Answers from Our Experts (1)
If you only have one day to see Seoul, here are some suggestions from our Forbes Travel Guide editors on how to make the most of it:
Start the day with a flaky pastry from your local Paris Baguette or Tous Les Jours. These popular Korean chain bakeries offer a wide variety of breads, potato or veggie croquettes, breakfast rolls and sweet donuts.
Then, take your passport and head over to the Fortress Wall of Seoul (closed Monday), which used to protect the area from outside invaders. The wall is located behind Cheongwadae or the Blue House where South Korea’s president works and resides. The Blue House’s proximity to one section of the wall, the Bukaksan Fortress Walk, is what makes the 1.4-mile trek so unique. You can enjoy great views of Mt. Bukak and see historical landmarks attesting to Japanese colonization and hostilities with North Korea.
When you’re done with your walk, stroll down to Gyeongbokgung, the main palace in Seoul. Although still under restoration, the buildings and gardens provide a look at royal life in Korea. Admission to the palace also gets you into The National Folk Museum of Korea.
Head east to the Bukchon Traditional Village to see houses that have preserved traditional Korean-style architecture, browse art galleries, or visit museums dedicated to various Korean handicrafts. If you call ahead, you can participate in workshops on traditional Korean food, music and handicraft making.
By then, you’ll want to grab lunch and tour nearby Insadong, a street known for its art and culture offerings. This is a great place to buy inexpensive souvenirs like traditional Korean pottery, browse art galleries and grab a bite to eat. There are plenty of restaurants and teahouses to choose from in the narrow alleyways that line the main street.
For those who don’t want to leave Seoul without a shopping trip, start on a 20-minute walk to Myeongdong to browse through the shops and street vendors that set up in the evening. You can also pay a visit to the Lotte Young Plaza or even venture to the outskirts of Myeongdong and shop at Shinsegae Department Store.
After that, prepare to be dazzled by breathtaking views of Seoul’s expansive skyline by going to Namsan Park and taking the cable car up to the N Seoul Tower. You can ride on one of the glass observation elevators and watch the city grow smaller as you’re whisked up to the observatory. Enjoy dinner and the view at one of the tower’s restaurants.
By then, your body will want a nice hot soak, so find yourself a jjimjilbang (such as the Dragon Hill Spa in Yongsan) for the Korean sauna experience. You’ll start in gender-segregated baths, where you can relax in the water before heading out to the unisex sauna area. Try out the multiple hot sauna rooms featuring different material for the flooring and walls (think: jade flooring or wood walls), a snack bar (try the shikhae, a refreshing rice punch), TVs and even karaoke.