I recently just got back from my first vacation in 2019 to Seoul, South Korea. Naturally, I posted a few stories and a picture on my Instagram. To my delight, I received several messages and comment asking me the itinerary of my trip to Seoul. I was definitely going to write one as I’ve always done, but I really didn’t expect people to ask me. Hence, this very prompt post of my Seoul 6D5N itinerary.
This trip to Seoul is my first solo trip after a few years. This is also the longest I’ve ever been solo traveling. Usually, it’s only for 2-3 days top. There’s actually a bit of funny story about this trip. Initially, it wasn’t meant to be a solo trip. It was supposed to be a girl trip consist of my mum, sister, and I. Due to some circumstances I had to reschedule my trip and go to Seoul alone while my mum and my sister went the week prior. It didn’t make me anxious tho, as I had been the one who planned everything from the start.
Come to think of it, I wasn’t sure why we picked Seoul as our destination. My sister is a fangirl, tho not a hardcore one but she never asked to go to Seoul. I used to long to go to Seoul because I was super obsessed with Korean Skincare, but not so much now as per my new approach to skincare game. While my mum, she just likes to travel and wanting to go on a trip with her girl, I guess. She and I have been to Japan, we’ve all been to Singapore, and the rest of South East Asia isn’t really of our interest. So I guess that’s how we come up with Seoul, South Korea.
I found a great ticket deal from Singapore Airlines for January, in winter. And since, I had a quite hard time deciding where to go in South Korea and Seoul being the only city we would visit, I thought a 6D5N trip would be sufficient. And in case you’re wondering, I was right. I think it’s quite the optimum number of days to explore Seoul. Not too packed, not too long. So if it’s your first time in Seoul, 6 days and 5 nights are enough.
As I’ve said, I went to Seoul in winter. I had a bit miscalculation on that end because winter in Seoul is the worst. I thought I had a bad winter in the UK but apparently, Seoul has it worse. There’s no snow and typically a winter with snow is more pleasant than winter with wind like in Seoul. That being said, a pretty good portion of my itinerary spend inside a building, be it a cafe, shops, mall, etc. I also use a lot of public transportation, especially the bus (which was very convenient) and not much walking because damn was that cold.
Seoul 6D5N (6 Days, 5 Nights) Itinerary
I arrive in Seoul at about 9.50 AM and with immigration, baggage claims, custom, face washing, and clothes changing (plus a bit of mishap with my bag), I was out of the terminal by 11 AM. I went straight into the C U Convenient Store to top-up my T-money and buy some sustenance for the ride downtown. I have no idea how much a brand new T-money cost because I used my mum’s so I just simply top it up with 25,000 won.
The mode of transportation I chose to go to downtown Seoul was the Airport Express Railway (AREX). Initially, I wanted to use the Airport Limousine (bus) because it was more hassle-free. I didn’t have to lug around my luggage through the subway but I decided to go against my better judgment. Simply because the AREX is way cheaper than the bus. AREX cost about 9,500 Won per trip (you pay 10,000 first and will get refunded 500 won at your last station) to go to City Hall station via Seoul Station. While the bus is 14,000 won. If I knew that the City Hall station was not luggage friendly I would have gladly pay the extra 5,000 won. Because my friend, there were a lot of stairs! *cries in Hangul*
The journey to downtown Seoul takes up about 45-50 minutes. Plus my journey (and struggle) from Seoul Station to City Hall station (I had to transfer ’cause Seoul Station is the last station for AREX), I arrived at my guesthouse about one and a half hour later. Since the check-in wasn’t until 3 PM, I decided that a hot drink was necessary. Grabbed a cup of hot cocoa from Dunkin Donuts close by, then I formulated my game plan.
Why of course I had my game plan (aka Seoul 6D5N itinerary) formulated days prior to my departure. But given the circumstances (i.e. the dreadful chilly wind), I thought I had to improvise. I planned to explore the infamous Myeongdong market as it was strategically located within walking distance to my guesthouse, take a look for a few hours until check-in time, freshen-up and continue exploring the Ewha Women University in Hongdae for cute outfits. Unfortunately, I don’t do well under cold weather and only able to explore Myeongdong this day.
This was definitely not my last visit to Myeongdong (as you will later see) but I had a pretty good time there. Since it’s cold (count how many times I say cold in this post), Myeongdong was actually a great place to be because there are so many shops I could use as a shelter from the cold all the while browsing the skincare products and cute items sold there. There is also a lot of street food to choose from at night so I didn’t have to explore further for dinner.
On day 2, my Seoul 6D5N itinerary suggested all the most touristy things to do in Seoul and that is Gyeongbukgung Palace and the Bukchon Hanok Village. I started early in the morning because I wanted to see the guard changing ceremony. There are two time-slots to watch it, 10 AM and 2 PM. Since I’ve got other plans later that day, the morning one sounded like a good idea.
Although the ceremony starts at 10 AM, it’s better to arrive earlier because they started rehearsing at around 9 AM. And you could score a great place for viewing if you come earlier. BUT, if you go on winter like me, the chill is actually even more intense early in the morning as the sun’s not completely up yet, so be prepared.
The ceremony lasted for about 20-30 minutes. After it ended I went on to explore (and take pictures of and in) the palace. To get into the palace you have to buy a ticket for 3000 won. But if a palace isn’t really your thing you could well explore the front part of the palace for free. It’s also free to watch the guard changing ceremony as it takes place on the front lawn.
From Gyeongbukgung Palace, I walked for about 30 mins to the Bukchon Hanok Village. They actually supposed to located nearby but it turned out finding the Bukchon Hanok Village was a challenge. Mainly because it’s not really a tourist spot, it’s actually people’s houses. Actual people live there and it’s located pretty deep into the other housing. But don’t worry, if you get lost of confused the Seoul tourism board has now provided a tourist information staffs who walk around the touristy spot in Seoul. They could easily be spotted as they’re wearing a red ensemble.
The hassle paid off as I reached one of the spots of Bukchon Hanok Village. Yep, there are actually several spots of it but I can only be arsed to explore one (don’t follow my laziness, carpe diem!). I actually really loved the old-timey Korean architecture of Bukchon Hanok Village. It’s even more quaint with some tourist wearing the traditional Hanbok outfit (if only they’re not so noisy). I felt like I was being transported back into the old-time era (things I really love from traveling.)
After grabbing a quick lunch my itinerary said the next destination is Dongdaemun Design Plaza. To be honest the only reason I wanted to go there was because it’s a really great photo spot lol (#doitforthegram). But, if you’re really into art there’s usually an exhibition there. I can’t seem to recall what exhibition was there when I visited it, but there is one. The DDM also has an art market whereby local artists present and sell their arts to people.
Since my phone battery was draining and my powerbank can’t seem to work (plus the wind was really killing me), I decided to head back to my guesthouse for a charge. After that, I was determined to look around the Lotte Department store, again in an attempt to buy some new outfits. But I don’t know what happened, somehow I made my way to Myeongdong again! Maybe it’s meant to be. Because I already exhausted and cold I decided to just look around Myeongdong again, visited the famous Olive Young and several other stores. Grab myself some food as well from the street food stalls.
I planned day 3 as a full day trip to Gapyeong district, namely to visit the famous Nami Island. I left the hotel a little late and decided not to take the Nami Island bus. I thought, why not be adventurous and save a little money by taking the Subway. The thing is, taking the subway to Gapyeong isn’t too straightforward. I had to change trains twice and rode the wrong line once. After almost two hours I finally arrived at Gapyeong station.
Gapyeong district is actually quite a large district. That’s where Nami Island Ferry Wharf, Petite France, Garden of Morning Calm, and Gapyeong Rail Bike are located at. So you can pretty much spend your whole day here to explore some of them. There are several choices for getting around Gapyeong as the locations of those places are not within walking distance. I’m not going to put too many details on this as I might write a separate post about how to get to and getting around Gapyeong.
I took the Gapyeong City Bus. It costs 6,000 won for a day pass so you can take this bus for a whole day and buy the ticket once, at the very beginning of your journey. Just don’t lose the ticket, alright? My first stop was the Nami Island Ferry Wharf where I would board a ferry that would take me to Nami Island. Some people might suggest you to visit the furthest destination first (i.e. Garden of Morning Calm), but considering the route of this bus, I supposed Nami Island first made more sense.
Ticket to Nami Island is 13,000 won that includes the ferry ride back and forth. The icy journey to cross the water (I’m not sure, was it a lake?) took about 15 minutes. Upon arriving, I started to explore the island. I didn’t rent a bike or anything so I did it on foot.
To be perfectly honest, I’m just going to admit it here and now, I picked the wrong time to visit Seoul, and especially Nami Island. The island was boring and unappealing. The tree is dead and there’s only a little remain of snow left. I admit it would look more beautiful in the Spring or Autumn, unless you’re into brown dead trees.
I probably only spent an hour or so on the island before heading back to the mainland. I happen to reach the bus stop at the right time when the Gapyeong City Bus arrived. Next stop is Petite France. Which was apparently located pretty far from the wharf. The journey took about 30 minutes to get to Petite France. Not a pleasant ride because I got carsick easily especially since the route involves lots of winding road.
Entering Petite France, I had shill another 10,000 KRW. Was it worth it? Eh. Granted the place is quite “instagrammable“ (I really hate that phrase) but it’s nothing more than a place to take pictures. Might be refreshing for people who haven’t been to actual France. Again I only spend an hour or so there because there’s nothing interesting to be fair.
Caught the bus at the right time again to get out of Petite France. The next stop supposed to be the Garden of Morning Calm. I wanted to visit at first but the combination of wondering whether it would be worth it to spend more entrance money and carsickness, I decided to just skip the Garden of Morning Calm and head back to Seoul.
On day 4, I had planned to go to the Namsan Tower (or the N-Seoul Tower). I knew it supposed to have a spectacular view in the afternoon but I decided to avoid the tourists and went in the morning instead. To reach the foot of Namsan Tower I thought I have two options; you could either hike the hill for at least 30-45 minutes or take the cable car up. Obviously you know which option I’m going for 😉 What I didn’t know was you could also take the bus up there, but of course then you still have to walk a little more to reach the foot. So I still think taking the cable car was a good idea. Plus, the experience, y’know.
To take the cable car, you have to go to the cable car station which located behind the Myeongdong Station. Don’t be fooled tho. Cause it’s not exactly behind the Myeongdong Station as I initially thought. From the back of Myeongdong Station you still need to walk for about 15 minutes on a hilly road. Not really a fun walk, especially in the winter.
The ticket to ride the cable car is 9,500 Won for a round trip and it takes about 10-15 minutes to reach the bottom of the tower. The view supposedly great if it wasn’t winter, though because all I could see was brown leaves-less trees beneath me. I reckon it would look wonderful in autumn.
When you reach the bottom part of the tower, there is quite a spacious area where you could walk around. And that’s where the place people put on love padlocks located. You could also have a pretty decent view of the city from above from there. So, going up to the observatory on top of the tower is not really necessary. Especially since it cost you another 10,000 won to get to the top of the tower.
I for one, decided to go to the top of the tower. I purchased the ticket from the Klook App so I got a pretty decent discount. The ticket cost me $5 or around 6,000 won while direct purchase on the spot would set me back at 10,000 won. The observatory area was not really spacious, just a circular area wia th pretty minimal number of binoculars and gift shop. There’s a small restaurant at the lower level, where you could eat ChiMaek (chicken and beer, one of Seoul delicacy) whilst looking over the city of Seoul. All in all, my money was not entirely well spent. I could have catch the sight of beautiful Seoul from the top just fine from the downstairs area. So if you’re looking to save money, you wouldn’t really miss anything if you don’t get to the observatory.
After spending almost half a day on the Namsan Tower area, I headed to Insadong. A pretty artsy district of Seoul which almost made me wish I was artsy. I wanted to go to the tea museum but couldn’t seem to find it so I explored the Ssamziegil, an interesting shopping complex nestled in the middle of Insadong. It’s filled with stores selling goods from independent artists. If you like cutesy stuffs you won’t be disappointed. And that’s not even the best thing about this place. It was build in a way that you don’t need to use stairs to get to the upper levels. An architectural masterpiece from the viewpoint of an architectural amateur like me. If you’re running our places to go, this place could offer a refreshing option.
My last destination was the Lotte Departement Store near Seoul Station as I heard it’s one of the biggest ones. I went to buy some famous Korean snacks for souvenir and I was shook. The place was super crowded with tourist throwing everything in sight into their cart. Such a mess but I managed to snatch a couple boxed brownies, the yogurt jellies, and some cookies. I tell you this is the place to buy souvenirs if you’re going to Korea because this place has practically everything. Not just snacks, but also skincares and stuffs.
By the fifth day, I have already run out of historical or touristy landmarks to visit. Therefore this day is dedicated to cafe-hopping. Trying out some cafes that are supposed to be cute, considering Seoul is also known for its beautiful cafes. So I headed out to Gangnam.
Before I started cafe-hopping, I stopped by the COEX Starfield Mall to check out its library. Since I’m quite of a bookworm, this place is actually on my top list to visit. The library itself was a bit challenging to find simply because the COEX area is enormous and the Starfield Mall is actually located in the lower ground.
But when I reached the library all the strolling around was worth it. I gasped in the presence of two-stories tall bookshelf filled with books. Almost a similar feeling to when I went to Hirakata T-site in Osaka. Unfortunately, the books are all in Hangul or maybe I just couldn’t find ones in English (I doubt there is, tho) so all I could do was just stare. Satisfying enough for me to bask myself in the presence of thousands of books. Heaven.
They also have a big aquarium in this area but I hate to see sea animals in captivation so I didn’t go. But if aquarium is your gig, prepare to buy 28,000 worth of ticket. (Yeah, no thanks.)
After I got enough of all those books, I went to the Garosu-gil, where lots of fancy and high-street stores are located (i.e. the epitome of Gangnam). It’s only about 10 minutes bus ride from COEX and I explored the rest on foot. Hoping to stumble upon a pretty cafe for a shelter of cold weather.
As it turned out, exploring Garosu-gil was really fun. It consists mainly of narrow streets but were really lively and hip. Probably due to the number of stores all throughout the street. And it’s possible to enjoy it even if you don’t shop of just doing a window-shopping. I stopped by the Line Store, 3CE Cinema Store, and a Karl Lagerfeld’sPop-up Store. Quite interesting.
I stopped for a cuppa at Bassilur before heading to Hongdae area, for another cafe-hopping and a bit of shopping at the Ewha Women University. My choice of the cafe was the Flower Cafe Lovin Her. It’s a quaint little cafe decorated with a whole lot of flowers. Super beautiful and the drink was nice too. It strategically located in a small road in Hongdae area but pretty easy to find, simply search it on your Naver Map.
Having had enough of scrumptious strawberry smoothies at Flower Cafe Lovin Her, I made my way to the Ewha Women University. Not to the exact university building but to the streets leading up to it. I heard it’s the best place for clothes shopping in Seoul and it’s not wrong. A lot of little stores selling cute and chic Korean outfits with such handsome prices. Visiting it at the end of a season also really help because they offer hefty discounts on most products. Super love <3
I only have half a day to explore Seoul on the last day because my flight is at noon and I love to arrive early. Decided to have one last look around of Myeongdong and a little stroll around Namdaemun Market.
Had a fresh cup of Green Tea from Ossulloc before I finally got a really satisfying meal in Seoul today; the famous and delicious Myeongdong Kyoja. It’s a dumpling noodle soup with a side of scrumptious kimchi that will absolutely spoil your palate. The broth was very tasty but not too rich, it’s translucent. The dumpling itself was the bomb. Every bite is super satisfying. And the noodle, super al dente, just the right consistency. Finally, the Kimchi! Oh my god! It’s the best kimchi I’ve ever tasted. It has the distinct taste of fermentation, which means it really was fermented, it could come out very strong at first but then it transforms into an indescribable taste of sweet, savory, and a bit tangy. So very delicious. What a perfect end to my slightly abysmal trip to Seoul.
Gotta say that Seoul really is the place to shop. If you’re not into K-Pop or K-drama, your option might be just to shops. Cause Seoul has a lot of shopping spots selling tons of interesting goods. If you’re into Korean food it could also be a great opportunity to stuff your face with as much as Korean food as you could possibly eat. I, on the other hand, not really a fan of Korean food so it wasn’t my main gig either.
So…that’s my Seoul 6D5N itinerary as requested. I tried to be as honest and as real as I can so I hope it could help you to decide on your next trip, whether it’s to Seoul or not.
Thanks for reading xx