I know you’re excited about the palaces to feel the “authentic culture” of South Korea. Well why not give yourself a moment to look back and discover how she undressed the traditional ‘hanbok’, and replace it with fashionable modern clothing. No not literally. This 5-floor museum can be roamed around for 1 hour and 30 min. features an array of illustration of Korea’s development in politics, clothing, gadgets, houses, national flag, and more.
For more info, click here.
Here it is, just about 200 steps from the first site, is the biggest and the grandest among the four major palaces. If planning to go here, be sure to observe silence and be mindful of the general rules. Reserve approximately 2 hours to complete the tour course. The best part to watch out is the changing of the Royal guards!
Know about free guided tours here.
National Folk Museum of Korea
This museum is just a few steps away from the impressive royal mansion. Immerse yourself more on the daily lives of Koreans through over 4,000 artifacts. You’ll learn a lot about the previous agricultural lifestyles and cultural beliefs, as the name of the museum suggests.
Fee: Free (just present your Gyeongbokgung palace ticket)
Gwanghwamun Square & King Sejong statue
Just in front of the Gyeongbokgung Palace’s main gate, lies the statue of King Sejong. This golden statue is best seen at night, where you can observe yourself standing in the middle of modern and traditional Korea.
If you go straight ahead from the Gwanghwamun Plaza, a long stretch of stream is waiting. This beautiful underground pathway serves as an alternative (and better) sidewalk for pedestrians.
TIPS & DIRECTIONS
- Find your way and drop off at Gwanghwamun Station (Seoul Subway Line 5), Exit 2
- this is where your Day 1 starts and ends. Your best guide to get around the area is the Korea Travel Guide Book (app) or Google Maps. This subway station has a thrift shop where you can find winter coats in excellent condition.
- After a tiring walk inside the palace, you can have your meal at the neighbor attraction Folk Museum.
- The four major palaces in Seoul have an Integrated Palace Ticket for ₩10,000 valid for 1 month of unlimited use.
Insadong is for that artsy side of you. It has about 100 galleries and shops featuring different fine art stuff from paintings, sculptures, and traditional costumes. If looking for the best place to sit and hang out, get your frothy green tea mix at the Osulloc Cafè.
Your next stop must be this literally ‘home’ to Korean traditional houses called hanok. The places I suggest you to check out are Wonseo-dong (for arts & crafts stuff) and where you can have a panoramic view of Changdeokgung Palace.
Ihwa Mural Village
Another place to satisfy your visual art craving. See hundreds of residential houses painted with murals and art installations complementing each other; making the entire village a masterpiece. This was the venue for the Korean drama Rooftop Prince.
Seoul City Wall & Museum
When you’re unsure where you’re heading to but still keep on exploring, you will end up feel amazing. That’s what happened to me and my new-found travel buddies after climbing up the Naksan Park. We found this perfect spot to get a panoramic view of the metropolitan Seoul. Bonus: the museum
Designated as Treasure no. 1 for it housed the important government facilities, Dongdaemun is one of the Eight Gates in the Fortress Wall of Seoul.
Dongdaemun Design Plaza
This spectacular building is absolutely a site to see in Dongdaemun area. Its impeccable design is probably a great venue for a sci-fi movie. Do you know who did it? The brilliant Zaha Hadid it. *pun intended*
Fee: Varied, reservation is needed
For more info click here.
TIPS & DIRECTIONS:
- Find you way and drop off at Jonggak Station (Line 1, Exit 3) or Angguk Station (Line 3, Exit 5)
- After visiting Insadong and BHV, find your way and drop off at Hyehwa Station (Line 4, Exit 3) to visit the IMV. From there, do a walking tour going to the next places.
- In BHV, silence is the best policy. Shhhh since that is a residential area. Same thing goes to Ihwa Mural Village.
- Ihwa Mural Village is situated on a mountain. The way up is an easy trail, but the cold weather and snow rain will make it exhausting. Bring water and umbrella!
- Dongdaemun is near the famous shopping landmark, Dongdaemun market. Check it out for great fashion finds.
If you need that perfect moment to slow down and contemplate about life, without going far from the metro, this place is right for you. It has now been converted into an ecoforest park, previously a filtration plant. The island can be reached through the Seonyugyo bridge. Can you guess which Boys Over Flowers scene was taken here?
2D Paintings with 3D optical illusions are what to check out at Trickeye Museum. Basically, the illusions are made possible by the Trompe-l’oeil technique, a French painting method that means “to trick/deceive the eye”.
Han River is a major river in South Korea rich in history. As historical as the Pasig River in the Philippines, Nile River in Egypt, and Yangtze River in China. And the Korean government’s move to attract tourists and residents to visit the river is through the construction of various parks next to the river. Yeouido is the best among all those parks to visit.
TIPS & DIRECTIONS:
- Find your way and drop off at Seonyudo Station (Line 9, Exit 2)
- After the tour at Seonyudo Island, go back to the metro and drop off at Hongik University Station (Line 2, Exit 9) to proceed directly to Trickeye Museum. Finding the Trickeye Museum can be tricky too for it’s an underground establishment. Make sure you utilize Google Maps.
- To go to Yeouido Hangang River Park, you need to go back to Dangsan station and from there, Yeouido station is 2 stops away.
- (Optional) In Hongik Univ. area, you can find a cheap buffet restaurant that offers an array of Korean cuisine dishes to devour! Priced at ₩12,900 (lunch) and ₩19,900. I tried it, their food is drooling!
- Another thing to check out near Honggik University is the transformation of its main street into a weekend art stuff flea market, where the students of the best fine arts university in South Korea get the chance of selling their crafts. It happens every Saturday.
The hanoks in this village are not as many as those in Bukchon Hanok Village, but never fails to exhibit the Korean traditional lifestyle from crafts making, tea house, garden, and plaza. The village is made up of five hanoks from around Seoul moved to this spot. Another fun way to experience Korean culture!
Time Capsule Monument
Just inside the Namsangol Hanok Village, you’ll see the birthday gift of the government to Seoul City for being the capital of South Korea for over 600 years. It contains the 600 representative cultural properties were buried under the ground in November 29, 1994. If I were to name it, it’s South Korea’s Time CapSeoul? Haha!
The last palace that was built under the Joseon Dynasty sits next to the busiest building Seoul City Hall. What sets this palace apart from the other royal palaces are the Western-style buildings that function as museums.
Seoul City Hall
The old city hall now serves as the Seoul Metropolitan Library, which is replaced by this jaw-dropping glass design of the new city hall. It made me ask myself, “Is that really a city hall?”.
Spend your night tour at the iconic Namsan Seoul Tower and have a view of the city’s amazing skyscraper. For lovers (only): padlocks are highly recommended. Join the bandwagon of romantic lovers who’ve been there and (promised) to lock their love to each other (forever).
I also highly suggest that you walk down from the tower. Let’s say, it’s a bit of exercise and nice view of the path going down.
Fee: ₩6,000 (one-way cable car)
TIPS & DIRECTIONS:
- Find your way and get off at Chungmuro Station (Line 3 or Line 4).
- In NHV, look for the tea house where you can drink a cup of tea for free!
- Again, take note of the changing ceremonies of the royal guards of the palace! Check the free guided tours schedule as well.
- If looking for a place to practice your ice skating skills, the cheapest you can find in Seoul is in Seoul City Hall. Priced at ₩1,000/hour.
- Padlocks are sold at the queue area in N Seoul Tower, prices are relatively high though.
Considered the most touristic destination in Seoul, Myeongdong’s life depends on the various boutique shops of International fashion brands, Korean cosmetic products, and an unlimited number of street food hawker stalls.
What to look out for: cheap socks and leather bags
Myeongdong Tourist Information Center
Aside from colorful and very informative brochures about Korea tourism, you and your friends can get the opportunity to wear hanboks for free! There are printouts given, and you can also send the files straight to your email! Check out their beautiful souvenir items too!
What to look out for: a hanky that illustrates a map of the most visited tourist spots
The place that gave birth to Catholicism in Korea, and also the first structure built in Gothic style, is a must-see attraction In Myeongdong area. I planned to attend the English mass, but I wasn’t aware it’s only offered at 9:00 in the morning every Sunday. And so I attended a mass in Korean, which is a great addition to my unique experiences list! Just a slight different than how masses are being held in the Philippines.
TIPS & DIRECTIONS:
- Find your way and drop off at Myeongdong Station (Line 4, Exit 6). However, if you want to start your day at Myeongdong Cathedral, drop off at the nearer exit 10.
- According to the tour guide book I used, every December to February of the following year there’s a shopping tourism festival called the Korea Grand Sale. Major discounts are being offered to foreign tourists. Check out their website for more details.
- When you buy in boutique shops, check if they have the “Tax Refund” or “Tax Free” logo usually placed in front of their shops. You can exchange your taxi receipt in participating banks and at the airport. Know more about it here.
- When buying Korean cosmetic products, always ask for a tester or sample product. You can horde actually, and it wouldn’t be a problem for the salesladies. But please buy at least one item lol.
- When you run out of Korean Won, money changers are abundant in the area.
- Try the famous Myeongdong Gyoja that serves a large bowl of kalguksuOne thing to take note – pay right after you place your order.
The place that should be on everyone’s list for their trip to Korea must be Nami Island. Feel tiny as you walk through the aisle of tall chestnut and poplar trees. The best time to go is autumn or spring, but during winter it still looks magical!
Fee: ₩8,000 (ferry + admission fee)
After a nature walk in Nami, take a detour to a French cultural village that’s just right in the Korean countryside. According to the Korea Tourism Organization, the concept of Petite France encapsulates ‘flowers, stars, and the Little Prince. This is a perfect photo ops spot!
TIPS & DIRECTIONS
- Find your way and get off at Gapyeong station. There’s an express train (KTX) that will save you more time but costs a bit higher than the regular one. Just take note of the interval of the KTX.
- The Gapyeong shuttle bus strictly follows its schedule. Click here to plan out your tour smoothly.
- If you want a more fun ride to Nami Island, Zip wire/line is available priced at ₩38,000.
The world’s second best airport (2015), offering not only convenience and excellent service to passengers, but also numerous facilities that spark great entertainment. Take time to tour around the airport and you’ll definitely change your mind to stay! See my full post on 10 ways to kill time in Incheon International Airport.
I guess you have more reasons and convinced to travel to Seoul? With this itinerary, you can maximize your stay in South Korea! I incorporated the natural attractions, cultural and heritage attractions, amusement parks, and attractions that offer one-of-a-kind experiences. You can of course set your own itinerary, but I hope this post helped you at least a bit! So……. see you next winter?