Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is a city full of contradictions. Futuristic-looking skyscrapers rise up in the distance over ancient Buddhist temples, while Korean traditions and the K-Pop culture are practised with equal zeal. It’s a city that can be overwhelming for any visitor but if you’ve only got a couple of days to enjoy it, knowing what to prioritise can be difficult. That’s why I’ve put together my guide of things to do in Seoul when you’ve only got 48 hours.
Take a Trip to Bongeunsa Temple
This Buddhist temple, which was built in 794 AD during the rule of King Wonseong of Silla, is an oasis of calm in the middle of a hectic city. One of the highlights of a visit to this temple is the stone statue of Maitreya, the Future Buddha. Standing at 91 feet (28 metres), it’s one of the tallest stone statues in South Korea. Spend a couple of hours strolling around the temple grounds and just soak up the beautiful surroundings. This stunning piece of history is the ideal starting point for the rest of your Korean adventure.
Shop at the Dongdaemun Market
One of the largest markets in Seoul, Dongdaemun Market is made up of over 20 shopping malls with over 30,000 stores in total. Here you’ll find just about everything under the sun. If you can think of it they probably sell it, from clothes and electronics to household goods and toys. And with a dizzying array of fantastic food stalls to choose from you certainly won’t go hungry either.
Drink Tea at Suyeonsanbang
After a busy morning and afternoon sightseeing, make your way to Suyeonsanbang for a little bit of tea and tranquillity. Once the home of Korean author Lee Taejun, the tea house can be found in Seongbuk-dong, an artsy district of Seoul. Here you can indulge in true Korean culture with a traditional bamboo rice cake and a savoury tea of your choice, all while taking in the stunning views.
Explore the Gyeongbokgung Palace
Start your second day in Seoul at a more leisurely pace with a trip to the Gyeongbokgung Palace. This was the main royal residence of the Joseon Dynasty, and Gyeongbokgung means “palace greatly blessed by Heaven”. Construction of the palace was completed in 1395, during the reign of King Taejo, and its stunning architecture makes it an absolute must-see when you’re in Seoul, even if you’re only there for a couple of days.
Relax at the Jimjilbang
Let the relaxation continue with a jimjilbang, a traditional Korean sauna. Offering more than your typical sauna, these days many of the jimjilbangs in Seoul provide a wide range of services, including swimming pools, hair and nail salons, anti-aging treatments, restaurants and even karaoke rooms. The Dragonhill Spa is one of the most famous saunas/spas in Seoul. There you can enjoy a sauna, but also the rooftop gardens, fitness area and more – they even have a movie theatre. Alternatively, try The Spa in Garden 5. It offers all the usual jimjilbang amenities as well as yoga classes, a library, an arcade and an internet café.
Book Dinner and a Show at Korea House
For your last chance to squeeze in as much Korean culture as possible, have dinner and see a show at the beautiful Korea House. The evening begins with a selection of traditional Korean dishes as eaten at court during the Joseon Dynasty, before moving on to a one-hour performance featuring eight traditional Korean acts from fan dances, to percussion, to romantic drama. An ideal way to end your weekend in this magical city.