Finally, it’s time for another adventure. South Korea is a journey that was planned a few months in advance of the departure. While planning our trip, we were focusing not only on the travel plan itself, but also, we learned culture, history and customs of the country we were going to visit.
South Korea is not yet very popular in terms of mass tourism, but more and more often chosen by individual tourists. It’s time to visit this place and see by ourselves how Korea tastes, how it smells and what will impress us the most in this country.
Below I present “South Korea – tailor made travel plan”. This sightseeing plan was fully created by me and has been tailored to meet our needs and expectations. After returning from the South Korea – travel plan has been verified based on our real travel schedule and personal experiences. In the below-mentioned travel plan there are few days planned for sightseeing of the two biggest cities: Seoul and Busan. It is also scheduled to have proper amount of time for close contact with nature, architecture, culture, history and of course local cuisine. An additional attraction during our trip is going to be the “Lotus” Lantern Festival, which takes place in Korea only once a year.
So, let’s go there together!
Day 1. South Korea. Seoul – travel day
We are flying to Seoul directly from Warsaw with LOT – Polish Airlines, which has inaugurated direct flight connection with South Korea last year (2018). Flying time is less than 10 hours.
Day 2. Arrival to Seoul
We are arriving to Seoul in the morning. Picking up our pocket Wi-Fi, buying and loading T-money cards for public transport and getting to the AREX train station, takes us about 30 minutes. Traveling by train to the city center (Seoul station) takes one hour.
- In the afternoon, Namsan Park – the largest park in Seoul, in the heart of which there is the N-Seoul Tower.
- In the evening walk over the Cheonggyecheon stream. This stream is 11 km long and is a very popular tourist attraction of Seoul. This is a magical place, where lanterns that are hanging over the stream are already turned on a week before the Lantern Festival, so it’s worth checking out this place.
Day 3. Seoul. Gyeongbokung Palace and Bukchon Hanok Village
- In the morning Gyeongbokung Palace, considered as one of the most beautiful palaces in Seoul. At 10.00 a.m. at the inner Heungnyemun gate, starts a ceremonial change of guard. The show lasts about 25 minutes. It is worth to plan min. 3 hours to visit the palace. There is also a royal pavilion to see and two museums: The National Museum and The Folklore Museum.
- In the afternoon Bukchon Hanok Village, where there are traditional, old Korean houses. It’s worth planning few hours for this stroll, because besides of the magnificent architecture – there are many places where you can eat tasty.
- In the evening visit to Gwangjang Market, where until 11.00 p.m. there are stalls with street food. A visit to such a place is an attraction in itself and is a very interesting experience.
Day 4. Seoul. Jogye-sa Temple, Seoullo 7017 and Gangnam district
- In the morning, the Jogye-sa temple, recognized as a symbol of Korean Buddhism. During the preparations for the birthday celebration of the Buddha, the temple is covered with colorful paper lanterns that completely change its look. This is my favorite place in Seoul ♥. I recommend you visit this place also after the sunset, when are lantern lights are switched on.
- Next is the Deoksugung castle, which served as the seat of the authorities of the Korean Empire in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The palace combines the traditional Korean style with neoclassicism. There are also fountains and a small pond.
- Before lunch time – a visit to the Seoul station, where you can enter the footbridge connecting the east and west side of the station – called Seoullo 7017. The footbridge is over 1km long and there are 17 different sections, including themed gardens, fountains, “Foot Spa” and a tourist information center. It is a popular meeting place among local youth and tourists.
- During lunch – Myeong-dong district. On the way, there is a National Treasure of Korea – the Sungnyemum Gate and the Namdaemum Market, where there are numerous stands with amazing street food.
- In the afternoon, the Gangnam district, known for its strong concentration of wealth and high standard of living. It is one of the main academic centers of the capital and the entire state. Known throughout the world through the song “Gangnam Style” performed by PSY. Worth to see: M-Stage, Samsung’s headquarters “Samsung d’light” and COEX shopping center, which houses the largest underground aquarium in Korea.
Bongeunsa Temple and royal tombs
- The most important tourist attractions of this place are the Royal Tombs “Seonjeongneung” (inscribed on the UNESCO list) and a beautiful Buddhist temple Bongeunsa♥. In this temple there is one of the most recognizable in Korea statues of Buddha, which is 23 meters high. Although the Bongeunsa is located in the heart of Gangnam disrtict, all temple buildings are surrounded by forest. From the hill, where the Buddha statue is located, there is a beautiful view of the modern city. This is my next favorite place in Seoul. ♥ It’s worth coming here just before the sunset.
Day 5. Namiseon Island, Rail Bike and Little France. One-day trip outside the city
We will spend the whole day on a trip organized by the Klook office. The planned duration of the trip is about 10 hours.
- Nami Island is located 63 km from Seoul, on the Han River. The island has themed gardens, including Bonsai’s garden, ponds, fountains, numerous sculptures and many attractions for children. The entire island can be explored on foot (the whole distance is about 4 km) or you can pass her part by a tourist railway. For those who like adrenaline, there is a possibility of entering the Island with the zip-line for adults – Nami Skyline Zip Wire Zip Rider.
- Next attraction is the Gangchon Rail Park & railbike. The entire route runs along the closed railway track along the Bukhangang River. It takes about 1 hour to cover the entire route. Very interesting experience, I recommend it!
- At the end of the day, visit to the theme park “Petit France“, where there is a small museum dedicated to the memory of the French writer Saint-Exupery, the author of the novel Little Prince. “Petit France” is basically a small, lively French village with colorful buildings. There are several small exhibition rooms, colorful murals on the walls and numerous figurines and graphics depicting the character of the Little Prince.
Return to Seoul in the evening.
Day 6. Hwaseong Suwon and Golden “Building 63”
- In the morning Suwon fortress. “Hwaseong Suwon” is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is worth to book for this trip about 4-5 hours on the spot, plus an hour to get to and from the city in each direction. There is a fortress, over 5 km long defensive wall, four main gates, a belfry and a museum. The real attraction of this place, however, is the Hwaseong Palace, formerly serving as a temporary royal residence.
- Before sunset, a visit to the Golden “63 Building“, which is one of the most recognizable buildings in the city. It looks the best during morning sunrise, when its whole surface is shining in gold. The skyscraper is over 260 m high, where from the upper enclosed terrace you can see the northern part of the city and the N-Tower.
Day 7. Digital Media City, Olimpic Park, Lotte Tower and Banpo Bridge
- In the morning Unhyeongung – the royal residence. This palace has a small museum and a charming tearoom.
- Then a visit to Digital Media City, which houses headquarters of several film studios. An additional attraction of this district is interesting, contemporary architecture.
- In the afternoon, the Olympic Park, which once served as the main sport arena during the summer Olympic Games in 1988. In the park, obviously there are objects and souvenirs associated with the Olympics itself. There is also a K-pop museum and a concert hall of K-pop music, which was created in the place of the former Olympic Gymnastics Arena.
- In the evening, the Lotte World Tower which is the tallest building in Korea and the 5th highest building in the world. The building is over 550 m high and 123 floors (including 3 underground floors, which house the largest aquarium in the city). The observation deck is located on the top floor of the tower. On the top floor, there is also a glass floor and an exterior viewing terrace.
- At the end of the day, the Banpo Bridge, which has a fountain installed, with 380 jets spraying water. The music fountain (called: Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain) and Floating Islands are worth visiting especially after the sunset. The fountain show, which is a combination of light and sound, takes place twice: at 8.30 p.m. and at 9.00 p.m. and it takes 20 minutes.
Day 8 . Seoul. City sightseeing and the “Lotus” Lantern Festival
In the morning visit to the Jongmyo temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a complex of very modestly finished temple buildings. The main part of the temple is 101 m long and is the longest structure of this type in Korea and one of the longest in the world
- Then, visit the Changdeokgung Palace ♥. There is also a beautiful “Secret Garden“♥ called Huwon. You should reserve for visiting this place min. 3-4 hours. This is a beautiful palace, with an interesting, traditional architecture surrounded by lash green nature. The Secret Garden is a magical place, one of the most beautiful in the city. Changdeokgung Palace and Huwon Garden are my strongest No. 1 on the list of places to see in Seoul. Do not miss a visit to this place!
- In the afternoon and evening ceremonies related to the Buddha’s birthday celebration and the colorful lantern parade that passes along Jongno Street. The parade is attended by several thousands of people, presenting dozens of large paper lanterns. After sunset, lit lanterns make an amazing impression. Attention! – the date of the celebrations, each year is different, because it is connected with the phases of the moon. For the following years, it is the best to look for the information on the official website of the organizer: Yeon Deung Hoe.
Day 9. Seoul. Lotus Lantern festival continues
This is the day when picnics, street shows, dances and educational workshops for children are held in many places in the city. It is all related to the Lantern Festival and the celebrations of Buddha’s birthday. The main attraction center and the big picnic are located on the street leading to the Jogyes temple.
- In the afternoon Insa-dong street – one of the most popular places in Seoul, willingly visited by both tourists and residents of the city. At weekends, the street is closed to cars, which transforms it into a large pedestrian path. It is worth entering the side streets, where there are small cafes and cozy restaurants serving specialties of the local cuisine.
- In the evening visit to the Changgyeonggung Palace♥. In the summer, the palace can be visited until 9.00 p.m., where after sunset the lights inside all buildings and along park paths are turned on. It’s an amazing experience and a beautiful adventure. It’s really worth seeing. Do not miss a visit to this place.
Day 10. South Korea. Busan and Gamcheon Culture Village
Busan is the second most-populous city in the South Korea after Seoul. It is the economic, cultural and educational center of southeastern Korea. There is a seaport that is Korea’s busiest one and the fifth-busiest in the world.
- In the morning train to Busan, which takes 2 hours and 40 minutes to get to the destination.
- In the afternoon visit to Gamcheon Culture Village, called the settlement of art. Most places are open here until 6.00 p.m. It’s worth planning a few hours for this place. In this part of the city you can find interesting murals, artistic urban installations, tiny art galleries and colorful sculptures. There are also several small restaurants and stands with street food.
- In the evening, visiting the small Chinatown district, which is just opposite Busan Station. There are several interesting architectural references to Chinese culture and numerous Chinese and Russian restaurants. A real curiosity.
Day 11. Busan
- Early in the morning visit to the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple♥, dating from 1376. The temple is built on the coastal rock, on the one hand surrounded by the ocean and on the other hand a dense forest. It is considered the most beautiful temple in Korea and no doubts – I do agree with this opinion. Definitely, this is one of the most beautiful places I visited during my stay in Korea. Due to its location, the temple looks the most beautiful during sunrise. Do not miss a visit to this place!
- Around noon, Oryukdo Skywalk – a footbridge with a glass floor built on the edge of a high cliff. We also visit a park located on a hill on the other side of the street, from which there are beautiful views of the ocean and small rocky Oryukdo Islands located just next to the shore. On one of them there is a lighthouse.
- In the afternoon, the Igidae park. The park was founded on a steep cliff. It offers great views of the bay. There is a 2 km long path that connects mountains with the ocean. It’s worth visiting this place. It is worthy to book min.1 hour for this place.
- In the evening, the Busan Tower. Both – Busan Tower and Busan Citizens Bell standing next to it, are the unquestionable symbols of Busan. At the top of the tower there is an observatory, from which there is a view not only of the city, but also of the bay. It is especially worth visiting this place after sunset.
Day 12. South Korea. Gyeongyu and Gyeongsangbuk province
On this day, we take part in a full-day trip to Gyeongyu inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Gyeongju for nearly 1000 years was the capital of the Silla kingdom, and in the province, the most valuable monuments from these ancient times have survived.
This trip is organized by Klook travel agency. The length of this trip is 11 hours.
- The first point of the program is Gyeongju Yangdong Village, considered as the largest inhabited museum in Korea, presenting the culture of the Joseon dynasty. There are about 160 old buildings, some of them are thatched.
- Then next stop at the Seokguram temple, where there is a grotto of a “Smiling Buddha“. It is a monument classified as Cultural Heritage of Korea (No. 24) and considered as the oldest work of art in the country.
- Then a visit to the Bulguksa temple♥, from the eighth century. There are several priceless national treasures of Korea gathered. This is definitely the most interesting and the most important part of this trip. The Bulguska temple is a must-see temple. Do not miss a visit to this place!
- At the end of the day, we are visiting the National Park Gyeongju, which once held Donggung Palace and the pond Wolji. Currently, there is only a small fragment of old buildings, small pagoda and an artificial pond Wolji to be seen. Donggung Palace was once part of the palace complex of the ancient kingdom of Silla. You can see it on the model mock-up in the park. We are staying there until sunset.
Return to Busan in the evening (around 9pm at Busan station).
Day 13. Busan city
- In the morning – Beomeosa Temple ♥. This temple is considered as one of the three most important temples in the province of Gyeongsang. It is located in a forest and surrounded by mountains. A beautiful place, great views. There is a silence around, lash green nature and amazing views. Do not miss a visit to this place! There are also several trekking routes, so you can also plan walking in the mountains.
- At lunch time – Haeundae Beach and the Haeundae Traditional market. The street food market is just a 5 minutes walking distance from the beach. There is a large selection of restaurants serving sushi, sea food and traditional Korean dishes.
- In the afternoon – BIFF Square (Busan International Film Festival), located near the Jagalchi market. There are many souvenirs related to the film industry, stores with cosmetics and clothing.
- Then – Songdo Beach, where there is Songdo Skywalk. It is a foot bridge with a length of 365 meters, which is built in a place where the beach meets the rocky shore of the ocean.
- Before sunset, we take a cable car that takes us to Amnam Park. The whole trip takes place over the water, along the ocean’s coastline. There is an outstanding view of the bay, bridges, port and the city. Journey time about 3 minutes. It is worth buying a one-way ticket only
- In the Amnam Park, we are walking back down the Coastal Skywalk ♥. It is a metal footbridge entirely suspended on the edge of the cliff, on the shore of the ocean. The entire route is 1.3 km long. It is worth to book for this route min. 1 hour, and it’s best to be there during sunset. Do not miss a visit to this place!
Day 14. South Korea. Daejeon
Since 1980, Daejeon is one of South Korea’s administration hubs with the Daejeon Government Complex. It is the 5th largest metropolis of the country. Daejeon has earned its name as “Asia’s Silicon Valley” and “high technology city”, there are 18 universities. In 1994, there was Expo Exhibition – Taejon Expo ’93.
- In the morning departure from Busan and travel by train to Daejeon. The journey takes 1 hour. and 40 min.
- In the afternoon visit the Yusong Foot Spa, where there are hot springs. The park has small paddling pools where you can soak your feet. Open 24/7, free admission.
- Then the botanical garden and garden of tropical plants – Hanbat Arboretum. A beautiful park, lots of fragrant flowers, a small lake, a watermill, a few themed gardens.
- At sunset, a walk to the river and a view of the Expo bridge, which in the evening shimmers with colours thanks to thousands of LED lights.
Day 15. South Korea. Jeonju
- All day we spend in Jeonju Hanok Village, which in 2012 was classified by UNESCO as one of the “Creative City of Gastronomy” cities. Old, cobbled streets, stalls with traditional handicrafts and traditional food are waiting for tourists there. There is also a castle of King Toejo, king’s portrait museum, wine museum, kimchi museum, calligraphy museum and Mural City. The historic center of the city has over 500 houses in the Hanok settlement.
- We are coming back to Daejeon in the evening. We are visiting the Sky Road – a street that is famous for its suspended ceiling (at a height of 20 meters), covered entirely with LED screens at a length of 214 meters.
Day 16. South Korea. Gongju
- In the morning, we are traveling to the Donghaksa temple, located in the eastern valley of Gyeryongsan in Gongju. The temple is the first and oldest existing academic institute for women’s monks in Korea. Currently, it is home to about 150 nuns who study and practice Buddhism here. The temple is surrounded by low mountains and forest. There are also several interesting hiking trails.
- Return to Daejeon in the afternoon. In the evening we are visiting the nearby trade fairs and stalls. Some of them are located underground.
Day 17. Return to Seoul
- In the morning, return to Seoul. Travel time by train is 1 hour.
- At lunch time return to Insa-dong, to buy last Korean’s souvenirs
- In the afternoon visit to the Namdaemum Market to have last dinner bought from street stalls.
- In the evening, the Seuollo 7017 footbridge. It is worthy to look at the city after sunset from this perspective.
Day 18. South Korea. Time to go back home
Flying back home took us 10 hours and 30 minutes. The 7 hours’ time difference, however, caused that this day had much more than 24 hours for us.
This is the end of our Korean adventure. Now we have unforgettable memories, a few thousand of pictures and videos and souvenir fridge magnets 😊
Now is time to write about it all on my blog.
Polish materials that were used to collect information about South Korea and were helpful while writing this post:
- “Korea Południowa”, Aleksandra Nemś, PASCAL publishing house, 2018
- “Seul”, Aleksandra Nemś, publishing house Pascal Lajt, 2018
Korean materials that are perfectly translated into English have helped me to find answers on almost every topic: Visit Korea.
In addition, numerous own materials collected and taken from visited places.