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48 hours in Seoul: Shopping, Sightseeing, Ceremonies and Shows!

market stall ladies in seoul

Seoul is a thoroughly modern city that dances to a consumerist beat. The enthusiasm for style, fashion and visual identity here is fuelled by centuries of design traditions and a rich cultural heritage that carries through to contemporary life. There’s plenty to do, see and experience, but the metropolis can be overwhelming if on a short itinerary. Here’s my 48 hour snap shot for people that love fashion, textiles, art and culture.

Day 1

9am Start your trip by stepping back in time to visit Bukchon Hanok Village in the heart of the city. This traditional village is totally beautiful, with hundreds of Hanok houses that date back to the Joseon dynasty, maintained till today. It’s free to wander around but I definitely recommend renting a Hanbok to do so in. Make the most of the photo opportunities under the sloping roofs that rise up through the village.

Feeling like a Korean princess in a traditional Hanbok.

Hanbok in Seoul dress tourist

11am Insadong Street is where to go for traditional antiques and cute crafts. Pick up some trinkets at the flea market, get your own personalised stamp and if you’re lucky, strike gold in one of the many vintage shops. It’s a lovely spot to stop for lunch – try and get a table at Sanchon, an amazing vegetarian restaurant run by a former monk.

insadong arts and crafts shop

Insadong arts and crafts shop sell hand carved stamps.

2:30pm Head to Deoksugung Palace and marvel at the ornate decoration before watching the parade of traditional Korean costumes in the Royal Guard Changing ceremony at 3:30pm in front of Daehanmun Gate. 

Deoksugung Royal Palace

Details of Deoksugung Royal Palace.

4pm Embrace your inner consumerist and make your way to Myeongdong to shop till you drop. Stock up on beauty products here; there are over one thousand cosmetic shops selling everything you could ever desire to maintain your youth, plump up your lips or glossify your hair. There’s also multiple malls and street stalls a-plenty selling clothes, trinkets and souvenirs. It’s a good place to indulge in some street food. I went for some vegetable gimbap and goon mandu (dumplings) followed by hotteok (sweet pancake – delicous).

6.30-7.30 / 8.30-9.30pm  Round off Day 1 with a trip to Korea House to see one of the two nightly performances here. These showcase a medley of traditional Korean costume, dance, music and culture and are completely breathtaking and spectacular. Do not miss!

Hanbok in Seoul korean house

An artist from Korea House poses for photos outside the entrance before the show.

Day 2

9am Dongdaemun market is full of fantastic fabrics and haberdashery. It’s the place to come for a custom made Hanbok which makes for a wonderful memento. If you have the time to have one made, do it. Spend a morning on the 3rd floor stroking different shiny silks and being more and more in awe of the vibrant prints and adornments which you can buy to create the garment of your dreams.

hanbok shop

The Hanbok tailor shops in Dongdaemun market will leave you wanting to dress like a walking rainbow forever more.


11.30am Take the train to Hyehwa station and ascend the city walls until you reach Naksan park. Past here, you’ll find the Ihwa Mural Village sitting high above the city. The buildings, stairways and walls are all adorned with street art and there are plenty of cute but cool photo opportunities. Let yourself get a bit lost, marvel at the view and have a spot of lunch at one of the many cafes in the area.

Ihwa Mural Village seoul fish stairs

Ihwa Mural Village fish steps

2pm Gwangjang market is not just about the (incredible) street food. There’s a great vibe and you can browse antiques, fabrics and accessories whilst listening to thumping k-pop tunes. Still looking for a vintage one-off? Try your luck here in the vintage clothing arcade on the 2nd floor. It is one of Seoul’s most famous street food markets and you’re gonna need some snacks to fuel your hunting for all those bargains.

Gwangjang market seoul antique shop

Gwangjang market’s antique shops are packed with gorgeous textiles and ornaments.

Gwangjang market seoul

The side streets leading into Gwangjang market

4.30pm till late Finish your day in Sinsa, in the heart of Seoul’s fashionable shopping district Gangnam. There are chic boutiques, swanky restaurants and elegant bars. If you get here in time, pay a visit to the Horim Museum (last entry 5pm, Mon-Sat) for contemporary art and traditional artefacts. End your trip in style at Le Chamber; a speakeasy bar which you must enter through pulling a book out the bookcase. Yes it’s expensive and indulgent but after all that shopping, you’ve earned it.

Have been spent a weekend in Seoul? What were your favorite spots and a activities to do? If you have any good suggestions for Haute Culture readers then please share your advice in the comments below as we would love to hear from you!

Going to South Korea? Why not pin this article and save it for later!

what to do in seoul south korea

what to do in seoul south korea

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  • Reply
    John Moulds
    January 25, 2018 at 10:26 pm

    Yes Donna, South Korea is a fabulous place to visit. We were there in 2016 and again last year and will be there again this year. It is my favourite place after Vietnam. Three times in three years. There is so much happening there with food, fashion, lots of markets and wonderful people. You can see a sample of my 2016 trip on the following link as well as photos from my trips to Vietnam.

    • Reply
      January 25, 2018 at 10:27 pm

      Yes it was such a surprise to me, I loved it too.

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