A winter dayover in Seoul is a frigid experience. The beautiful city, surrounded by water and mountains, felt colder at 15°F than any below 0°F winter day I have ever experienced in Wisconsin. Did you watch the Olympics this year? I think all of the spectators shivering in the stands would agree, Seoul is a chilly city.
In case you were wondering, dayover is a noun, meaning a very long layover between flights, a full-day layover. There is plenty to do with a dayover in Seoul. From the Gyeongbokung palace, built in 1395, to panoramic views from the 60-year-old Seoul Tower we saw much of this ancient city from the comfort of a heated tourist bus.
Dayover in Seoul – Must Do’s
Marvel at the magnificent city views from Seoul Tower
Whether you summit by bus, foot, or via the Namsan Cable Car, the views at the top are worth the trek.
Visit the main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty, Gyeongbokgung Palace
Enter through the Gwanghawam gates and pose with the royal palace guards.
Enjoy people watching in the large square before entering the Heungnyemun Gate to the palace. (Tickets are required for entry through these second gates.)
Test your stomach while you sample street food at the Namdaemun Market
My favorite dish was the Korean sweet pancakes called hotteok. The grilled dough is filled with a sweet brown sugar and cinnamon center that melts in your mouth. The most popular dish in the market is the knife cut noodles, kalguksu, which are served in a makeshift alley near the north end of the market. We made it only half of a step into the alley before one of the ahjummas (a middle-aged working woman) pulled us over to a seat at her stall and served us kalguksu, boribap, and some other foreign dishes. While the food was not my favorite, it was an experience to remember!
Wander the shopping streets of Myeongdong
The bustling area of Myeongdong has shopping from high end to homegrown shops and street vendors as well as restaurants. Do some shopping, grab a bowl of ginseng chicken soup, or sit down for a lunch of dak-galbi (spicy stir-fried chicken).
Dayover in Seoul – Where to stay
If your dayover spans a night in Seoul, I highly recommend staying at the Aloft Seoul Myeongdong. The hotel was great, location was very central, and breakfast was perfect.
Dayover in Seoul – Tips
- Transportation can be tricky. We found it nearly impossible to locate uber drivers and gave up after several failed attempts. Google maps does not give directions well, if at all, in Seoul due to safety concerns with their neighbor to the north. The easiest way for us to access the city was by bus from the airport to our hotel and by tourist bus throughout the city. We took a train from the city back to the airport, and that worked well too.
- Money troubles are real. Many ATMs would either not give cash to international credit cards or they did not have an English menu. I suggest withdrawing cash at the airport before you get out into the big city.
- Street food really can cause the blues. The day after our dayover in Seoul was a rough day. It is probably best not to try too many new and bizarre things in one day!
- If it is freezing cold outside, take the tourist bus tours of the city. They are nice and warm, and you can get the lay of the land in comfort. Warm up with a bowl of ginseng chicken soup.
Want to follow my travels?
Check out my review of Korean Air. If you’re visiting Korea, there is not a better airline for your trip!