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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!
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!
Itinerary for 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! This particular half-day walking tour is done by an expat who will teach you all about the Joseon Dynasty. Additioanl stops include National Folk Museum of Korea and Bukchon Hanok Village. Expect to pay around $78 USD per person.
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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.
At Myungbo Art Hall there’s a unique performance that goes on here called The Painters Show which combines live drive, urban dance, media art, and comedy. There are 8 different skilled performers that put on this creative show! Tickets for the show cost around $32 USD and can be purchased here online in advance.
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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. You can buy your ticket online here for $22 USD.
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. Insadong gukbap serves some of the best in the city right in a happening area.
7 Insadong 5-gil, Insa-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea, +82 2 737 3565
For traditional Korean food, this spot offers a variety of dishes such as BBQ beef, marinated crab, 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 of the culture without paying a ton.
14 Insadong 12-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea, +82 2 725 4474
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
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 which include but are not limited to including meat stew, sweet shaved ice, Korean BBQ, and the most popular street foods.
It’s definitely not an expereince to miss! The $89 USD cost includes your guide and all food tastings plus a completed dinner so it is of great value. You can check the availability and book it here online.
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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
If you want to see the sights and history of the Gangnam neighborhood during the daytime you could also join this biking tour. It costs $279 USD and lasts for 6 hours.
On the tour, you’ll make a stop at the Bongeunsa Temple (Buddist temple) that was founded in 794, learn about the Seolleung and Jeongneung Royal Tomb UNESCO World Heritage sites, check out what’s trending in both the Starfield COEX Mall and Gangnam Underground Shopping area, and finally get to taste a delicious variety of street food at the Kwangjang Market.
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If You Have More Time in Seoul
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 whether that’s learning more about the history or exploring some quirky art.
The Color Pool Museum is the place to go if you’re looking to add some color to your Instagram feed. There are 9 different themed rooms to take pictures in and they already have all of the props you need!
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.
There are many different types of organized tours to Bukhansan National Park that you can join from Seoul but one of the most popular choices is this private hiking tour to Bukhansan Peak! An expert mountain guide will help guide you to the top which sits at 836.5 meters (2,744 feet) and while getting the top will be a challenge the scenery from the top is just magnificent!
The list of things to do in Seoul is endless, to see all of the different tours and activites available, click here!
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:
- H HOSTEL Itaewon (low budget) – This affordable hostel is less than 3 miles from both the Myeongdong Station and Seoul Station so it will be super convenient to get around. The rooms and shared common spaces are clean and modern and guests can enjoy an included continental breakfast. Expect to pay just $38 USD for a bunk in a 4-share room.
- Air Hostel Myeongdong (mid-range budget) – Located near Jongmyo 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 $116 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 $176 USD.
To see all of the different accommodations available in Seoul click here to check prices and availability.
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.