A fairly short ride on the KTX bullet train from Busan brought me to Seoul. I didn’t know yet but this was about to become my new favourite city in the world! After travelling through smaller cities in South Korea, Seoul Station seemed overly crowded when I arrived. I followed the sea of people toward a different platform to catch a subway train into the city.
The ride from Seoul Station to Insadong, where my hotel was located was less than 15 minutes. Being notoriously inadequate at figuring out directions and public transport systems, I felt happy for the practice I had in Busan and thankful for apps like Naver and the intuitive nature of the subway network and maps.
South Korea Travel Resources
Getting a visa to South Korea
Solo Tripping in South Korea – The Beginning
A simple travel checklist for first-time visitors
Buy a SIM card online and pick it up at the airport
Rent your Hanbok online
Hanok Stay Experience in Namwon
I chose to stay in the heart of Insadong, which proved to be a great base, especially for a first-time visitor like myself. Within walking distance of the hotel were the vibrant pedestrian streets of Insadong and Ikseondong, restaurants and cafes, supermarkets, banks, souvenir shops and some of Seoul’s finest attractions.
In the mornings, I spent my time wandering from place to place, exploring the city without a crowd and in the evenings, I sauntered through busy streets, indulging in street foods and just enjoying the feeling of being in Seoul.
In between, the views from my room on the fifth floor of the CenterMark Hotel provided the perfect vantage point to people-watch and appreciate Seoul’s fashionable scene. It is truly the thing Kdramas are made of!
I spent four days in Seoul and even though I wish I could have stayed longer, I returned home feeling quite satisfied with the duration of my visit. In four days, I got to visit many of the top attractions in Seoul and enjoyed a good amount of downtime too.
Places to Visit in Seoul: Day 1 – Bukchon Hanok Village
The first place I visited was the Bukchon Hanok Village, a traditional Korean village situated right in the heart of Seoul.
The Bukchon Hanok Village is home to well-preserved centuries-old traditional Korean houses or hanoks dating back to the Joseon dynasty. Flanked by the Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace and Jongmyo Shrine, it is a centrally located neighbourhood and one of the best places to visit in Seoul.
The village is also home to several cultural centres and museums, as well as traditional craft workshops, tea houses and shops for visitors.
I enjoyed strolling leisurely and quietly through the alleyways, once again, admiring the beauty of Korean architecture. When I had my fill of the place, I headed to get breakfast at Onion Cafe Anguk, a hanok-themed cafe, with tasty pastries and a setup that I found to be quite charming.
Places to Visit in Seoul: Changdeokgung Palace
By the time I was done with breakfast, it was opening time for the Palaces in Seoul and I decided to visit the Changdeokung Palace first.
I visited three of the five traditional palaces during my stay and Changdeokung Palace was my favourite. For a small fee, visitors are granted access to the palace and have the option to pay another fee to access a tour of the Secret Garden.
Places to Visit in Seoul: Themed Cafes – Greem 2D Cafe
As I arrived too early for the tour, I opted to walk around the palace grounds and enjoyed my time doing so. With a little bit of time left in the morning, I decided to ride the bus out to Greem Cafe, a 2D-themed cafe I had seen online and admired.
I returned to Insadong shortly after and spent the rest of my day leisurely, with breaks to take evening walks around the neighbourhood.
Places to Visit in Seoul: Day 2 – Eunpyeong Hanok Village
The next day, I visited the Eunpyeong Hanok Village. This is a relatively new hanok village that is set at the foot of the Bukhansan Mountain. It is located a bit outside the city, hence it gets fewer visitors than the Bukchon Hanok Village.
I was pleasantly surprised to see many people out and about in their hiking gear. As it turns out, the trailhead of one of Seoul’s premier hiking destinations is located in this area as well.
I spent my time walking around the village and visiting some of its sights, including the boardwalk, Jingwasa Temple, some cafes and a museum.
Places to Visit in Seoul: Myeondong, Cheonggyecheon Stream and Gwangjang Market
Later in the day, I made my way down to Myeondong, where I went shopping for some skin care products and indulged in many street snacks. My final stops for the day were the Cheonggyecheon Stream and Gwangjang Market.
This was a long day but Seoul’s efficient transportation system and the fact that the city is very walkable made it easy to move from place to place.
Places to Visit in Seoul: Day 3 – Starfield COEX Mall, Bongeunsa Temple, Gangnam and Han River
Tired from the previous day’s exploration, I opted to start my day by early afternoon in Gangnam. My first stop was the Starfield COEX Mall, where I was lucky to catch a fantastic hour-long classical concert at the library – which is an attraction in itself.
After spending some time at the mall, I visited the Bongeunsa Temple close by. It was nice to walk around the temple grounds and hear the monks chanting. I also enjoyed the views of traditional Korea against the backdrop of the Modern city.
With a few hours left in the day, I headed off to check out another traditional Palace in the city – the Changgyeonggung Palace, then I rode the bus to watch the Banpo Bridge Moonlight Rainbow Fountain show.
Places to Visit in Seoul: Day 4 – Gyeongbkung Palace, Ikseondong
I had a late flight on my fourth day in Seoul, which meant that I could spend the entire day fitting in more activities and attractions. I chose to visit Gyeongbkung palace wearing a hanbok (traditional Korean clothing). I rented mine for a few hours from the Klook Website and had my pictures taken wearing it at the Palace.
Finally, I returned to Insadong for one last lunch at Ddong Cafe and a delicious BBQ dinner at a restaurant in Ikesondong.
With that, my trip to Seoul and South Korea came to an end. I took the Airport Express Train to catch my flight back to Nairobi.
My time in Seoul was part of a 12-day trip to South Korea. You can catch up at the beginning of the series here. I have also written a cost breakdown for this trip in this article. Now, I would love to hear from you!
Do you have any questions about visiting South Korea? Is it a country on your travel wishlist? Also, if you have visited, I would love to hear about your experience! Share with me in the comment section below!