Seoul, South Korea Gets Better and Better Every Year…
Seoul is the best and easiest city to explore on foot. I have been visiting Seoul once every year for the past 5 years. It’s my favorite city for stopover whenever I fly Korean Air from Bangkok to New York.
Though to me, it’s not just any old stopover anymore. The word stopover in Seoul doesn’t do the capital city of South Korea any justice.
I look at visiting Seoul as a real treat. The cherry on top before heading back to New York on that 14 hour journey back to New York.
Whenever I visit Seoul I get a chance to reflect back on the months I’ve spent in Thailand and the other countries I’ve visited in Asia. Seoul is sort of like a time marker for me. A bookend to mark my journey for the year before heading back to New York City.
A Time for “Soul” Searching
Seoul has an incredible amount of green open space. For a city of 10 million inhabitants there is a surprising amount of places where you can feel absolutely at peace! I love to sit around one of Seoul’s palace grounds and just relax and unwind.
And you can see many Koreans doing just the same. When the weather and temperature is just right it is pure bliss and joy to walk around Seoul or just sit somewhere and let your world’s worries melt away.
Top 5 Reasons Why I love Walking Around Seoul
- Seoul is very clean with low pollution.
- No need to rely on taxis and public transportation to get to most major tourists attractions.
- Seoul is very safe with low crime. Walking around the city at night is just as fun!
- Seoul has a lot of green space and for a big city it doesn’t feel cramped. You’ll never feel claustrophobic in Seoul.
- Korean street food!
Because Seoul is simply one of the best cities in Asia to walk around, explore and just get lost for a few hours wandering around quiet alleyways and major thoroughfares.
Seoul’s pedestrian sidewalks are wide, open and well paved. And Korean motorists obey traffic lights and recognize pedestrian right of way.
It’s also a very safe city to walk around especially at night. The city’s police presence is very active since the country is still technically at war with the North.
Seoul’s Subway Train System is Awesome! But You Don’t Really Need It…
As of writing I’m in my early 40’s. Even though I can stand to lose about 15 pounds of weight I am capable of walking around Seoul to get from one tourists attraction to the next.
For example Seoul’s biggest attractions are its magnificent grand palaces. In between those grand palaces are serene temples, spacious parks and historical landmarks. Even though most attractions have train stations nearby, I highly recommend walking from one to the other. Seoul really is a wonderful city and worthy of exploring every single nook and cranny.
I also discovered that when you use the subway trains you often have to change train lines. And when you do, you usually have to walk quite far to make a train transfer. If you’re going to be walking anyways, why not walk above ground, especially when the weather is wonderful!
Don’t miss out on the wonderful landmarks dotting the city. Would you rather be outside walking around and taking pictures and selfies? Or slugging it through a tunnel to catch a subway train?
Here’s an Excellent Video That Will Give You An Idea What it is Like to Walk the Five Palaces of Seoul!
Seoul’s Five Grand Palaces (In the Order You Should Visit)
- Deoksugung Palace (덕수궁) (Closed Mondays; Ticket 1000 won)
- Gyeonghuigung Palace (경희궁) (Closed Mondays; Free Admission)
- Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁) (Closed Tuesdays: Ticket 3000 won)
- Changdeokgung Palace and Huwon (창덕궁과 후원) [UNESCO World Heritage] (Closed Mondays; Tickets 3000 won, Under 24 years Free) / (Huwon Secret Garden Tour Ticket 5000 won)
- Changgyeonggung Palace (창경궁) (Closed Mondays; Ticket 1000 won)
Seoul’s 5 palaces all open at 9am. Though all usually close around 6pm but depending on the month and season certain palaces close a half hour earlier or a half hour later.
And the ticket prices I noted above are for adults. For teenagers it’s usually half the price and I believe children 6 and under enter for free. Seniors aged 65+ can also enter for free.
Now it is very possible to visit all five palaces in a day. But you’d probably have to hurry a little. Some of the palaces are bigger than others, particularly Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace and Huwon. Huwon has a guided secret garden tour which in itself last 90 minutes.
Gyeongbokgung Palace also has a National Korean Museum that warrants a visit. So there are bits of side trips at almost every palace.
Planning to stay in Seoul a Little While Longer?
What I recommend if you are planning to visit all 5 Seoul Palaces is to break up your visits into two or three days if time permitting.
If that’s your plan you should purchase the Combination Ticket for Palaces. The price is 10000 won which includes ticket price to Jongmyo Shrine (종묘) another UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This packet of tickets saves you 4000 won so if you’re planning on visiting all 4 of the 5 palaces (because Gyeonghuigung Palace has free admission) and Jongmyo Shrine you might as well purchase this integrated Royal Palaces combination ticket pack.
And the integrated tickets are valid up to a month from date of purchase. So you can enjoy visiting your favorite Seoul Palaces as much as you want before the 1 month expiration date.
You can purchase the integrated tickets packet at any of the grand palaces ticket booths except Gyeonghuigung Palace because that’s the only admissions free palace in Seoul.
Need to upload your fresh selfies and photos to Facebook or Instagram? You can get free Wi-Fi internet access near the ticket booths. It’s just one of the free internet Wi-Fi hotspots in Seoul for tourists to get connected and share their holiday photos on the spot.
More Strolling Around Seoul Tips
If your goal is to visit the palaces in multiple days, you can also visit Cheonggyecheon Stream, another popular and beautiful spot in the heart of Seoul’s commercial business district.
Cheonggyecheon Stream is right across from Deoksugung Palace which is my first suggested palace to visit if you plan on squeezing a visit to all five palaces.
You’re also going to want to visit Bukchon Hanok Village (북촌한옥마을) which is about a 10 minute walk from the eastern gates of Gyeongbokgung Palace.
It’s a very trendy area and quite extensive as well with some steep but paved roads. There is an area famous for traditional Korean homes called “Hanok” and is still a residential area so you’ll find many signs requesting visitors to respect the home owners’ properties.
Don’t Forget to Check Out Insadong Too
While you’re doing research on visiting Seoul I’m sure you’ve come across Insadong too. It’s a popular tourists shopping strip full of souvenir shops, traditional Korean restaurants as well as Korean snack vendors and street food!
The Best Area for Budget Hotels in Seoul
The city of Seoul is big. And the magnificent Han River cuts right through the middle. Seoul’s five grand palaces are located on the north side of the Han River. And there are many more other landmarks and tourists attractions located on the north side of the Han River as well.
If you’re looking for budget hotels and plan on visiting all 5 great palaces in Seoul here are two areas to take a look at for your hotel options:
Namdaemun and Dongdaemun are near each other. When I want to visit the palaces I usually stay at Seoul City Hotel in Namdaemun. At that hotel I can walk to Deoksugung Palace, in about 15 minutes at a leisure walking pace.
At both of those recommended locations for budget hotels in Seoul you can get a 2 star hotel room for between $30USD to $60USD a night. Many hostels are also located in both areas as well.
Both recommended locations also have train stations nearby too.
I’ve Got Nothing Against Seoul’s Subway Trains
Seoul’s subway train system is excellent! And I only use it when I need to. For instance if I want to visit Hongdae which is a popular shopping/street market section of Seoul popular for young and always hip Koreans. But it’s too far to walk there so I just use the train.
And there’s the Itaewon district where the Korean War Museum is located. It’s just west of Namdaemun and easier to simply get there by train.
Plus who can forget the Gangnam District made famous by super K-Pop star Psy! Gangnam is located south of the Han River. Unless you can walk on water or swim like a dolphin this is the time when the subway train comes in handy too.
I’m Always Looking Forward to My Visits in Seoul
Seoul has given me a first glimpse into Korean culture and life for the very first time 5 years ago. My first impressions and experiences in this wonderful city has left me yearning and excited for more future visits.
The city has it all. Great food, wonderful friendly people, amazing beautiful palaces and landmarks. But most importantly, Seoul is so easy and pleasurable to explore on my own two feet.
But Wait There’s More…
Another excellent reason to wander around Seoul on foot. South Koreans love coffee so there are many cafés. Some are small and unique run by local Koreans and others are large coffee chains like Starbucks and Holly’s Coffee.
Me, I prefer the smaller cafés with a bakery section. Every year when I head back to Seoul I discover a nice little cozy café. Coffee and cake together. The best combination ever after a full day of strolling around Seoul.