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Seoul in 4 Days: A Complete Itinerary

Seoul, the capital of South Korea is home to 10 million inhabitants, with more than 26 million people living in the metropolitan area. This means there is no end of things to do in Seoul, a city that never seems to sleep. To give you an idea of how big Seoul is, the city has 25 gu or districts, which are divided into 426 dong or neighborhoods.

There is no doubt that you will find something in Seoul that catches your attention from cultural activities, sports, to gastronomic tourism. Or maybe you are a fan K-pop or climbing skyscrapers for the best panoramic views of the city, or exploring palaces and the history of South Korea. Seoul is the perfect destination for you. We are going to share with you the best things to see and do in Seoul in a 4 day itinerary.

Seoul is also known as the cosmetic capital of the world, as many Koreans place a high priority on skincare and their appearance, which is why here you will find some of the best cosmetics stores in the world.

Map with the best things to do in Seoul:

On this map you will find the location of the best things to do and visit in Seoul in 4 days. One very important note is that Google Maps, and other major map applications on your phone will not be helpful, as South Korea requires map data to be stored in within Korea. We recommend using Naver, which has applications for Android and Apple.

What to see in Seoul in four days

Day 1: See Seoul’s History

Royal Palaces of the Joseon Dynasty

The first thing you have to do during a 4 day itinerary to Seoul is visit at least one of the 5 beautiful royal palaces in the city. These palaces are a legacy of the Joseon dynasty, which was the longest dynasty on the Korean peninsula, reigning from 1392 to 1897. The truth is that many of the palaces look similar to each other, the difference more than anything is in the green areas. Of course, each one has its own magic, but if you can only visit one or two, don’t worry, you’ll get a good idea of the history.

If you plan to visit more than 3 museums, we recommend purchasing the “Royal Palace Pass” that allows you to visit 4 of the palaces and the Jongmyo Shrine. The pass costs 10,000 Won and you can purchase it at the ticket offices of any of the palaces. The tickets to the palaces are not expensive and if you wear the traditional Korean dress, a Hanbok; which you can rent, entrance is free.

We did not comfortable doing this ourselves, because we feel like it is appropriating a culture that isn’t ours, but asking some locals, it is a popular Korean experience. It is very common to see nationals and foreigners wearing these traditional clothes around the palaces.

  1. Gyeongbokgung: The Happy Blessing Palace is the oldest, largest and most beautiful palace (although they are all pretty) of the 5 palaces. Admission costs 3,000 won if you do not buy the combined ticket. It is open from 9AM to between 5PM and 6:30PM depending on the season. The most impressive thing about the palace is its enormous Gwanghwamun gate. Keep in mind that the palace is closed on Tuesdays.
  2. Changdeokgung: If you visit this palace, the palace of prosperous virtue, be sure to also visit the secret garden, which is an extra 5,000 won entrance fee. My recommendation is to first go through the secret garden to get a timed entry ticket, as you must go through with a guided group. Do that first so you can go tour the palace while you wait for the time to enter the garden. The tours of the garden lasts approximately 70 minutes. I recommend you check the schedule before your visit to better organize your day well. We didn’t know you needed a timed ticket to enter the gardens and had to wait 50 minutes after already visiting the palace. The Secret Garden, like Changdeokgung palace, is closed on Mondays.
  3. Changgyeonggung: The Palace of Blooming Joy was built to be a summer palace, although it was later converted into an official residence. It is located right next to Changdeokgung Palace and the Secret Garden. At first I thought it was a single palace because of how connected they are and because the names are very similar, for those of us who don’t speak Korean. Sadly during the years 1910-1945 of Japanese occupation, the palace was largely dismantled to build a zoo and a botanical garden on the site. This palace is also closed on Mondays.
  1. Deoksugung: The palace of virtuous longevity is the furthest palace that is covered within the Royal Palace Pass, although it is only about a kilometer south of Gyeongbokgung Palace. It is ideal to be there overlapping at 11:00 AM, 2:00 PM or 3:30 PM to see the changing of the guards. It is the smallest palace of all. You can leave this palace for the second day, as the pass is valid for up to one month.
  2. Gyeonghuigung: The palace of serene harmony is the furthest palace of all and is on the outskirts of the center. We didn’t go, but from what we have read it is the least ornate, at it was just a secondary palace used only in specific cases. It is closed on Mondays and admission is free.
  3. Jongmyo Shrine: This shrine is dedicated to all members of the Joseon dynasty. To enter the sanctuary you have to go on a free guided tour, except on Saturdays when you can go on your own. It is closed on Tuesday. If you are in Seoul on May 1st, do not miss out on the seeing the traditional rituals in memory of the kings.

Relive Seoul’s past on the streets of Bukchon Hanok

Walking from Gyeongbokgung Palace to Changdeokgung Palace, you will pass through one of the most beautiful, traditional and historic neighborhoods in Seoul. Here you will find the famous Hanoks, which are traditional Korean houses. This neighborhood is where the high officials and nobles of the Joseon dynasty lived.

Keep in mind that it is a residential area so do not leave trash or make noise, in fact community members will ask you to quiet down if speaking too loudly. I recommend walking around the neighborhood and taking advantage of the different natural viewpoints the steep roads offer. On the map I am going to leave you the exact point where you can take advantage and take the best photos of the Hanoks.

Photograph the Hanoks at Ikseodong

A little further south is Ikseodong, where you can see traditional hanoks that have been converted into shops, restaurants and cafes. Without a doubt, it is one of the best neighborhoods to visit in Seoul.

Buy souvenirs in Insandong

The first thing you should do in Insandong is visit a traditional tea shop. The truth is that they are beautiful. This street is famous for having dozens of souvenir shops, several restaurants and its tea shops. We went in the evening and found many of the stores already closed, so I would recommend going before 4PM.

Jogyesa Temple

It is the main Korean Buddhist temple and a beautiful spot to experience. I recommend to go during the festival for Buddha’s birthday in May. You can also stop by and ask what activities they have during your 4-day visit to Seoul.

Day 2: Eat Korean Food

Jeongdong Observatory

Jeongdong Observatory is located in front of Deoksugung Palace providing you an excellent view of the palace from above and also of the Seoul skyline. The viewpoint is open only on weekends from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. It’s one of the best free things you can do in Seoul.

Eating at the Myeongdong Night Street Market

Myeongdong is the street where you can buy the best makeup, creams and cosmetics in Seoul. As you may have heard before, South Korea is known for the importance placed on personal care, taking care of one’s skin and always being well groomed. Because of this you will find endless cosmetic options, even some that sound a little too good to be true.

I recommend you go to Myeongdong in the afternoon, so you can take advantage of the night street market to try different Korean dishes like the famous Korean Fried Chicken, Egg Bread, or Mochi. The food is delicious! It is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Seoul.

Check out our full list of the 15 best street foods you need to try in Seoul.

Viewpoint at N Seoul Tower

Seoul Tower offers one of the best 360 degree panoramic views of the Seoul. Even if you don’t go to the viewpoint, I recommend taking a photo of the Seoul Tower from a distance, since it is one of the most iconic symbols of the city. Don’t worry, you can see it from almost anywhere in the city, although for me the best place to take a photo is from Myeondong Street.

The only way to get up the Namsan Mountain where the Seoul Tower sits is by cable car or walking and from there you can enter the observation deck inside the tower. The price of the cable car is 15,000 won round trip and the price of the viewpoint is 21,000 won. The views of the city are spectacular from what we saw in the photos, we preferred the Sky Seoul viewpoint, did not end up visiting both.

The War Memorial Of Korea

The War Memorial Of Korea museum is the best way to better understand the sad history that lead to the division of the Korean peninsula and a war that is technically still happening to this date. Admission is free.

Day 3: Modern Korean Culture

Enjoy K-pop culture in Gangnam

Do you remember the Korean classic “Gangman Style” by PSY? Well, it was inspired by the Gangnam neighborhood and is in fact a parody of the excess and money you can experience. In this neighborhood you will find the most luxurious stores in the city such as Channel, Dior, Fendi among others.

It is an excellent place to enjoy high end restaurants and visit its luxurious shopping centers such as COEX Mall or The Galleria. I recommend visiting COEX Mall so you can visit one of the most famous, unique and beautiful bookstores in the world, Starfield. If you are there, stop by the Gangman Style monument that is located just outside the shopping center.

Enjoy a 30 minutes walk north to visit the K-Star Road where you can take photos with bears that represent the most popular K-pop bands and groups. If you are interested in K-pop culture, I recommend taking a tour t to some of the places where several popular music video were filmed as well as the main headquarters of the recording studios. Another unique thing to do in Seoul is to sign up for a K-pop dance class.

Seoul Sky 

At 550 meters high you will find Seoul Sky in the Lotte World Tower, the sixth highest viewpoints in the world. This viewpoint has 4 floors where you can photograph the city skyline with 360 degree views. They also offer the Sky Bridge Tour where you can walk on a metal bridge between the two sections sections of top of the tower at 541 meters. One of the floors has two outdoor viewing points so you can take better photos, although there are still glass walls but the roof is open air. The best time to visit the viewpoint is at sunset.

Admission costs 31,000 won for a regular entrance ticket and 120,000 won for the Sky Bridge Tour. The observation area is open Sunday to Thursday from 10:30AM to 10PM and Friday/Saturday until 11PM. Honestly it is one of the best things to do in Seoul in 4 days and our favorite part of the entire trip.

Lotte World 

At the Base of the tower is Lotte World, an amusement park very similar to Disney World that is divided into three sections: Lotte World Adventure (the theme is several different countries; very similar to Epcot), Magic Island (it is an island with a castle in the middle similar to Magic Kingdom) and Korean Folklore Museum.

The entrance fee for all three sections is 62,000 Won, if you buy the ticket online they add access to the Lotte Aquarium. If you go after 4:00 PM they give you a discount of 12,000 won.

If you are interested in adventure and theme parks then I recommend going to Everland Theme Park, the largest amusement park in Korea. The disadvantage is that it is about a 45 minute drive outside of Seoul compared to Lotte World.

Day 4: Visit the DMZ

Visit the DMZ and see North Korea in the distance

The Demilitarized Zone is an area that separates the Koreas and is controlled by the military of both countries as well as the United Nations. It is an excellent place to learn more about the tragic and unfortunate division of the Korean Peninsula.

You cannot go to the DMZ on your own, you need to take a tour. We booked a DMZ tour from Seoul online for about $50 per person, with an 8AM departure from our hotel. It is only an hour drive north from Seoul to the DMZ area.

Our first stop was the Imjingak Peace Park were we learned a little bit about the history of the DMZ and what it meant for the local communities. There is also a memorial here to those who fought in the Korean War. From here we were also able to get our first panoramic view of the North Korean side of the DMZ.

Next we went to visit the Dora Observatory which has free binoculars to get a closer glimpse into North Korea, including the city of Kaesŏng, one of the largest cities in the country. You can also see the famous Joint Security Area (JSA) in the distance, where any negotiations or meetings happen between the two Koreas. Through the binoculars we were able to see people farming, biking, and of course the massive North Korean flag flying nearby.

The last stop in the tour is to the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel, found in 1978, with the aim of North Korean soldiers being able to reach Seoul in under an hour during an invasion. It is now a tourist area where you are able to walk down into the tunnel, although remains heavily secured area with no phones, cameras, or electronics allowed in the tunnel. There are some great little spots and monuments to take photos around here.

The DMZ tour will get you back in Seoul at around 2 in the afternoon, leaving you almost half the day to continue exploring downtown Seoul.

Another excursion you can take from Seoul is to Nami Island or Bukhansan National Park.

Feeling like a university student in Hongdae:

Hongdae is one of the university neighborhoods of the Korean capital. It is known for having trendy shops, Karaoke bars, nightlife, cheap restaurants and interesting cafes like Greem cafe which uses unique outline painting to make the entire store and furniture look 2D. Be sure to stop by Arc n Book Bookstore and Coconut Box cafe.

What other activities can I do in Seoul in 4 days?

If you have any extra time in your 4 day Seoul Itinerary or are looking to replace an attraction that is not interesting to you, here is a list of other incredible places you can visit in Seoul on your 4-day vacation.

National Museum of Korea: At the National Museum of Korea you can learn all about Korean history, culture and art. Admission is free.

Seoul City Wall: It might not be as long as the Great Wall in China, but Seoul was once surrounded by a defensive wall. There is still a small section of the wall standing that connects the mountains of Bugaksan, Naksa, Inwangsan and Namsan. This wall can be visited in its different open sections and above all they offer an incredible panoramic view of the city. Go to Naksan Park not only to see the walls but also enjoy several of its natural viewpoints.

Cheonggyecheon: It is a stream that crosses the city and today there is a walking path where you can enjoy the river and beautiful scenery along the way. This was an important project the city of Seoul, as they turned a once dirty stream into a tourist attraction.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza: I would say one of the most beautiful and interesting buildings I have ever seen, with its strong curves and futuristic design. If you like architecture, it is a building that you should visit during your 4 days in Seoul. Be sure to head up to the illuminated LED rose garden on the roof of the building.

Ihwa Mural Village: One of the most colorful neighborhoods in Seoul with dozens of murals and art installations dotting the streets.

Where to sleep in Seoul?

With so much to do in Seoul, whether you have just four days or are able to spend a whole week in Seoul immersing yourself in local culture, having a central hotel will save you plenty of time throughout your vacation.

We ended up spending very little time in our hotel, primarily to get a few hours of sleep each night. It is best to get a hotel that is comfortable and well located, but it does not need to be extravagant accommodations.

Gangnam: ibis Styles Ambassador Seoul Gangnam 

Insadong: ibis Ambassador Seoul Insadong 

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