Traveling with Stephy

Seoul city guide: a 5-day itinerary with the best FREE activities

Capital of South Korea, Seoul is a megalopolis mixing modernity and history. This vibrant city offers different aspects of discovery between museums, hiking trails, and palaces. In this blog post, I share with you a complete Seoul city guide that gathers all my recommendations as well as the best free activities to do. As a bonus, I also recommend a detailed 5-day schedule. After reading this Seoul city guide, you will have everything you need to know to organize your trip to South Korea and enjoy it to the fullest!

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South Korea is a peninsula surrounded by sea, namely: 

  • Yellow Sea
  • Sea of Japan
  • East China Sea

Therefore, South Korea has only one land border with North Korea, located in the north of the country. 


Seoul, the largest city of South Korea, is located in the North West region of the country. Thanks to its two different International airports (respectively Incheon and Gimpo) coming to South Korea is super easy and accessible from all around the world. 

“I advise you to compare the flight prices by using a flight comparator. Click here to book your next flight at the best price!


There are various economical ways to reach Seoul city center from Incheon International Airport or Gimpo International Airport:

  • By bus – tickets can be bought at the bus office counter located at the arrivals. You can pay by credit card or cash.
  • By train (the cheapest option) – tickets can be bought at the ticket machine at the train station. You can pay either by cash or with a Tmoney card. See the tab below to learn everything about how to use a Tmoney card and why to use one while in Seoul city.

when to visit Seoul city?

In South Korea, there are 4 distinct seasons: 

  • Winter: from December to February – with a lot of snow and freezing temperatures
  • Spring: from March to May – with mild temperatures and beautiful flowers
  • Summer: from June to August – with a lot of rains and the monsoon period starting late June
  • Autumn: from September to November – with mild temperatures and beautiful colorful landscapes

Each season has its own particularity and advantages. But in other words, South Korea can be visited all year round. However, if possible, I advise you to avoid the summer season in order to avoid typhoons and rain. Also, if you visit Seoul city during winter, you should be well equipped with thermal clothing as there is often a lot of snow and sub-zero temperatures.

In other words, the ideal period to visit Seoul and the rest of South Korea is autumn and spring. Indeed, Seoul’s surroundings being packed with nature, the colorful orange leaves or the flowers blooming will sublimate the city.

How long to stay in Seoul city?

As you might have understood, Seoul is a vast city with many things to do. From National Parks, palaces, and museums to busy living streets, Seoul offers many options for all tastes. In other words, it will be difficult to get bored during your time in Seoul city. Great news!

In my opinion, to get the most out of this fantastic city and its unique history, I recommend you spending at least 3 days, ideally 5 days. You will find below a detailed plan of the activities you can do during your visit to Seoul city. It is a 5-day schedule but you can adapt it according to your available time!

Where to stay in Seoul city?

The city of Seoul is so big that it can be a bit overwhelming at first when you are looking for a place to stay. Don’t worry, as explained below, public transportation is very well-developed and efficient, so no matter where you stay you will always be able to get around easily.


However, from our experience, I strongly recommend you stay in the Myeong-dong district. You can easily walk or take the bus to various tourist attractions such as palaces, hiking trails, and food markets. Moreover, the area is full of small restaurants and shops.


On top of that, you will find hotels for all budgets. Get the best deals for your stay in Seoul city now!


How to move around Seoul city?


Public transportation in Seoul is very efficient and well-developed, with buses, trains, and subways. It will be very easy to get around the city. To be able to use public transport most easily, I recommend buying a TMoney card when you arrive at any of the International airports (see tab below for more details).


If you only plan to stay in Seoul city, I wouldn’t recommend you rent a car. In fact, although driving is on the left side of the road as we are used to, the traffic is very dense and the traffic signs are written mainly in Korean. 


However, if you are planning to explore more of South Korea, I would suggest renting a car. This way, you will be able to explore most of the peninsula easily and at your own pace. 


Seoul city is also very easy to visit on foot. The streets are in excellent condition and there are sidewalks everywhere. However, the distances can be very long from one point to another. That’s why it’s important to stay in an area close to most of the touristic activities.


Some places can also be visited very easily by bicycle, with dedicated bike paths. This is the case for example for the Hangang area which offers a bike path all along the river. However, in the center of Seoul city, the bicycle will not be the first option that I recommend, the traffic being very dense.

Tmoney card in Seoul city


The Tmoney card allows you to move around easily around the city of Seoul by public transportation, namely buses, trains, and subways. You still can pay by cash but the fare will be more expensive. It is also more convenient to pay for your ride with a Tmoney card since you just have to tap it once you enter the bus/subway entrance and tap it again once you leave. Finally, it will allow you to transfer from one bus/subway to another without paying an additional fee if it is within the hour. On the contrary, if you pay by cash, you won’t be able to change buses freely since you don’t get a bus ticket.


The Tmoney card can be purchased at all convenience stores in Seoul city, namely Seven-Eleven, E-mart, CU, and GS25. Prices vary depending on the design of the card. However, count between 4,500 and 5,000 won per Tmoney card. No refund is possible once you leave the country. So if you still have some money left on your card, you can spend it in any mentioned convenience store. There is a CU at the arrivals if you need to grab something before boarding your flight back home.


You can recharge the Tmoney card in any convenience store or any subway station with cash only. So, plan to have some cash when you arrive in Seoul to allow you to take the bus or subway to reach the city. If you don’t have cash with you, don’t worry International ATMs can be found everywhere.  

Where to eat in Seoul city?


While cooking at home can be a good way to control what you eat (especially if you follow a special diet such as vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.), it is not necessarily the most economical solution. Indeed, food products are very expensive in South Korea, with vegetables and fruits being the most expensive ones.

In my experience, the cheapest food store is the Emart hypermarket. Unfortunately, there aren’t many of them around Seoul city, so you have to go to the local grocery store, who inflates the prices. 


If you want to eat local dishes, the food markets are the best place to do so! The local food market in Seoul city is packed with many food stalls from savory to sweet treats.  Actually, you won’t find a lot of food trucks outside dedicated food markets. Gwangjang Market is one of the most famous markets to try out Korean food (see below for all details). 


Convenience stores in South Korea sell food products such as ready-made meals, frozen food, noodles, sandwiches, and basic necessities such as shampoo or toothbrushes. This kind of store is very popular in South Korea (as well as in Asia in general) and you can find one on every street. There are four main convenience stores in Seoul: 

  • Seven Eleven
  • E Mart
  • CU
  • GS25

Each convenience store provides hot water, microwaves, tables, and chairs so you can eat on-site.  


As you might have understood by now, food in South Korea is expensive. So, although there are some budget-friendly restaurants, most of them offer dishes between US$ 15 -20. Of course, if you go to a famous or fine restaurant, the prices of the dishes can be even higher (between US$ 20 – 80).

Things to know before visiting Seoul city

Check out all my tips here to get ready to explore Seoul properly!

Streets details in Seoul city
Streets of South Korea
Streets in Seoul coty

What to do in Seoul city?

I share with you a 5-day schedule of the best activities to do during your visit to Seoul city. I let you adapt the schedule according to your desires!


On top of that, most of the activities shown below are free, except for the palaces. What more could you ask for?


I suggest starting the visit of Seoul city with two emblematic places of the capital, namely the discovery of one of the 5 palaces of Seoul and a traditional village. End the day in one of the most animated streets of Seoul.


This traditional village will allow you to discover the beauty of traditional Korean architecture. Take the immersion to the end by renting traditional clothes. Bukchon Hanok village is for sure a must while in Seoul!

Free entrance

open every day, 24/24H
Hanbok rental is available for 10'000 won for one hour

Allow 1 hour to visit the village

Couple walking across the traditional village in Seoul city
woman exploring a traditional village in Seoul City
Typical Korean architecture in a traditional village

Changdeogung palace

Changdeogung Palace is one of the five main palaces in the city of Seoul. In my opinion, it is also the prettiest.

3'000 won or free if you are dressed in traditional costume

closed every Monday
Hanbok rental is available for 10'000 won for one hour

Allow 2 hours on-site

Couple walking in front of Changdeogung palace in Seoul city
woman walking across Changyeong palace located in Seoul city
Changyeong palace located in Seoul city, South Korea
woman sitting on the stairs with typical Korean architecture in the background
Couple in love standing in the middle of typical Korean architecture
Typical Korean architecture with colorful colors


This street is very popular with young Korean students doing street-performing shows. You will also find numerous food trucks, restaurants, and a lot of clothes stores at low prices. Not to mention, many photo booths to enjoy a fun time with friends or family.



Hongdae Shopping street  is closed to vehicles during the weekend, so enjoy!


For this second day in Seoul city, you will go to enjoy the natural surroundings and take a short hike that offers a spectacular view of Seoul. End your day by visiting the best food market in Seoul.


The city of Seoul offers various hikes along its wall that connect the various mountain peaks. The Mount Inwangsan Trail is a small part of the total hike. If you feel like it (and still have the legs for it), you can continue your walk along the wall. 



At the top of Mount Inwangsan, you can either go back down by the same path or continue your descent by the other side of the mountain.


Free access

3,2 km (round trip)
Moderate level

Allow 2 hours to complete the hike

Exploring Seoul via Mount Inwangsan
Hiking trail with a view of Mount inwangsan in Seoul city.
View of Seoul city at the top of the mount Inwangsan
Hiking the Mount Inwangsan trail, in Seoul city.


You will find different local savory or sweet dishes at low prices. Our favorite sweet treat: the honey Hottok and the little pancake filled with red beans. As for our favorite savory treat: Korean vegetable pancake! You should try them out!

Food market in Seoul city, South Korea
Tasting local food in Seoul city, South Korea.
Food stalls in South Korea


New day, new adventure! I suggest getting to the N Seoul Tower on foot and to visit the most popular bookstore in South Korea.


There are different ways to get to the N Seoul tower. I advise you to follow the path through Namsan Park. Every day, there is a free Martial Art show at noon or 3:00 pm at the foot of the N Seoul tower (free of charge)

Also, you can go up to the N Seoul observatory. Tickets cost 16,000 won per person. Finally, in case you don’t want to hike up across Namsan Park, you can take a cable car for 14,000 won (return) or 11,000 won (one way).

Free access

4 km - with stairs (round trip)
Moderate level

Count one hour to complete the hike

View of Seoul city from the top of N Seoul tower
N Seoul tower in South Korea


This memorial will teach you everything about South Korea War history, with four different floors of exhibitions. 

Free access

outdoor and indoor exhibitions

Allow 3 hours on-site


Join the most famous bookstore in South Korea by walking or biking along the Hangang river.


The photogenic and modern library offers many book options to read from. Also, coffee shops are available inside the library.

If you want to do some shopping before going home, Coex Mall (in which the Starfield library is located) is the ideal place. The mall offers various clothing stores, beauty shops, and restaurants.

Famous bookstore in Seoul City
Books details in a Library in South Korea
Bookstores with many colorful books in South Korea


For this fourth day in Seoul city, I suggest you go stretch your legs in Bukhansan National Park.


Located only 45 minutes away by subway from Seoul city center, Bukhansan National Park offers different hiking trails with different difficulty levels. I highly recommend that you hike the “Sinseondae Rescue Center” trail. Also, you will find numerous hiking clothing shops and food stalls along the way from the subway station to the entrance of the park.

Try to avoid hiking in the National Park on the weekends since it is the most popular place for all hiking lovers.

Free access

8 km (round trip)
Difficult level

Depending on the hike, but at least 3 hours on-site

Woman hiking through a forest in Bukhansan National Park, South Korea
Big rocks in Bukhansan National Park
View of Seoul city from the top of Bukhansan National Park
View of Seoul city with big rocks in the background

Dongdaenum Flea Market

If you want to buy things such as clothes, shoes, house objects at a discount price, visit Dongdaemun Flea Market on your way back from Bukhansan National Park.


Dedicate this last day in Seoul city by filling it up with history. In other words, start the day by visiting another palace, then visit the Presidential house and end the day at the museum.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace is one of the other five palaces in Seoul city. You have the opportunity to attend the Changing Guards Ceremony at 10:00 am or 2:00 pm, every open day. It is free of charge and it stands outside the entrance of Gyeongbokgung palace. Therefore, if you don’t want to visit the palace you can assist to the ceremony free of charge.

3'000 won or free if you are dressed in traditional costume

Closed every Tuesday
Hanbok rental is available for 10'000 won for one hour

Allow 2 hours on-site

Woman standing at the entrance of Gyeongbokgung Palace located in Seoul City
Couple walking in the Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul
Guards dress up with blue clothes
Details of Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul, South Korea
Architecture details of palace in Seoul city, South Korea
Couple kissing surround by traditional Korean architecture

Cheong Wa Dae

Also known as the Blue House, it formerly served as the official residence of the President of South Korea. No reservation is required even though there is a limit of visitors per day. You can just show up at the entrance. ID or passport required.

Free access

Closed every Tuesday
9:00 AM to 5:30 PM

Allow 2 hours on-site

Blue house in South Korea
Houses with blue roof in Seoul city
Houses with blue roof in South Korea

Folk national museum

The Folk National museum displays permanent exhibitions of general facts about South Korea and its history. There are also temporary exhibitions depending you the time of the year. 

In conclusion

Seoul is the ideal city to immerse yourself in the Korean culture between modernity, traditions, and history. Also, Seoul is a city surrounded by nature that offers many hiking possibilities. On top of that, Seoul city is also the perfect starting point for a road trip through the country. Check out the best 2-week South Korea itinerary to get inspired!

I sincerely hope this guide has been useful for the organization of your trip to Seoul city. In case you haven’t booked your flight ticket to South Korea just yet, I hope that I managed to convince you to do so! Anyway, don’t forget to check out all my posts related to South Korea.

Don’t hesitate to ask me any questions you may have in the comments below or by email, it would be a pleasure to share more with you. 

Sending you lots of love, 

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