As South Korea newbies, Yeison and I had looked up a bunch of different videos and posts about things to do in Seoul. Seoul is a huuuuge city and we wanted to be able to hit all the highlights at one point.
I’d read about some “must see” places in Seoul so I started planning on what days I wanted to spend more time and where but some places seemed like we could just visit for an hour or two instead of staying the whole day.
Our host for AirBnB suggested that we take the Seoul City Tour Bus which neither of us knew existed. Yeison did the hop-on-hop-off city tour for New York City and it seemed like a great way to stop at the main points without having to spend too much time.
Off we went to explore Seoul for the very first time!
Seoul City Tour Bus
We opted to go for the downtown + palace route since there were some places on there that we wanted to go. Unfortunately we didn’t expect to spend so much time at the Namsam Seoul Tower and didn’t end up visiting the palaces but that let us set aside a whole day just for palaces later on.
The downtown and palace bus tour starts at Gwanghwamun and from there it hits 26 other stops in the full course such as the National Folk Museum, Cheongwadae and Namsangol Hanok Village.
So this is how it works for anyone who’s never done a hop on hop off city bus tour.
You get on the bus from the starting point, you can get off the bus at any of the stops and then get back on the bus whenever you’re done. The Seoul City Tour buses stops every 25-30 minutes so make sure to keep an eye on the time so you don’t waste any!
This is the beginning of the tour and the ticket station location. For so many attractions, it was a good price at $12 a person.
Extra tip: On the ticket are some discounts for several attractions. Don’t forget to use them, 10% can save you a dollar or two!
They also have an audio headset system on the bus so you can listen to the description of each attraction (Korean, English, French and Chinese).
The first bus leaves at 9 AM and comes every half hour or so. They have other routes you can go on to like the night tours and panorama tour. The night tour seems like it’d be super fun but I think we’ll be able to explore Seoul at night on our own a later time.
National Museum of Korea
We chose to go to the national museum of Korea for our first stop (Stop 7). It’s been awhile since I’ve visited a museum and I was interested in learning some history.
The main exhibition hall is actually free so you can see hundreds of ancient relics and learn about the history of how South Korea came to be. Although we just spent an hour and a half here, you could spend all day perusing the beautiful landscape paintings, sculptures and interesting artifacts.
Itaewon Shopping Street
Itaewon Shopping Street (stop 10) is where you go to meet other foreigners. The bus description of Itaewon was correct: you’ll hear more English than Korean and see more foreigners than Koreans. There were restaurants of all different types of cuisine: Italian, German, Chinese, Indian and lots of Turkish!
We didn’t stay too long, just wandered around and had fun seeing how diverse this area was. Now I know where to go if I ever get a hankering for some Italian pasta!
Namsam Seoul Tower
I read about the Namsam Seoul Tower (stop 16) in some other blogs and really wanted to go there. Although I knew it’s a more touristic attraction like the Space Needle, it was one of those places you went once and then that’s it.
I had my heart set on taking the cable car to the top but we missed the stop. Instead we just stayed on the city bus that took us all the way to the top.
To go to the observatory, you have to buy a ticket which is $9 for adults. Around the tower are some food places and the locks of love.
The locks of love is similar to the one in Paris where couples proclaim their love by writing a note and locking it. Aww so sweet! We didn’t stay too long looking at the locks though, our main purpose was to go the tower.
At the tower, you get dropped off at the third floor where you can walk around and see Seoul from over 200 meters up (plus an extra 200 from Mount Namsam). I was really amazed at just how big of a city Seoul is, all you see are buildings for miles and miles!
The day we went, they were having an event at the tower so we went to check it out. We could see some very impressive looking men wearing what looked like a traditional outfit carrying some big swords. Turned out it was a ssaurabi performance and we got to watch them perform, cutting bamboo with swords and fighting each other.
Yeison even got to get in touch with his roots and try his hand at cutting bamboo with a long sword!
Dongdaemun Market (stop 20)
We kind of chose this stop randomly, I didn’t listen to the description of this one so when I saw it was a market, I assumed it was one of those open street markets but nope! It was a big shopping district. What I found interesting about this market was that as we were walking around, I heard way more Mandarin than Korean!
All the vendors, the people walking around and the sales people spoke Mandarin. We only stayed for a little bit, trying their street food: a Korean pancake, ice cream in a weird long cone and this corn dog potato thing. Yummy!
End of our day
Those were the only stops we took during the Seoul City Tour Bus. The bus tour runs until 9 PM so we could have stopped at a few more but by that time, the palaces were closed and that was the only other place we wanted to go that day.
Some of the other attractions like Insadong I set aside for separate days since I wanted to spend more time there. For $12, the Seoul City Tour bus was a great deal. We got a good taste of Seoul and explored the main attraction plus some other extras.
For anyone who may be short on time or doesn’t want to spend multiple days going to different places, the tour bus is really a good option.
Information about the Seoul City Tour Bus
Where to buy tickets: at Gwanghwamun ticket office or from the bus driver after you get on the bus
How to get to Gwanghwamun: Subway Line 5, station exit #6. Walk 50 meters forward, ticket box office is in front of the police station
Ticket information: 4 different routes with single and double decker buses. You can buy 3 day passes, a combination package of Downtown and Palace + Seoul Panorama. Night tour has two different courses.
Ticket prices (adult):
- Downtown + Palace: $12
- Night Tour 1: $6
- Seoul Panorama: $15
- Night Tour 2: 12
**Course 3 and 4 are double decker buses
Hours of operation: Closed Mondays (except for holidays), 9 AM – 9 PM
Tips: To really make use of the whole day, take the first bus at 9AM. Research the locations before you go so you know which ones you want to stop at and plan for 1 – 2 hours at each attraction. The bus will pick you up where it dropped you off or look for the red Seoul City Tour bus sign.
More fun things to do in South Korea
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