Only have a weekend in Seoul, South Korea? Then prepare yourself for a whirlwind journey through a mega-metropolis of tranquil palaces, lively clubs, plush hotels, and kicking Korean food – all soundtracked by the booming sounds of k-pop. This guide will show you how to have an extraordinary weekend in Seoul, Gangnam style.
Punch the clock on your 72 hours in Seoul by checking into The Plaza, a luxe hotel in well-placed Jung-gu. The hotel’s dramatic Guido Ciompi-designed architecture and stunning interiors have graced a million Instagrams, and its on-site restaurant Murasaki serves some of the best kaiseki meals in the city. Celebrate your first night in Seoul by digging into some snow crab and lotus root, and then head out to explore the famed nightlife.
Hongdae is Seoul’s youngest and hippest neighborhood, an intoxicating melange of quirky cafés, student-filled bars, and retro arcades. Take in the vibrant street art, pick up a Studio Ghibli action figure, catch the street performers on Eoulmadang-ro, and grab the mic for a bit of karaoke at a noraebang.
If you want to keep the party going, mingle with fashionistas at the trendy Henz Club, or dance the night away with international DJs at Club M2.
After a big night, kick off Saturday morning with a relaxing breakfast at Grain Seoul, a tranquil café tucked away amongst the winding alleyways of up-and-coming Yeonnam-dong. Grain Seoul serves a breakfast tray with Nordic-style small plates, so fuel up with some salmon, avocado, yogurt, and homemade bread.
Then explore the Yeonnam-dong neighborhood: jog through the leafy 4-mile oasis of Gyeongui Line Forest Park, snap some photos of the vibrant Mural Alleyway, and shop for vintage clothes or the perfect souvenir at Dongjin Market. Book lovers can find a great selection of limited-batch titles at Pinokio Bookshop, before checking out the sculptures and exhibitions at Gyeongui Line Book Street.
For lunch, stop by Bistro Élève, an intimate, Parisian-inspired spot serving delectable kimchi dip and duck ragu, or head to Hwagyo Restaurant Street – Seoul’s lively “Little Chinatown” – where you’ll discover a range of colorful noodle bars, dumpling houses, and upscale seafood restaurants.
After lunch, catch up on Seoul’s rich history with a visit to Changdeokgung Palace. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the city’s best-preserved palaces, but the real attraction is around back, where visitors will discover a hidden garden with lotus ponds, pavilions, and centuries-old trees. You’ll need a separate ticket to get into the garden, and they sell out quickly, so book ahead.
Not far from Changdeokgung is Bukchon Hanok Village, a frozen-in-time hamlet that offers a fascinating glimpse into old-world Korean life. Many of the photogenic hanoks – traditional Korean homes dating from the Joseon dynasty – have now been repurposed, and buzzy boutiques and coffeehouses sit side by side with still-lived-in family homes and hanbok shops.
Round off an afternoon of sightseeing with Saturday night supper in neighboring Samcheong-dong, a quaint area filled with rooftop cafés and classic restaurants. Stop by Mukshidonna to sample some of its famous tteokbokki, or head to the celebrated Snow Tree House for some Pyeongan-do-style noodles.
When the sun rises on Sunday morning, you only have 24 hours in Seoul remaining, so get the day off to a roaring start at Café Able, a cozy restaurant in fashionable Sinsa-dong. Enjoy a brunch of upscale farm-to-table fare, and then take a stroll beneath the golden Ginkgo trees on Garosu-gil – the perfect spot for a romantic walk in the spring or fall.
Now that you’ve become well acquainted with Seoul’s classic palaces, picture-perfect streets, and quaint villages, add a dash of hyper-modernity to your itinerary with a journey to the glittering shops of decadent Gangnam, to the observation deck of the luminescent N Seoul Tower, or to Dongdaemun Design Plaza, a Zaha Hadid-designed landmark that looks like a spaceship that’s been transported from some far-flung future.
Then splash out for lunch with a seven-course tasting menu at Mingles, a Michelin-starred restaurant offering traditional Korean fare with an ultra-modern European twist.
Sunday night calls for a bit of pampering. The Dragon Hill Spa & Resort is one of Seoul’s best-known wellness retreats, and you can unwind in the sauna, wander through the rooftop gardens, get a massage, or catch a flick in the open-air cinema.
Keep your unforgettable weekend in Seoul going at the Korea House, an all-in-one venue offering live dance performances, royal court-inspired dinners with Joseon-era dishes, and a gift shop where you can pick up a 17th-century cookbook and learn how to make gwaha-ju (fortified rice wine) to spice up your next party.
Then toast to your last night in Seoul on a Han River cruise, where visitors can see the city from a whole new angle. Snap some photos of the Seoul Olympic Stadium and the iconic 63 Building, all while being serenaded by a live band. The city at night is truly majestic, and there’s no better way to draw the curtain on your Seoul adventure.
With such a fantastic mix of cosmopolitan culture, hearty Seoul food, and timeless temples, it’s no wonder that the city has risen to the top of travelers’ bucket lists. Book your weekend in Seoul today!