How to Spend One Day in Seoul: 10 Best Things to Do

Visit villages, sample food, and wander around iconic, historic landmarks in my one-day itinerary for Seoul. And you HAVE to check out the Gwangjang Market Food Alley, you’ll see why below…

what to do in korea in winter

Seoul is a city of both striking modernity and ancient wonders which means there are lots of places to explore, take photos of and generally be wowed by!

From historic palaces to bustling markets, Seoul invites visitors to delve into its many sights, sounds, and flavours. In the span of a single day, you can visit the centuries-old alleys of Bukchon Hanok Village, enjoy the delicious tastes of Korean BBQ in Insadong, and witness the cityscape vistas from the heights of Namsan Seoul Tower, at the very least.

I’ve put together this guide to help you make the most of your one day in Seoul. It’s filled with culture, cuisine, stunning views, history, architecture and great shopping too!

If you only have 24 hours in Seoul – this is how to get to the essence of it, ASAP!

Ultimate itinerary for one day in Seoul

From iconic landmarks to museums and antique shopping, here’s out to make the most of spending only one day in Seoul.


1. Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace is one of the most iconic palaces in South Korea so if you only have one day in Seoul then this is a must.

Originally constructed in 1395, Gyeongbokgung is the largest of the Five Grand Palaces built during the Joseon Dynasty. It served as the main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty and was the primary residence of the kings. There‘s so much gorgeous architecture within the palace and plenty of opportunities for great holiday snaps!

where to go in seoul

A few highlights of the palace include Geunjeongjeon, the main throne hall, where the king formally granted audiences to his officials, presided over large official events, and conducted state affairs. Another is Gyeonghoeru Pavilion and is situated on an artificial island in a beautiful pond; and if pavilions set on islands are right up your street then you are in luck as there is another stunning one too! Hyangwonjeong Pavilion is another beautiful pavilion located on an island within the palace grounds for you to admire.

Finally, Geoncheonggung Residence is a smaller palace within Gyeongbokgung, built for the king to escape from the rigid ceremonial duties of the main palace – the life of a King is hard work!

If you love all the pomp and ceremony of the Changing of the Guard Ceremony in the UK then you’ll be happy to know that there is also a similar ceremony that occurs at the main gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace. It features guards dressed in colourful uniforms inspired by historical clothing and is very popular with tourists – that could be you!

2. National Folk Museum of Korea

As an added extra, the National Folk Museum of Korea is located within the palace grounds. It offers exhibits on traditional Korean life, including agricultural practices, clothing, and folk art. The museum complements the historical experience of Gyeongbokgung by providing insights into the daily lives of Koreans throughout history.

If you like being taught all about the history of the place you’re visiting then a guided tour is always a great idea. Gyeongbokgung provides such tours and they are a good way to get a more in-depth understanding of the history of the palace.

National Folk Museum of Korea is a must-see in Seoul

If you really want to get into the spirit of the occasion and drench yourself in traditional culture then some visitors choose to rent traditional Korean hanbok garmonts to wear during their experience and take photos within the palace grounds.

Throughout the year, Gyeongbokgung hosts special events and festivals, such as traditional ceremonies and performances. Check the schedule to see if any events coincide with your visit.

Opening Hours: Gyeongbokgung is generally open from the morning to late afternoon but it is closed on Tuesdays.

3. Bukchon Hanok Village

Bukchon Hanok Village is a beautiful residential area in Seoul, known for its traditional Korean houses called hanoks. You can wander through narrow alleys lined with these famous and picturesque houses, some of which are open to the public.

The Bukchon Hanok Village Center is a good starting point for visitors. It provides maps, information, and guidance on the best routes for exploring the village. It is still a residential area though, not just a kind of model village so please bear that in mind whilst exploring!

Visit Bukchon Hanok Village on a day trip to Seoul

Situated between Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace, Bukchon Hanok Village is in the heart of Seoul and makes the perfect next stop on your one day in Seoul after the palace and museum.

The village is home to hundreds of these traditional Korean houses which are characterised by their wooden structures, tiled roofs, and courtyards called marues. Many of the hanoks have been preserved, offering visitors a glimpse into traditional Korean architecture. Some houses are open to the public, functioning as cultural centres and museums.

The layout of the village has been maintained to resemble the urban design of the Joseon Dynasty. It’s not just a place to simply walk around however; you can explore the numerous hanok cafes, art galleries, and small shops tucked away in the alleys. Some hanoks in the village even operate as guesthouses, so if you’re looking for a very unique experience on your Seoul trip, then what better way to enjoy a traditional Korean stay.

inside of buildings in Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul

Bukchon Hanok Village offers a unique opportunity to step back in time and experience the beauty of traditional Korean architecture amidst the modern city. It’s a peaceful destination that provides a contrast to the bustling urban landscape of Seoul and a great place to visit on your one day in Seoul.


4. Insadong

Insadong is known for its antique shops, art galleries, traditional tea houses, and street food so there is no better place to have lunch on your one day in Seoul! For lunch you have a plethora of options from traditional street food or a stop at one of the numerous traditional tea houses Insadong has to offer.

what to eat in seoul

It’s always a great idea to try some of the local cuisine when you are travelling as that’s what it’s all about, having new experiences and broadening our horizons – and your palette!

There’s plenty of delicious Korean street food you’ll find in Insadong , such as hotteok (sweet pancakes), odeng (fish cake skewers), and tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes). Immerse yourself in the local culinary delights whilst in Seoul.

have lunch at Insadong on your one day in Seoul

As well as delectable street food there is also the option of stopping by one of the numerous traditional tea houses known as ‘hanjeongsik’ or ‘jeontong chatjip’. It’s a wonderful way to  enjoy Korean tea and traditional snacks.

Insadong has more to offer than just food! It’s known as a very artistic district too and therefore has lots for fans of the arts. You’ll find numerous art galleries showcasing a wide range of artwork, from traditional to contemporary. There is also a street dedicated to antiques – I hope you brought your credit card!

5. Insadong Antique Street

This area is home to numerous antique shops and art dealers, apparently over 70 of them in 700 metres approximately! . You can find a variety of antiques, including ceramics, furniture, and traditional Korean artwork.

We’ve mentioned Hanbok, the traditional Korean attire, already when discussing your first stop at the palace. However, Insadong has several shops where you can buy Hanbok to actually take home with you to keep forever as a wonderful souvenir of your one day in Seoul. Of course, you could also choose to wear it whilst you’re there to add another dimension to your trip.

Visit Insadong Antique Street on your Seoul day trip itinerary

Fortunately there is a tourist information centre that provides maps, brochures, and helpful information for tourists which is particularly useful as there is so much to see and do.

Insadong is particularly lively on weekends, with street performances and a bustling atmosphere. Some venues in Insadong host performances of Ssitkimkut, a Korean traditional mask dance; some venues hosts arts workshops to help you create your own Korean crafts such as pottery or calligraphy; and then there is also Ssamziegil Mall, a unique shopping complex known for its spiralling, open-air design. 

As you can tell there is so much to do in Insadong so you really have to visit, even if there is more to do than can be done in just one day in Seoul – but take your pick and make of note of the things you’d love to do (and what to do if you fall in love with Seoul and want to come back for longer!)

Insadong offers a unique blend of tradition and modernity, making it a must-visit destination whether you’re into art, history, or simply want to enjoy the atmosphere – Insadong has something for everyone.

6. Gwangjang Market Food Alley

Gwangjang Market Food Alley is a vibrant culinary haven in Seoul, renowned for its delectable street food and authentic Korean dishes. Nestled within the historic Gwangjang Market, I did a great food tour in this bustling alleyway, to learn more about the South Korean street food on offer.

What to do in seoul

It was a gastronomic adventure, featuring a diverse array of traditional Korean delicacies like bindaetteok (mung bean pancakes), tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), and gimbap (seaweed rolls).

yummy food

Adventurous eaters can savour raw octopus and live seafood, while others can indulge in hot, savoury soups and savoury snacks. With its lively atmosphere and rich cultural experience, Gwangjang Market Food Alley is a must-visit destination for food enthusiasts exploring the vibrant culinary landscape of Seoul. The food tour was a definite highlight of my trip to Seoul.


7. Jogyesa Temple

Jogyesa Temple is the centre of Zen Buddhism in Korea and is located in the heart of Seoul,  making it easily accessible by public transportation. The architecture is breathtaking and well worth the trip just for that! It is the main temple of the Jogye Order, one of the major Korean Buddhist sects, and its main hall, Daeungjeon, houses the main Buddha statue which is a glorious attraction. Visitors can sometimes join in meditation sessions or witness monks engaging in prayer and chanting.

Jogyesa Temple is a great place to visit in Seoul

Jogyesa Temple was originally established in 1395 during the Goryeo Dynasty but was later relocated to its current location in 1910 during the Japanese occupation of Korea. Depending on the time of year, you might see festivals or stunning ceremonies taking place so check ahead to see if your dates coincide with some spectacular happening.

For example, Jogyesa is famous for hosting the annual Lotus Lantern Festival, which celebrates Buddha’s birthday. During this festival, thousands of lanterns decorate the temple and its surroundings, creating a mesmerising display of colour and light.

The temple is known for its symbolic trees, including an ancient locust tree and Chinese juniper trees. These trees are considered sacred and are part of the temple’s history and wonderful heritage.

Jogyesa Temple trees with lights are a must see in Seoul

Jogyesa Temple provides a peaceful escape in the midst of bustling Seoul and offers an opportunity for visitors to learn about and experience Korean Buddhism. Whether you’re interested in the architectural beauty or spiritual practices, Jogyesa Temple has much to offer on your one day in Seoul.

8. Cheonggyecheon Stream

The nearly 7 mile long Cheonggyecheon Stream flows through downtown Seoul and offers a refreshing escape amongst the urban landscape. 

Cheonggyecheon has a long history, dating back to the Joseon Dynasty when it was created as a drainage stream to manage water flow in the city. In the mid-20th century, the stream had become neglected and covered by an elevated highway. In 2003, an ambitious urban renewal project led by the city government transformed the area into a modern public space.

Cheonggyecheon Stream is included in a one day itinerary in Seoul

The stream features walking paths on both sides, allowing visitors to stroll along the water and enjoy the greenery. It is also adorned with various art installations and sculptures that add to the beauty and interest of Cheonggyecheon.

Throughout the stream, there are waterfalls, stepping stones, open plazas and seating areas where visitors can relax, have a picnic, or enjoy special events. Among them is the Seoul Lantern Festival, where the stream is filled with colourful lanterns making it magical!

Cheonggyecheon is beautifully illuminated at night, so if you’re looking for a romantic atmosphere this would be a gorgeous place to come on your one day in Seoul.

9. Namsan Seoul Tower

Namsan Seoul Tower, also known as N Seoul Tower, is an icon of the area and is located on Namsan Mountain in the heart of Seoul. If you fancy it you could take a hike or a cable car to the top of Namsan Mountain for breathtaking views of Seoul. Over the years, the tower has become a popular tourist attraction, offering panoramic views of the city which you really can’t pass up if you’ve only got one day in Seoul.

For those who prefer not to hike, a shuttle bus service, called the Namsan Sunhwan Shuttle Bus, operates from various locations in Seoul and takes visitors to the base of the tower. The tower has two observation decks that offer stunning 360-degree views of Seoul and its surrounding areas. On clear days, visitors can see as far as the distant mountains!

One day in Seoul includes visiting Namsan Seoul Tower

As you will have probably seen on many bridges across European tourist destinations, the terrace of the tower is famous for its ‘love locks’ where couples attach padlocks to the fence as a symbol of their love. It has become a romantic tradition for both locals and tourists, so maybe you can leave your mark there on your one day in Seoul. Sunset and evening are popular times to visit due to the possibility of being lucky enough to have a breathtaking view to take in.

Namsan Seoul Tower is not only a prominent landmark but also a must-visit destination for those seeking amazing views of Seoul. The journey to the top, whether by cable car or on foot, is something you’ll remember forever and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.


10. Myeongdong and Korean BBQ

Myeongdong is one of Seoul’s most popular shopping districts. Not only does it have big name stores but also street markets and stalls offering an array of accessories, clothing, and is a mecca for K-Beauty products. It’s also famous for street food, restaurants, and entertainment.

For your evening meal in Seoul, Myeongdong offers a wide range of options from traditional Korean cuisine to international flavours. You can find everything from Korean barbecue to pizza and pasta. 

have food in the Seoul district of Myeongdong

As you only have one day in Seoul, you simply have to choose a Korean BBQ restaurant, known as ‘gogigui’ in Korean, where you can grill your own meat at the table. Tables are equipped with built-in grills where diners can cook their own meat, how often do you get an experience like that back home (outside of your own kitchen of course!). Popular choices include bulgogi (marinated beef) and samgyeopsal (pork belly).

Myeongdong is often alive with street performances, including music, dance, and other spectacles. So after your unique evening meal you can enjoy all the entertainment Myeongdong has to offer for your one night in Seoul! Find more of the best places to eat in my top cafes in Seoul list.

One day in Seoul itinerary quicklist

As you can tell there is plenty to see and do in Seoul, much more than can just fit into 24 hours. However I’ve given you some prime highlights to enjoy and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Seoul really is a city with something for everyone!

  1. Gyeongbokgung Palace
  2. National Folk Museum of Korea
  3. Bukchon Hanok Village
  4. Insadong
  5. Insadong Antique Street
  6. Gwangjang Market Food Alley
  7. Jogyesa Temple
  8. Cheonggyecheon Stream
  9. Namsan Seoul Tower
  10. Myeongdong and Korean BBQ
Gwangjang Market Food Alley

Is one day in Seoul enough?

Spending just one day in Seoul can be quite a whirlwind experience, which is why you need to plan ahead. Key attractions like Gyeongbokgung Palace, the bustling streets of Myeong-dong for shopping, and a visit to the N Seoul Tower for panoramic city views can be fitted into a tight schedule. Sampling local cuisine, such as Korean BBQ or street food at a local market, is also a must.

Is Seoul a cheap destination?

The cost of visiting Seoul can vary depending on your travel style and preferences. Generally, it’s a city where you can find options to suit a range of budgets. Eating out in Seoul can be quite cheap, especially if you indulge in local street food or dine at traditional Korean restaurants. Public transportation in Seoul is efficient and reasonably priced, making it a cost-effective way to get around. You’ll also need to consider different types of accommodation in Seoul.

Can you leave the airport during a layover in Seoul?

If you have a layover in Seoul, especially a long one, you may have the opportunity to leave the airport and explore a bit of the city. Incheon International Airport offers transit tours, which are a convenient way to see some of Seoul’s highlights without the stress of planning logistics on your own. These tours vary in length and can include key sights like temples, markets, or even a brief city tour.

However, if you’re planning to venture out independently, it’s crucial to consider the duration of your layover, visa requirements, and the time needed to return to the airport and clear security.

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