Looking to spend a long weekend in Seoul in the near future? Well you’re in luck my friend, I’ve got an entire post dedicated to your South Korean city adventure.
Asia is one of those places that is just so intriguing to me. I visited Japan during cherry blossom season last April, and am (fingers crossed) headed to Thailand in December. When my husband suggested adding a “quick” long weekend in Seoul before arriving in Bangkok, I just couldn’t say no. What kind of travel blogger would I be turning down the opportunity to visit a new city?! 🙂
With no prior knowledge of this South Korean city, I’ve asked my friend Megan from Bobo and Chichi to fill us in on the best way to spend a weekend in Seoul! ENJOY!
Psst – Staying longer than a weekend in Seoul? Megan has a fantastic resource of 99 things to do in the city if you’ve got ample time!
Seoul Pre- Travel Guide
When to go
Seoul is an amazing city to visit year round, but if you’re sensitive to the heat or cold, you will probably want to plan your trip during the fall or spring. The summer is monsoon season, meaning it gets very humid and brings lots of rain. If this is something that will make you uncomfortable be sure to plan around that. The winter also can be extremely cold, but if you happen to come during a snowfall and you can bare the chilly air (#rhymetime 😛 ) you are in for a treat, especially when you visit the beautiful palaces!
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How to get around
The city is one of the best for public transportation, making it very easy to get around during your long weekend in Seoul. The entire city is connected by an efficient and clean subway system, a great bus system, and you always have the option to take a taxi. Better yet, the transportation is super cheap! You can buy a T Money transportation card at any convenience store (they are literally everywhere), and load up money on your card at any of the subway stops. Talk about easy.[divider style=”thin” title=”” text_align=””]
Important things to pack
You will want to be sure to pack comfortable walking shoes for all the sightseeing you’ll be doing during a weekend in Seoul. Comfort is key and you’ll notice that a lot of the locals wear sneakers and tennis shoes on a regular basis. We also recommend carrying your own tissue or wet wipes with you. A lot of times you will end up in a public restroom and there will be no toilet paper in the stall. Sometimes there is just no toilet paper available and sometimes there are places where you have to grab the toilet paper on the outside of the stall, but out of habit you will miss it! It never hurts to carry your own TP as we have been in many situations where it saved our butts. Literally. 😉[divider style=”thin” title=”” text_align=””]
Where to Stay
We recommend picking a neighborhood that best suits where you want to visit the most during your long weekend in Seoul. We highly recommend staying in the Hongdae area if you are young and will be taking advantage of the nightlife scene or recommend staying in Ikseon-dong or Dongdaemun if you plan on doing a lot of historical sightseeing since you’ll be walking distance to the best sites in Seoul.
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Read Next: The Complete Guide to Staying in Seoul
A Long Weekend in Seoul: Top Things to Do
01 | Gwanghwamun Square
Easily the most recognizable and iconic area of Seoul. This open space is recognized by Korea’s heroic leader statues Admiral Yi Sun Shin and King Sejong leading to Seoul’s main palace, Gyeongbokgung.
We recommend checking out the two free museums located under the two iconic statues that tell the history of Seoul and the Korean and Japanese war. Not only are the exhibits interesting, but some of them are interactive and if it’s a hot or cold day, you’ll get a break from the less perfect weather.
While you’re in Gwanghwamun be sure to also check out the Cheonggyecheon Stream. Grab a snack and dip your feet in the water. This is a relaxing spot to chill for a little while, and if you’re lucky there will be an art installation exhibit (like tons of umbrellas) on display![divider style=”thin” title=”” text_align=””]
02 | Visit the Palaces
Did you know Seoul has 5 major palaces walking distance from each other? While you may not have time to squeeze in all 5 palaces during your weekend in Seoul, we recommend checking out the main palace, Gyeongbokgung and UNESCO World Heritage site Changdeokgung Palace.
You can easily spend an afternoon wandering each layer of Gyeongbokgung Palace and peeking at the Presidential Blue House out the back exit. Be sure to check out the National Folk Museum inside the palace for free with admission to the palace and a bit of a history lesson!
Changdeokgung is also worth a visit, not only because it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, but it’s also a beautiful and serene place to wander around. The highlight of Changdeokgung would be its secret garden. Be sure to purchase a ticket that allows access to the garden![divider style=”thin” title=”” text_align=””]
03 | Check out a traditional neighborhood
Smack dab in the middle between both Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace is Bukchon Hanok Village. A hanok is a traditional Korean style home and Bukchon is where the last living largest cluster of these homes still exist with residents.
This area is completely charming and photogenic. Be sure to wander up and down the alleys for small cafes, museums, and shops. Be mindful that residents do live in the area and to try and keep voices low as the locals tend to complain about the noise of all the tourists who want to visit this beautiful little spot in Seoul.[divider style=”thin” title=”” text_align=””]
04 | Explore the adorable Samcheong-dong
Located next to Bukchon Hanok Village is the little neighborhood of Samcheong-dong. This little neighborhood is full of cafes, including cafes with rooftop terraces where you can overlook the local mountains and tons of shops.
You could easily spend as little as 20 minutes exploring the area and snacking on street food, or spend hours here checking out the little boutiques, restaurants, and cafes. It’s all up to you and how you’d like to spend your long weekend in Seoul.[divider style=”thin” title=”” text_align=””]
05 | Stroll through Insadong
Located just walking distance from the heart of Seoul, Gyeongbokgung Palace, and Bukchon Hanok Village is another cute shopping neighborhood, Insadong. Stroll through the streets while checking out the street performers, traditional shops, great restaurants, teahouses, and the shopping plaza Ssamziegil which is full of small, local artist’s boutiques.
While you’re here, hop over a street and check out Jogyesa Buddhist Temple. Literally located in the middle of the city you will walk in and wonder what happened to all the street noise from passing cars, buses, and tons of people. Absolutely serene.
Interested in quirky art? Check out the Alive Museum (tickets here), full of optical illusions, digital media, and interactive artistic experiences. You’ve never been to a museum like this before, I can promise you that![divider style=”thin” title=”” text_align=””]
06 | Check out the future at Dongdaemun Design Plaza
One of the most unique and newer landmarks of Seoul is Dongdaemun Design Plaza or DDP. The beautiful structure was done by the late famous female architect, Zaha Hadid. Her works are world famous and one look around DDP it’s no wonder why. This is where you really get to see the juxtaposition between old and new Seoul. Nearby is the Dongdaemun Gate, a part of the old fortress wall that surrounds the city.
DDP always has cool exhibits to check out, interesting shops, and tons of delicious restaurants nearby. We recommend coming towards dusk when the whole place starts to light up and you feel like you’re in a Sci-Fi alternative reality.
Even if you don’t go inside to shop or check out the different exhibits, you can still explore the exterior and peek inside the inside to see the beautiful architectural details inside. You’ll be able to get a few really cool photographs here. Visiting DDP is a must during your weekend in Seoul.[divider style=”thin” title=”” text_align=””]
07 | Shop Around Dongdaemun
Before DDP, Dongdaemun was known for its shopping markets and giant department stores full of local Korean fashion and international labels. Each department store is full of local designers and boutiques that are perfect for any shopaholic. You can even shop until the wee hours of the morning in Dongdaemun.
If you’re looking for adventure gear like hiking equipment or athletic gear, you can find tons of options in Dongdaemun’s specialty districts which are alleyways full of store after store.
You can find specialty districts with anything from camping gear to stationary. It’s all there.[divider style=”thin” title=”” text_align=””]
08 | Check out the nightlife in Hongdae
A weekend in Seoul is not complete without checking out the nightlife. Hongdae is a young and lively part of the city surrounded by different universities full of young students. There are tons of cafes, shops, theaters, karaoke rooms (noraebang), game rooms (multi bang), restaurants, and bars to enjoy.
Hongdae literally never sleeps and can get really crowded on the weekends and in the evenings. Don’t let that stop you, it’s a local experience you can’t afford to miss![divider style=”thin” title=”” text_align=””]
09 | Go Gangnam Style
Everyone who knows the name Gangnam before their trip to Seoul has probably recognized it from the viral music sensation PSY and his song, “Gangnam Style.” Gangnam is the financial district in Seoul and known for being the more wealthy and affluent area of the city.
Besides shopping for designer products in Apgujeong, you can go to the main street in Gangnam which more represents Times Square in New York City. There are plenty of great restaurants and shopping here as well but Gangnam is also known for its hardcore party nightlife.
If you arrive to Gangnam early in the morning, you will still see people leaving the club. Their nightlife is on another level.
Gangnam is also the plastic surgery capital of Seoul and it’s hard to miss all the plastic surgery advertisements plastered everywhere from the subway to billboards in the area. This is also the area where international tourists flock for medical tourism, whether it be cosmetic or any medical reason.
Don’t miss the underground shopping here either! There is a whole different experience in the underground of Gangnam to explore during your weekend in Seoul.[divider style=”thin” title=”” text_align=””]
10 | Namsan Tower
Last but not least, is Namsan Tower. A weekend in Seoul isn’t complete without visiting this incredible recognizable landmark. Namsan is located in the center of Seoul, so you are rewarded with 360 panoramic views of the entire city from this spot.
You can take a bus, walk, or a gondola ride to the top of the mountain. Once you’re up there plan on eating at one of the restaurants inside the tower. There are a few to choose from for all price ranges including fast food at the base of the tower, a buffet with a view towards the top, and a 5 star revolving dining experience at the very top.
This spot is also considered one of the most romantic spots in Seoul and is known for lovers to bring a lock for love along the fence where there are thousands and thousands of others left behind. Forgot your lock? No worries, they sell them pretty cheap at the top![divider style=”thin” title=”” text_align=””]
Additional Ideas for Your Long Weekend in Seoul:
- Admire the mountains and nature! >> Take a day trip to Seoraksan National Park and Naksansa Temple to one of the most beautiful mountains in Korea, and you’ll spend the day exploring it’s most scenic parts! Afterwards, visit Naksana Temple, boasting a 1,300 year history, and is situated among black bamboo trees and tiled earthen walls on either side of the sanctuary.
- Learn about North and South Korea war history >> if your fascinated by the war or are just a major history buff, consider a half day tour to the DMZ zone. If the weather is good enough, you can even see North Korea without a telescope, as the demilitarized (DMZ) area is the closest district to North Korea.
- See a K-Pop Show! >> Are you crazy on K-Pop? Welcome to K-Pop world! Enjoy a fascinating performance and see K-Pop stars in action. If you are lucky, you may see the behind the scenes of The Show and the K-Pop artists talking with fans. A must-do during a long weekend in Seoul!
- Han River Sunset Cruise >> Sunset cruise and fish market tour in one?! Yes, please! This sunset cruise and fish market tour takes you across Seoul with outstanding views of the city skyline, landmark buildings, and colorful water jet fountains.
- Take a Seoul food Tour! >> Take a hands-on journey into Korea’s food culture by exploring Korean traditional markets and trying numerous local foods. Visit a Korean food gallery, make your own Korean traditional dessert, Tteok, and finish your food tour with Korea style BBQ. Yum. Tickets sold here.