Okay guys, I’ve done a few itinerary guides now, but I haven’t done the most classic one of them all — a Korea itinerary for 7 days or one week.
Just know, this isn’t my favorite length of time because it’s so fast. Minimum, I recommend spending 2 weeks in Korea and for the most complete trip, I recommend my one month itinerary. Of course, the absolute best length of time is teaching here for at least a year or more ;).
However, I’ve realized that a lot of people I know in real life usually schedule out exactly a week in Korea, and, of course, most people I know don’t get more than a week or two for vacation at a time. So, with that in mind, I thought I’d outline the perfect Korea itinerary for 7 days, including flying in and flying out! It’s a little hectic, and you won’t get to see everything, but you will get a nice taste of the country and see some of the big landmarks.
Tips for Visiting Korea
I have separate posts all about what to expect when visiting Korea. It’s a unique country where rideshares don’t exist and Google Maps barely work, but delivery and wifi are faster than even your wildest dreams could imagine. Start with these:
- 50 South Korea Travel Tips (literally just a giant list of tips I’ve accumulated)
- Korea Trip Planner (all the random, boring logistics like what plugs you need)
- The Best Apps for Korea Travel (the actual apps you’ll want to download to get around)
Also if these don’t answer your questions, or you’re a female nervous to visit a new country, you can join my Facebook, There She Goes to South Korea!
NOTE ON TRANSPORTATION
This itinerary is based around public transportation! I’ve never driven in Korea, and I can count on my hand how many times my friends haven driven us somewhere. For this itinerary, you’ll easily be able to do everything via subway, train, or bus, and maybe the occasional taxi!
A Very Efficient Korea Itinerary for 7 Days
DAY 1: LAND IN SEOUL
Your best bet is to get into Seoul early in the morning so you don’t lose a day just for travel. It’s probably going to be a struggle, but fight against the jet lag! Don’t forget to pick up a SIM card before you leave the airport and download the apps I recommended in the post above. You can always order one ahead so it’s waiting for you when you arrive.
Get into the city via the subway or a shuttle bus. Or you can book a shuttle here.
First things first, check into your hotel. Even if you’re way too early, you can leave your bags with reception. While there are a variety of Seoul neighborhoods to stay in, I recommend staying as close to Gwanghwamun as you can. If you’re on a budget, Han’s House is tucked away near Gyeongbokgung, and the owner will even come meet you near the subway exit to make sure you can find it.
Head to any restaurants nearby to grab something to eat. If you’re on the go, you can just pop into Paris Baguette, Tours Le Jours, or any of the Korean bakery chains to get a quick sandwich and coffee. No, it’s not the most delicious first meal, but it’ll do in a pinch.
Sightseeing: Gyeongbokgung – Bukchon Hanok Village – Changdeokgung – Deoksugung from Above
Luckily, you’re right near the main action! Enjoy Gwanghwamun, which is the main area outside of Gyeongbokgung. Then head right into Korea’s main palace and wander around. If you’re super early, you’ll get to see the changing of the guard. I’d budget around 2 hours for Gyeongbokgung. You can do a tour (this one starts at 9:00 am) or just wander around yourself.
Feeling extra? Rent a hanbok and do a whole photoshoot! Don’t worry, if there’s one country where selfies and photoshoots are encouraged, it’s Korea. Before selfie was even a word, there was selca.
From Gyeongbokgung, you’re going to walk over to to Bukchon Hanok Village. Have fun and wander around. Pay for the observatory! It’s run cute ahjumma who owns the house, and she was so sweet both times I went. Most people are cheap and only want to see the main pathway in Bukchon, so it’s never been overly crowded in the observatory, and on a clear day you’ll get a view straight to Namsan Tower.
Once you’ve had your fill of Bukchon, head over to Changdeokgung. You can technically walk, but I think I always wind up taking the subway. If you’re going in an offseason, you don’t have to worry about booking a tour to the secret garden and can join any (even if the English ones are done, just join the Korean or Chinese ones). However, in more popular seasons, it’s better to book ahead.
By the time you finish, it should be close to golden hour. The easiest thing to do is to take a bus over to Jeongdong Observatory, which is really a cafe, and see Deoksugung from above. Grab a drink and enjoy the views before heading back towards your hotel for dinner.
I recommend finding a Korean BBQ joint for dinner. Get the samgyupsal and if you drink, get a bottle soju! If you’re still energized, find a norebang to sing your favorite songs! Otherwise, go get some sleep because this itinerary ain’t slowin’ down.
DAY 2: THROUGH JEOLLABUK PROVINCE
Get breakfast and checkout fairly early, then head over to Seoul Station or Yongsan Station to get the KTX down south. I say KTX and not the other trains because it’s much faster, and at least for this stretch, it’s better to cut your travel time down by an hour.
If you leave from Seoul Station, aim to get the KTX that leaves at 9:46 am. If you leave from Yongsan, you can aim for 8:40 am, 9:55 am, or, at worst, 10:55 am. Check here for exact times, in case they change a bit. You can also book your tickets here too.
Stop 1: Jeonju
First stop is in Jeonju, the capital of the Jeollabuk province. The city was also the capital of the Hubaekje Kingdom (892-936) and the spiritual capital of the Joseon Dynasty (Korea’s most definitive era).
You’re now in foodie country because in my not so humble opinion, Korean food is leaps and bounds better here than anywhere else! It’s the country’s main agricultural center, and I was thoroughly spoiled getting to live in first Jeollabuk and then Jeollanam for three years. It’s to the point that I really don’t like eating Korean food in Seoul because it’s not as good, and all my friends and students agree!
ANYWAY, the two big things you want to do in Jeonju are eat bibimbap and explore Jeonju’s Hanok Village. Store your luggage at the train station and then grab a taxi to the Hanok Village, which is where you can grab a lunch of bibimbap. I don’t have any specific restaurant recommendations, but it’s such a popular dish. You can pick pretty much anywhere.
Walk off lunch by wandering around the village! It’s such a cute area, and I actually like it better than Bukchon because it’s more enclosed. The best view is if you climb up the small mountain nearby and see over the hanoks.
Stop 2: Namwon
You don’t have to do this if you’re exhausted, but I love Namwon, and it has the best food in the whole country (again, not so humble opinion), so I always recommend stopping here.
Grab a taxi back to Jeonju’s train station and then catch any of the trains down to Namwon. It’s fine to take the slower, cheaper trains now because the time difference isn’t that big!
You should get in around golden hour, so head over to Gwanghallu to see Namwon’s biggest attraction and learn about Chunhyangga, which is Korea’s Romeo + Juliet but much happier and more focused on the female lead, Chunhyang.
For dinner, you have a few options, and you really can’t go wrong with any of them:
- Go to 25시 for my favorite dish EVER — 뼈다귀탕 (bbyeo-da-gwi-tang). I honestly still think about how much I love this dish. If 25시 is too crowded, walk along that street as there are other restaurants that serve it too.
- Head across the river to get naengmyun at 봉가면옥 (bong-ga-myeon-ok). It’s seriously the BEST naengmyun I’ve ever had, and I dream about that broth even now.
- Go to Korean Restaurant for kalbi. So, so good.
- If you didn’t get BBQ in Seoul, go across the river for all you can eat BBQ at 미가 (mi-ga).
If you stay overnight in Namwon, I know of a few options. The Kensington Hotel is the main one and they opened up a fancy hanok stay before I left, but I don’t know anyone who’s stayed there. Namwon also has a hanok stay area, and Mua Guesthouse is run by a lovely couple who’s friends with some of my friends.
Or you can push on and get the train to Suncheon. Again, any train is fine because they all take under an hour. If you stay the night in Suncheon, then stay in the same area as the train station or bus terminal.
DAY 3: BOSEONG AND SUNCHEON BAY
Exhausted yet? Haha I told you this was fast! Obviously, if you’re dying by now, take it easier, but if you’re still energized, today’s another double down day.
If you stayed overnight in Namwon, you can do two things:
- Get the train to Suncheon super early to drop your things off at your accommodation and then head to Boseong from Suncheon’s bus terminal.
- Go to Boseong by bus — first you’ll have to go to Gwangju bus terminal and then transfer from there
Both will take about 2 hours (Namwon – Suncheon – Boseong or Namwon – Gwangju – Boseong), but one of them means you’ll have your luggage with you.
Stop 1: Boseong Green Tea Fields
Get a bus to Boseong’s famous green tea fields! It’s about an hour from Suncheon, and one of the most beautiful places in Korea. If you get there at the right time, you can get the bus to the tea fields or just take a taxi.
You can read my guide on visiting here. It should take you a few hours to visit the area. Just a warning, if you wind up wanting to up to see the sea from the fields, it’s a steep hike! Get lunch at the restaurant right near the entrance and try the green tea pajeon!
Stop 2: Suncheon Bay
After lunch, head back to Suncheon. From the bus terminal, get a local bus over to Suncheon Bay. This is another small hike, just warning! Ideally, you’ll get to the top right around golden hour, so you can enjoy the bay at its prettiest!
From there, head back to the area with your accommodation. There are a few places to eat in Suncheon, and the closest is a Korean-Chinese restaurant near the bus terminal.
If you want, though, venture over to Jorye-dong and find 순천양꼬치 (Suncheon Lamb Restaurant). It’s SO good. I used to live less than a 5-minute walk from it, and I was a bit addicted. Get the eggplant dish too. Most of the expats in Suncheon love this place, so they have a whole English menu with photos and are used to foreigners.
Stay the night in Suncheon.
DAY 4: BUSAN
Get up early and head to the bus terminal to grab a bus over to Busan! The earliest one leaves around 7:00 am and takes around 3 hours to get to Busan Seobu Sasang Terminal. If you didn’t grab breakfast before you left, there are a ton of restaurants in this terminal, so you can always get something to eat here.
From there, head to your hotel. I’d recommend staying in the Haeundae area, thought I don’t have any specific recommendations.
From there, enjoy the city. There are so many things to do in Busan. If you want to do a lot, head right over to Gamcheon Culture Village on the subway. Gamcheon is a few hours of walking around, and it’s so, so cute!
Once you’ve seen Gamcheon, head one stop over on the subway and walk around the markets and alleyways. Get lunch here! The ddeokbbeokki and pajeon are especially delicious if you’re getting elbowed by the shopping crowds haha. You could also go over to the famous fish market and eat there. For sunset, head back to Haeundae or go all the way over to the seaside temple.
Stay the night in Haeundae.
DAY 5: GYEONGJU
Day trip from Busan! So, you could DIY this and go yourself, but everything was super spread out when I visited. It was way more spread out than we were ready for, and the local bus system wasn’t the most reliable. It’s been a few years, so maybe they updated it!
The most efficient way to do this is booking this day tour from Busan. It’ll pick you up from Haeundae Station, hit the big things to see in Gyeongju: Bomun Tourist Complex, Seokguram Grotto, Bulguksa, and Anapji Pond, and drop you right back off in Haeundae around 8pm.
Stay the night again in Haeundae. If you want, go out and experience the nightlife in the area! I’d offer suggestions but… I have none haha. I usually go to Busan for day trips and when I have stayed over, I only went out once to a random bar.
DAY 6: BACK TO SEOUL
Head back to Seoul! The most efficient way to do this is to grab the KTX as it takes under 3 hours. You could also fly, which’ll take an hour, but the KTX is just easier with luggage and whatnot. There are so many trains that go between Busan and Seoul, so you don’t really have to worry about getting a specific one. Again, check Korail for times.
In Seoul, you’ll want to check into Hongdae this time. This is because Hongdae Station is right on the airport line, so it’ll be easy to get to Incheon from here. Plus, Hongdae is a fun, trendy neighborhood since it has three big universities nearby. Seoul Mansion is literally right near one of the exits.
Sightseeing Option 1: Fun Things to See in Seoul
You have a few options! If you have a late flight tomorrow, then save the Trick Eye Museum for tomorrow morning.
Another big thing to do is to head over to Namsan Tower and go up (get a discount ticket here for the observatory). It’s a cool area and you get a ton of views of Seoul from above. Stop over in Dongdaemun if you want to do some shopping and see Dongdaemun Design Plaza. Eat lunch in this area.
Now, time for a little relaxing! Go to Siloam Sauna and experience a true Korean jimjilbang experience. It’s so nice here. You could, alternatively, go to Busan’s famous sauna super early in the morning before heading back to Seoul.
Sightseeing Option 2: A DMZ Tour
If seeing the DMZ is on the top of your list, then I’d suggest booking a day tour for that instead. They typically take the full day, so you won’t have room for much else! However, it’s a pretty interesting, ongoing part of history, and it’s the only way of “visiting” North Korea that I recommend for now.
Head back to Hongdae to eat dinner. There are so many good, cheap restaurants to choose from here. Then just walk around and experience the bustling vibe. So many people are out and about, street vendors line the streets, and buskers croon mere feet from each other.
DAY 7: LAST MINUTE SIGHTSEEING
If you have a later flight, leave your bags at your accommodation and head over to the Trick Eye Museum! It seems stupidly touristy, but it’s so fun, and there’s something quintessentially Korean about it in terms of quirkiness. There’s the main trick eye museum, but there’s also the Love Museum, Ice Museum, and CaFace. Get discount tickets here
Pick up any last minute souvenirs before heading onto the subway and to Incheon Airport! You could still get lunch in Hongdae, or you could wait until you get to Incheon since it has some pretty decent places to eat.
And there you have it! The absolute PERFECT itinerary for 7 days in Korea. There are three big things I cut out — Jeju, any sort of hiking, and Gangwon-do. With Jeju, I feel you need a slower mindset to really enjoy it, so I don’t want to rush you through in a day or two, especially as it involves flying. With hiking, you’re going to basically be hiking a bit when you visit Boseong, Suncheon Bay, and Gamcheon. And, as for Gangwon-do, I don’t have a ton of experience in the area as it was so far from where I lived, so the main things I know to do involve hiking.
Of course, depending on the seasons, you can always mix and match your trip. After all, this whole itinerary is going to look different if you’re chasing cherry blossoms or fall foliage! Check these seasonal guides if you want to change it up:
- Autumn in Korea (and fall foliage guide)
- Winter in Korea
- Spring in Korea (and cherry blossom guide)
- Summer in Korea