We spent a good 6 days in Seoul after the Vegas trip. Just a nice stop to adjust our body clock slowly back to Singapore time after 2 weeks of travelling. And Korean food is definitely much healthier than what we had in Vegas. I just realised how much we missed eating vegetables after a week of burgers, pizzas and meats.
We took our sweet time to visit a few places in Seoul and enjoy the local food as much as we can. Although it was 6 days, I guess it could be done in 3 days for most people.
Anyway, here are the places that we visited during this trip to Seoul.
Things To Do in Seoul, Korea
Day 1 – Royal Palace, National Folk Museum, Insadong and Kimchi Museum
1. Gyeongbokgung (Royal Palace)
The name of this palace, Gyeong-Bok, literally means “brilliance and fortune”, reflects its founders’ wishes for the dynasty to thrive and prosper.
This is the royal palace of Korea. It’s a must-visit place for first-time tourists in Seoul. This place is huge and we spent a good 2 hours there. You can also rent a traditional costume to walk around the palace and feel the nostalgic moment.
Guard changing ceremony twice a day at 10am and 2pm, and gate guard duty performance at 11am and 1pm.
It’s a good place to appreciate Korean traditional architecture and culture. Lots of photo opportunities.
- Website: www.royalpalace.go.kr
- Opening hour: 0900-1800 (Closing time may vary depending on the season) Closed on Tuesday
- Ticket price: 3,000KRW / S$3.80 (Adults), Senior over 65 and children under 6 – Free
- Guard changing ceremony: 10 am and 4 pm
- Gate guard performance: 11 am and 1 pm
- Free guided tour: 10 am to 4 pm
- Suggested duration: 2 hours
2. National Folk Museum of Korea
As much as we enjoyed walking around the historic site of Gyeongbokgung Palace, we actually much prefer our time at the National Folk Museum of Korea (located right behind Gyeongbokgung Palace within the same compound).
This museum is free. It has a few exhibition halls and displays Korean domestic and agricultural lifestyles, as well as cultural beliefs. Great information about the history of Korean people, Korean way of life etc. Very informative.
Pic: Traditional Korean bedroom
- Opening hour: 0900-1800 (Closing time may vary depending on the season)
- Ticket price: FREE
- Suggested duration: 2 hours
3. Insadong (Art and Culture street)
Insadong is not too far away from the Royal Palace. We took a slow walk of around 20 minutes to reach here.
Insadong is a culture district of Seoul. This 0.7km long street is car-free and full of antique shops, art galleries, handicraft stores etc. Many restaurants in the adjacent alley.
(Image below) The 7-meter artwork – black brush with ink. Representing the “City Gallery Project” that Korean is trying to decorate Seoul City with artworks so that it will look like an art museum.
3.1 Insadong Ssamjigil
In the middle of Insadong street, there is a mall called Ssamzie-gil. It’s a retail center with 4 floors of fashion, art & home goods shops around an open, central courtyard. Super crowded but lots to see, shop and eat.
Apart from shopping, Insadong is actually a good place for lunch. There are many traditional Korean small restaurants in the small alley like this.
Lunch I had in Insadong: Sea urchin seafood rice bowl, with Korean Soju! (Total S$30 – Lunch for 2)
One of the traditional Korean tea house.
3.2 Kimchi Museum
Oh, and don’t forget to check out Kimchi Museum in Insadong. How could you come to the land of Kimchi without visiting the Kimchi Museum?
It was not a huge museum but it has lots of information about different types of Kimchi, benefits, and the making methods of Kimchi from different regions of Korea. You can also take a photo by wearing Korean traditional costume here without extra cost (FREE). There is also Kimchi making programs that open to the public but prior reservation (4 days in advanced) is needed. More information about Kimchi making experience program can be found at this link.
Image: 50 shades of Kimchi
- Location: 35-4, Insadong-gil, Jongno-gu | 4~6F, Insadong Maru Building, Seoul 03149
- Open: Tue-Sun 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
- Expected visiting duration: 1 hour
- Ticket: 5,000 won per person. (But if you order a drink 6th-floor cafe, you can get free ticket) So we ordered an americano 2,000 won ($2.4) with a free ticket ***
- Website: https://www.kimchikan.com/en/
3.3 Traditional Tea House
There are a few traditional Korean tea houses along Insadong street. We found one nearby Kimchi museum and had a cuppa tea there.
Had a set of Jujube (red dates) tea and snacks for S$15 total.
4. Jogyesa Buddhist Temple
This Buddhist temple is quite close to Insadong. So if you are in this area definitely should check it out.
Jogyesa Buddhist Temple has the largest indoor statues in Korea and it’s also the central temple and symbol of Korean Buddhism. It is the number one temple of the first district of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. Its octagonal ten-storied stupa is also the house of an actual relic of Buddha brought in 1913 by the Sri Lankan monk Anagarika Dharmapala, a great pioneer of the revival of Buddhisms in the twentieth century.
We spent a quick 40 minutes there and lighted an incense to pay our respect. The Main Dharma Hall was very quiet and peaceful. There were quite a few local people chanting quietly, praying and meditating inside.
The Buddha statues in the Main Dharma Hall are over 5 meters tall each (about 1 storey tall). Quite spectacular!
The information counter of the temple was also very helpful. Despite the language barrier, the lady at the counter was trying hard to explain to us about some history of this temple as well as telling us about the temple stay program.
The templestay program is an interesting concept by offering visitors a chance to experience the traditional culture of Korean Buddhism in a short time. Temple tour, Lotus flower making, Cham-Seon meditation and Da-Seon (Tea ceremony) are included. There are 1-day program, an overnight program as well as freestyle program to suit different timing. We wish we could have done our research earlier and book a templestay instead. So if you are reading this post before your Seoul trip, you can book your temple stay and read more about it on the official website here.
Jogyesa Buddhist Temple
- Open: All year round
- Ticket: FREE
- TempleStay Experience Website: https://eng.templestay.com/
That’s all for day 1 in Seoul….
We only visited a few places in a day so that we could have time to walk around from places to places and stop and eat local food whenever we like. In fact, we spread this itinerary to 2 days and went back to Insadong twice to have lunch there. I find this way is the most relaxing mode of travelling instead of squeezing all the itinerary in one day. Just our personal preference.
Overall, travelling is about experiencing local cultures and at the same time relax and destress ourselves from the day to day routine, isn’t it?
- Day 2 in Seoul – Namsanol Hanok Traditional Korean Village
- What To Eat In Seoul (Namdaemun and Myeongdong)
- Our Stay at Aloft Hotel Myeongdong, $150/N