A First Timer’s Guide in Seoul, South Korea

itinerary
Myeongdong, famous shopping district in Seoul

Welcome to 1000 Days In Seoul! This is your comprehensive guide to traveling to Seoul, South Korea.

Whether it’s really your first time or your nth time visiting Seoul, this city would never fail to amaze you. There would always be something new and exciting, yet still offering you the traditional ways the city is known for. That’s actually what the city of Seoul is known for, ultra fast-paced yet maintaining the traditional.

Planning a trip to Seoul, South Korea? Need help? Look no further because this will be your comprehensive guide in planning your amazing vacation to the Land of the Morning Calm. 

Topics to be covered:

  • A brief introduction to Seoul
  • Weather in Seoul
  • What to wear in Seoul
  • Upon your arrival
  • Best Places to Stay at in Seoul
  • Best Things To Do in Seoul
  • Outside of Seoul
  • Korean Food
  • Where to Eat
  • Seoul Subway System
  • Sample Itinerary
  • Sample Budget
  • Travel Tips

A Brief Introduction To Seoul

I only knew about South Korea thru the K-dramas showed on tv in the Philippines and I remember watching Coffee Prince and Jewel In The Palace which can now be considered classics.

wafu talaga

Seoul is a massive city of fast-paced technology yet it would still have that touch of traditional flare. Everywhere you look, you will notice the modernity of high-rise buildings with extraordinary architecture and then you would be surprised to see a century-old palace in the middle of it all.

Weather in Seoul

South Korea has four seasons, namely: winter, spring, summer, and fall. It’s best to be aware of the weather especially if you are planning to visit Seoul so you can plan your itinerary well and be able to bring comfortable clothes right for the season.

Winter – Usually starts at the start of December until the end of February. This season is when everything is covered with snow and temperatures average around -2 Celsius.


Click to read about Snowboarding and Winter Activities

Spring – Usually starts mid of March to end of May. This season is the best time to visit Seoul because of the cherry blossom festival and other various activities.

Know more about the Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival

Read about the Seokchon Lake Cherry Blossom Festival

Summer – Usually starts at the beginning of June to end of August. It can get very hot in Seoul during this season and not really recommended time to visit the country. Average temperature can be about 27 Celsius. The best time to head to the beach and people usually swarm Busan. This is the peak season for domestic tourism so expect a lot of crowds if you visit.

Click to read about my Trip to Busan part 1

Click here for my Busan Adventure part 2

Fall – Usually starts at the beginning of September to end of November. This season is also popular with tourists because of the changing colors of the leaves and the trees. Usually, the colors are yellow, red, and orange. 

What to Wear in Seoul

Shopping area in Hongdae. Photo from Koreabizwire

The weather in Seoul greatly affects the way people dress up and it would depend on what time of the year you will come and visit. This portion is just a recommendation and not the norm, as each person have individual style and preference. 

Summer – Usually starts beginning of June to end of August. It can get very hot in Seoul during this season. Average temperature can be about 27 Celsius.

Fall – Usually starts at the beginning of September to end of November. This season is also popular with tourists because of the changing colors of the leaves and the trees. Usually, the colors are yellow, red, and orange. 

Spring (March to May) – This is the best time to visit Seoul as the weather is not too cold and not too hot. March can be a little cold during mornings and late at night so better bring some jackets to keep you warm. From April to May, you can dress as comfortably as you can.

Summer (June to August) – It can get very hot and humid during summer in Seoul so bring light clothing and shorts. It can also get rainy too, so bring appropriate footwear.

Here is a sample video for ideas on what to wear for all the seasons:

How to dress in SEOUL

How to dress in SEOUL

Geplaatst door How to Seoul op Maandag 3 december 2018

Upon Your Arrival

Upon arrival at Incheon International Airport, there’s a lot of transportation mode to reach Seoul.

* Prices may change without prior notice

Subway Trains

The Seoul Subway system is probably one of the best in the world. This is also the most economical way to reach Seoul from Incheon Airport. The first one is the Arex subway express train which goes to Seoul directly without stopping in between stations. The second is the all-stop train, which stops in each subway stations. Please refer to table for fares for each.

Before you go to the subway train, look for a T-money card vending machine or look for a convenience store (like GS25, CU or 7-11) in the airport and buy a T-money card which would cost about 2,500 won and have it loaded with 10,000 won. I recommend this for those who will be using the subway more in their itinerary. * Prices may change without prior notice.

t-money vending machine

You also have the option to get a single-journey ticket if you will be riding the subway less. There is an English language option for the ticketing machine.

Bus

Another convenient option but a little more costly than the subway is to ride the bus. It would take about 80 minutes from Incheon airport to Seoul. There is a dedicated counter just out of the arrival area at the Incheon International airport to help you book a ride.

Where to Stay in Seoul

at hongdae street market

If you are traveling to Seoul or any place, one of the main things to consider is the place where you would stay. It would be your temporary home for the duration of your trip. You may want to stay where it is very convenient, accessible, near to the places you want to visit, etc. So careful consideration and a little research would help a lot. Here’s a quick list but if you would like to read more, click on the link below.

  1. Myeongdong – is the most popular destination in Seoul for tourist so it is just natural that hotels, hostels, Airbnb, and the like abound this area. It is a shopper’s paradise. Both locals and foreigners flock to this area to shop, dine and have a good time.
  2. Insadong – is a famous shopping area for souvenirs and traditional items. It is also near to Gyeungbukgung Palace and other palaces so if you would like to relive your Korean drama fantasies where Kings and Queens lived, this is the area for you.
  3. Seoul Station – One of the biggest and busiest stations is Seoul Station. This is where a lot of high-end hotels are situated. It can be a great starting point if you would like to explore places outside of Seoul. You can find access to transportation like buses, Korail and KTX. This area has a mix of high-end and budget-friendly places to stay at.
  4. Hongdae – looking for a current and youthful vibe? Hongdae is the place for you. This is where universities and schools are found, so it has a very young crowd. Affordable accommodations like hostels are dominant in this area. You can enjoy the night scene on clubs that abound this area even up to the wee hours of the morning. You can also find interesting places to visit here like dog and cat cafes.
  5. Gangnam – This is the only area located in the South featured in this article and definitely not the least. Who could forget “Gangnam Style”, Psy’s phenomenal worldwide hit song, was inspired by this area. Lotte World, Korea’s Largest Indoor Theme Park, and the newly opened Lotte Tower are located here. It also offers an easy access 40-minute ride to Everland, Korea’s largest theme park. Last but not least, the Kpop companies are also in this area.

Click here to get more info on the Best Areas to Stay At in Seoul

Best Things To Do in Seoul

Seoul is an enormous city and there’s a thousand things to do and places to visit but don’t fret because I have compiled the best things to do in Seoul. The list below would warrant more information which you could find in the article below.

“I can buy you, your friends and this bus!”

1.Tour Around Seoul using the Seoul Sightseeing Tour Bus – the most efficient and cost-effective way to tour around Seoul is via the Seoul Sightseeing Tour bus. It is a hop-on hop-off bus which enables you to tour and go down on your preferred destination and hop-on to the next tour bus. If you want to have a glimpse of the whole city in just about a few hours, this tour is for you.

2. Eat Korean food – Korean food is an authentic cuisine that you must try while you are in Seoul. South Korea is best known for Korean BBQ, gamjatang, samgyupsal, samgyetang, kalbi and a whole lot more. Most restaurants would give you a hearty serving of side dishes called banchan. Kimchi is the most popular food staple in South Korea so don’t miss it.

3. Go to Namsan Tower – A very distinct tower situated in the 2nd highest point in Seoul, the Namsan tower is a broadcasting tower that doubles as an observatory and has become a notable landmark of Seoul. Click here for more info about the Namsan Tower

4. Experience a winter holiday

No need for Queen Elsa, you can have a winter holiday in South Korea! During December to February, experience frolicking in the snow or wakeboarding and skateboarding. Even if you do not engage in those extreme sports, just being in the snow resort makes the trip unique and a wonderful experience. Click here for more info about winter activities

5. Go to Nami Island – Nami Island is a half-moon shaped island and the filming location of Winter Sonata, a K-drama that was very popular in the Philippines back in the 2000’s. What a better way to relive the sweet moments of Jun and Janice by going to the island itself! Click here to read more about Nami Island

6. Visit famous K-drama filming locations – if you’re a fan of Kdramas, you can also visit the areas where they have filmed it. Click to find where these locations are

7. Visit Everland – Everland is like Disneyland- Korean version. It is open all year-long and attracts a lot of visitors with various rides, themed areas, and a wildlife park. Perfect for families and groups to enjoy. Click here to know more about Everland

8. Eat Korean street food

A trip to South Korea would not be complete without eating Korean street food! Everywhere you go you will see stalls and stores that sell them and it’s very convenient that you can find almost everything in one place – Myeongdong!

9. Ride the subway – Seoul is said to have one of the best (if not the best) subway system in the world and it is very convenient for locals and tourists alike.  Almost all of Seoul is interconnected via the subway.

10. Wear a Hanbok – Hanbok is the traditional dress of South Korea and if you go to tourist spots like Gyeongbukgung Palace and Insadong, you would find a lot of people wearing them.

11. Go to Gyeungbukgung Palace – Gyeongbukgung Palace is one of the most iconic landmarks in Seoul. It is located at the Northern end of Seoul’s main boulevard Sejongro and very close to the Blue House (the President’s residence). It was built in the 1300’s and is now standing in the middle of modern buildings which makes it exquisite. It is like the perfect mix of traditional and modern. Don’t miss the Changing of the Guards ceremony which features men in ornate costumes.

12. Go to K-pop Town

If you are a fan of K-pop, visiting Gangnam is a must on your list. Who could forget the famous “Gangnam Style” song of Psy, right? This district of Seoul houses entertainment agencies like SM Entertainment, JYP, FNC and much more. So there is a probability that you might see your K-pop idols in this area.


13. Catch all the festivals – South Korea has a lot of festivals and events so you are in luck if you are in town during these festivals. Some notable events are the Seoul Lantern Festival, Yeouido Cherry Blossom festival, Seokchon Lake Cherry Blossom Festival, Lotus Lantern Festival, Boryeong Mud Festival, Goyang Flower Festival and so much more

14. Party in Itaewon – Itaewon is an international hub where you can find a lot of hotels, restaurants, shops catered for foreigners. At night, Itaewon becomes the biggest party central where locals and foreigners mingle.

15. Relax at Hangang River Park – Spend a lazy day just people watching or stroll in a park at Hangang River park. It is a people’s park created in the 1980’s mainly for the public to have a place for sports and relaxation.

Click here to view more details and information for all these activities

UPDATED: 50 Best Things to Do in Seoul u0026amp; South Korea Travel Guide 2019

Outside of Seoul

Day tours outside of Seoul had become popular to tourists and lets you have a chance to see the sceneries outside the city. When my friends and family come to visit here in Seoul, I always recommend for them to go to at least one of these locations. 

1. Nami Island, Petit France, and Garden of Morning Calm

Probably the most popular day tours, these are all located in Gapyeong, 1.5 hours away from Seoul. Nami Island is a half-moon shape island famous for the koreanovela Winter Sonata. Petit France is like a French village where My Love From Another Star was filmed. Last is the Garden of Morning Calm which had the most korean dramas shot to name a few: Your House Helper (2018); Jugglers (2017-18); I’m Not A Robot (2017-18); Black (2017); School 2017 (2017); Moonlight Drawn by the Clouds (2016); Mary Stayed Out All Night (2010); You’re Beautiful (2009); Smile Again, Dong Hae (2010); A Love To Kill (2005).

seoul, south korea

You’ll be glad to know that you can book all of these locations in just one package. When my family went here in South Korea, we booked this Klook package and all I can say, it’s really worth it. From the bus, the tour, the lunch ( yes, lunch is included!) and friendly tour guide (we had Wendy at the time) everything was on-point. Click to see the details of this tour. 

2. Gangwon-do

During winter, the mountains of Gangwon-do are covered with snow that’s why most ski resorts are located in this area. You can do snowboarding, skiing, sledding, or just simply enjoy seeing snow, be it your first time or not. It’s such a fun activity. Klook has an amazing deal on this that you will surely like. Click here for more details.

south korea

3. Gyeonggi-do

Gyeonggi-do is home to the most thrilling park. Everland is the largest theme park in South Korea and located in Yongin, Gyeonggi-do. Heyri Art Valley is where some of the scenes for Legends of the Blue Sea were filmed. Herb Island is also nearby.

You turn my head right round

4. Busan

the 2nd largest city in South Korea next to Seoul, it is often dubbed as the port city. It has its own international airport and often dubbed as the Port City. It was formerly named Pusan and now officially is Busan with a population of 3.5 million. It can easily be accessed thru KORAIL train within 2.5 hours from Seoul.

biff

5. Jeju Island

It is considered as the Hawaii of South Korea, Jeju Island is declared as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. This is a popular destination for honeymooners and for those who want to escape the cold of winter time. Hop on a plane or a ferry to reach this island and discover South Korea’s new paradise. Avail of this amazing deal from Klook.

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