Seoul is the capital of South Korea and one of its best cities because it has a little bit of everything that Korea has to offer. There’s crazy cafes, big city vibes, amazing street food, great hikes, and awesome history. The place is filled with restaurants, historical sites, and shopping complexes which is why it is always thriving with locals and tourists. If you are visiting Seoul for a short period, you may be wondering about places to see. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about your itinerary! With this guide, you can learn all about how to see Seoul in 2 days.
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Day 1: Exploring the City and Palaces
There are five grand palaces in Seoul that represent the culture of the Joseon Dynasty. This is the last royal dynasty of South Korea and is popular for changing the country’s history. A fun fact is that Seoul was made the capital city during this era. That is why it only seems fit to start your trip by learning more about the country’s history by exploring its many royal palaces. While you may not have time for all of these things, this list will provide you with ideas on how to spend your time if you want to experience Seoul in two days.
The Gyeongbokgung Palace is the largest out of all the five locations. Not only that, but it is the grandest too. This is because the site has been preserved over the years even though it was built in the 1300s and was set on fire in the 1500s! You can really immerse yourself in the cultural history of Korea at this palace and its museum.
This palace was built in 1395 and was an important location for the royal family of South Korea. Its architecture will amaze you, while the sculptures will make your heart skip a beat. The location is also home to various museums that will help you learn more about South Korea’s history. Just be aware that the palace is closed on Tuesdays.
Because this is considered one of the more popular destinations in Seoul it is important to plan ahead for your visit. Either arrive early to ensure that it is not too crowded or visit the palace during the changing of the guard which happens between 10am and 2pm. The changing of the guard is an ancient tradition that you can observe at the main gate. This is one of the top reasons many tourists visit this site.
Cost: Individuals – Adults 3,000 won / Children 1,500 won
Location: 161, Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul 서울특별시 종로구 사직로 161
See the Changdeokgung Palace Secret Gardens
The Changdeokgung Palace is another lavish palace that will be a highlight of your two days in Seoul. It was the second royal house where many kings have spent their lives and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in the 1400s, this huge palace is surrounded by nature. Like the Gyeongbokgung Palace. this palace was burnt down in the 1500s. The fire destruction was so bad that it had to be completely rebuilt in the 1600s.
While the architecture of this site is impressive, the best places you can visit in this palace are its secret gardens. They bloom with an extensive range of flowers, including cherry blossoms during the spring. Peaceful strolls in this palace are among the best things to do while you are in Seoul. However, keep in mind that the secret garden exploration will require an additional fee. It will be worth it, though, as you will get to enjoy a scenic route involving a majestic valley.
While visiting the palaces, you should also consider exploring the Hanok Village as it is in the vicinity of the other two palaces. It is located on a hill between the Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung Palaces. The village is 600 years old and one of the most respected traditional villages in the country. It is a great place to experience traditional Korean culture.
From the hill, you can also enjoy a bird’s eye view of the city and enjoy relaxing before continuing on with your day. The key feature of this village is the traditional houses known as Hanok. Most of them are private-owned, but you will still find some that offer public access. Some houses in the village serve as guesthouses, eateries, and teahouses. So you can easily gather your energy after visiting the two palaces. It is recommended to visit one of the teahouses for some refreshments. However, keep in mind to be respectful throughout your stay.
The Deoksugung Palace is on the corner of the busiest downtown intersection in Seoul. It is known for the majestic stone-walled pathway that offers a scenic background for photography. This site may be in an active part of the town, but the visit will be worth it because of all of the things that the palace has to offer.
One of the things that make this palace exceptional is that it is the only one that is around modern buildings. They contribute to the beauty of the location as the old palace is contrasted by the modern city experience.
If you visit the palace at 11 am, 2 pm, and 3:30 pm, you can even observe the guard changing ceremony. Another thing to note about this site is that you can benefit from a free English-guided tour on some days. Keep in mind that the palace has an entrance fee just like all other ones. However, you can get free entry at this location by showing up in Hanbok clothing which is common to rent for photo opportunities.
Visit a Racoon Café
After spending a day visiting the palaces, it is time to get some food and relax! But you can’t simply go to any boring, old cafe, South Korea offers a variety of themed cafes that make eating a little bit more interesting. I highly recommend visiting a raccoon cafe. I had some crazy adventures surrounding food while I was in South Korea. Not only did I visit a raccoon cafe, but I also tried eating LIVE OCTOPUS. South Korea definitely knows how to make food interesting.
Not only did the raccoon cafe that I visited have a few raccoons, it also had multiple pigs and a corgi running around! You can watch the animals and even pet or feed them (with animal-approved food) for a small fee. The eatery serves various delicious drinks such as coffee, mocha, tea, shakes, and much more. If you don’t want to eat, you can simply pay to go into the raccoon area for a bit. I highly recommend adding this odd experience to the list of things to see in Seoul in two days.
Day 2: Food, History, and Crazy Cafes
Visit The DMZ
The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is a region that is towards the north of Seoul that is located at the border of North and South Korea. For Americans, this may be your only opportunity to see communist North Korea as United States citizens are not allowed in the country. A key thing to note is that you can only visit it with a guided tour as it is technically a military zone. Most tours will start early in the morning and bring you back to Seoul in the afternoon.
This is a must-see place during your South Korea trip. If your tour allows it, you can even go inside one of the buildings that has a line down the middle called the JSA. This is where the leaders of North and South meet. It houses a large conference room for this particular purpose. One side is South Korea and the other is North Korea. You can officially set foot into North Korea here and cross it off your bucket list.
On your DMZ tour, you can see and go into the tunnels that were dug by soldiers during the Korean War that run underground and between the two countries. They are cool to see, but be aware that it can feel tight if you are claustrophobic.
A couple of things to note about the DMZ tours are that you must bring your passport with you as it can be checked by military personnel at any time, cameras are not permitted in some areas like the underground tunnels, and it is an active military zone. If guns make you nervous, then just be aware that it is an active military zone with soldiers from both countries.
The DMZ is definitely worth visiting because it is such a cool piece of history and cultural conflict. You can even buy North Korean liquor at the DMZ store! (I don’t recommend it though! It is hands down the worst thing I have ever tasted in my life. I use it as a party foul punishment– it’s that bad).
Eat Korean Barbeque
There are many ways to enjoy dinner in Seoul, but the best way is to grab some Korean barbeque. Many restaurants in the city will offer you an exquisite menu for dinner including a lot of different meat options. It isn’t always cheap, but you can be assured that you will leave incredibly full! A visit to Seoul will be incomplete without trying Korean barbeque at least once.
Besides the incredible taste. One of the key features of Korean barbeque is that you are given a ton of different plates of food! You get to try a little bit of everything, and I mean EVERYTHING when you go out to a barbeque restaurant. The barbeque itself is often served hot pot style where is it cooked on a burner in front of you. Just make sure to come hungry. You can see all of the food that Eric and I got (for just two people!) in the photo below.
Saving the best for the last, Myeongdong is the heart of Seoul and is located in the central part of the city. It is famous for offering the best nightlife experience, its shopping, and its street food. If you have just eaten Korean barbeque you may not be hungry, but after a night of clubbing, you will get your appetite back!
Malls in this region have affordable pricing and high-quality items for the best experience. Shopping will allow you to pass a few hours until the sunset. This is so that you can enjoy the street food when the market is lively.
A night dining tour will be the highlight of your Myeongdong trip. You can indulge in various Korean street foods such as tteokbokki (stir-fried rice cake), Kimbap (rice roll), mandoo (dumplings), and much more will fulfill your Korean food cravings.
Other Ideas For Seeing Seoul in Two Days
Hike The Bukhansanseong Fortress Course
The Bukhansanseong Fortress is a walled mountain fortress that connects the different peaks of Mount Bukhan. It was built to aid the country’s troops during a national crisis. However, the fort has never observed a war because of its completion time. This wall surrounds a large portion of the city and you can walk along parts of it.
This zone contains many trails on which you can go for a hike. It is advisable to get up early on day two. You can complete the DMZ tour and visit this site to engage in some physical activity. The trip will be worth it because the route and view of this course are pretty scenic. It is important to note that while there are many different distances of hikes that you can take here, there is an incredible amount of stairs that need to be hiked up to even end up on the wall in the mountains in the first place.
The stairs are not for the faint of heart, but the view of Seoul and the surrounding mountain makes it a worthwhile stop while you are seeing Seoul in two days.
Go To A Korean Bathhouse or Jjimjilbangs
After the hike on the fortress course, you have two choices: go to your hotel for a shower or visit a Korean bathhouse. The latter is the best option as it will allow you to indulge in a new activity. There are many sites you can go to for a bathhouse experience. Just make sure to choose one best Jjimjilbangs in Seoul for your bathhouse experience.
A key thing to note is that a Korean bathhouse is not a traditional or low-quality place. They are spas that allow you to enjoy amenities such as hot pools, saunas, and much more. You will also get refreshments at the location to cool yourself down after a busy day of exploring the city.
At the bathhouses, you can customize your treatment to what you want. If you want a little bit of luxury, you can get a skin treatment or a massage. If you just want to sweat it out, you can use the saunas and bath areas. It’s completely up to you.
Visit The Lotte World Tower
Lotte Tower is one of the best places in Seoul because of the majestic view it provides. Typically, this location is filled with tourists from late noon onwards. So it is best to visit early. The tower is the tallest building in the country and offers a bird’s eye view of Seoul. You can observe various famous spots from the building using the observation deck. Besides that, the glass floor will allow you to view the streets near the tower as well.
Another cool thing about the Lotte World Tower is that it allows you to observe the famous Han River. You can see it flowing within the city and outside it as well from the building. The windows within the tower make for a great Instagram opportunity as well. While you may visit the Lotte Tower only for the bird’s eye view, it is advisable to tour other floors too. The building has an extensive range of exhibition zones that will allow you to immerse yourself in a fun experience.
This is your complete guide on how to see Seoul in 2 days. This itinerary is just an overview of things you can do in the city. You can change your plans and mix up the places during the two days for a better experience. However, it is best to cover the historic sites in one day. This is because most of them are close to each other. This will save you time and money!
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