With a ravenous nightlife, vibrant food scene, and cultural heritage it's not hard to see why Seoul has been named the best city in the world multiple years running. If you only have 48 hours in the Land of the Morning Calm, there's plenty to see and not a lot of time to do it. Put on your walking shoes and fill up your T-Money card for the subway because you're going to be busy in the best way possible.
10 AM – CHANGDEOKGUNG PALACE
99 YULGOK-RO, JONGNO-GU, SEOUL
Insadong is Seoul’s cultural corridor, filled with tea houses, historical palaces, and traditional homes running up the hills. Take Line 3 to Anguk Station and head to the exquisite Changdeokbokgung Palace. Make sure to see the 78-acre Secret Garden, only accessible by tour at 10:30 AM Tuesday-Sunday.
12 PM – BUKCHON HANOK VILLAGE
62-1 GYE-DONG, JONGNO-GU, SEOUL
Head east from the palace and you'll find the entrance to Bukchon Hanok, a traditional village preserved in the foothills. There are free walking maps available all over Bukchon as well as many signs pointing you towards areas of interest. Filled with photo opportunities, you'll pass tiny cultural museums, tea houses, and charming homes.
1 PM – TOSOKCHON
5 JAHAMUN-RO 5-GIL, JONGNO-GU, SEOUL
Heralded as the best soup in Seoul, expect to wait in line for this famous bowl of ginseng chicken soup called samgyetang 삼계탕. Popular with both locals and tourists alike, with a broth made out of ground grains it's not only healthy, but absolutely delicious.
3 PM – GYEONGBOKGUNG PALACE
161 SAJIK-RO, SEJONGNO, JONGNO-GU, SEOUL
While Changdeokgung may be better preserved (14th century Gyeongbokgung was destroyed by the Japanese), this is the largest of the five grand palaces of the Joseon dynasty. The grounds are extensive and beautiful and worth your time. Try to catch the changing of the guard ceremony, an interesting look into Korean Historical Heritage.
4 PM – THE NATIONAL FOLK MUSEUM
37 SAMCHEONG-RO, SEJONGNO, JONGNO-GU, SEOUL
This museum is actually located within Gyeongbokgung Palace and admission price is already included with your ticket. The country's history is illustrated through replicas and includes a number of exhibits ranging from kimchi production to puppetry and calligraphy. It's a great museum for a brief break from palace gazing and is especially great for families.
6 PM – JOGYESA TEMPLE
55 UJEONGGUK-RO, JONGNO, 18.104.22.168, JONGNO-GU, SEOUL
Known for its colorful and bright lanterns, Jogyesa is the main temple for Jogye Korean Buddhism. With a large main hall and 7-story pagoda, it's an incredible spot. If you're extra intrigued, you can spend the night as they operate temple stays for curious tourists which includes a tour, time with a monk, tea ceremony, chanting, lotus flower making, meditation, and 108 prostrations.
8 PM – SAEMAUL SIKDANG KOREAN BBQ
367-6 SEOGYO-DONG, MAPO-GU, SEOUL
Real Korean BBQ is a must when in Seoul and there are hundreds, if not thousands of Korean BBQ restaurants, but this is one of our favorites. Jump on the subway to Hongdae because Saemaul Sikdang is known for its yeoltan bulgogi 열탄불고기 (thinly sliced pork) and 7-minute kimchi jjjigae 김치 찌개 (kimchi, tofu, and pork stew).
10 PM – BAR다
365-5, SEOGYO-DONG, MAPO-GU, SEOUL
You've palace hopped, you've learned about the history and culture of South Korea, and you're stuffed... now it's time for a nightcap. Hongdae is the trendiest part of Seoul, home to multiple universities and thirsty Koreans. Bar 다 (Bar Da) is a great bar with wicked bartenders who will make you feel right at home.
9 AM – WAR MEMORIAL OF KOREA
29 ITAEWON-RO, YONGSAN-GU, SEOUL
You won't really have time to go to the DMZ unless you sacrifice a whole day, but you can head to the War Memorial of Korea to learn about the battle that divided a nation. Outside, modern warfare is on display with tanks and planes, but inside, you'll find all the history of the conflict.
11:30 AM – NATIONAL MUSEUM OF KOREA
137 SEOBINGGO-RO, YONGSAN-GU, SEOUL
Wander through Yongsan Park to the incredibly spacious National Museum of Korea. Many of the exhibits have recreations of artifacts you can interact with and display National Treasures of Korea. The calligraphy gallery is impressive, but the gardens with pagodas and waterfall take the cake.
1 PM – MYEONGDONG
MYEONGDONG 2-GA, JUNG-GU, SEOUL
There's no better place to shop in Seoul and in Myeongdong you'll find everything from the latest fashion and trends to the much coveted and celebrated Korean beauty products. There is a ton of street food here, so pick up some tteokbokki 떡볶이 (spicy rice cakes), bindaetteok 빈대떡 (mung bean pancakes), or waffles stuffed with whipped cream for lunch.
3 PM – NAMSAN PARK
231 SAMIL-DAERO, JUNG-GU, SEOUL
With a full belly and a few new purchases, wander down to Namsam Park. You could take the cable car to the top of Mt. Namsan or you could take the scenic (and cheaper route). Namsan is a large hill/small mountain right smack dab in the middle of Seoul. Home to N Seoul Tower, stone and wooden paths curl up the mountain, leading you to impeccable views of the city.
5 PM – N SEOUL TOWER
105 NAMSANGONGWON-GIL, YONGSAN-GU, SEOUL
With panoramic views of all of the city, the N Seoul Tower is a marvel in itself. It rotates, lights up (at night), and offers multiple activities to entertain you. There's a teddy bear museum that shows the history of Korea through teddy bears and multiple restaurants if you're feeling fancy. Beat the evening crowd by arriving before dinner and you'll have a lot more room to breathe.
7 PM – GOGUNG
11-1 MYEONG-DONG, JUNG-GU, SEOUL
Do your feet a favor and hop in a cab back to Myeongdong. Bibimbap is one of Korea's signature dishes and is basically rice topped with vegetables, meat, and an egg. Opt for the version served in a sizzling hot pot, and try one of the specialty proteins like nakji (octopus) or yukhoe (beef tartare).
9 PM – CHEONGGYECHEON STREAM
CHEONGGYECHEON-RO, SANGWANGSIMNI-DONG, JONGNO-GU, SEOUL
Take Line 2 from Eulji-ro station to Sindang and a short walk north will bring you to an oasis in the middle of the city. Cheonggyecheon Stream was restored a few years ago and is now practically a park. Locals wander the banks, dipping their toes into the water and chatting with friends. It's particularly lovely at night as the stream ends with a fountain and illuminated waterfall.
10:30 PM – LE GOUT DES AUTRES
1-248 SINMOON-RO 2-GA, JONGNO-GU, SEOUL
A cozy wine bar with a decidedly quirky atmosphere, it's a funky place that was named after a French movie, owned by a former club promoter, and housed in a Japanese home from the 1950s. The wine list is extensive and they have brûléed bananas as snacks. What's not to love?
WHERE TO STAY: WESTIN CHOSUN
106 SOGONG-RO, JUNG-GU, SEOUL
You'll be spoiled for choice in Seoul, but do yourself a favor and keep to the central area of Myeongdong. Not only will you be close to everything, but the subway is easily accessible. There's a peaceful Korean-style garden with a pagoda so you never forget where you are.