seoul, I was captivated by everything the city had to offer. From the ancient temples, bustling nightlife, crazy delicious food, animated culture, progressive politics, massive high rises, and the genuine character of the people, South Korea offers something for every visitor. The country can be rather expensive to explore or it can be cheap, the number of parks, monuments, temples, and museums you can visit for a small fee and sometimes free. It offers backpackers and tourists alike an opportunity to emerge into the culture, history, and politics of this unique and welcoming country.
Getting To & From the Airport
There are 3 ways to get into the city from Seoul Incheon International Airport.
Option #1: Take the Airport Railroad Express (This is the fastest option). The Airport Railroad Express runs directly from Incheon International Airport to Seoul Station, with no stops along the way. The trip will take you about 35 minutes. The cost is about $10.50 CAD –> 8,000 WON.
Option #2: Take the Airport All Stop Train (This is the cheapest option). The All Stop Train makes stops at all 13 subway stations on its way from Incheon International Airport to Seoul Station. To take this train, passengers must use a transportation card. International visitors may also use a prepaid transportation card called M-Pass. You can buy the transportation card at convenience stores inside Incheon International Airport. The trains come every 10 minutes and the journey will take about 60 minutes. The cost is $6 CAD –> 4200 WON.
Option #3: Take the bus. ( I chose this option so can see the city as we drove) Airport buses run from Incheon International Airport to most parts of Seoul. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket booth. You catch the bus just outside the international or domestic terminals. The buses leave every 30 minutes and the journey will take about 70 minutes. The cost is $20 CAD –> 13,000 WON.
First Things First – What To Eat?
Korea is famous for lots of reasons, and food is certainly one of those. From the world-famous Korean BBQ’s that cook up superb meats, to the pajeon pancakes and cold noddle soup, Korea has unique food for any pallet. Whether you prefer to eat at 5-star restaurants, prefer the small side street pop-up shops (always my favourite food is from street vendors). I ate our way through this city in 48 hours and loved every minute of it.
Foods you must try:
Bibimbap – Cost around $5 – Bi bim bap or Bi bim bop, literally means “mixed rice”. Bibimbap is served as a bowl of warm white rice topped with sautéed and seasoned vegetables, chilli, soy sauce, and a fermented soybean paste. A raw or fried egg and sliced meat are common additions. The hot dish is stirred together thoroughly just before eating and is delicious.
Pajeon – Cost around $4 – It is a Korean dish made from a batter of eggs, wheat flour, rice flour, scallions, and often other ingredients depending on the variety. beef, pork, kimchi, shellfish, and other seafood can be used.
Soju – Cost around $2-10 a bottle – Soju is a clear, colourless distilled beverage. It is usually consumed neat, and its alcohol content varies from about 16.8% to 53%. Koreans have very strict rules for drinking soju. When receiving a glass from an elder, one must hold the glass with two hands. When it is time to drink, the drinker must turn away from the elder, and cover the mouth and glass with their hands. The first drink must be finished in one shot.
Must-See’s Of Seoul
Seoul is a massive, multicultural city filled with some amazing tourist hot-spots, mouth-watering food, and hidden gems waiting to be stumbled upon. Here are the must-see sights of Seoul that you can explore and conquer in 48 hours. There are 6 must-see attractions in the city that have come to define the city’s popularity. From the breathtaking temples, animated culture, and fascinating history, to the hidden side streets filled with amazing restaurants and markets – it’s all broken down below.
Bukcheon Hanok Village – Free to visit – In between Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung lies a picturesque village featuring over 400 traditional Korean houses, called hanok. The village features small cafes, restaurants, and shops offering handmade crafts and souvenirs. You can also find a couple of traditional teahouses in this area.
Gwanghwamun Square – Free to visit – This lovely square is located in front of Gwanghwamun Gate, the main gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace. The square features a large statue of King Sejong The Great, the inventor of Korea’s Hangulalphabet, as well as statues of some of his other inventions.
The unique Cafés – There are many different kinds of cafes all over the city from Cats, dogs, mice and even raccoons. I opted for the dogs and had a great unique experience.
48 Hours in Seoul Example Itinerary:
Start your first day by walking around your hostel until you find something delicious to eat.
On the first day, go to the Gyeongbokgung Palace, it was the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty. Built-in 1395.
After walking around the palace for a few hours and you feel like you have seen it all jump into an Uber and go to the Bukchon Hanok Village. The traditional village is composed of lots of alleys, hanok and is preserved to show a 600-year-old urban environment.
For dinner, I recommend going out for a nice Korean BBQ. There are tons of restaurants everywhere, so it won’t be hard to find one that looks good to you or if you prefer to find some street food (my personal favourite)
Start your first day by walking around until you find something delicious to eat. I recommend finding some BimBimBop.
After lunch, find your way to the Starfield COEX Mall and visit the incredible library right in the heart of the mall. It holds 50 thousand books.
There are about four major shopping districts in Seoul, some farther or larger than the others. Shopping in Korea can be a fun and adventurous activity. There is always something cool to be found. I spent about 5 hours walking around the Myung-dong street market and I don’t think I even scratched the surface of the massive market so definitely go check it out (make sure you have cash).
Before heading back to your hostel, look around for an interesting café. It is a very crazy, weird and yet so much fun experience. There are many types of Cafes you can pick from. They do cost a fair amount of money, but with the entrance fee, you usually get a free beverage and could stay as long as you want to.
Travel Tips & Helpful Hints
Do I need a visa? Holders of passports issued by 105 countries do not require a visa to enter South Korea for a period ranging from 30 days to 180 days. So, make sure you check the visa requirements for your specific country.
What about drinking alcohol in the streets? It is permissible to drink in public so grab a beer and enjoy a picnic in the park or head off on a bar crawl.
What are the currencies and their value? The currency used in South Korea is called the Won (KRW). The current value (at the time writing) is $906 KRW = $1 CAD.
*Traveling leaves you speechless but turns you into a storyteller*