A Weekend in Seoul South Korea
Today we welcome Meagan LeAnne of Life Outside of Texas. Meagan takes us for a weekend in Seoul, South Korea sharing where to go, what to see, and food to eat. Meagan has lived in South Korea for almost three years while traveling to see as much of the country as possible during her time there. Let’s join Megan for a tour of a weekend in Seoul, South Korea!
Seoul, South Korea has increasingly becoming a hot spot for tourists. After all, who can resist adding a little Gangnam Style to their lives, right?! Seoul’s Incheon International Airport has repeatedly been ranked in the top 10 for world’s best airports (coming in #2 in 2013 and #1 in 2012). If you’re planning an Asian trip, why not stop off in Seoul and see what all the hype is about?
Accommodations in Seoul South Korea
The great thing about Seoul is that it can fit within any traveler’s budget. The most cost effective accommodation option is a jjimjilbang, which is a Korean bathhouse. You’ll be given a set of spa clothes and then you’ll be able to roam around into different spa rooms that have different healing properties. If you’re ok with sleeping on the floor, staying at a jjimjilbang is a great experience and it shouldn’t put you back more than $15 per night. My recommendation is Silloam Fire Pot Sauna because it’s located very close to Seoul Station and is in close proximity to many of Seoul’s most popular tourist destinations.
If you prefer sleeping in a bed, you can opt to stay at a hostel, guesthouse, pension, love motel, or even one of the many beautiful 5-star hotels. If you have a bit of a cushion in your budget, I highly recommend the Grand Hyatt Seoul.
What to Do, See, and Eat in Seoul South Korea
If you are only in Seoul for a weekend, here are some of my top recommendations of places to check out.
Gyeongbok Palace (Gyeongbokgung)
Gyeongbokgung was the main royal palace that was originally built in 1395 and has been destroyed and rebuilt twice. The grounds are really lovely and it’s well worth a walk around. My favorite part about it is that it’s right in the middle of the city so there’s a true mix of old and new.
Be sure to catch the Royal Guard Changing Ceremony. It takes place 6 times per day, on the hour (10:00am-3:00pm). The palace opens at 9:00am and the closing time varies by time of year (between 5pm-6:30pm) and last admission is one hour before closing. Admission is 1,500 won for children and 3,000 won for adults. Tours in English are available at 11:00, 1:30 and 3:30.
Along the road that runs perpendicular to the main entrance of the Gyeongbokgung you’ll find Gwanghwamun Square. The landmark is easy to spot because its home to two large statues. The tall statue is of Admiral Yi Sun-Shin. Admiral Yi is holding a sword in his right hand, symbolizing protection and patriotism.
There’s also a statue of King Sejong the Great. He is famed with creating the Korean alphabet, Hangul, in 1443. Hangul is one of the best alphabets in the world so King Sejong is still highly regarded to this day. There’s a museum that goes into more depth on Hangul just below Sejong’s statue. This area is also a great place to pose for photos.
Insadong is my absolute favorite place in Seoul. It’s one of the best places in Korea to buy souvenirs and traditional Korean goods. It consists of one main street and several smaller alleyways. In this area there are tons of art galleries, traditional teahouses, pottery shops, souvenir shops, and street food. It’s a shopper’s paradise!
The restaurants in this area are more expensive, but they are very foreigner friendly. Restaurants in Insadong usually have English menus and their staffs have a better English ability than your average Korean restaurant.
If you spot this little food stand while you’re shopping, and you’re up for something a little bit quirky, why not try a snack called ddong bbang. The translation literally means, “poop bread.” It’s a bread-based snack, filled with sweetened red bean paste. You can get this odd snack for just 1,000 won per piece. Insadong is also home to a poop themed café where you can drink coffee out of toilet shaped mugs!
Namdaemun & Dongdaemun Markets
Namdaemun Market is a traditional Korean market. You’ll find souvenirs, furs, and t-shirts, as well as other traditional Korean goods. It’s an interesting place to walk through.
Dongdaemun Market is more popular among tourists and has been named a “Special Tourism Zone.” It’s a great place for tourists to shop because you can find just about everything here. It’s also an area very famous for street food.
N Seoul Tower
N Seoul Tower is located on top of Namsan Mountain and has been a Seoul landmark since 1980. You can get to the tower by cable car or walking up the mountain. I love to go towards the end of the day, before sunset so I can get a view of Seoul by night and day. It can get extremely busy so just keep that in mind when you’re working out your schedule.The tower has restaurants, gift shops, and even a Teddy Bear Museum. At the top of the tower you can even buy a postcard (and postage) and mail a postcard from Seoul’s tallest post office.
If you’re in Seoul with a loved one, don’t forget to bring a love lock (or you can buy one from the gift shop) to place among the tens of thousand other locks. The locks are meant to eternalize your life. Just make sure you place your key into designated key disposal area to ensure that no one can ever find your key and unlock your love lock.
Admission & Hours: The observatory opens at 10am and closes at 11pm (midnight on weekends). The restaurants don’t open until 11am. The Teddy Bear Museum closes at 8pm and last admission is 7pm. If the Teddy Bear Museum is something you’re interested, don’t wait until the last minute.
Admission to the observatory is 5,000 won for children and 9,000 won for adults. If you want to see the Teddy Bear Museum, the package for the museum and tower observatory is 7,000 won for children and 14,000 won for adults. The cable car runs from 10am to 11pm. For a round trip ticket, the fee is 5,000 won for children and 8,000 won for adults.
A DMZ tour will take up most of your day, but it’s well worth it. If you have the time, I highly recommend booking a tour. We think the best part of the tour is the joint security area (JSA), where you can come actually walk across the border (within the JSA building). Not all tour companies are authorized to take you to the JSA so make sure you keep that in mind when booking. We booked a USO tour through Koridoor and really enjoyed it. The price is 96,000 won (or half price if you have a US military ID). Be sure to book your tour in advance because they often book up many weeks in advance.
Korea is an amazing place and I hope you enjoy your time there. If you find yourself there for longer than a few days, I definitely think you should get out of Seoul and explore the rest of the country. There’s so much more to Korea than its capital city.
Have you ever spent a weekend in Seoul, South Korea?
All photography provided by Life Outside of Texas.