I love South Korea — I mean, who doesn’t? With its sumptuous Korean food, lovely cherry blossoms, and of course, my K-pop and K-drama idols (hello Park Hyung-sik, Kim Tae-hyung, Park Seo-joon, and Park Bo-gum), South Korea truly captured my heart and soul. For all you aspiring travellers, here’s my specially curated 4 days Korea itinerary covering Seoul, Busan, and Incheon. I’ve mapped out the top things to do and best places to stay in Korea to maximise your trip. Thank me later!
How to get to South Korea
Direct flights to Korea are available from Southeast Asia’s main air hubs including Singapore, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Bangkok (Thailand), Jakarta (Indonesia), and Manila (Philippines), to name a few. Most travellers fly to Incheon International Airport, the largest and busiest airport serving Seoul. Others also opt to start their Korean journey in Busan via Gimhae International Airport before exploring Seoul and the rest of South Korea.
From Incheon Airport, you can get to Seoul by taking the Airport Express Railroad (AREX), airport limousine bus, or taxi. Read this quick guide to getting from Incheon Airport to Seoul.
Day 1: Seoul city exploration
Top things to do in Seoul
There’s an endless array of exciting things to do in Seoul. Start your early morning city exploration at Bukchon Hanok Village. Strolling around this traditional village will make you feel like you’re part of the Joseon Dynasty, a Korean dynastic kingdom that lasted for about five centuries (1392 to 1897). Before 10am, make sure you have already reached Gyeongbokgung Palace to witness the changing of the guards ceremony. It only happens every 10am and 2pm daily except Tuesdays, so don’t miss it like I did!
By noon, chow down on your favourite Korean food such as samgyeopsal, bibimbap, kimbap, and kimchi. If you are on a budget, take your pick from these cheap eats in Seoul, which cost ₩5,000 or less! And, if you want a more exciting Korean dining experience, eat a live octopus at Noryangjin Fish Market. Trust me, it’s not as nasty as you imagine it to be. In fact, I kind of liked it despite being a picky eater. Plus, it’ll be a good addition to your bragging rights, don’t you think?
In the afternoon, chill out in one of the hipster hangouts in Seoul to power up for your night market shopping spree. Some of the popular shopping places in Seoul are Myeongdong for skincare and cosmetics, Insadong for traditional Korean souvenirs, Dongdaemun for fashion and retail items, and Lotte Department Store (Main Branch) for Korean goodies.
You are probably exhausted by now after all the day’s sightseeing and shopping. Have some downtime and enjoy the scenic views and lights by the Han River before snoozing off to your accommodation in Seoul.
Best places to stay in Seoul
Myeongdong and Gangnam may be popular places to stay in Seoul, but keep in mind that they are touristy and relatively more expensive, too. Consider staying in one of these underrated neighbourhoods in Seoul, or pick Insadong and Dongdaemun, where shopping places and cultural attractions like Gyeongbokgung Palace and Bukchon Hanok Village are nearby. Here are my top picks of the best accommodations worth adding in your 4 days Korea itinerary:
Ramada by Wyndham Seoul Dongdaemun for shopping & convenience
Whenever I pick an accommodation, I always favour a place that is located near modern conveniences and public transport. Ramada by Wyndham Seoul Dongdaemun is one that easily won me over because of its location. It is only about 5 to 10 minutes walk to the subway stations. Shopping places like Dongdaemun Fashion Town and Lotte Department Stores are also near. With its strategic location and modern facilities, you are guaranteed a value-for-money stay in Seoul.
Enjoy up to 40% OFF on room rates, and get 3,000 Wyndham Rewards Points when you book direct now until 1 Nov 2019, for stays until 30 Jun 2020! Yes, you still have plenty of time to take advantage of this awesome offer!
Hotel Kuretakeso Insadong for a trendy stay in the heart of the city
Hotel Kuretakeso Insadong is another highly rated hotel in Seoul because of its close proximity to restaurants and shopping districts like Insadong itself. On top of its chic rooms and modern facilities, this 3-star hotel also offers free breakfast and free sauna — something you don’t usually enjoy in most accommodations.
August hill Hanok for a traditional Korean home experience
Fancy living in a hanok (traditional Korean house)? August hill Hanok will give you that one-of-a-kind experience at Bukchon Hanok Village. Built in 1923, this home was remodelled in 2018 to meet the needs of modern guests whilst taking in the old-world beauty of Korea. This hanok has two bedrooms and three beds that can fit up to five guests. There are cooking tools, tableware, washing machines, refrigerators, air conditioning, and free WiFi, too!
Day 2: Scenic tour around Nami Island
If you are a K-drama fanatic like me, it’s a MUST to visit Nami Island. After all, the classic Winter Sonata filmed their most romantic scenes here.
Top things to do in Nami Island
Aside from recreating the Winter Sonata scenes, other popular things to do in Nami Island include zip lining, taking Instagram-worthy shots at Metasequoia Lane, and biking along the lakeside.
After Nami Island, go on a side trip to Petite France, Gapyeong Rail Bike, and Garden of Morning Calm. The shuttle that goes to Nami Island will also take you to these popular Korean tourist spots. Here’s a quick guide to Nami Island for more information. Nami Island is a famous day trip destination from Seoul so you don’t need to stay overnight in the area.
Day 3: Cultural immersion in Busan
Busan is an underrated Korean city that deserves a spot in your 4 days Korea itinerary. From Seoul, you can take the Korea Train eXpress (KTX) to Busan. Here’s a detailed guide on how to get from Seoul to Busan.
Top things to do in Busan
In the morning, go straight to Gamcheon Culture Village. This colourful village is truly a visual feast. As you sightsee and snap photos of the stunning murals and narrow alleyways, please observe silence and proper behaviour. Locals still live here, so let’s respect them.
For lunch, go where the locals go — Jagalchi Market, the largest seafood market in Korea. You may buy fresh seafood from the wet market and have it cooked in one of the restaurants here.
Spend the afternoon at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, a unique Buddhist complex situated along Busan’s northeastern coast. Then, cap off your day at Haeundae Beach, one of Korea’s popular beaches where numerous festivals are held.
With so many things to do in Busan, a day trip here is simply not enough. I highly suggest that you extend your stay to fully soak up the culture and beauty of this coastal city.
Best places to stay in Busan
Busan is huge, and the best places to stay would depend on your travel interests. Stay in Haeundae if you like the beach, Busan Station if you want easy access to public transportation, and Nampo or Gwangbok to immerse in the local life. I’ve rounded up a few of the best Busan accommodations for your Korea itinerary:
Ramada Encore by Wyndham Haeundae for beach & nightlife
Busan is a coastal city, so why not stay near the beach? Ramada Encore by Wyndham Haeundae is a top-rated hotel near Haeundae Beach. It is also right beside Haeundae metro station and bus stop, so you are assured that you can easily explore Busan via public transport. Beach and public transport convenience? I’d give this hotel a thumbs up!
Take advantage of the Wyndham Super Vacation Sale! Get up to 40% OFF on room rates plus 3,000 Wyndham Rewards Points when you book direct until 1 Nov 2019. Stay period is until 30 Jun 2020, so don’t miss this hotel deal when in Busan!
Busan Station Dino Hotel for convenience & city life
Pick Busan Station Dino Hotel if you want to stay in a central location close to Busan’s must-see tourist spots. In fact, the hotel name itself will already give you an idea that it’s a stone’s throw away from Busan Station. If you are looking for a convenient and comfy stay in Busan without blowing a hole in your wallet, this modern hotel will give you just that.
Gamcheon Stay Busan for a local home experience
If you want to experience the laid-back local life in Busan, why not stay for a night or two at this remodelled private house in Gamcheon Culture Village? It has all the modern amenities such as WiFi, kitchen, refrigerator, and a space for when you want to do some work. This charming guest house will definitely let you live like a local in a quaint Korean village.
Day 4: Back to Seoul and Incheon
You should be back to Seoul by now for your last-minute Korean souvenir shopping. If not, proceed immediately to Incheon for a day of discovery. Did you know that Incheon also has a lot to offer than its famed airport? Incheon is worth adding in your 4 days Korea itinerary, too!
Top things to do in Incheon
Begin your Incheon excursion at Songwol-dong Fairy Tale Village. This once decrepit village is now a top tourist attraction featuring your favourite fairy tale characters like Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, and so much more. This IG-worthy spot is just a train ride away from Incheon Airport so hit it up before your flight.
For the remaining hours, learn about jajangmyeon (black bean noodles) at Jajangmyeon Museum or stroll around Songdo Central Park. This park is like an open-air museum where you’ll find art sculptures scattered all over. And, the canal makes for a scenic place to unwind as you while away the hours. Feel free to tick the items off this list of top things to do in Incheon when you have more time to spare.
Also read: 7 Perfect One-Week Itineraries for Korea
I know, so many things to do in Korea, so little time! If you find this 4 days Korea itinerary too packed, feel free to adjust according to your interest and pace. As Korea’s tourism tagline says, “Imagine Your Korea”, so make it your own adventure of a lifetime. Happy trip!