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1 Day in Seoul Itinerary – Plan the perfect Seoul day trip

shows a street in seoul lit up at night

Are you looking to explore South Korea’s capital, Seoul, in a one-day trip? You’ve come to the right place! In our 1 day in Seoul day trip guide, we’ll share the top attractions to see in a short amount of time, details on how to get around and plenty of travel tips.

Seoul is a city that is unlike anywhere else on earth and it’s quickly becoming a top destination for travellers that want to experience South Korea’s unique attractions, culture, and of course, the excellent food scene. It’s a place that you can spend a lot of time in and only scratch the surface. However, you can still visit for a short trip and have a thrilling time.

Read on for our full 1 day in Seoul itinerary and start planning your own trip.

Is one day enough time to explore Seoul?

Being a capital city, Seoul is a huge place to explore. It has more attractions than anywhere else in South Korea, and you could visit for a full 2 weeks and not get bored. Saying that, it’s somewhere that you can experience for a short amount of time too. 1 day is a very short time to spend in Seoul, but it’s enough time to see some of the city’s top sites. Spend 1 day in Seoul and you’ll get a sample of what the city is all about. You can then return later to cover the attractions you missed.

Surprisingly, 1 day is a common amount of time to spend in Seoul. You may be on a day trip to Seoul from Busan, Daejeon, or another South Korean city. Seoul is also a popular layover destination when visiting Asia. In summary, 1 day in Seoul is a short amount of time but it’s still enough to have a great time.

shows the SEOUL sign - 1 day in Seoul itinerary

How to get to Seoul from other South Korean Cities?

As South Korea’s capital, Seoul is very well connected. You can fly here from cities worldwide, or on an internal flight from another South Korean city. However, if you are travelling from another destination in South Korea, the super-fast bullet train is probably a better option than flying. South Korea’s KTX train is an efficient and affordable way to get between cities. It’s honestly one of the best trains we’ve ever been on! Here are the one-way train travel times to visit Seoul for the day, from other South Korean cities:

From Busan: 2 hours 15 minutes

From Daegu: 1 hour 34 minutes

From Daejeon: 53 minutes

From Gwangju: 1 hour 48 minutes

How to get around in Seoul

The quickest and easiest way to get around in Seoul is using the metro. It’s very affordable, fast and efficient, taking you between attractions in a matter of minutes. If you’re arriving at Seoul Incheon Airport, the best way to get into the city centre is using the Airport Railway Express (AREX) train. It’ll take you to Seoul’s main train station in around 45-minutes. From there, you can then use the metro.

If you’re arriving at Seoul Station from another city in South Korea, you can change to the metro line to reach the area of Seoul you’d like to visit.

To use the metro, you’ll first need to buy a transit card in a shop or at a booth in the station. You can then top it up at the machine in any metro station. Check out this guide to learn everything you need to know about using the metro in Seoul.

In our 1 day Seoul itinerary, all of the attractions are within walking distance of each other. Simply catch the metro to the first attraction and you can explore the rest on foot.

shows an empty metro in Seoul South Korea

Our 1 day Seoul itinerary

Morning:

Gyeongbukgung Palace

Start off your 1 day in Seoul itinerary with one of the city’s top attractions, Gyeongbukgung Palace. This large palace complex has a rich history dating back to 1592. It has housed Korean royalty for centuries and has withstood the wars and invasions of past centuries. Gyeongbukgung Palace is a lot smaller in modern times. However, it’s still a marvel to explore, boasting some amazing Korean architecture, gardens, and even royal guards.

The palace grounds are split into different courtyards, with a grand entrance and multiple archways taking you to the inner sections of the palace. Take time to wander around each area, watching the changing of the guard, and visiting the palace garden area for calm, peaceful surroundings. We recommend booking tickets online in advance as it can get very busy.

shows people walking in front of Gyeongbukgung palace in Seoul

Bukchon Hanok Village

Right next to Gyeongbukgung Palace is the cultural Bukchon Hanok Village. ‘Hanok Villages’ can be found throughout South Korea. They’re traditional neighbourhoods that have retained the classic houses, streets and designs of what Korea looked like hundreds of years’ ago. Seoul has several of these neighbourhoods, with Bukchon being one of the most diverse.

Wander around the village on foot, marvelling at the traditional buildings and getting lost in its narrow alleyways. In addition to the beautiful architecture, Bukchon Hanok Village has many cafes, shops and restaurants. It’s an area of Seoul that’s completely different to the modern city centre and it can’t be missed off your itinerary!

shows traditional houses in Bukchon Hanok village in Seoul 1 day itinerary

Insadong

By this time on your 1 day Seoul itinerary, it’s likely approaching lunchtime. After a culture-rich morning of discovering some of Seoul’s most historic buildings, it’s time to explore the bustling, modernised city areas. Insadong is a great place to start! This tightly knit neighbourhood combines old with new. It’s full of bars, restaurants, cafes and most key attractions.

It’s also a great place to shop. Many of the stores here are small and independent, offering handmade gifts, unique fashionwear and plenty of souvenirs. We recommend grabbing lunch in Insadong. There are some excellent authentic Korean restaurants, many of which of super affordable. We recommend Korean Folk Village.

shows the outside of a shop in Seoul - 1 day in Seoul itinerary

Visit a themed café

Fancy a post-lunch coffee or tea? Insadong is a great place to experience one of Seoul’s iconic themed cafes. South Koreans love all things cute and unique, and that’s particularly the case with its coffee shops. Stop by the famous ‘poo themed’ Ddong Cafe. Alternatively, enjoy a drink on the floor in the traditional Korean coffee shop, Café Onion.

shows people in Dong Café in Seoul

Afternoon:

Jogyesa Temple

Start off the afternoon of your one-day Seoul itinerary with one of the city’s most beautiful Buddhist temples. ‘Jogyesa’ is an active place of worship in Seoul. Throughout the year, it’s decorated with hundreds of rows of coloured paper lanterns, creating a vibrant and traditional temple setting. It also has some intricate temple buildings, statues, and a small footbridge over a pond. Inside the main temple building, you’ll find a giant Golden Buddha statue.

Whilst visiting Jogyesa Temple, be sure to write a prayer or wish for good luck on a piece of paper and attach it to a lantern. It’s said to bring good fortune.

shows different coloured paper lanterns - 1 day in Seoul itinerary

Cheonggyecheon

After exploring the Insadong area of Seoul, it’s time to head south to the central Myeongdong district. This bustling centre is where you’ll find huge advertising billboards, neon lights and towering skyscrapers. There’s also a lot of traffic! Myeongdong is what most people think of when they envisage Seoul.

The first stop in Myeongdong is the Cheonggyecheon river walk. This quiet area of the city is a favourite spot for couples that want to go for a romantic walk along the river stream or share a quiet moment together on a park bench. It’s also a popular place for marriage proposals! Cheonggyecheon is a picturesque river stream that’s surrounded by tall skyscrapers and many shops and restaurants.

Its neatly manicured gardens, sculptures and fountains are a great setting to go for a long walk. Feeling a little tired? Take a break on a bench and admire the view.

shows people sitting around cheonggyecheon river in Seoul

Myeongdong Shopping Malls and Street

Other top things to do in the Myeongdong area include its huge shopping malls and underground mall. They’re great places to find Korean fashion, skincare and international brands. Take time to explore the busy streets of Myeongdong and shop to your desire. You’ll find unique stores you won’t find anywhere else and plenty of snack stalls, coffee shops and dessert cafes. You can’t visit Seoul without doing a spot of shopping!

shows two toys on a shelf in a store in Seoul - 1 day in Seoul itinerary

Myeondong Night Market

The next stop on our 1 day in Seoul itinerary is Myeongdong Night Market. Popular with both locals and tourists, it’s a sprawling food market with all sorts of fantastic foodie creations. Try Korean classics such as Gimbap, Japchae noodles and Korean pancakes, but also Oreo churros, flavour-packed pastries, and combinations of foods you would have never thought to pair.

Myeongdong Night Market is a great place to grab a snack early evening. It’s a vibrant area of the city and it has a great atmosphere when the sun goes down.

shows a man preparing food at myeongdong night market in Seoul

Korean BBQ

End your 1 day Seoul day trip with one of South Korea’s most iconic foods, Korean BBQ. BBQ in Seoul is not just a meal, it’s a full-blown dining experience! Cook an assortment of meats on your own table BBQ, add some delicious sides, beer and Soju, and you have a meal you won’t forget. The Myeongdong area is full of excellent Korean BBQ restaurants.

We recommend checking out this restaurant if you want the classic Samgyeopsal pork belly BBQ, or this restaurant if you’d prefer a selection of beef cuts. They’re both excellent value and ‘all you can eat’.

shows korean bbq - Seoul day trip

That concludes our 1 day in Seoul itinerary. We hope we inspired you with plenty of attractions to visit in your short visit. All the places on our list are within walking distance of each other, but feel free to use a taxi if your legs get tired.

If you find that you have time for more attractions, consider adding the following to your itinerary:

  • N Seoul Tower and Namsan Mountain Park
  • Changgyeonggung
  • Deoksugung Palace
  • Gwangjang Market

Where to stay in Seoul for your 1-day trip

In our opinion, the best area to stay in Seoul when visiting for a short period is Myeongdong or Insadong. Both city centre neighbourhoods are centrally located for the top Seoul attractions and there are plenty of hotels, restaurants, cafes, shops and bars. They’re great areas to stay in Seoul for first timers and everything is very walkable. We recommend the following hotels:

Ibis Ambassador Myeongdong (Moderately priced) – View on Booking.com
Hotel Skypark Myeongdong 1 (Moderately priced) – View on Booking.com
Aloft Seoul Myeongdong (Luxury) – View on Booking.com
Lotte Hotel Seoul (Luxury) – View on Booking.com

If you have an early flight or train the next day, you may prefer to stay near Seoul Train Station or Seoul Incheon International Airport. You can easily get to the airport using the airport express train after completing your 1 day in Seoul itinerary. Excellent hotels near Seoul Incheon Airport include:

 

Our top tips for visiting Seoul

shows seoul city at sunset - 1 day in Seoul itinerary
  • Aim to arrive in Seoul as early as you can. It takes time to use public transit and reach the first attraction, so take this into account.
  • Use taxis to save time on getting around. They’re more expensive than the metro/bus option but are affordable compared to taxis in other global cities.
  • Try not to pack too much into your 1 day Seoul itinerary. It’s better to see attractions properly rather than rushing around just to tick as many items as you can off the list. Simply walking around looking at the buildings, taking in the atmosphere and enjoying local food and drinks is part of what makes Seoul great.
  • Book attraction tickets in advance of arrival to save time queuing. It can also be cheaper than paying on the day.
  • Research restaurant options before arrival to save time searching for food when you arrive. We recommend eating in the Insadong or Myeongdong areas of Seoul. There are countless restaurant options for all tastes and budgets. There are also some excellent vegan and vegetarian restaurants.
  • Grab lunch or dinner on the go to save time and money. Street food in Seoul is cheap, tasty and high quality. Food hygiene is very good in South Korea so there’s minimal chance of getting sick.
  • Download an offline Google Map of Seoul and save all attractions on your app. You’ll easily be able to navigate between attractions using your phone GPS, even if you don’t have Wi-Fi. You can also download the South Korean alternative to Google Maps, Kakao Maps. It’s more accurate when using public transport.
  • Bring snacks with you or stock up at the train station before you start your Seoul adventure.
  • Download or print the Seoul metro map for easy metro navigation.

Thanks for reading our 1 day in Seoul travel guide. We hope you found our itinerary useful and can use it to plan your own trip to the exciting South Korea capital. Seoul is a huge city, but all of the attraction we listed are within walking distance of each other, so you shouldn’t have any trouble fitting them in.

If you have any questions about any of the places we’ve featured, be sure to post a comment below.

Ricky

BY RICKY

Author bio:

An adventurer at heart that loves anything outdoors. Beaches, mountains and amazing scenery is everything I love about travel! I also enjoy home comforts and need a nice place to relax and re-charge after every trip.

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