Seoul Itinerary 5-day Winter trip
Seoul in winter is pristine. The chilly temperature cools down its usual vibrancy, allowing the city to take a deep, calming breath. Winter is a delightful time to be in Seoul – you don’t get the usual swarms of tourists into the city like all other seasons. That is why you should totally plan a Seoul Itinerary for 5 days in winter!
Why you should go to Seoul in winter?
When I first landed in Seoul, I got engulfed by the hoo-ha of the city. I am a city boy so I have a thing for huge cities. Seoul is home to around 10 million inhabitants. There are so many things to do in Seoul and so you should definitely plan for at least 5 days in Seoul in winter!
5-day Seoul winter itinerary - Day 1
Start your winter trip in Seoul by ticking off some of the most spectacular sites in South Korea.
Enter the Gyeongbokgung Palace Complex through Gwanghwamun Gate to feel the “oomphness”. It is truly a marvel to gaze at. The admission to Gyeongbokgung Palace for adults is just 3000 won and you get to see amazing Korean architecture. It is open from 9am to 6pm.
Changing of the Royal Guard happens every hour from 10am to 3pm. My suggestion is to get into the palace complex as soon as you can. It will take you 1-2 hours to finish seeing everything in the complex. By that time, come back out and watch the performance at 11am or 12pm. The performance goes on for 15 minutes.
After some sightseeing, head straight to Tosokchon Samgyetang for a bowl of hearty, herby chicken soup. I have to say that this place is very touristy but the quality of the food is superb! Be warned that the portion of the dish is huge. I shared my dish with another girl from the US and we could barely finish it! The chicken soup/rice dish will cost around 20 USD.
After lunch, walk towards the Gyeongbokgung direction and walk past it to arrive at Bukchon Hanok houses. It’s not very overwhelming but there are many photo spots. Some of the hanok houses are open to visitors so you can have a peek inside + taking that Instagram photo.
Changdeokgung is located right next to Bukchon Hanok so if you love palaces, make sure you stop by as it is also marvellous (and less touristy).
The night creeps in very early during winter in Seoul. When it does, head to Hongdae! I call it the most fun precinct of the whole of Seoul! It is bustling with life and energy. Countless neon lights and street performers oomph up the atmosphere throughout the night. Keep track of how many oomphs I use in this post because it’s starting to get out of hand.
I highly recommend having your dinner at Hongdae Dakgalbi. It’s a restaurant specialising in grilled chicken on a huge pan in front of you. After you are done eating the chicken, the remaining sauce is used to fry some rice. It’s divine – it will change your dull life to a colourful one.
There are too many quirky bars in Hongdae so just choose one and go have fun! Playground, Zen, Joons… I can’t remember anything. Yeah, that’s how fun it gets in Seoul! This brings us to the end of the first day of your 5-day Seoul itinerary in winter.
5-day Seoul winter itinerary - Day 2
To complete your winter itinerary in Seoul, you must include open-air ice-skating! There are plenty of them in Seoul but the one that I love is in Seoul City Hall. It is really affordable – 1000 won per session and 1000 won for skate rental. Besides, you get a really good bearing of the city as you are in the centre of Seoul!
Head to Cheonggyecheon stream. Many youngsters and couples hang out around here. If you are there before Christmas, Christmas decorations will be everywhere and you might even hear Michael Bublé!
In winter, there aren’t as many street food stalls open as compared to the warmer seasons. However, you can get your street food fix at Gwangjang Market! Have you heard of the infamous live octopus street food? Yes, you can get it here AND IT’S ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS. Don’t worry, you can have other street food too which are more conventional.
After lunch, you can either walk or take the metro to Dongdaemun. People go to Dongdaemun normally for the gigantic Dongdaemun Market. I much prefer Dongdaemun Market over Namdaemun Market because it’s cleaner and more modern. However, the price at Namdaemun market is slightly cheaper as it’s normally wholesale price. Regardless, go on a shopping spree and cry about your credit card bills later!
Head to Dongdaemun Design Plaza for the weirdly shaped monument. Let’s just say I don’t have the eye like an architect/ designer.
When the night crawls in, head to Gangnam. I am sure that you have heard of the infamous song by PSY. Gangnam used to be the hotspot but since Hongdae has taken its spot, Gangnam transforms itself into an upscale, chic district where the rich (and pretentious) hangs out. Sure, bars and restaurants are amazing in Gangnam but the price tags are amazing too.
This concludes the second day of your winter Seoul itinerary.
Day 3 in Seoul
The best way to see a city is from above the city. There’s only a few lookout points in Seoul and Mount Namsan is one of the most famous spots. A return ticket for the cable car to the top costs slightly less than 10000 won. However, if you are feeling adventurous enough, walk from Seoul station and you should be at the top within 30-45 minutes.
After getting a satisfying hawk-eye view of the city, head to Wangbijib Korean BBQ Restaurant to get an authentic Korean barbecue experience. They cook it over charcoal and they serve amazing beef (speaking as someone who has been living in Australia for quite a while). Enough said. Pay the money and let your belly be happy.
I highly recommend going for a Jimjilbang session while in Seoul. It has a similar concept to Japanese onsen aka you are completely naked in front of strangers. However, there is nothing weird about Jimjilbang as friends and colleagues go to Jimjilbang together. When I was there, I was with a trio consisting a grandpa, son and grandson. Definitely not weird.
If you do come to a Jimjilbang, make sure you plan a whole afternoon for it. I went to Dragon Hill Spa and Resort and it was really good. Take it slow as there are many medicinal preparations for you to enjoy!
Explore Itaewon after a soothing bath. Itaewon is known as the foreigner district with many shops selling things targeted to foreigners. There is a huge ex-pat presence in Seoul and this is their usual hangout. Expect to find kebabs and buffalo wings when you are in Itaewon! Again, there are many quirky bars though these are much pricier as compared to those in Hongdae.
If you’re not going to Busan, get a taste of Busan at Busan Galbi. You will not forget how tender the beef ribs are in this restaurant.
5-day Seoul winter itinerary - Day 4
Lotte World is one of the reasons why many people flock to Seoul. It was featured in countless Korean soap operas and reality shows. Diehard fans come here to stand at the exact same spots are TV stars – okay that’s an exaggeration. This theme park is fun but admission can be a little steep. I would say that there are more kid-friendly rides as compared to other theme parks that I have been to. Moreover, there are also many dining and shopping options. If you do come here, make it a whole day thing.
If not, go to the famous Haesindang Park. It grasped the attention of major social media platforms for a few reasons but the main one – the park is full of phallic statues. If you want your 5-day trip to Seoul in winter to be more kid-friendly, head to Yeouido Park instead. This is my second favourite park (you know which one is my favourite). There is also a huge ice-skating rink too. If your winter trip to Seoul is approaching spring, you can even see cherry blossoms!
Have a plate of authentic Korean Fried Chicken at BBQ Olive Chicken Café. It was heavily featured in a Korean drama “The Lonely and Great God”. I like the original fried chicken without any sauce because the sauce just makes it too heavy. You can also get half/half, meaning that half is saucy and another half is original. This way you get the best of both worlds!
Spend your afternoon exploring Myeongdong. The street food here is OVERPRICED but the puff pastry taiyaki (fish-shaped pastry with red bean paste inside – there is definitely no fish inside) is worth trying. There are many flagship stores here selling skincare products so if you follow the 10-step Korean skincare routine, this is the holy destination to stock up for the year. Pay a visit to the Myeongdong Cathedral as well.
After Myeongdong, head to Insadong to have a proper tea ceremony. Again, because Insadong attracts mainly tourists, prices here are exorbitant. Depending on how much you are willing to spend, you can get amazing sweets and tea and have a lengthy conversation with your special someone while sitting on the floor. Everything about the tea tradition in South Korea is soothing so I highly recommend experiencing it once.
As this is day 4 of your winter adventure in Seoul, you would have explored most of the night districts such as Hongdae, Gangnam and Itaewon. Sinchon is another hang out for the locals. Prices are on the cheaper side and there are less drunk people dancing around.
5-day Seoul winter itinerary - Day 5
The rail system in South Korea makes Seoul a good base for day trips around Seoul. Hence, for the last day of your Seoul itinerary 5 days winter trip, I highly recommend taking the train or the ferry to one of the locations below because you will not regret it.
If you are keen to see snow or do a little bit of a hike, try Bukhansan National Park or Mount Seorak. Bear in mind that some parts of the hike can be dangerous in winter so make sure you check the hike routes beforehand.
To see one of the most famous filming locations of “Winter Sonata”, head to Nami Island! There are many ways to get to Nami Island, making it one of the easiest day trips to do around Seoul. You can either take the train or the city bus. To save the hassle, you can even take a shuttle bus to Nami Island.
So your 5 days in Seoul have come to an end!
So that concludes our 5-day itinerary to Seoul in winter! I hope that you enjoy this as much as I enjoy writing it!
If you are interested in Korean food, make sure you check this post about on the 3 Korean food that you should try in Seoul!
Where to stay in Seoul during winter?
Seoul is huge but fortunately, it is blessed with an extensive network of metro lines. Therefore, just stay close to any metro station and you will have access to most spots in Seoul easily.
Budget: Upflo house is one of the cheapest and trendiest accommodations in Seoul. It is a hostel but they also offer amazing private rooms. If you are looking to save on accommodation, you should stay here! Plus, it’s located right next to the metro station!
Comfortable: Stay with Lotte City Hotel Myeongdong! It’s a 4-star hotel and it’s not even that expensive! It’s right in the heart of the city and located just a 3-minute walk from the closest metro station. Furthermore, since it’s located in Myeongdong, there are many food options and shopping opportunities as soon as you step out of the hotel.
Splurge: If you wanna splurge during your 5-day trip to Seoul in winter, stay with RYSE, Autograph Collection Marriott. Every single cell of your body will be pampered to the max. Moreover, this gem is located in the heart of Hongdae. Walk out of the hotel and you can instantly feel the real hustle and bustle of this vibrant capital!