South Korea Travel Guide – Day 1: Seoul’s Culture Tour

Traveling to South Korea as a Filipino is very challenging and exciting at the same time.

Imagine… Not knowing how to speak Korean, and struggling to find good guides on how to travel South Korea as a Filipino.

So naturally… We just hacked it!

Read on to get a glimpse of my journey in SK, and how this blog post turned South Korea travel guide can help you when you plan your own trip there.

9 Days in South Korea – Here’s What Went Down

To kick off our 9-day tour in South Korea, we decided to first explore the laid-back and cultural side of the bustling city of Seoul. With that in mind, I promptly did my research on the palaces, villages, and other places frequented in this side of town.

If your time is limited, I highly suggest that you prioritize and pick out the places you actually want to see. There are so many places to choose from but you can always go back for the others.

For us, we decided to do a walking tour and four different spots all in one day.

Here’s a rundown of how our first day went!

South Korea Travel Guide – Day 1

Gyeongbokgung Palace (10:00 AM to 1:00 PM)

Gyeongbokgung is the largest and by far the most popular palace in Seoul. It houses several museums and is close to various cultural landmarks like the Gwanghamun Square. To get inside the actual palace premises, you need to pay for a 3,000 KRW ticket (150 Php/$3). But you can also opt for a full Korean experience by wearing a hanbok and enter for free.

It was raining on and off that morning so it was harder to appreciate the tour. We didn’t even get to see the changing of guards ceremony. But for your reference, you can check the schedule below.

Honestly, I had zero expectations on what I would see inside a palace but we super enjoyed exploring the place all the same. If you’re torn between going to Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung, I still suggest you pick the former. It’s bigger and if you’re not much into gardens anyway, this is the perfect choice for you.

Also, don’t forget to explore the National Folk Museum. We didn’t have the time to see everything but it’s definitely worth a visit. I especially loved the portraits of

How to get to Gyeongbokgung: If coming from Myeongdong, take the Line 4 train to Chungmuro and alight. Transfer to Line 3 Chungmuro Euljiro 3 bound and alight at Gyeongbokgun Station (after 4 stations). Follow the signs leading to Gyeongbokgung Palace entrance.

Samcheongdong Street

By the time we went out of the palace premises, we were spent and ready for late lunch. We honestly got lost on our way to Samcheongdong Street but thank God we were able to ask for directions before we got to the other side of town.

Here’s the easiest route: After exploring National Folk Museum, exit on the gate you can find on your left (the gate that is leading to the main streets) walk around 300m and cross to the other side. Be mindful of the signs and try to ask directions just in case.

Samcheongdong is definitely in my top 3 must-visit areas in Seoul. I just love it so much that I actually regretted not going back before we headed to Busan. It has this laid-back vibe and is a perfect place to enjoy an afternoon walk alone or with friends.

It’s teeming with cute, trendy clothing shops, food establishments, and quirky wall arts. Definitely felt like the kind of village I’d spend lazy days in.

For lunch, we chose a small homegrown place which offers affordable Korean meals like bulgogi, gimbap, and pork cutlets. The meals cost around 5,500 KRW (275 Php/$5.5) and comes with unlimited side dishes like potato salad, kimchi, and other vegetables.

Since we were pretty starved, we also decided to share a huge serving of red bean bingsu. For 14,000 KRW (700 Php/$14) it was really quite a splurge but perfect for a hot afternoon dessert.

Bukchon Hanok Village

The route to Bukchon Hanok Village starts from Samcheongdong. Once you find this establishment, you can see a sort of stairway leading to the famous village. Once up the stairs, you just have to follow the arrows leading you to a steeper stairway. Be careful as it might get slippery and make sure  to catch your breath once you get to the top.

The view of the city from this point is marvelous.

If you’re wondering, what’s so cool about Bukchon Hanok Village? Well, basically it’s the best spot to get a feel of Seoul’s traditional village–it apparently has 900 traditional Korean houses (hanok) that people still live in!

There are tons of reminders for visitors to observe silence since the place is technically not a tourist area but a residential one. It was fun to see this side of Seoul but other than that, it was just too touristy for my liking. Be prepared because every corner is filled with groups on tour or people taking photos–it was truly a hit.

Insadong

We decided to quickly end our tour of Bukchon Hanok Village and went down again on our way to Insadong. The plan is to see a Ssamziegil which is what they call their old outdoor mall. This time, we got lost again. It’s a struggle to get around the city by foot even with wifi so be ready to get lost! Ask locals for directions as much as possible.

Once we finally got to the Ssamziegil, we noted that it was not worth the energy we just spent. We decided to continue shopping in the streets where Korean traditional products were sold at much lower prices. It was fun to shop souvenirs here but aside from that, I just did not see what’s incredibly special in this place.

From the end of Insadong shopping street, you can easily get to the entrance of the MRT and just retrace your way back to Myeongdong station.

Myeongdong Shopping Street

The area is a filled with tons of people at night! We decided to see the place for ourselves before heading back to our guesthouse but realized soon enough that we need more energy to actually explore the place. Still, we were able to try a few street-food which did not taste exceptional.

How to get there: From Myeongdong Subway station, head to Exit 6 and you can see the start of Myeongdong Shopping Street to your right.

Conclusion

And that’s all for our first day. It was incredibly exhausting but we had fun getting a glimpse of Seoul!

South Korea is a very beautiful country to visit, especially if you’re a Filipino. I hope you’ll find this South Korea travel guide useful as you plan your own trip.

You can even use this, as well as my other blog posts to build your own South Korea itinerary!

Want to know more about navigating Seoul and some Philippine travel hacks in South Korea? Leave me a comment below or subscribe to my blog get the latest updates.

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