It’s finally happening—you’re long awaited, grandiose 11-day adventure in South Korea is booked and you can’t wait for the day to hop off the plane in Seoul and get the party started.
And sure, you’ve got some sweet ideas of what you think you’ll do, and you’re certain of a couple of cities here and there you plan to visit, but I get it—you could really use some solid advice as for top places to explore, or better yet, a step-by-step guide from an experienced visitor to the region for how to best spend your vacation in South Korea.
Well, look no further. Sit back, relax, open your notes, and let’s get to your ultimate 9-day itinerary for traveling in South Korea.
Table of Contents
- Day 1 – Welcome to South Korea!
- Day 2 – Explore Top Attractions in Seoul
- Day 3 – Your First Big Trip: The DMZ
- Day 4 – Explore Busan, a Nearby City
- Day 5 – Experience Busan’s Best Attractions
- Day 6 – Arrive on Jeju Island
- Day 7 – Get Outdoors on Jeju Island
- Day 8 – Discover Korean History and Culture in Andong
- Day 9 – Continue Learning About South Korea History and Culture
- Day 10 – Unwind and Reflect in Seoul
- Day 11 – Last Minute Shopping + Departure From Seoul
- Let’s Your Journey Begin!
Day 1 – Welcome to South Korea!
Congratulations, you’ve made it to Seoul. The sprawling megacity of some 10 million people is sure to welcome you with open arms, and since you’re new to the area, it’s best to kick off your grand tour of South Korea settling into Seoul and getting acquainted with the city.
Goal: Settle in and get yourself acquainted with the region.
Visit the observation deck of N Seoul Tower for a breathtaking bird’s eye view of Seoul from 777-ft. above Namsan Peak. Familiarize yourself with local transportation, lifestyle, cultural differences, food, and communication, by taking the metro to Myeon-dong, a bustling shopping hub, grabbing coffee at the awe-inspiring Starfield Library, overlooking Heunginjimun Gate in Dongdaemun, and taking a leisurely stroll along Cheonggyecheon Stream in downtown. Let’s keep it simple and prep for the awesome days ahead.
What to Eat
Koreans love to eat fried chicken, and there’s a 99.99% chance you’ll come across some of the best chicken wings you’ve ever tried in your life during your trip. So, if you’re not completely ready to munch on traditional Korean food your first day, try stopping at Kyochon Chicken or 678 Chicken in while you’re in Myeon-dong. And if you are ready to dig into some local street snacks, head over to Namdaemun Market for a taste of what’s to come.
Where to Stay in Seoul
$$$ – Courtyard by Marriot Seoul Namdaemun
$$ – Hotel Skypark Kingstown
$ – Myeongdong Rooftop Hostel
Day 2 – Explore Top Attractions in Seoul
Now that you’re semi-settled, today is all about exploring Seoul’s top attractions and diving head first into South Korean culture and lifestyle.
Goal: Get out and experience the most popular things to do in Seoul.
Start your day bright and early with a trip to Gwanghwamun Square, a tourist friendly public space featuring 2 iconic statues of local historical heroes. Next, you’ll want to spend a few hours exploring Gyeongbukgong Palace, a culturally aesthetic, beautiful grand palace that was once home to Korea’s most powerful aristocrats. Afterwards, continue on to Bukchon Hanok Village, a 600-year old vibrant neighborhood riddled with traditional houses, for a glimpse into South Korea’s past.
What to Eat
Stimulate your taste buds by unloading on traditional Korean street food at Gwangjang Market, one of Korea’s oldest and most popular markets. You can try everything from kimchi, kimbap, fish cakes, and gill cheese lobster, to blood sausage, fried milk, and live octopus. Hey, that’s why you’re here, isn’t it?!
How to End Your Day
End your day with a relaxing massage at a popular Jjimjilbang, or Korean spa, like Dragon Hill Spa and LK Spa. We’ll save the drinks for tomorrow!
Day 3 – Your First Big Trip: The DMZ
Now that you’re more comfortable with the region, it’s time to go on your first excursion outside of the city with an exciting day trip to the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
Goal: Have a successful outing outside of the city.
By Day 3 you’ll feel more comfortable touring Seoul, so it’s the perfect time to go on a grand escapade to the DMZ, an active cease-fire zone on the border of North and South Korea. Portions of the 154-mile long, 2.5-mile wide strip are open to the public via licensed tour, and the best way to get there is by taking the scenic route from aboard the DMZ Peace Train.
By evening’s time you’ll have arrived back in Seoul, and that’s when you’ll visit Lotte World Tower, Korea’s tallest building, which is equipped with a mall, theatre, aquarium, and observation deck. Hang out, go shopping, and sightsee with the locals in a modern setting.
What to Eat
Tomorrow’s an even bigger day of traveling, so you’ll want to stuff your face with delicious meals that’ll keep you energized. I recommend two options: The first, continue exploring Korea’s street food markets with a fun trip to Bamdokkaebi Night Market, Myeong-don Street Food Alley, or Common Ground. And the second? Since you’re already at Lotte Tower in the evening, go big with an extravagant meal at 123 Lounge. Located on Lotte Tower’s 123rd Floor, it’s the highest restaurant in Korea.
Explore Seoul’s Nightlife
By late evening, unwind with drinks and dancing in Itaewon, a popular foreign-friendly dining and nightlife hub in Seoul. Enjoy small talk with international expats by asking them about their amazing experiences living in Korea and find recommendations for places to visit and unique things to do!
Day 4 – Explore Busan, a Nearby City
Day 4 deserves yet another congratulations. You’ve made it this far and surely you’ve had the best time of your life exploring South Korea’s capital city. Today, you’re going on an adventure in Busan, Korea’s 2nd largest city.
Goal: Travel to and stay in another major city in South Korea.
Start your day early with a 2.15 hour ride to Busan on a KTX high-speed train. After checking in to your hotel, head over to Busan Tower’s observation deck for an unobstructed view the city from nearly 400 ft. above a Longtou Mountain.
Next, head over and see Gamcheon Culture Village, a vast collection of colorful terraced houses perched on a coastal mountain. Explore the village’s winding alleyways, murals, museums, and photo zones. Trust me when I say that Gamcheon Culture Village is easily the most jaw-dropping, Insta-worthy attraction in Busan.
Afterwards, make your way to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple for a stunning look at pagodas, Buddhist statues, decorative halls, and spectacular views of the temple suspended on a rocky shoreline and surrounded by roaring waves.
What to Eat
I remember it like yesterday. It was my 1st day in Busan and I made a quick stop at 7th Street Pizza. That’s when I took a bite of the best pizza I had ever eaten, even until this day. The melted cheese… its perfectly seasoned crust. That pizza is something my taste buds will never forget. You’d think this was a paid ad, but you might just fall in love with Busan after tasting the food at 7th Street Pizza.
How to End Your Day
In the late night, bring your best camera to Gwangan Bridge, which was actually used as a backdrop for an action-packed car chase scene in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther. Remember the striking purple-pink bridge where Black panther flipped off an exploding car? That’s it!
Finally, end your day with drinks at The Bay 101, a luxury yacht club, gallery, café, pub, and dining establishment situated in the upscale community of Haeundae.
Where to Stay in Busan
$$$ – The Westin Josun Busan (Haeundae)
$$ – LaVe de Atlan (Haeundae)
$ – Ocean to Heaven Hotel (Biff Square)
Day 5 – Experience Busan’s Best Attractions
You’ve barely scratched the surface of all the awesome attractions and cool experiences waiting for you in Busan, so let’s continue discovering and creating memorable adventures.
Goal: Continue exploring the best that Busan has to offer.
Get your 2nd day in Busan started with a simple leisure activity that includes SEALIFE Busan Aquarium or Busan Art Museum.
Then, go on a refreshing afternoon trip to Haeundae, the most popular place to visit in Busan. The 1.5-mile stretch of golden sand beach is home to 5-star hotels, eateries, occasional festivals, and sweeping shoreline views.
In the evening, find yourself captivated by elaborate religious and cultural decorations lining Samkwang “Samgwangsa” Temple. Seriously, people travel thousands of miles every year just to check out the temple’s dazzling lantern displays during Buddha’s birthday.
What to Eat
By this time you’ve probably fell in love with Korean street food, so let’s make a stop at Bupyeong Kkhangtong Market. There, you’ll also find kiosks selling Asian cuisine from Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and China.
Explore Busan’s Nightlife
By nightfall, set out on a journey to discover Busan’s vibrant nightlife scene. Biff Square and Kyungsung District boasts the best bars, lounges, and clubs, and are popular locations for foreigners.
Day 6 – Arrive on Jeju Island
You’ll have one more exciting destination to explore before heading back to Seoul, and it’s only right that it’s South Korea’s closest place to paradise.
Goal: Elevate your adventure with a big trip to an exotic location.
For your next adventure, take an hour-long flight from Gimhae International Airport in Busan to Jeju International Airport. Don’t worry, tickets are dirt cheap. Expect to pay between $25-$50 with an early booking.
Getting Around Jeju Island
Jeju Island isn’t equipped with a metro, and local public bus options aren’t necessarily foreign-friendly. The easiest way to get around Jeju Island is by way of renting a car or joining the hop-on, hop-off Jeju City Tour Bus, which is a fun and convenient option that I highly recommended for your 1st day. But don’t fret, should you decided to rent a car or taxi, I’ve got plenty of interesting places for you to discover.
What to Do in Jeju
Start your adventure with a visit to Yakchusan Temple, one of the largest oceanside Buddhist temples in Asia. Next, head to the 260,000 sq. meter Sanghyowon Botanical Garden for an enchanting look at diverse plant life and gorgeous floral displays. When you’ve arrived at Seongsan Sunrise Peak, take in the beautiful natural scenery of the UNESCO site that was formed by underwater volcano eruptions thousands of years ago.
What to Eat
You’ll definitely want to try some staple foods of Jeju that include local flavors and seasonings, and Guksu Geori, better known as Noodle Street, offers a wide variety of scrumptious local noodle dishes. There are over two dozen shops that specialize in noodle soups enhanced with pork, broths, tofu, anchovies, and more.
What to Do at Night
The Cliff Cafe & Pub is a popular shoreline eatery and pub on Jeju island. Head there in the late evening to enjoy cocktails, delicious island entrées, and live music as you watch the sun disappear behind the horizon along the East China Sea.
Where to Stay
$$$ – Sono Calm Jeju
$$ – Aria Hotel
$ – Jeju Raon Hotel & Resort
Day 7 – Get Outdoors on Jeju Island
Let’s continue exploring South Korea’s island paradise with exciting outdoor excursions in nature.
Goal: Experience the best outdoor adventures in South Korea.
Today’s your day to get outside and enjoy the natural wonders on Jeju Island. But first, let’s grab a delicious cup of Joe and enjoy seaside views at Cafe Aewol Monsat. Next, dive 40-meters under the sea and check out marine life with Seogwipo Submarine. Now this is one activity you won’t want to miss!
Afterwards, explore the remarkable topography of the 12th longest lava tunnel in the world at Manjanggul Cave. When you’re finished, enjoy a scenic hike along Mount Hallasan National Park, and if you’re not too tired, end the last leg of your sightseeing tour of Jeju island with a trip to the beautiful Cheonjeyeon Waterfalls.
What to Eat
You’ve got a variety of grilled pork options at Jeju Black Pork Street. If you’re set on seafood, head to the Wimi Port Raw Fish Center for choices of raw fish seasoned with local ingredients. And if you’re in the mood for Korean chicken, Gyorae-ri Village hosts a number of restaurants offering boiled chicken with rice, chicken soups, friend chicken, and braised chicken.
Explore Jeju Island’s Nightlife
Most of the hip bars, lounges, and dance clubs on Jeju Island can be found in the City Hall area of Jeju City, Seogwipo City, and the more tourist-friendly Shinjeju Baozen Street.
Day 8 – Discover Korean History and Culture in Andong
So, you’ve experienced modern day Korea in Seoul. You’ve explored the beautiful beaches and vibrant nightlife of Busan, and enjoyed fun outdoor activities in nature on Jeju Island. Today, it’s time to discover more of the history, culture, and traditions that make up South Korea, and one of the best places to do so is in Andong.
Goal: Learn about regional history, culture, and customs in a historical city.
Getting to Andong from Jeju Island will require a flight and bus combo, but with a total duration of just 3 hours—plus, being the amazing trooper that you are—I’d say the journey is well worth it.
After checking in to your hotel, let’s head over to Andong Hahoe Folk Village, a traditional village, and also, UNESCO World Heritage Site, of South Korea’s 16th century Joseon Dynasty. Get a glimpse of the ancient way of life once held by locals, which includes a look at centuries-old choga houses, Joseon-era architecture, daily customs, and more. You’ll also have the chance to watch live folk dance performances at the Hahoe Mask Museum and take home a few cultural souvenirs from an onsite shop.
Next, hop on a boat at the village for quick ride over to Buyongdae Mountain, where you’ll only need about 10 minutes to hike up to its peak and capture a panoramic bird’s eye view of the sprawling Andong Hahoe Village. When you’re finished, head back down for a captivating look at Woryeonggyo Bridge, also known as Moonlight Bridge, as it stretches over a striking Nakdonggang River.
Afterwards, let’s make a trip to Andong Folk Museum, where you’ll find exhibits and displays dedicated folk culture and Confucian philosophy and way of life.
Where to Eat
Jjimdak, or braised chicken, is a staple food of Andong. In fact, it’s so popular that it’s even got its own street. Welcome to Andong Jjimdak Street (also Andong Jjimdak Alley), where you’ll find everything from savory spicy chicken dishes with glass noodles and potatoes to grilled mackerel and local bibimbap.
Where to Stay
$$$ – Rakkojae Andong Hahoe Folk Village
$$ – Andong CM Park Hotel
$ – Syomotel
Day 9 – Continue Learning About South Korea History and Culture
Let’s continue exploring museums, temples, and landmarks that provide an in-depth look at history and culture in South Korea.
Goal: Absorb local religious beliefs and philosophies and try regional foods.
Let’s start your day with an exciting trip to Byeongsanseowon Confucian Academy. A 400+ year old school—also, UNESCO World Heritage Site—built to honor a Confucian scholar, the academy is best known for its traditional aesthetic architecture, sweeping views of surrounding natural scenery, and ‘feng-shui’ designed campus.
When you’re finished, make your way to Bongjeongsa Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in the city and oldest wooden building in all of Korea. Later, pay a visit to the Andong Soju Museum to learn about the history of Korea’s national alcohol. By this point, I’m 100% sure that you’ve tried soju since landing in Korea, so you minus well find out what you’ve had fun drinking!
What to Eat
Taste delicious Andong beef dishes at restaurants located along Andong Kalbi Street. If you’ve got a little more room for dessert, head over to the Mammoth Bakery to snack on fresh breads, cakes, and pastries.
What to Do in the Evening
In the evening, take a 2.5-hour train ride back to Seoul, where wind down, reflect, and eventually depart from South Korea.
Day 10 – Unwind and Reflect in Seoul
It’s almost time to head home. Thus far, you couldn’t have asked for a better trip, and with only 2 days left, let’s focus on simple-yet-fun leisure activities and entertainment as you return to Seoul.
Goal: Relax, reflect, and enjoy some local entertainment.
You’ve made it Seoul and checked back into your original hotel. Now, let’s take time to enjoy a peaceful and incredibly pictorial stroll through either Seoul’s Garden of the Morning Calm or Olympic Park. Afterwards, pay a visit to Kukkiwon, or World Taekwondo Headquarters, for an authentic look at live practices and demonstrations of South Korea’s national martial art. Next, go for laughs by watching an entertaining, live local show such as Cookin’ Nanta, Jump!, or Drumcat.
What to Eat
It should go without saying: Spend your final full day in Seoul dining at your favorite Korean street food market. Don’t stop eating until your pop-your-belt full, and even then, take a break and come back for more!
How to Spend Your Last Night in Seoul
It’s your last night in Seoul, so you better believe that it’s time to live it up. In the evening, enjoy a soothing sunset/night cruise aboard the Han River Ferry. Take time to reflect on the wonderful time you’ve had touring South Korea and exposing yourself to a new culture on the opposite end of the world.
And last? Head down to Gangnam to experience the best nightlife scene Seoul has to offer. And don’t forget: “Oppa Gangnam Style!”
Day 11 – Last Minute Shopping + Departure From Seoul
You’ve made it. Whew—nine days and counting. You’ll probably feel exhausted by this point, especially after the all the partying you did in Gangnam the night before. Today, your last day in South Korea is all about shopping and buying souvenirs to take home. And that’s as simple as it gets.
Goal: Go shopping and buy souvenirs to take home.
The best places to buy souvenirs are in Seoul’s traditional markets, like Namdaemun Market and Dongdaemun Market. Furthermore, feel free to revisit Myeon-dong, and Insa-dong and Hongdae are also great options for a little retail therapy.
Let’s Your Journey Begin!
What a fun-filled itinerary for 11 days in South Korea! As you can see, you’ll experience a bit of everything—history, culture, cuisine, sightseeing, entertainment, nature, day trips, domestic travel, nightlife. It’s everything you could want to have a truly immersive vacation. And with that, tell me again, when are we getting started? Safe and happy travels!