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24 Hours in Seoul – Travel Guide

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For all the K-pop and K-drama fans, the fashion-conscious, the nature-buffs and the city backpackers, Seoul is a dream come true. The city is a maze where every turn can take you on a different adventure. No amount of time is enough to explore all the nooks and crannies of this sprawling metropolis, but we can give you an express bucket list that you can complete in as little as a day. If you’re on a tight schedule, take a look at this no-frills itinerary that mentions only the capital’s essentials and still takes you on an immersive tour. 

After completing this itinerary, you can safely say that you made the most of your time and explored Seoul’s heart and soul. So, grab your backpack and hop on as we take you on a whirlwind tour with no time to waste!

Gwanghwamun Square

Dive headfirst into the history of South Korea and its most essential figureheads at the Gwanghwamun Square. Here, you will see vast and stately statues of figures like Admiral Yi Sun-Shin and Sejong the Great, both of which are essential players in South Korean history. You can also stop at the Gyeongbokgung Palace at the end of the square, which is an absolute must-do item on this list. The palace was originally built in 1395 and had since then undergone several ruins and reconstructions. What you see today is an accurate reconstruction of the palace, meeting halls, statues, etc., to showcase the ancient royals’ lives. 

If you are a true history buff and plan to visit sometime in March or April, visit during the evening to take the famous Starlight Tour. This tour includes a live performance with traditional Korean music, a visit to the royal kitchens, along with several other important locations inside the palace, as well as a 12-dish royal Korean feast.

Bukchon Hanok

A Hanok is a traditional Korean village that preserves its history and architectural style. A village between the two palaces, Bukchon Hanok still maintains its residential status. When you step into this neighbourhood, you will feel like you’ve stepped back into history, and the village is also elevated, giving you a great view of the Seoul skyline, which the city is prized for.

Dongdaemun

If you’re someone who enjoys the shop till you drop culture, head over to Dongdaemun for some retail therapy. The place is open 24 hours, with streetwear and department stores keeping the night oil burning. Prices here are negotiable, and stores are interspersed with food stalls that sell local food and soju to keep you up through the night. The centre also houses the space-age silver cultural hub, which was the genius of designer Zaha Hadid, and is a must-see in Seoul.

The N Tower

The city’s best view is from above, and N Tower, the city’s most recognisable building, has the privilege of providing that view. Much like Burj Khalifa or the Eiffel Tower, the N Tower in Seoul is a popular tourist attraction. It charges its tourists for a spectacular view of the city (especially during the sunset hours). The tower is 480 metres above sea level and is a great way to take Seoul on your trip.

Museum Tours

Touring around museums teaches you a lot about the culture of the city and its inhabitants. The bizarre and tech-savvy nature, as well as the architectural diverseness of Seoul, is captured well in the Korea Furniture Museum and the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art.

The Korea Furniture Museum is a pre-book only secret that captures the history of the old. The museum is a shrine to architecture and relics from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897). If you want to fast forward to something modern, you can head over to the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art. The contemporary greats lie here but don’t worry; there’s still a whole section dedicated to the traditional Korean art that you must visit. 

Korean Food

If you have experienced anything Korean before, the chances are that it’s the food. Korean restaurants are famous worldwide, but they fall short compared to the mainland itself, and Seoul is the centre of it all. The Maple Tree Restaurant is the place to be for the meat lovers to enjoy the traditional South Korean BBQ, and trust me; a Barbeque is a must when in South Korea. There’s no need to worry for those who don’t favour meat as the Itaewon neighbourhood is famous for the pubs and restaurants that line its alleys, and there’s something for everyone.

If you’re thinking of catching afternoon tea instead, head far from the bustle of the city to the quiet gathering at Suyeonsanbang Tea House. Located near the Bukhansan National Park, the tea house offers a respite from your hectic day, where you can sample traditional South Korean tea with a side of shaved ice amongst an idyllic backdrop. The name of the tea house also translates to ”A place where writers gather,” which is suggestive of its previous owner, the late author Lee Tae-jun. Lastly, grab some quick fast food on the go with the KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) of Seoul- Kyochon. This restaurant chain is famous for its fried chicken and will leave you relishing every single bite as you eat between adventures.

Market Madness

Many times, markets can be the centre place of culture, tourism and local favourites. The markets in Seoul are certainly all of these. Whether you want to immerse yourself in the food scene, buy some local trinkets or feel the beating heart of Seoul by window shopping amidst its people or haggling for wares, the markets are where you should go. But, not all of them are the same. The Namdaemun Market is Seoul’s biggest and oldest market. It was established in 1414 and is now the entrance to Seoul Old Town, located at South Gate. You will find lines and lines of shops and streets dedicated to sections such as children’s clothes or antiques, or even food. The whole place is like a grand bazaar, and what’s better? It is open 24/7!

If the Namdaemun Market is too intimidating for you, you can always dip your toes into Myeongdong. A shopper’s paradise, this market is more of a street full of department stores, cafes and artsy boutiques where you can step into the world of South Korean fashion. While not as big as the Namdaemun market, Myeongdong offers an impressive range that will impress even the pickiest of shoppers. K-pop fans can rejoice with the underground market full of posters and trinkets for them. Lastly, you cannot miss the Gwangjung Market. South Korea’s soul rests in its food, and the heavenly tastes and myriad of choices offered in the Gwangjung Market are enough to overwhelm your senses. You can dip into some blood sausages (soondae), tteokbokki (rice cakes), or even some gimbap (rice rolls) when you roam the street food haven. 

Neighbourhoods

During the day, if you do need some downtime, head over to take a stroll in one of the many neighbourhoods of Seoul. Since the city itself is a diverse jigsaw puzzle where the pieces though different, fit seamlessly together, every neighbourhood can offer you an entirely different experience than the first. 

Hondae is one such neighbourhood where the youth gathers. The neighbourhood is close to Hongik University and is a great place to indulge in some street food or sit in one of the bizarre cafes such as Hello Kitty or Sheep café. You can also find a Korean style karaoke parlour where you can belt out your favourite tunes. If this is not what you’re looking for, head over to Insa-dong. The kitschy neighbourhood is an artist’s hub at the height of modernity. It’s a respite for when you need it and still a great sightseeing spot.  

Best Time to Visit Seoul, Korea

Being a trendy city, Seoul is accessible almost all year round to tourists and is almost always brimming with people. The place is a cultural hub and loved internationally. When you want to visit Seoul depends entirely on your interests. If you’re looking to enjoy the bloom of the cherry blossoms or Sakura trees, the month of March to April is the most suitable for you. This is also one of the main tourist seasons. You can also catch the autumn foliage from October to November. Seoul also comes alive during this time for its fashion week and the lantern festival.

Things to Know before you go to Seoul 

If you’re looking for a quick and immersive crash course on South Korea, visiting Seoul is your best bet. But before you go, you must remember that while the things we’ve mentioned above can be fit into a very hectic day, you might want to consider staying for longer and relishing all that the city has to offer. Seoul is also surrounded by eight mountains, the most impressive of which are the Bukhansan and the Bugaksan mountains. If you stay a day, you might be missing some of the tremendous hiking opportunity in the nearby parks and trails. 

Furthermore, as you explore the city, note that google or apple maps are not as accurate here. You will be better off downloading one of the local apps such as Naver Maps or Kakao Maps. 

This disclaimer informs readers that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, organization, committee or other group or individual. We take no liability for the accuracy of the information and cannot be held liable for any third-party claims or losses of any damages.

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