I never thought that my full-time travel journey around the world will take me to South Korea but I am so glad it did. I discovered a fascinating country, a country that I was about to fall in love with forever. In this guide, I’m excited to share with you what makes South Korea such an amazing destination!
EXPLORING SOUTH KOREA
South Korea is organized, intriguing has many incredible tourist attractions and it will surprise you at every step. From live K-pop performances to jaw-dropping temples and beautiful palaces, South Korea has it all. It’s a country where the old and new are intertwined. It’s a country of contrasts but this is what makes it so captivating.
If you are planning to spend one week in South Korea, you are in the right place. This country has a lot to offer in terms of tourist attractions and it might be hard to choose but I am here to help you. After traveling across the country from north to south, I know which places are worth visiting and which are not. In this South Korea one week itinerary I’m including only the best places, the ones that will leave you in a state of awe.
IS ONE WEEK IN SOUTH KOREA ENOUGH?
One week is always too little to explore an entire country, but you can definitely see the highlights. Our first stop on our itinerary will be in Seoul. Although most of it was destroyed by the Korean War, a few historical buildings still remain. Be prepared to see historical buildings surrounded by skyscrapers, cool tourist attractions and experience the incredible nightlife. This fashion and the technology-forward city has something for everyone.
After four days in Seoul, we will continue our journey and we’ll stop in Busan for another three days. Busan is more laid-back, everything happens at a slower pace here. After experiencing the hustle & bustle of Seoul, you’ll feel more relaxed in Busan. With a colorful village, an incredible fish market and beautiful temples, Busan will reveal to you the other side of South Korea. Let’s begin our journey!
SEOUL – 4 DAYS
Below are the most important tourist attractions in Seoul, the ones I recommend visiting. From breathtaking panoramic views, shopping opportunities, history and culture, this guide covers it all.
TAKE A TRIP TO THE NORTH KOREAN BORDER
One of the most famous borders in the world is the one between South Korea and North Korea, and the good news is that it can be visited! Apart from being a valuable history lesson, a trip to this border will get you pretty close to North Korea. From the Dora Observatory, you can actually see a North Korean village. For those who have no plans of visiting North Korea (which is most of us), this is an incredible opportunity to see a glimpse of one of the most secretive countries in the world!
There are two kinds of trips to the demilitarized zone, commonly known as the DMZ. One trip takes half of the day and the other takes a full day. Depending on how much time you want to spend at this famous border, you can choose either of them but if you want to visit the place where the North and South Korean soldiers stand face to face, you will have to choose the full-day trip.
Good to know: Make sure to book your tickets well in advance. They sell out quickly.
NAMSAN SEOUL TOWER VIEWS
The Namsan Seoul Tower is the place that offers some of the best views over Seoul. It has several free viewing platforms, restaurants and a few museums, but the best view you can get is from the observatory on top of the tower. The best time to visit it is at sunset or during the night. Seeing how the night takes over the city is a truly unique experience.
Hongdae is the heart and soul of Seoul. Hundreds of cafes, clubs, gaming centers and live performances are waiting for you. This hip place is full of youngsters in search of fun. Make sure to try the 34-cm tall ice cream, go karaoke, admire the K-pop performers and eat some local street food. Hongdae is the perfect place to spend the evening. If you want to unleash your party animal, try one of the clubs. There are plenty to choose from!
VISIT A ROYAL PALACE
There are five royal palaces in Seoul but visiting all of them would take a lot of time. This is why I recommend visiting the Gyeongbokgung Palace, the biggest and most impressive out of all the palaces. Get your camera ready and explore the courtyards and admire its beautiful architecture. While at the palace, you’ll notice that some of the locals and tourists alike are dressed in beautiful traditional Korean dresses which takes me to my next point.
WEAR A HANBOK
There is no better way to immerse yourself into the local culture than renting a hanbok for a few hours. Apart from being stunningly beautiful, renting a hanbok is an unforgettable experience. A lady will help you choose the design and get dressed and after that, she will accessorize your hair with traditional headbands and floral pieces. After you’re ready, head outside and take some photos. You’ll notice that both locals and foreigners love wearing hanboks.
Good to know: The entrance to the palaces is free if you are wearing a hanbok.
EXPLORE BUKCHON HANOK VILLAGE
One of the most visited tourist attractions in Seoul and the preferred location for photo shoots is the Bukchon Hanok Village. This traditional village with traditional homes is a glimpse into Seoul’s past. There is no entrance fee to this village so you can wander around and admire it as long as you want. Keep in mind that locals live here so don’t make too much noise!
STEP INTO THE FUTURE AT SEOULLO 7017
This former highway transformed into a pedestrian walkway feels like you’re stepping into the future. Made out of glass and hosting more than 24,000 plants and trees, Seoullo 7017 is perfect for a short walk. You can admire the skyline or sit for a few minutes and watch the traffic below you. Either way, Seoullo 7017 is one of those places that you have to visit in Seoul.
ADMIRE JOGYESA TEMPLE
Be prepared for a splash of color at Jogyesa Temple in Seoul. Full of flowers and with incredible architecture, this temple is my favorite from entire South Korea. While walking around the temple, stop for a few minutes to admire the intricate paintings and sculptures covering the temple. It is truly a unique sight!
Visiting a Korean temple is always a good idea if you want to learn more about the local culture and be closer to locals’ daily life.
EXPLORE GANGNAM NEIGHBORHOOD
Does “Oppa Gangnam Style” sound familiar to you? Well, the song is about one of the neighborhoods of Seoul – Gangnam. Gangnam is an area full of trendy shops, cool cafes and shopping opportunities. It’s the place where the youth meets and has fun. Here you’ll really feel Seoul’s vibe.
While you’re in the area, don’t forget to visit the Gangnam Style Horse Dance Stage right at the exit of Gangnam metro station. You can take a funny photo here while doing the famous dance.
VISIT A LOCAL MARKET – NAMDAEMUN MARKET
Namdaemun Market is the biggest traditional market in South Korea and it was opened in 1964. Whatever you’re searching for, you’ll find it here. There are over 10,000 shops selling souvenirs, clothes, electronics, fruits & vegetables and street food at affordable prices. Be prepared to leave a few bucks behind. I ended up buying souvenirs for the entire family and some delicious street food.
GO SHOPPING ON INSADONG STREET
Another popular place for shopping is Insadong Street. The prices here are a little bit higher but you’ll find some unique items. If you’re passionate about art, here you will find paintings, sculptures and local handicrafts. Also, there are many restaurants to choose from both local and international cuisine.
GET ARTISTIC AT DONGDAEMUN DESIGN PLAZA (DDP)
If you’re truly passionate about modern and contemporary architecture and art, you must visit the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) in Seoul. This building is a wonder of architecture. With its round shapes and metal look, this place houses fashion shows, exhibitions, live performances and almost anything related to art. Dongdaemun Design Plaza attracts quite a fashionable crowd, in search of the latest trends around the world.
Related: 6 Free Things To Do In Seoul
BUSAN – 3 DAYS
After so much visiting and traffic in Seoul, it’s time to take a break and relax in a beautiful city by the sea. Take the train for a few hours and make your way through dense forest, breathtaking mountains and thousands of greenhouses to Busan. It is the perfect choice for a few days of unwinding. Eat some fish delicacies, explore the colorful Gamcheon or visit its beautiful temples.
EAT AT BUSAN FISH MARKET
Nothing can prepare you for a visit at the Busan Fish Market. Walking through the stalls feels like a visit to the aquarium. You will see almost every species of edible sea creatures displayed on thousands of stalls, waiting to find their customers. Some small, some wide, some colorful, the fish sit beautifully displayed alongside vegetables.
If you want, you can even go to one of the restaurants and try the seafood. There is so much to choose from and everything is delicious. The Busan Fish Market is the biggest in South Korea and I can swear that the fish there could feed an entire city.
EXPLORE THE COLORFUL GAMCHEON CULTURE VILLAGE
Thousands of colorful houses, built on terraces wait for you at Gamcheon Culture Village, Busan. This village is full of street art and art pieces, scattered along the streets and alleys. It is a delight to discover it and uncover its secrets. If you want, you can buy a map from the Tourist Information Center, collect all the stamps while exploring Gamcheon and, as a reward, you’ll receive some beautiful postcards.
Also, if you’re in the area, don’t forget to try the raindrop cake. It looks like a drop of water and it’s delicious!
VISIT HAEDONG YONGGUNGSA TEMPLE
One of the only temples situated by the sea in South Korea is the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. Its beauty cannot pass unnoticed. This scenic spot is one of the main attractions of Busan and is visited by both locals and foreigners. With dozens of shrines, statues and stupas, this temple offers some incredible views towards the sea.
SHOPPING ON GWANGBOKRO CULTURAL & FASHION STREET
With well-known international brands and local brands alike, this shopping street is perfect for those in search of cool clothing and shoes. You will find pretty much anything here but the prices aren’t the most affordable. Be prepared to splurge a bit but let me say something – You deserve it!
GO TO THE BEACH
Busan is famous for its beautiful beaches and for good reason. The beaches are wide, super-clean, the water is perfect for swimming and the nearby skyscrapers make Busan look like a movie scene from Miami. Take your beach towel, sunglasses and slippers and enjoy the sun for a few hours.
ADMIRE THE VIEW FROM YEONGDODAEGYO BRIDGE
Probably one of the best spots to admire the city is the Yeongdodaegyo Bridge. Stop for a few minutes and see how the fishing boats return to the Fish Market or how big ships pass underneath the bridge. If you look towards the hills you’ll even notice the colorful houses of Gamcheon Culture Village. The view is truly spectacular!
Both Seoul and Busan are beautiful, intriguing cities with a lot to offer in terms of tourist attractions. Spending one week in South Korea is enough to uncover the secrets of both of these cities. While visiting them, you’ll discover the fast-paced life of Seoul and the laid-back vibe of Busan. Enjoy!
We hope that this article has inspired you to take a trip to South Korea. If you have any questions about the destination or have your own travel tips to share please leave these in the comments below.
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