If you only have a day to explore the central Seoul city, good news for you, most of the tourist attraction located nearby to each other and you can explore it on foot within a day if you have a good pair of leg … hehehe.. Here is my suggested routes for a day trip in Seoul city
1. Gwanghwamun Square
After early breakfast, take the subway line 5 and stop at the Gwanghwamun Station. Gwanghwamun Square located just above the station. You’ll start off with the imposing statue of Admiral Yi Sun Shin, who had a pretty interesting career as one of the most successful naval admirals ever, and the water fountains that always full with children playing with the water. I was fascinated with the scenery at this square, the fountains and the lovely backdrop of mountains and the Gyeongbokgung Palace in the middle of it because of Fengshui. Walk towards the Gwanghwamun Gate at the north of the square.
2. The Gyeongbokgung Palace, National Palace Museum of Korea & National Folk Museum
Entering the Gwanghwamun Gate, you reached the Gyeongbokgung Palace Complex. Every day visitors to Gyeongbokgung palace can watch a reenactment of the “Changing of the Royal Guards” ceremony, which takes place at the Gwanghwamun Gate. The first show held at 10am, so you might want to have a short visit to the National Palace Museum of Korea located at the left side of the entrance. Entrance to the museum is free, however you need to pay 3,000krw for the Gyeongbokgung Palace entrance fee which can be bought at the nearby ticket booth. After watching the show, you may enter and explore the palace compound. You may spend more than one hour here as the whole complex was quite big. You may exit through the east gate where the National Folk Museum is located. The entrance to the museum is free. Once you exit the palace complex, cross the main road Samcheongdong and walk towards the Buchon area.
3. The Buchon Hanok Village
You will know that you had reached the Buchon Hanok Village when you see lines of traditional korean houses with small alleyways. Today, many of these hanoks operate as cultural centers, guesthouses, restaurants and tea houses, providing an opportunity to experience, learn and immerse in Korean traditional culture. Bukchon Hanok Village consists of many hilly slops and small alleys. Make sure to pick up a map before you wander around.You may walk up and down hills, through small alleyways and pointed out some great panoramic views of the village and city, as well as a glimpse into the architectural construction of the village. Overall the walk circumference around the village took about 2 hours to complete at a comfortable pace and it was one of my most memorable afternoons in Seoul. On the streets of the village closer to the main road approaching Insadong and the Anguk subway station, there’s a large selection of cafe’s and restaurants serving everything from traditional Korean food to Italian food and modern fusion cuisine, but sorry muslims friend.. there’s no halal restaurant here.
Exiting the Buchon village after the main street and the Anguk subway station was the Insadong Shopping street. Insa-dong Street stretches over 700 meters between the Anguk-dong Rotary and Tapgol Park with dozens of art galleries and shops selling art supplies, antiques, and handicrafts along one main street (Insadong-gil) and many side alleys. You may hang around this to experience Korean traditional culture and arts, but expect high prices here. If you feel tired, you may stop at many traditional tea and coffee shops here. On weekends, the main street is blocked to vehicular traffic, allowing the throngs of people to mingle without fear of being run down by Seoul drivers taking a shortcut. Oh ya, do stop for a while at the Samzegil Mall, nice small art mall located in the middle of Insadong Street. At the end of Insadong Street, there’s Tapgol Park, a small public park. You can stop for a while there, but not much things that you can actually see there.
5. Cheongyecheon Stream
Walk down the Samil-Ro street in 10minutes you will reached the Cheongyecheon Stream. Yes, you have to get down to feel it, not just a view from above the bridge. Once you are down there, you won’t sense the noise from the city, the hectic traffic above it or the stressed outs life of a city people. Take a leisurely walk along the stream. The river has a path on both sides and decorated with art, statues or special themes for events. This is a place designed for the people to spend some quiet time here. Unlike some other places which are created for tourists, this place is loved and frequented by many locals. Locals sits under the bridge, sinking their feet on the running stream, have a walk, and some even jogs. At night-time parts of the river light up and you can enjoy a laser show.
6. City Center walk
From the Cheongyecheon Square walk towards the Namdaemun Market. Along the way, you can see series of highrise office towers and few shopping complexes that makes the Seoul City skyline. If you are lucky, sometimes there’s event been held at the Seoul Plaza. If you want to shops for duty free items or outdoor stuff, drop by the Lotte Department Shopping Complex located at the Namdaemun main street.
7. Namdaemun Market
You reached the Namdaemun Market when you see the Shinsegae Building. It is the biggest traditional market in Korea selling children’s clothing, men & women’s clothing, daily miscellaneous goods, kitchenware and local and imported products. You may buy souvenirs here as it is cheaper compared to other shopping street area in Seoul (insadong, myeongdong, ehwa or hongik). The whole market was quite big with different types of stuff was sold at few sections. There is alleys sell only clothes, alleys for children clothes, alleys for shoes, alleys for foods, alleys for jewelleries and more.. You can spend almost 2 hour shopping here. Before dawn, make your way along the Sogong-ro road towards the Namsan Park.
8. N Seoul Tower
At the end of Sogong road, take the elevator uphill to the Namsan Cable car station. From there, you have two options – you can either buy a ticket for cable car or walk up the mountain, million of stairs choice is a little exhausting, especially when you’re out of shape of visiting Seoul. I especially recommend taking the cable car before sunset. After buying the cable car fee, took the cable car uphil the Namsan Park where the Namsan Seoul Tower is located. Cable car takes you to an observation terrace, and if you want to get inside the tower and hit the top of it, you need to buy a ticket. It offers great panoramic views of the city, especially nice view of the sunset. After you went down the tower, you may continue to explore the tower base complex. You can take a rest at a plaza, grab a coffee, have a snack or a full course meal, or visit the Teddy Bear Museum located nearby.
9. Myeongdong Shopping Street
Exiting Namsan Cable Car Station, walk toward the Myeongdong area. You may end the day by strolling the streets of Myeongdong. You will be swapped away by the whole street of shops of cosmetic, skin care products. Laneige, SkinFood, Tony Moly, etc. you name the brand and you will definitely get very good quality bargain products. And the best part, they are so generous with their free sample packs and gifts. The shops started to closed at 10pm. However, some of the cafe here close late so you can hang around having a nice cup of coffee before heading back using the subway Myeongdong station
In one day, you had actually covered all major tourist area in the city center. However, I only suggested you to do this if you really do not have time to explore the city. Seoul is a nice a place to hang around leisurely. Just relax, take your time, and explore the city to the fullest..