48 Hours in Seoul – 2 Incredible Itineraries

48 hours is just enough time to get a small taste of the metropolis that is Seoul, Korea!

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At the end of our two-week trip to Japan in late 2023, we added a quick 48-hour journey to Seoul. We had expected South Korea to feel quite similar to Japan and were impressed to discover it has its own unique culture. The Republic of Korea, South Korea’s official name, struck us as a culture that is much less rigid and formal than that of Japan, but less coarse than our perception of China.

When visiting Seoul, you will likely arrive at Incheon Airport, which is well outside the city. The Incheon Express train is the easiest way to get into town and takes 45-50 minutes. Tickets can be purchased at the airport. If you opt to save a little money, the local train will take you an hour and 15 minutes.

Train to Seoul from Incheon Airport

NOTE: Google Maps does not work for navigation in Korea due to censorship. I recommend downloading Kakao Map or Naver Map as well as the Kakao Taxi app. We could never get Kakao Taxi to work properly but luckily Uber worked for us in Seoul.

Because the DMZ/JSA is one of the premier sights of South Korea, it is included in both itineraries. Beyond that, I recommend you choose between the historic sights of Seoul or the modern-day city with just 48 hours to spend.

48 Hours in Seoul – Historic Sights

If you are interested in the historic sights, stay in the Jung-no or Jong-go region of Seoul. We lodged at the 28Hotel Seoul Myeongdong. It was a fantastic location with very modern rooms and lots of film/cinema memorabilia.

Owned by a Korean actor, 28Hotel has a cinema-themed vibe.

Day 1

On day 1, check out either Changdeokgung or Gyeongbokgung Palace. The palaces are similar and were built just 10 years apart. Changdeokgung has a more welcoming feel and is one of the best preserved of the remaining palaces, whereas Gyeongbokgung has a stronger Chinese influence and a bit more pageantry.

Changdeokgung Palace

From there, head to Bukchon Hanok Village. This and the surrounding area was one of my favorite spots in Seoul. The beautifully restored homes (hanok) in this residential area hint at what life was like during the Joseon period. While in this area, we also enjoyed stops at the Baek In-je house and the Dong-Lim Knot Workshop. The small knotted jewelry make great souvenirs!

48 Hours in Seoul
Bukchon Hanok Village (see a faint Seoul Tower in the background)

In the evening, wander Myeongdong, including the famous shopping street and night market, the Lotte department store, and stop by the Cheonggyecheon Stream.

Enjoy a peaceful walk along the Cheonggyecheon Stream.
The lively Myeongdong Night Market

Day 2

On Day 2, book a tour to the DMZ or JSA if it is open at the time of your visit. As of this writing, JSA tours have been indefinitely suspended since the July, 2023 US soldier border-crossing incident. The JSA is a very special tour. It sells out quickly and requires advanced reservations. Keep checking back to find out the current status.

Otherwise, opt for the DMZ tour. I recommend VIP Tours. Our guide Jenny was informative, organized, and managed our time very well. We learned a ton about what everyday life is like for those living so near this area of conflict. BONUS: No forced shopping stops!

48 Hours in Seoul
The Freedom Bridge, used to return war prisoners home to South Korea.
48 Hours in Seoul
At the DMZ & Third Infiltration tunnel complex.
View of North Korean guard tower through view finder. If you look closely, you can see uniformed guards on the left side of the platform.

This evening, check out the Gwangjang market. Gwangjang is one of the oldest markets in Seoul as well as one of the largest. It’s a great place to try delicious Korean street food. The Moodoo honey chicken stand (shown left, below) was the best!

48 Hours in Seoul – Modern Metropolis

If luxury shopping, K-pop, art, or museums are more your thing, spend your time in the modern area of Seoul. Gangnam-gu makes for a great base location in modern Seoul. 🎶Op, op, op, op, oppa Gangnam Style🎶

Gangnam Hands, Seoul

Day 1

Day 1, either shop til you drop at the Cheongdamdong fashion street, Apgujeong Rodeo street, and in the Starfield COEX mall, or head to the National Museum of Korea and War Memorial to learn about Korean history and art. In the evening, check out some live music. While the mega-clubs of a few years back aren’t really a thing anymore (thanks, COVID), there are plenty of smaller clubs to explore.

National Museum of Korea

Day 2

For Day 2, follow the same plan as above. A trip to the DMZ is a very unique experience that you can only get in South Korea. Our tour group found a few things amusing. First, there is a small amusement park Imjingak Park, near the line of demarcation. Second, you can take a gondola ride at the DMZ. You’ll see signs warning of land mines in the field below.

Imjingak Peace Land, the tiny DMZ amusement park in the background.
48 Hours in Seoul
Gondola ride over a landmine field. They sure seem to be making the best of a situation!

Soy beans are an important crop in this area and there all sort of soybean souvenirs. We tried the soy bean ice cream on our tour guide’s advice and thought it was pretty good – a lot like peanut butter!

For your evening activity, check out the Banpo Bridge Moonlight Rainbow Fountain show. Shows run multiple times per day April through October.

Banpo Bridge Moonlight Rainbow Fountain Show

Good to Know

I have a few final recommendations and things that are good to know!

  • The language barrier was a bit more pronounced here, particularly with drivers. Use Google Translate or Papago translation apps.
  • For those with health issues, the 3rd infiltration tunnel is an incredible experience but be advised that the walk is about a mile long and has a 11 degree grade. It is also somewhat narrow at 2 meters wide by 2 meters high and some people can feel claustrophobic.
  • We loved Myeongdong Kyoja Main Restaurant near 28Hotel. Both the dumplings and their kalguksu (a chicken-based soup) were delicious.
48 Hours in Seoul
MKMR – Myeongdong Kyoja Main Restaurant
  • Ghiwon22, also near 28Hotel, was an incredible find of a cocktail bar!
  • Frozen s’more on a stick! I just might need to start a petition to bring these stateside.

If you’re heading to Asia and your flight route takes you through Seoul, I highly recommend stopping for a quick, 48-hour visit! It will give you a taste of the highlights and help you narrow in on other areas you might wish to explore.


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48 hours is just enough time to get a small taste of the metropolis that is Seoul, Korea! Check out two incredible itineraries for your trip. #seoulitinerary #visitkorea #dmzvisit #jsavisit
48 hours is just enough time to get a small taste of the metropolis that is Seoul, Korea! Check out two incredible itineraries for your trip. #seoul #visitkorea #dmzvisit #jsavisit

Author: Betsy Ramsey

Betsy Ramsey is the author of Natty Gal. Born and raised in Northeast Ohio, she now lives there with her husband and Bichon-Frise, Dolce. A mindful fashion & capsule wardrobe enthusiast, she travels extensively, visiting 56 countries to date. Betsy is committed to helping others live their most fulfilling life!

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