This blog may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy for more info.
If you are pressed for time in Seoul, then this blog is for you! Alex, our guest author, lays out exactly how you should spend 24 hours in Seoul!
24 Hours in Seoul – How to spend one day in Seoul
It’s a challenge to determine what you should do when you only have 24 hours in the vibrant city of Seoul—there’s enough here to keep you busy for years! However, if you only have time to enjoy a day (and hopefully a night out), there are definitely some sights and places worth seeing. I had a month to explore this delightful city and get to know it, but there are some highlights that can’t be missed if you have less time.
Here are some top recommendations for how to spend 24 hours in Seoul!.
The first and most obvious place to check out is the Gyenongbokgung Palace. Home to the Korean emperors during the Josen dynasty, it was built in 1395 and houses some unique innovations and architectural designs. It’s quite extensive, so make sure you allow more than an hour of your time. As the most iconic example of ancient Korean culture, it’s also one of the few historical monuments to have survived the Korean War.
Also, if you choose to rent a hanbok (traditional Korean dress) from one of the nearby stores, you gain free entrance to the museum.
Bukchon Hanok Village
Only about ten minutes away from the palace is the Bukchon Hanok Village, which is a small neighborhood where you can get a sense of what Korea might have looked like before the destruction of the war. Seoul is a city where it is impossible to escape from history, and every modern building you see around you is a direct response to the destruction of the Japanese occupation and the Korean War.
It only takes a few minutes to explore the neighborhood, but you get a sense of what life must have been like before the modern era.
You can visit both Gyeongbokgung Palace and Bukchon Hanok Village on your own. But, if you want more information consider joining a half-day walking tour with a knowledgeable guide! Since you only have 24 hours in Seoul, a guide will help you learn the most in a short period of time! Check out this half-day walking tour here!
One of my favorite sections of Seoul was the neighborhood of Myeong-dong. With neon lights blinking, K-pop echoing from various bars and restaurants, and some great shopping, it’s worth spending an hour or two walking around. I also highly recommend grabbing some of the street food here. All of it is delicious, and each has an interesting schtick that makes it quintessentially Korean. You can get there easily through the bus system or public transportation.
One of the things I loved most about Seoul was the way it blended nature into the urban spaces. Namsam Park is one of the best examples of this, and if you can spend an afternoon wandering the trails and visiting the N Seoul Tower, you can get a sense of why this city is so special! I was there in the fall, and the colors of the leaves rivaled anything you might see in New England.
While it’s somewhat expensive to go up in the tower, it’s also one of the best ways to see the vastness of the city—most of it has been built up within the past 50 years.
Before heading out for the night, you don’t want to miss some of the amazing restaurant options in Insa-dong. Again, it’s easily accessible by public transportation (Seoul has one of the best systems in the world), and it’s also on the edge of some of the best clubs in the city.
Here are some food and drinking spots I recommend:
Korea’s food future is one of the best things about this country, and one of its most delicious dishes is bibimbap. It’s a bowl filled with all sorts of good things such as rice, vegetables, and your choice of meat. Gogung serves some of the best in the city in the most happening area.
38 Gwanhun-dong, Jogno-gu, Seoul, South Korea, +82 2 736 3211
For traditional Korean food, this spot offers a variety of kimchi and Korean pancakes that harken back to ancient recipes. The best part is that all of the options here are fairly cheap, so if you are on a budget, you can still get a taste for the culture without paying a ton.
165-15 Nonhyeon-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea, +82 2 548 7589
Drinking is part of Korean culture, and it’s not uncommon to see workers in fancy suits out and about the whole night before going to work in the same suit the next day. For a hipster vibe, Sindosi has cool lighting and a wide selection of cocktails and craft beers.
31 Eulji-ro 11-gil, Supyo-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea, +82 70 8631 4557
Ranka House Pub and Bar
Cocktails are the main attraction here, and they’re not afraid of experimentation! If you like fruity drinks that look great for your social media pages, then you can’t be Ranka House. You’re also likely to see some young Koreans prepping before a night at the club.
7-4 Gwancheol-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
If you are really a “foodie” you would likely really enjoy a food tour. This food tour is a 4-hour evening tour that will allow you to try the broadest range of food available in Seoul. Click here for more info and pricing!
After you have tasted some of the delicious foods of Korea, it’s time to get your party on. Seoul is a late-night city, and it’s also incredibly safe. Gangnam is the spot for dancing all night, and it is home to some of the best clubs in Asia. It is a “must-visit” spot during your 24 hours in Seoul!
While there are plenty of choices, Seoul’s most famous (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) club is Octagon. With eight levels of party, there’s something there for everyone, including a dance floor, multiple types of bars for cocktails or beer, and a closing hour at 7 AM.
645 Nonhyeon-ro, Nonhyeon-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea, +82 10 2468 0855
South Korea is actually a great place to travel solo or as female, check out our blog on the Things to do in South Korea!
Where to Stay in Seoul
If you only have 24 hours in Seoul, then you will need a place to sleep. Choosing a comfortable option in a good neighborhood that is close to a subway station is essential to make the most of your 24 hours in Seoul. Here are some great options for accommodation in Seoul:
- Air Hostel Myeongdong (low budget) – Located nearJongmyo Shrine, Jogyesa Temple and Bangsan Market, this hostel is the perfect budget option for Seoul. It has modern decor, WiFi throughout as well as air conditioning. A double room costs about $60 USD.
- Ramada Hotel & Suites by Wyndham Seoul Namdaemun (mid-range budget) – This hotel offers gorgeous rooms with city views. It is only a short walk from a subway station and offers breakfast every morning. A superior double room costs about $95 USD.
- Orakai Insadong Suites (high budget) – Located right in the neighborhood of Insadong this hotel offers luxurious self-catering apartments. There is a swimming pool on site and breakfast is included. The price for a double room starts at $135 USD.
If you have more time…
Make sure to check out some of Seoul’s museums! Each one is well-done and can take a full afternoon to explore. I tried to make it to all of them, but there are ones available for whatever your interests might be.
If you are into nature, you will also want to visit Bukhansan National Park. There are hikes there for all levels, including the demanding Bukhansanseong Trail. It’s another example of how the city has integrated some amazing parks into a metropolis.
The list of things to do in Seoul is endless, to see all of the different tours and activites available, click here!
-Alex from The Wayfaring Voyager
About the Author
Alex is a Montana-born traveler and writer. She is currently a New York dreamer living in Brooklyn, encouraging sustainable travel for millennials. You can read more about her travels at The Wayfaring Voyager. You can also follow her on Instagram at @wayfaringvoyager.