5D4N in Korea – How Many Destinations Can You Cover?
September 01, 2017
The distinct four seasons in Korea lead to beautiful, ever-changing natural scenery all throughout the year. Korea’s natural attractions are a big draw for visitors, and Seoul boasts a lively ambience, with its skyscrapers brightly lit up in the evenings. Throughout the city are also significant sites that preserve almost 5,000 years of history. This 5 days 4 nights itinerary includes shopping options, historical landmarks, delicious Korean cuisine, and an experience of winter in Korea.
Day 1 – Changdeokgung Palace, Tosokchon, and Bosingak Belfry
Changdeokgung Palace was constructed in 1405 as a secondary palace of the Joseon Dynasty. It was destroyed during the Japanese invasion (1592-1598) and rebuilt in 1610. Since then, it has served as the main palace for about 270 years. The architecture of this palace harmonizes with the natural beauty of its surrounding mountains. Please don’t skip the secret garden tour! It’s best to go in spring and autumn.
Changdeokgung Palace Details
Address: 99 Yulgok-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Nearest Train Station: Anguk Station (Line 3) Exit 3
Feb-May & Sep-Oct 9am to 6pm
Jun-Aug 9am to 6.30pm
Nov-Jan 9am to 5.30pm
Last admission an hour before closing and the Palace is closed on Mondays.
Palace Admission 3,000krw (adult), 1,500krw (youth), 2,400krw per pax for group of 10 persons or more
The Secret Garden (required to purchase palace admission ticket) 5,000krw (adult), 2,500krw (youth), there is no group discounts available.
Do note that complimentary guided tours are available in Korean, English, Japanese and Chinese. Each tour lasts for an hour to an hour and thirty minutes. Do note that only guided tours are available in the Secret Garden. You can check their website for updated tour timings and availability.
After touring Changdeokgung, we recommend having a meal at Tosokchon. This restaurant is famous for Ginseng Chicken, and has been in business since 1983. My partner had Tosokchon Samgyetang (Ginseng Chicken Soup) which was made with a special recipe by adding a combination of luxurious ginseng and glutinous rice, pumpkin seeds, black sesame, walnut, pine, native chestnut, medicinal jujube, ginko, garlic, sunflower seeds, and others. This nourishing tonic health food offered a subtle fragrance, and was light on the palate.
I, on the other hand, went for the Tosokchon Ogolgye Samgyetang (Ginseng Korean Black Chicken Silkie Soup). Silky Fowl is a chicken with black-toned flesh, skin, and bones, and only the royal families were able to taste this in the past. It is believed that this chicken has a lot of health benefits such as clearing the blood, strengthening stamina, and improving blood circulation. It was such a joy to warm our stomachs last winter dining at this traditional restaurant.
Address: 5 Jahamun-ro 5-Gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea
Nearest Train Station: Gyeongbokgung Station (Line 3) Exit 2
Opening Hours: 10am to 10pm daily
Having filled your tummies, you can head to another historical landmark – the Bosingak Belfry. During the Joseon Dynasty, this large bell rang twice a day to indicate the opening and closing of the city gates. Today, it is rung every day at noon, except on Mondays. Tourists are able to ring the bell on a first-come, first-served basis on Tuesdays. My partner and I were lucky to have witnessed the special televised bell-ringing ceremony held on 1 January 2017. We spent the last day of 2016 counting down traditionally like the locals in Seoul.
Bosingak Belfry Details
Address: 54 Jong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Nearest Train Station: Jonggak Station (Line 1) Exit 4
Day 2 – Hongdae and Dongdaemun
Originating from Hongik University’s playful youth culture, the area surrounding the university houses local cafes, restaurants, clubs, and design shops. The “Free Market” opens up every Saturday at the playground in front of the main gate of the university, and you can expect handmade items by young artists. The neighbouring Hapjeong area has the large Mecenatpolis Mall which is filled with fashion boutiques, and has become a popular venue for events and concerts.
Address: Mapo-gu, Seoul
Nearest Train Station: Hongik University Station (Line 2) Exit 9
Not satisfied with your shopping loot yet? Hop over to Dongdaemun Fashion Town where modern shopping malls and traditional wholesale markets coexist. Some malls are open 24 hours, making it an excellent place for nighttime shopping. Malls such as Doota, Migliore, and FITIN have not only the latest trends, but also original items by local designers. Do expect these places to be pricier!
Address: Jung-gu, Seoul
Nearest Train Station: Dongdaemun Station (Line 1 and 4) Exit 8
Day 3 – Nami Island, Petite France, and Garden of Morning Calm
If you’re sick of the city life in Seoul, here’s a day trip you can take! It is possible to explore these 3 gorgeous locations within a day if you plan well. Taking the ITX is the fastest method, and fortunately, we booked a hotel that was 2 minutes away from Cheongnyangni Station. There was a direct ITX train which brought us to Gapyeong Station.
Upon your arrival at Gapyeong Station, approach the helpful and friendly station staff, who will direct you to the shuttle bus queue. It’s not hard to miss the queue as there will be others who are visiting these 3 touristy spots as well. It costs 6,000krw per person to board the shuttle bus and you can alight at any stop along the shuttle bus route, board the bus again to your next destination, before ending your journey back at Gapyeong Station after a full day of exploration. So, do remember to keep your shuttle bus ticket properly!
Nami Island is located 63km away from Seoul in the direction of Chuncheon, and hoards of tourists have been flocking here due to the picturesque photo spots, made popular by the drama, “Winter Sonata”. Like every tourist who stepped foot onto Nami Island, we took photo with the gorgeous redwood trees lining both sides of Metasequoia Road. This was the backdrop for many romantic scenes in the drama.
You don’t have to worry about food on Nami Island as there are a couple of restaurants and street snacks such as the pan-fried rice cake, steaming hot buns, fishcakes, and many more to fill your tummy. If you need something more substantial, go for the Nami Island Kko Kko Chuncheon Dakgalbi. Do note that this restaurant is not on the island, but you’ll be able to spot the big building easily upon exiting Gapyeong Wharf.
Nami Island Details
Address: 1 Namisum-gil, Namsan-myeon, Chuncheon-si, Gangwon-do
Petite France was a filming location for the popular Korean television drama, “My Love from the Star”. The theme of the park is Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s novel, The Little Prince. Hence, Petite France is beautifully decorated to resemble a small rural village in France. Want to get a bird’s eye view of Petite France? Head to the Observatory or the Bell Tower of Love!
Petite France Details
Address: 1063, Hoban-ro, Cheongpyeong-myeon, Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do (616-2, Goseong-ri)
Opening Hours: 9am to 6pm (last admission an hour before closing time)
Entrance Fee: 8,000krw per adult, 6,000krw per youth in middle and high school and 5,000krw for children 3 years old and below
Garden of Morning Calm is forever changing, according to the seasons. Look forward to wild flower exhibitions in spring, Hydrangea and Rose of Sharon festivals in summer, as well as, Wild Chrysanthemum exhibition and Maple festival in autumn. From December through March, when the flowers are not in bloom, the garden holds a Lighting Festival which illuminates the entire site with bright and colourful lights.
Garden of Morning Calm Details
Address: 432 Sumogwon-ro, Sang-myeon, Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do
Opening Hours: Sun-Fri 11am to 9pm. Sat 11am to 11pm. Do note that opening hours change according to seasons.
Adult 8,000krw (weekdays); 9,000krw (weekends and PHs)
Youth 6,000krw (weekdays); 6,500krw (weekends and PHs)
Children 5,000krw (weekdays); 5,500krw (weekends and PHs)
Day 4 – Incheon
Still don’t feel like hanging around the city of Seoul? You can spend a day in Incheon. Besides the famous Chinatown street, there are other spots worth exploring such as the Samgukji Mural Street, Songwol-Dong Fairy Tale Village, Sinpo Market, and Sorae Fish Market. We ate more than we walked in Incheon, and the food was so enjoyable! You should definitely try the jajangmyeon, and the dorayaki-look-alike pancakes which were so well prepared with fillings such as cream cheese, chocolate, matcha, and red bean. Click here for my full guide on Incheon!
Day 5 – Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
We’ve spent too much time in the city of Seoul previously, so we decided to join the DMZ tour. We visited the Joint Security Area (JSA), Imjingak Pyeonghoa-Nuri Park, Dorasan Observatory, Dorasan Station, and the 3rd Tunnel. Many should know that South Korea is the world’s only divided country, and the DMZ remains along the Military Demarcation Line which separates the two Koreas. The JSA is located inside the DMZ, and serves as a neutral meeting space between North and South Korea. Soldiers on both sides of the line denoting the border stand face-to-face, so the tension here can be directly observed by the bystanders.
Located across from Imjingak, a symbol of the North-South division, the Pyeonghoa-Nuri Park exhibits artworks that hope for the peaceful reunification of the Koreas. The scenery produced by 3,000 pinwheels, called the “Windy Hill”, is an especially remarkable sight.
We were given helmets when walking through the 3rd Tunnel, but no photography was allowed. Well, it was indeed a memorable experience. Our final stop of the DMZ tour brought us to the Dorasan Station which is the last train station in South Korea, and will become the first station headed towards North Korea once the two Koreas reunite.
Do note that tours are only permitted through certified travel agents, and individual tours are not allowed. All visitors must possess a valid passport, and wear appropriate attire (not exposing too much skin).
From fashion to gastronomy, lifestyles and trends are changing quickly in Seoul, ensuring new and interesting things to see and do at all times. However, if you have more time to spare, you can consider taking day trips out of the city like what my partner and I have done! Hope you’ll enjoy Korea as much as we did!