Seoul is an incredible place to visit any time of year and you could spend weeks exploring the many various districts, attractions, insta-worthy spots, culture, history, and fantastic dining spots. However, if you only have a weekend in Seoul, then this guide will show you the top 20 attractions that you must visit. 48 hours in Seoul might seem like a short time for one of the world’s busiest metropolises, but still enough to have an amazing time.
Wander through royal palaces dressed in traditional Korean hanbok, see the sights from up high in N Seoul Tower, cruise along the Han River at night to see the glittering skyscrapers, and fill your heart and soul (and stomach) at Myeongdong’s Street Food Alley and markets.
For those who want to do all the best activities in Seoul in a short time, and aren’t sure where to start, then this article is perfect for you. If you plant to spend longer than a weekend in Seoul, then you can spread these activities out over a few days and have extra time to spend visiting ancient tea rooms, cool cafes, a wide variety of interesting museums, and lots more that you can’t miss out on in Seoul.
To get you started, here are a few tips to help you plan your weekend in Seoul and to get the most out of your adventure.
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Quick Tips For Planning Your Weekend In Seoul
Check out the list below to get an idea of how to spend the weekend in Seoul and use this as a rough itinerary. Many locations are close to each other so you can move between them with minimal hassle.
Also check out my post about where to stay in Seoul for more advice.
There are so many amazing, exciting things to do in Seoul that this could be much longer. However, if you’re only visiting Seoul for a weekend, or even a few days, then this list should help you prioritise.
I’ve broken the list of these best things to do in Seoul into two days to help you visualise how you might spend the weekend. Before we get started on the different activities you can do, here’s a few important things to consider before planning your weekend in Seoul.
When To Travel To Seoul
Without a doubt the best times to spend a weekend in Seoul are in spring or autumn.
In autumn, the heat disappears and the cool weather is perfect for seeing another natural wonder – autumn leaves.
Don’t let the weather put you off visiting Seoul at other times, though. Seoul is a modern city and places all provide heating (for winter) or aircon (for summer).
If you’re travelling during these times, particularly summer, try to plan to do more activities indoors. There are a load of museums, galleries, shopping malls, and lots more to check out. Here’s a list of 20 awesome summer activities in Korea to help you keep cool and still have an amazing time.
Winter is okay to be outside, just make sure you wrap up warm as it can often be below freezing. The fresh snow does provides some of the most majestic scenes possible, so don’t be afraid to visit in winter.
Check out my guide to winter in Korea to find out more details.
Where To Stay During A Weekend In Seoul
Seoul is a BIG city and you could spend a weekend in just one district. That being said, I’ve made a guide to help you think about the best places to stay in Seoul for your weekend trip.
For budget travellers, Myeongdong and Dongdaemun are good places to stay and you’ll be able to pick up lots of cheap clothes, gifts, and street food.
People looking for lots of night life would enjoy the Hongdae area, which also has lots of good cafes, bars, and restaurants. Accommodation here is reasonably priced.
If you have a bit more money to spend and want to check out some of the designer stores or hunt for celebrities, then the Gangnam district is probably best for you.
All of these areas have good subway connections and will easily get you to other areas.
What To Bring For A Weekend In Seoul
Seoul is a modern city and convenience stores like 7/11 will stock most things you can imagine that you might need in an emergency. Some things that you might want to bring to make life more comfortable for 48 hours in Seoul are as follows:
- Knife and fork (especially if you’re not used to chopsticks).
- Good pair of shoes as there is a lot to see and you’re probably going to walk a lot.
- Appropriate clothes for the season.
- Power adapter to charge your tech.
For more essential about what you might need before travelling to Korea, check out this awesome guide to pre-planning your travel to Korea:
Getting Around During A Weekend In Seoul
It’s easy to get around in Seoul thanks to the efficient public transport system, taxis, and your two feet.
Seoul’s subway system is in English. There are plenty of lines that will get you from each area in a short time. Pick up a T Money card or Korea Tour Card when you arrive from the airport. Alternatively, most train stations, subway stations, or convenience stores stock them.
You can use this to pay for all public transport in Seoul. I’d recommend putting around 20,000 won on the card for a weekend in Seoul.
Taking a taxi is not unreasonable when you’re in the city and fares are cheap. A 20 minute ride can be as little as 10,000 won (approx. $9). This can save you a lot of time and hassle, especially if travelling as a family.
Don’t take a taxi from the airport, as they’re known to rip off tourists.
More information about getting from Incheon Airport to Seoul.
Map Locations For A Weekend In Seoul
Here are all the places mentioned during this weekend in Seoul guide. The first day locations are marked in blue, the second day locations are marked in red.
You can see the first day of your 48 hours in Seoul are all close together for convenience. The second day locations are more spread out, but they are all easily reached by subway.
Please note: You’ll need to use Google Maps to access this map.
Day 1 Of Your Weekend In Seoul
This first day of your weekend in Seoul will introduce you to Korean history and culture before visiting some of Seoul’s famous markets.
Sample authentic street food, see the sunset and night view from atop a mountain, and then heading down the other side to check out the cool bars and restaurants of Itaewon.
1: Wear Traditional Korean Hanbok
So you’ve come to Korea for a weekend in Seoul and you want to embrace the culture and see the sights. The best way to do this is to dress like a true Korean would – by wearing hanbok.
Hanbok (Korean traditional clothes) can be worn by anyone and consists of a colourful skirt with a white shirt over the top for women, or loose trousers and shirt for men.
Wearing hanbok will help local people warm to you and certainly show that you appreciate their culture. This might open doorways to conversations and photo ops you might not normally have.
You can rent hanbok from many locations, such as near Gyeongbokgung Palace. Coincidentally, this is the next stop on your weekend in Seoul.
2: See Seoul’s Magnificent Palaces
If you’ve gone with the first step, then I have some great news for you.
You can gain free access to Gyeongbokgung (above), Changgyeonggung, Changdeokgung, and Deoksugung Palaces if you’re wearing hanbok, as well as jumping the queues! That’s definitely a good enough reason to wear Korea’s traditional clothes, as well as the gorgeous pictures you can take.
Take a picture outside the gigantic front gate (Gwanghwamun Gate) before strolling around the imperial residence and gardens. Afterwards, head into the National Folk Museum and Culture Centre, where you can try some traditional Korean games.
Whilst Gyeongbokgung might be older and larger, my personal favourites are the Changdeokgung and Changgyeonggung Palaces. These are both to the east of Gyeongbokgung.
These two palaces are actually part of a larger complex that includes The Secret Garden (access limited, book ahead). You can spend the best part of a day exploring the two together.
Gyeongbokgung can be accessed via Gyeongbokgung Station or by walking from one of the other attractions nearby.
Please note: Gyeongbokgung Palace is closed on Mondays.
3: Step Back In Time In Bukchon
After visiting one of these palaces, head north to the area between Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace. Here you’ll find a wonderful area full of authentic Korean charm, hanok (traditional Korean houses), cafes, murals, and lots, lots more.
This area is the Bukchon Hanok Village and is where wearing hanbok certainly pays off. You can take some great snaps in the narrow, traditional streets, like the one in the picture above.
Peaceful, historic streets with traditional tea rooms, and lots of photo opportunities. No weekend in Seoul would be complete without a stroll through this area.
For more information about the Bukchon Hanok Village, check out my detailed guide about all the best places to see, shop, eat, drink, stay, and more:
4: Rest And Shop In Insadong
After you’ve snapped your heart out in Bukchon, a great place to recover is in Insadong. Famous for its art stores, souvenirs, culture, and cafes, Insadong is sure to please. Just south of Bukchon, it is within easy walking distance.
The main street (Insadong-gil) has more than 100 galleries to explore, showcasing some of the finest Korean art. Not just paintings, you can find ceramics, woodwork, stonework, calligraphy, and much more in this area.
If you want the finer things during your weekend in Seoul, why not purchase some fine art as a souvenir? There are also lots of traditional tea houses and food stalls selling yeot (Korean taffy), ice cream, and spicy tteokbokki.
Be sure not to miss out on Ssamziegil – a large collection of art shops, cafes, and amusing things. There’s also Anyoung Insadong, a new shopping mall with a retro-style approach to Korean history and modern culture.
5: Get Back To Nature At The Cheonggyecheon Stream
The Cheonggyecheon area, just off Sejong-ro Avenue, and running under 22 bridges during its 11 km journey through the heart of Seoul, the Cheonggyecheon Stream is unmissable.
Walk south from Insadong and you’ll be near the start of the stream.
The start area, Cheonggye Plaza, usually has events for tourists, including hands-on activities to learn about Korean culture and history. This area is also one of the best to take photos with the river and fountains.
There’s even a giant multi-coloured shell statue towering over the start of the stream.
The stream was created as a place for gathering, harmony, peace, and unity. It gives Seoulites a place to come and cool off in summer, and to be together away from the concrete jungle.
For tourists, this is a wonderful chance to experience the light and lantern festivals that often occur along the stream, as well as take a break to hop over the stepping stones and get some colourful photos.
6: Shop Till You Drop In Seoul’s Markets
Shopaholics with a weekend in Seoul have to visit one of Seoul’s famous markets. These markets have street food, fashion, cosmetics, souvenirs, and bargains all around.
Continuing south from the Cheonggye Plaza, you’ll soon run into two of the best markets in Seoul – Namdaemun Market and Myeongdong Market. The best place for branded goods (real or fake, you decide) can be found in these markets.
Stalls in the street, which are open until late at night, will often have the cheapest goods (but likely to be fake), while the stores will offer huge discounts for tourists and lots of special offers.
Located at the exits to Myeondong and Namdaemun Stations, you won’t have any problems spotting these sprawling markets.
Find out more about traditional markets in Korea with this guide to 10 of the best markets in Seoul and across Korea. Find out which ones to visit, what they specialise in, and the best food you can get at each one.
7: Sample Korea’s Famous Street Food
Hungry after shopping at Myeongdong Market? Good news, you’re in the perfect place to sample another can’t-miss experience in Seoul – Myeongdong’s street food, including the delicious Korean winter street food.
The range of food has exploded in recent years as people flock to Myeondong’s street food stalls. You can find the best examples of traditional Korean street food, as well as some of the new insta-worthy fusion snacks created here.
For those who want to sample the more traditional Korean street food, make sure you try out tteokbokki (above left), odeng (fish cakes – above centre and left), hotteok (sweet filled pancake), or gyeranppang (eggy bread).
For those seeking something new, try out tornado potatoes (a potato spun out in a spiral on a skewer), lobster tail with cheese, or foot-long ice creams.
Head to Myeongdong-gil to find the best treats. You could probably spend your whole weekend in Seoul here and not run out of things to try!
8: Ride The Cable Car To Namsan Mountain
Feeling refreshed by some awesome street food? Why not head to the top of Namsan Mountain to get some fantastic night views of Seoul? There are several options to get to the top of the Namsan Mountain, including hiking to the top. Find out more below:
My favourite way is getting there by cable car. The Namsan Cable Car is found a short walk south of Myeongdong Station. Head up the hill and you can’t miss it. You can buy single or return tickets to the peak and back. It’s probably best to buy a return ticket as transport from the bottom is much easier than at the top.
Time it right and you can watch the sunset as you’re swinging your way up Namsan Mountain.
Whatever time you ride, you’re sure to have great views with the northern part of Seoul slowly spreading out above the skyscrapers and around the mountains.
9: See All Of Seoul From N Seoul Tower
When you get to the top of Namsan Mountain (by cable car or other means), head on over to the ticket booth and purchase a ticket for the observatory. Alternatively, you can book discount tickets for the observatory and a range of other attractions online and save on your entry fee.
My personal favourite was the beer and popcorn combo that gives you something to eat and drink as you check out the magnificent views of the city from the 360 degree observatory.
There are several restaurants that you can dine in, as well as cafes and gift shops.
Take as many pictures as you can, there is a lot to see from every side – cityscape, mountains, rivers, fortress walls, and Seoul as far as the eye can see.
Romantic couples can also leave a ‘love lock‘ to symbolise their eternal commitment to each other.
10: Eat, Drink, Interact In Itaewon
What better way to end the first night of your weekend in Seoul than with a bite to eat or a drink or two in one of the liveliest parts of Seoul – Itaewon.
Known as the ‘foreigner district’, this location is a melting pot of Korean and foreign culture that offers up some of the best restaurants, with food from every corner of the world.
Take a taxi from the cable car station, ride the subway from Myeongdong Station, or take a bus (03/143 nearby) to get to Itaewon, south of Namsan Mountain. You can’t miss the plethora of restaurants, bars, and cafes around Itaewon Station.
The best place to check out is the street directly north of Itaewon Station (Itaewon-ro 27ga gil), which is a narrow, busy street lined with English pubs, Spanish tapas restaurants, Italian pizzerias, nightclubs, and lots, lots more.
For those who want something a bit quieter and don’t mind paying for it, walk west towards Noksapyeong Station until you see a small road heading up the hill on your right (Noksapyeong-daero 40 gil). Meat lovers can find Manimal Smokehouse here – a delicious American smokehouse.
You can also find lots of good bars and clubs in Itaewon in case you don’t want to sleep during your 48 hours in Seoul.
Day 2 Of Your Weekend In Seoul
On your second day of the weekend in Seoul, start off with some exercise with a gentle walk, see the future in Dongdaemun, then shoot up to the observation deck of the world’s 6th largest building – Lotte Tower.
If you still have time and energy, head to Gangnam for a K Pop experience and then head over to the south west of Seoul for a night cruise and to check out the coolest part of Seoul – Hongdae. Finish your weekend in Seoul in comfort at a sauna – you deserve a rest!
11: Follow The Fortress Wall Trail
Seoul is an amazing city for many reasons, one of those is the number of historic monuments still in place around the city, including a large number of fortress walls.
Seoul’s fortress walls were built over 600 years ago and are still protecting the city today – from over-development.
These beautifully preserved walkways are perfect for a morning stroll through the city without the hassle of cars and street lights.
Good to get you ready for the second day of your weekend in Seoul. Of course, it can be skipped if you were out a bit late the night before…
You can join from many places, but I’d recommend a short walk starting at Naksan Park – easily accessed from Hyehwa Station by walking up the hill to the east.
You will also see some beautiful views from the walk to the station to the park. There are lots of cafes nearby if you need a bit more energy.
Head south from the park and you’ll walk towards Dongdaemun, the next stop on the tour.
12: Experience Dongdaemun Design Plaza
A weekend in Seoul will usually find me visit Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) at least once. This place not only looks incredible – like a futuristic space ship – but also has so much to offer.
Come for the interesting exhibitions and galleries, stay for the shopping, museums, cafes, and, at the right time, night markets.
There is a big slope from one side that acts as a giant lawn above the city. Here you can relax in the sun and see more of the surrounding areas.
The DDP is good at any time of day. I’d recommend checking out the shops inside the main area for some unique, quirky gifts. Head to the Dongdaemun Culture and History Park Station to find the DDP.
13: Shop More In Dongdaemun’s Fashion Markets
In case shopping in Myeongdong’s markets weren’t enough for you, one of the other hot spots for bargain hunters is right outside the DDP – Dongdaemun Market.
Made up of several large department stores and indoor markets, you could probably spend a whole weekend in Seoul here and not finish checking out everything.
For the lowest prices, head to Good Morning City or HelloAPM department stores. For other brands and shops, check out Lotte Fitin or Migliore. They are all right next to each other and you can’t miss them once you’ve left the DDP.
Check out the back streets behind these shopping behemoths for some cheap eats and local treats.
14: Brave The Heights Of The Seoul Sky Observatory
Lotte World Tower stands like a diamond finger pointing up into the heavens in the centre of Seoul. It’s hard to miss the world’s 6th tallest building which stands at 555 metres above the pristine Seokchon Lake.
Getting here from Dongdaemun is really easy. Simply take the green subway line (Line 2) from Dongdaemun Culture and History Park Station to Jamsil Station and you’ll appear right at Lotte World Tower.
If you’ve ever wanted to know what it would feel like to soar above the streets of Seoul, then the Seoul Sky Observatory on the 120th floor of the Lotte World Tower is for you.
Spread over 7 floors, from the 117th to 123rd floor, there are lots of things to do here.
Take a selfie on the glass floor, looking down nearly 500 metres to the streets below if you have the courage to. Not for the faint hearted!
Once you’ve had your fill of the soaring heights, head downstairs and you’ll find the wonderful Seokchon Lake right outside.
Joel’s Tip: I’d recommend booking tickets in advance if you want to see the Seoul Sky Observatory. You can get a discount on the entry price, and you should get into the observatory more quickly, too.
15: Walk Around The Beautiful Seokchon Lake
Seokchon Lake is a small lake that spreads out like butterfly wings below the towering Lotte World Tower.
On the left wing is Lotte World Magic Island – a small theme park, squashed together like a magical kingdom.
Taking a stroll around the lake is very pleasant and will help you feel grounded after soaring above the clouds in the Seoul Sky Observatory.
If you’re lucky enough to spend a weekend in Seoul during April, then you’ll get get to see the incredible cherry blossoms.
The Seokchon Lake Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the best festivals in Seoul and needs to be seen to be believed. You can find loads of great cherry blossom festivals in Seoul and if you’re visiting at in early April, be sure to check them out.
Cherry trees line the entire pathway around the lake and there are hundreds of selfie spots to capture the cherry blossoms.
16: Get Your K Pop Fix In Gangnam
Whether K Pop is your thing, or you just want to learn more about Korean culture, then head to Gangnam. Just 3 stops away from Jamsil Station (Lotte Tower) is Samseong Station, home to the gigantic COEX Mall and SM Town.
The other hot place in Gangnam for K Pop fans is the K Star Road. Starting from Apgujeong Rodeo Station to the Cheongdam intersection, you will see these cute GangnamDol (above) in the image of K Pop stars, including BTS, EXO, Girl’s Generation, and more.
Once you’ve finished taking pictures with your favourite idols’ statues, you can check out some of their favourite locations in the area and maybe even bump into someone famous!
17: Find Fashion And Fun In Hongdae
Hongdae is arguably the coolest place in Seoul and for many good reasons. Home to big name fashion stores, discount stores, award winning restaurants, nightclubs, cute cafes, escape rooms, activity cafes, and so, so, so much more. You can visit Hongdae many times over and never get bored.
If you’re around COEX Mall, then take the green subway line (Line 2) from Samseong Station all the way across town to Hapjeong Station or Hongik University Station. This will put you at one of the two ends of Hongdae.
You could spend all day exploring Hongdae. The best way is to start at Hongik University Station and then wander down towards Hapjeong or Sangsu Station. Generally, shops are in the north, cafes, bars and nightclubs are in the south.
My favourite spots (to show tourists) are the Thanks Nature Sheep Cafe, Bau House Dog Cafe, Lego Cafe, the many wonderful restaurants and craft beer bars, and the stores near Hongik University Station.
18: Rest Among Some Cute Animals In Hongdae
There are many cute cafes in Hongdae. Two of my favourite cafes are the Thanks Nature Sheep Cafe and the Bau House Dog Cafe. Here you can get in touch with nature whilst sipping on a hot latte and dining on a sweet waffle.
Both are great places to experience real animals up close, but in a safe environment for you and them. The sheep have their own little stable and you can stroke their soft, woolly backs while they walk around peacefully. Local dog owners bring their dogs to the Bau House Dog Cafe to mingle with other pets. A real change of pace from the concrete jungle.
19: Take A Cruise On The Han River
After a busy weekend in Seoul, it’s time to wind down and put your feet up. Head over to Yeouinaru Station and take a cruise along the broad Han River. You’ll see a magical sight as the sun sinks and the lights of the city start to shine.
You’ll pass under many bridges along the way, including the magical Banpo Moonlight Rainbow Bridge.
This bridge was installed with a full spectrum of colourful lights that shine down through jets of water on the north side to create a stunning rainbow waterfall.
Tours depart from Yeouido Dock near Yeouinaru Station and start from 11:30 am.
Joel’s Tip: I’d recommend trying to book an evening tour as the sights are so much better and you’ll get to experience the rainbow bridge in all its glory. They’re also sold out quite early in the day and if you turn up in the evening, there might not be any tours available. You can also save money by booking in advance.
Enjoy some live music and fireworks (evening shows) while you peacefully meander along the Han River and see other sights from the boat, including the N Seoul Tower, the Olympic Stadium, and the famous Yanghwa Bridge.
20: End Your Weekend In Seoul In A Sauna
The last stop during your weekend in Seoul would probably be back to your hotel. But, before you go there, I’d really recommend heading to a jjimjjilbang (sauna) and letting the stress wash off your body.
You can find jjimjjilbangs throughout the city. Here is a list of some of the best ones you can visit in Seoul.
I’d also recommend visiting Sea La La – a big sauna that has lots of places to relax, soak, get a massage, eat, drink, and recover from a busy day of exploring Seoul.
These indoor hot springs have something for everyone, from steaming saunas to freezing cold pools and everything in between.
There’s also a rest area where you can don the free pyjamas, relax with your friends or family, and even sleep overnight.
One thing that might frighten some people away is the need to be naked in the sauna section. Koreans have no qualms about nudity when bathing, but don’t be shocked.
Now is your chance to embrace the culture and see how Koreans let it all go. You can find out more about Korean jjimjjilbang culture here.
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