[Seoul ICN Layover] Neal's Itinerary - One night layover in Seoul.

After posting the itinerary I made for my friends, I received an email from Neal asking for a layover itinerary for him and his girlfriend.

Travel tips:
  1. Buy your SIM card: Prepaid 4G/LTE Sim Card: Unlimited Data+Voice call+SMS (5/7/10/15/30 days)
  2. Get a great view of Seoul: Discount Seoul City Tour Bus Ticket
  3. Great Korean (traditional and modern) culture and cooking classes
  4. Book a food and shopping tour.
They will be arriving at 4:45PM to Incheon Airport (ICN) and then leave at 7:10AM the next morning and have opted to stay at a hotel near the airport.

So, this will be a much different itinerary than the previous one.

Also, a great resource for people who are doing a layover in Seoul is this website from the Korea Tourism Organization. There are actually free transit tours available for you!! I envy you if you are able to take advantage of this great program! If you do go on the “transit tour” let me know how it is, please.

By the way, don’t click on the banner on the left side of the page, these tours cost money and, honestly, aren’t worth your time. Korea is very manageable to do on your own, even if you know no Korean.

Unlike Steph, Neal and his girlfriend do not have any food requests since they don’t know any Korean food, so I have to do Korean food justice and show the best parts of Seoul! So much pressure!

But he requested to go to some major Seoul landmarks – Cheonggye Stream and Namdaemun Market and requested to have galbi (Korean marinated beef or pork ribs).

For them, I decided to make an itinerary around Central Seoul (City Hall, Gwanghwamun, Insadong, Gyeongbok-gung).

4:45PM arrival at Incheon Airport.
5:25PM through customs

I would recommend either exchanging a little money or else getting money at the international ATM. Some places I am recommending may not take credit card or foreign currency.

Take the airport railroad to Seoul.
If you go right after you get through customs, you will arrive at about 6:30PM at Hongik University Station. I recommend you transfer here to Line 2 (green line) and take it towards Sinchon station to City Hall (5 stops). I think you should do a little sightseeing first just because it’ll get colder as the evening progresses.

Unfortunately, it’s too late to go into/see any of the palaces, but you can still see some of the sights around City Hall Station.  Honestly, depending on which day you go to Seoul, Namdaemoon Market is a little hit and miss for quality of sights/food.

I recommend you go out exit 3. Here, you can see the entrance to Deoksu Palace. I recommend that you walk straight from exit 3. Across the street is the Seoul Metropolitan Library and the City Hall and City Hall Plaza. If you want to look at the new city hall (opened in August 2012), you can cross the street or else go out exit 4/5. There’s a nice umbrella exhibit at exit 4 as you are leaving the station, if you want to look at that, too.

After you get out of exit 3 or 4, you can look straight ahead and see Gwanghwamun in the distance. I recommend you walk to Gwanghwamun. On your walk, you will actually walk past the Cheonggye Stream Plaza. So, you can choose to either walk around there a bit before continuing to Gwanghwamun or else come back later since the galbi restaurant I recommend is actually located near the stream.

As you walk towards Gwanghwamun along the main road, you will see a plaza in the middle. I recommend that you cross to it and walk along it. You will see some of the more famous sights in Seoul on this walk. There’s also a tourist information center across the street. You will easily see it. So, if you want a map or some tour information, you can stop in there, otherwise I’m sure they’ll have some maps at the airport for you. You will also see the Sejong Arts Center on your left. They may have some good exhibitions

The first option for you is galbi – Wangbijip (비집) http://www.wangbijib.com/home/index.php?ps_skin=none - I have been here one time for lunch with a research contact a couple of years ago.

After you walk to Gwanghwamun, or however far you want to walk along the plaza, you should turn around and go back to the beginning of the plaza. You will see a traditional Korean structure on the corner. Walk across the street towards that and keep walking straight until you get to Jonggak Station (Line 1). I recommend you go underground if it’s cold. Otherwise, you can cross the street and go out exit 4. When you go out exit 4, you will see Boshingak.  Boshingak houses a large bell that used to be used in the Chosun dynasty to signal the opening/closing of the city gates.

Walk straight out of exit 4. You will see a Starbucks on your right. Right after the Starbucks is a Daiso…think of a dollar store, but then imagine a dollar store on steroids and you have Daiso. If you want to take a look, either remember this location and come back later or else go in and have a look around the store. I promise you that there will be 5 (or more) things you never knew existed and realized you needed. It’s also a great place to look for some Korean snacks/candies.

Keep walking straight. You will get to an Outback Steakhouse. There, turn right. Keep walking until you see Starbucks. After the Starbucks, keep walking to the corner and turn left. You are almost at the restaurant. You should walk to the third building.

Here, I recommend ordering a “meal” (they have an English menu, so don’t worry if you can’t read Korean). It’s a good value and you can try a lot of different kinds of Korean food. You can also get one style meal and your girlfriend can get a different style and you can try each others’ meals. If you’re still hungry after that, you can get one of the noodle dishes as an after-dinner type food. Otherwise, the pancake is probably very good, but I have never tried it.

After dinner, you can easily to go the Cheonggye Stream. Just go back to the street with the second Starbucks you passed and then continue walking. You can follow it back to City Hall Station.

Option 2: From Gwanghwamun to Insadong.

Insadong is a major tourist street in Seoul. It houses a lot of art galleries, cultural shops, Korean food restaurants, traditional tea houses, etc.

Also, it’s the only place in the world where Starbucks allows its name to be written in another language. If you collect Starbucks goods, this is a good place to buy one for Korea because they have more options at this store. There are also tons of stores along the street with some Korean trinkets. Just remember that most of these will probably have been made in China.

There are tons of options here, so I will give very brief summaries of options for you and some very brief directions. Otherwise, around here, there should be some tourism volunteers in red vests and they should be able to help you with directions and speak multiple languages. Just maybe ask them to show you a map on their smartphones or something.

There’s a three-story shopping center in the middle of the street called Ssamziegil. There are some food options in here including some bread shaped like poop (1 bread for 1,000KRW).

I recommend going to the O’Sulloc Tea House in Insadong. It’s three stories tall and hard to miss. It’s a Korean café known for its green tea/matcha. It has green tea everything! Definitely not one to miss. I recommend trying a green tea latte or green tea ice cream. They also have some set menus available for 2 people and the set menu includes some cake – I prefer the roll cake.

Ok, food options. I did a survey of Koreans and foreigners and thought about it myself…

Bongchu Jjimdak
Type of food: jjimdak (Steamed Chicken)
I recommend ordering the small size and one rice.
To get here, from Ssamzie, walk straight along the road. You will come across a four-way intersection (the road you will cross is Insadong-5-gil and Insadong-4-gil). Keep walking straight through that and you will come across a bank at the corner. At the bank turn left and you will see it in about 3 buildings.

You can also try Korean sake (소주 soju), Korean rice wine (막걸리), Korean plum wine (매화수), and other various types of Korean alcohol.

Type of food: Hanjungshik (Korean traditional course meal – main meal with A LOT of Korean side dishes banchan)

The option I recommend because of the atmosphere, price, and options is Cheondeung Sori 천둥소리.
It is located near the Insadong intersection. Next to the Deokwon Gallery. They have ddeokgalbi or a combination ddeokgalbi and steamed galbi course option and some other options. I recommend the ones I mentioned. Ddeokgalbi is kind of a Korean marinated meat patty (it’s hard to describe and I’m sorry if it doesn’t sound good).

One option you will see right away after you walk from Gwanghwamun. You will see a GS25 convenience store. Right next to it, on the right, is a store called 불고기 underneath a sign with a girl on it. Go downstairs. Here, you can try various types of Korean course meals. The menu is in English. You can try a variety of different meats here. I peraonally like the tteokgalbi and all of my Korean friends recommend that you should try bulgogi.

From either the jjimdak restaurant or the Cheondung Sori restaurant, I recommend you continue walking straight. You sill get to the end of Insadong. There you will be able to go to a park with a Korean pagoda. If you get a little turned around, the park is across the street from a Burger King.

From the Burger King, you can easily walk to Cheonggye Stream and Jonggak Station. To get to the stream, continue walking straight. To get to Jonggak Station, turn right.

From here, you have more options depending on time. (The last train is around 11:30PM most nights.)

Hongdae/Hapjeong Option: Area around Hongik University
This is another great option for bars and cafes and shopping. See the itinerary I made for Steph for a lotmore detailed options for food.

To get here, you need to get on line 2 somehow. The easiest way would be to walk back to the Boshingak Bell and walk across the Cheonggye Stream and keep walking straight. You will get to Euljiro-1-ga station. Take it in the direction of City Hall.

Myeongdong Option: Major shopping Area
You can walk around Myeongdong and do a little shopping and eat some Korean street food. Easiest way to explain it is to go back to Jonggak Station (Line 1) or the Boshingak Bell. From there, cross the Cheonggye Stream and keep walking. You will get to a big intersection and see the subway station for Euljiro-1-ga (Line 2). From there, go out exit 5 and just explore. As you are walking out exit 5, you will soon come across a store selling ddeokbokki (spicy rice cakes), twigim (fried foods) and soondae (Korean sausage). These are Korean snack (?) foods. The place is called “Jaws Food” and it’s hard to miss. It has red letters and white tiles. I think they may have English menus, but I cannot remember at the moment.

I recommend that if, in your travels, you see a place selling kimbap (Korean sushi) you buy some and take it with you for a morning snack or breakfast. I highly recommend a tuna one (even though I don’t like tuna or mayonnaise). Otherwise, pop into any convenience store and buy a triangle kimbap (Korean onigiri) and a banana milk. They are both a sort of rite of passage for people who have traveled to Korea.

There are bound to be TONS of carts selling other foods and drinks. Just explore. Make sure you can find the subway again, though. Myeongdong can be confusing, even for people who are very familiar with Seoul.

Garosugil Option: Major café street and people/celebrity-watching area.
Alternatively, you can go back to the beginning of Insadong and take the subway from Anguk Station (Line 3, Orange Line) to Sinsa Station (9 stops, take in direction of Jongno-3-ga) and go out exit 8 and walk straight. Walk past the Tous Les Jours to the next street corner, then turn left and you’ll be in the right area. Just keep walking around there, you can’t go wrong with cafes in there. A majorly good place to do some people watching is at CoffeeSmith, don’t hesitate to go down a side street.

Getting back to the airport:
Jonggak Station: Just backtrack.
Anguk Station/Insadong: Take the subway to Jongno-3-ga and transfer to line 1. Go to Seoul Station and then transfer to the airport railroad.
Hongik University Option: Just go back to the station and take the airport express.

Garosugil: Take line 3 to Jongno-3-ga and transfer to line 1 to Seoul Station and transfer to the airport railroad.

Tutorial: How to use free WiFi on Seoul subways
Korean Shopping Tips
Other Korea Travel Itineraries

Travel tips:
  1. Get a great view of Seoul: Discount Seoul City Tour Bus Ticket
  2. Great Korean (traditional and modern) culture and cooking classes
  3. Book a food and shopping tour.
*FTC Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links which means, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through the links provided and make a purchase.*