3 Days in Seoul
My wife and I had the opportunity to visit Seoul for 5 days. We wanted to share our Seoul itinerary and tips because of the lack of English resources around. As a photographer, I wanted to get as much in as possible in a short time. This itinerary presents many colourful photographic opportunities, with a mixture of street, food and landscape photography. I hope you enjoy these images!
Seoul’s subway is a myriad of easily 200-300 stations. Any time spent counting I’d rather be writing this blog post. In the next few hours, a new station would probably be being built as we speak! We were lucky enough to be given an oldish (what looked to be) 2 year old map from a relative. Already it was outdated and we identified a couple of new lines on it!
Korea Travel Hotline and Subway Map
To help you get around the subway, you need an up-to-date map from one of the many visitor centres, or the airport. We found that the best map is one produced by the Korea Travel Hotline. It comes in a small-ish format without too many folds and doesn’t flop around like the cheaper massive town map. The Korea Travel hotline is a free service for tourists – dial 1330 from a mobile or landline, or Skype them free through this account – “kto1330”. They’ll help you with translations, directions, food, anything!
The next essential must-have time-saving life-saving website you absolutely need to bookmark is this subway map that will allow you to plug in the name of a station and have it highlighted on the screen. Trust me, it will save you tons of time especially if you’ve got a train to catch!
The best place for currency exchange is in Myeong Dong – the best rates are on the street where the Chinese Embassy is. We hunted around multiple shops and found the rates around Ewha Women’s university pretty favourable too.
Travelling to the Boseong Green Tea Plantation
The Boseong Green Tea Plantation is well known for its luscious green fields. We did really want to visit it during the week as we had blocked out other activities for the weekend. Fortunately we realised (through the 1330 Korea Travel Hotline) that the express bus from Seoul Station only runs once a day at 3.10pm during the week. Take note!!
I found various sources of bus timetables such as this, and they had conflicting information so your best bet is to call the 1330 hotline directly. There are other less direct ways to get from Seoul to Boseong, but we didn’t want to spend more than 10 hours in a day in transit – it was either a direct express bus or nothing! There is a direct bus we’re told that runs from Seoul Bus station to Boseong at 8.10am on Saturday. Do note that it will not take you straight to the green tea plantation – you’ll still need to take a cab or local bus.
Making the most of a short trip
You’ll find the best of Seoul through day trips.
Day 1 – City Tour
Myeong Dong Shopping District
However if you’re a metropolitan city shopper and foodie, there’s lots to see and eat around Myeong Dong (think Made-in-Korea sock shops, dessert shops, restaurants with very cheap Soju ~ US$2. And we did have an interesting encounter with restaurant staff protecting us from a gentleman who had one too many to drink!).
Ewha Women’s University
This is THE area for cosmetics, makeup and trendy clothes, obviously targeting the young demographics in the area. You’ll find great food, and even a little cat cafe nearby in Shinchon (within walking distance).
Insadong Arts and Crafts Market
Insadong is known as the local folk flea market with lots of arts and crafts for a bargain. We scored some framed hand painted paintings for NZ$10, and hand-made muslin baby face cloths for $2.
Apart from the crafts, you will also find quaint eateries down back-street alley ways. I’m told everything’s delectable but go for the more “off-the-track” ones for the best food. We were fortunate to indulge in the best grilled mackerel we’ve ever had. It was crispy on the outside and moist on the inside, full of flavour!
A 15 minute walk from Insadon is this bell pavillion called “Bosingak”. You can’t enter it, but it’s quite a sight to walk around from the outside.
After a day of shopping, head on down to Namdaemun market for a slightly different shopping scene – one lined with street food, ginseng vendors, textiles, bags, apparel, anything conceivable really! This is the perfect place to end your day with the food options and the nearby Namdaemun Gate (10 minutes walk from the market). If you’re asking for directions, you’ll need to refer to it by the local name “Sungnyemun”.
Day 2 – Nami Island
This is where they filmed the Korean drama series Winter Sonata. The whole place is quite gimmicky, centred around the movie, with Winter Sonata souvenir shops, Winter Sonata statues around the Island and lots of tourists. They call their ticket booth “Immigration” and you need to get a “Visa” into the island. BUT, if you wander off the touristy paths around the fringes of the island, you’ll find serenity in the leaves of Verdant Trees, and a foggy mysteriousness that surrounds the enclosing waters. For the adventurous, try Ziplining into the island!
Day Trip 3 – Korean Folk Village
It takes about 2 hours to get there by train (Suwon station) and a free shuttle bus just outside the visitor centre. It’s best to head here when they just open during a weekday. Crowds start to arrive after mid-day for the later shows. Allow half to a full-day at the KFV. There’s plenty to soak in.
Day 3 – Changdeokgung Palace
Changdeokgung is one of the “Five Grand Palaces” built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty. This palace is not the largest, but it’s big enough with lots to see, and you could easily spend a few hours discovering the many nooks and crannies of this magnificent piece of Korean architecture.
There’s so much to see in Seoul. It’s a vibrant city with a rich history, that has preserved it’s culture, yet it feels so technologically advanced when you look at the skyscrapers around you in town. I’d recommend spending at least 3 days here, but if you have but 3 days, this is the perfect itinerary!
For those interested, I travel light with a Canon 6D (for full-frame goodness without weighing a ton) and these lenses – 24-105mm f/4 L (for versatility) and 40mm F2.8 STM (for compactness).
- Camera: Canon EOS 6D