Seoul, South Korea
Those traveling from North America to Asia often transit through Seoul, South Korea. Seoul is not just a place to relax in transit. It’s a chaotic, fast paced, and modern city, and yet it’s managed to stay very traditional, which means a plethora of historic sights remain. Whether you have 12 hours or 36 hours, Seoul can offer the weary traveler a host of amazing experiences. With my Layover guide to Seoul you will be dining on Korean BBQ and walking the neon lit streets of Seoul!
Getting from Incheon International Airport to Seoul
Incheon to Seoul Station Train
By far the easiest and fastest way into downtown Seoul is to hop on the Commuter or A’rex express train from Incheon International to Seoul Station.
Although there are two trains to choose from the Commuter Train is the clear winner, it’s more frequent and half the price of the A’rex train. The difference is, is the A’rex will get you downtown 10 minutes faster. The price of the trains are ₩8000 for the A’rex and ₩4050 for the Commuter.
City Limousine Bus
From Incheon International a bus heads downtown for ₩9000. It’s very frequent, but because of traffic can take a very long time!
This is your last resort, it takes a long time because of traffic and will cost you up to ₩100,000.
Where to stay in Seoul
Doo Guesthouse in Bukchon Hanok Village
For me I always opt to stay in traditional guesthouses to fully immerse myself in the culture. Doo Guesthouse now have two locations in Bukchon. They are set in traditional Korean courtyard style houses and give you the full Korean experience.
Rooms are equipped with a sliding door, tatami mat floors, and you sleep on the floor Korean style. The staff are super nice and helped me cook Korean Bulgogi!
The price is also very low for staying in downtown Seoul with rooms as low as ₩40,000.
It’s located very close to Line 3 Anguk Station, take exit three. They also have directions on their website HERE.
Getting around in Seoul
Seoul has one of the best Subway lines in Asia. You can connect to pretty much anywhere in the city and even many of the destinations outside of Seoul. The minimum fare for the subway is ₩1350. Seoul Subway Map Here
Taxis are very expensive, but if you want to experience the nightlife you may have to take one as the subway closes at midnight. They charge ₩3000 for 2km and ₩100 for every 144m or 35 sec after that.
What to see in Seoul on a Layover
Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace
Constructed in 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace was the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty. Now, this traditional Korean structure is wedged in between an ultra-modern city.
Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace Is a fun place to visit even will the large crowds. This is because the majority of the tourist are Koreans who dress in traditional outfits making for a great photo!
The palace is quite large, but after visiting the gardens and main hall there isn’t too much more to keep you here if your layover time limit is drawing near!
The Myeong-dong shopping district is full of international and Korean brands, but shopping is not the reason why I recommend coming here. Myeong-dong is essentially everything modern Korea is. Neon lit signs hang all around you and new takes on Korean street food are everywhere. It’s also a great place to people watch and see how the locals in Seoul.
If you are however into shopping, this area has plenty of clothing and jewellery shops to keep you busy!
Changdeokgung Secret Garden
Changdeokgung Palace is another great example of the old Korea, but the Changdeokgung Secret Garden is one of South Korea’s top sights! You must take a guided tour through the garden so make sure you book ahead.
This massive garden is filled with stunning foliage and intricate temple masterpieces. This is the Korea we all crave when coming here. Be sure not to miss Changdeokgung Secret Garden on your layover!
Bukchon Hanok Village
Seoul is very modern, but many neighborhoods have not lost their authenticity. Bukchon is one of Seoul’s best traditional neighborhoods. Instead of high rises you will find the slope roofed Korean architecture. Wandering the streets here you will see Korea as it once was, but more importantly how much of Korea still is!
The elderly play board games on the street while the Korean businessmen clank bottles as they enjoy their drinks at a traditional family owned pub. Bukchon is my favorite part of Seoul, and it is where I spend the majority of my layover when I am here.
For those wanting to sample the delicious street foods of Korea all at once head down to the Namdaemun Market. Here you can try just about everything in Korea including Korean BBQ, Spicy Rice Cakes, Korean Pancakes and even the Korean delicacy of Live Octopus!
Even if you’re not into eating all of Koreas weird and wonderful food Namdaemun Market is a great place to soak up the atmosphere of Korea.
Depending on how long your layover is you might want to indulge in the Korean sport of drinking your face off. There’s no better place to do it than Hongdae District or as the locals refer to it as “Foreigner Street”.
I came here with a few South Koreans, I believe this is the only way to truly enjoy having fun here! If you come alone expect to get sucked into the expats drinking areas.
In the heart of Seoul a small river amongst a concrete jungle has been turned into a garden oasis known as Cheonggyecheon. Cheonggyecheon is where the locals come to enjoy the outdoors without leaving Seoul. There is plenty of artwork and sights to see along this 10 km stroll in the heart of Seoul. If you have extra time on your layover do the whole thing, if not just take in the central areas.