The Land of Morning Calm: Our 9-Day Winter Travel Guide to Seoul

K-Pop, K-Drama, 10-step Korean skincare, K-fashion, bibimbap and a lot more. When the Korean fever arrived, it took no less than a year for it to take the world by storm. Citizens from neighboring Asian countries dreamt of experiencing Hallyu first-hand. My husband and I are no exception.

I yearned to visit the places I could only watch in Korean dramas (yes, I am an avid fan). I kept seeing my friends and colleagues posting pictures about their trips… my desire to visit Seoul grew bigger each day.

So after our trip to Hong Kong and Macau last October 2017, I asked Troy if he wanted to travel to Korea for his birthday in 2018. I made little effort convincing him because he also wanted to go there and experience real winter.

So here’s our amazing trip to Seoul! Read on for some tips and travel guides.

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Pre-Travel Guide

About Seoul
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Seoul is the capital and the largest city in South Korea. For some period, it was invaded by the Chinese and Japanese forces. Right after its freedom from foreign invasion, an internal struggle quickly escalated into war between the northern and southern regions. Still, it’s amazing how this country is able to preserve many of its customs and traditions, transporting you back into an era where monarchy ruled the country, when wearing hanbok was fashion, and studying folk arts/music was imperative. I love how this city blends history and contemporary culture into something that only Seoul could pull-off — tradition amidst the city’s vigorous globalization.

I am quite surprised how Seoul manages its tourism — effectively fusing its large population with millions of tourists every year. Seoul offers its tourists a lot of attractions and things-to-do. You can be sure you’ll never run out of ideas on how to spend your vacation here.

Visa Requirements
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Being a Philippine passport-holder, getting a Visa was something that we needed to work on. For more details on how to apply for a South Korean Visa, refer to our related article here: How to Apply for a South Korean Visa?

Going to Seoul: Travel Options
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Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines offer flights to Incheon and Busan. For our trip, I immediately booked our plane tickets via Air Asia after we got our approved Visas.

seoul-booking

Since the window from the time of my booking (January 2018) and target travel dates (February 2018) was very slim, I already expected that the tickets were more expensive than the usual. Our airfare cost around PHP 18,000.00/person. You can definitely book tickets cheaper than this, especially if there are seat sales and piso-fares.

In addition, if you’re planning to buy a lot of pasalubongs, buy a baggage allowance. We bought 25kg for me and 20kg for Troy since I’m planning to buy a lot of cosmetics, hahaha!

When to Go?
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When to go really depends on your target season. Spring and autumn are the most popular out of the 4 seasons.

  • Winter – December to February
  • Spring – March to May
  • Summer – June to August
  • Fall – September to November

Personally, I would like to visit Seoul during spring and autumn. I was told late October to early December are good months to visit Seoul. The climate is moderate, the foliage is great! It’s also off-peak so the flight tickets and hotel rates are relatively cheaper.

WEATHER

Living all my 30+ years in a tropical country, this was definitely the coldest temperature I’ve experienced. I get cold very easily. I can even sleep with a comforter during summer. So imagine my struggle spending 9 days when the temperature ranged between -12 degrees to 2 degrees. Oh well, at least my husband loved the winter season!

seoul-temp

CLOTHING

Troy definitely enjoyed the weather. He got to wear three to four layers of clothes which he definitely cannot do in Manila. Yey for hubby! I also settled for three to four layers of clothes because it was so hard to stay outside when it’s freezing cold.

If you’re planning a trip next winter, be well prepared. Here are some tips you can consider:

  • Layering is the key. Layer with ultra-warm tops from Uniqlo’s heattech line. Your base layer can be a thin long-sleeve ones. Surprisingly, these are really effective in combatting the cold. Next layer could be a fleece-lined top or regular sweater. The third layer could be your ultra-light down jacket. The outermost layer would be your wool coat.
  • Protect all exposed body parts. Bonnets for the head, muffs for the ear, winter scarves for the neck, gloves for your hands. Believe me when I say these are all necessary.
  • Invest in a good pair of winter boots. If you’re planning to walk around the city and visit snow-covered places, wear water-proof and slip resistant shoes. Wear thermal or wool socks. These would keep your feet warm.

Where to Stay?
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Where you stay is very critical when planning your itinerary. I normally book our accommodation first, before working on the itinerary since the starting point would be our hotel. We considered three areas when I was looking for a place to stay:

  • Seoul Station area  – transport hub. This is where the airport train is located.
  • Hongdae area – university belt.
  • Myeongdong – I would say the ‘heart’ of Seoul.

The winner, of course, was Myeongdong! If you ask why, below were my key considerations:

BEAUTY HAVEN

[from visitkorea] Myeong-dong is one of the primary shopping districts in Seoul. Many brand name shops and department stores line the streets and alleys. Common products for sale include clothes, shoes, and accessories.

I mentioned that I was planning to buy a lot of cosmetics and skincare products, right? This place is heaven for me! Innisfree, Tony Moly, Etude, Olive Young, Nature Republic are very accessible. You can even find 3-4 shops of the same brand in different alleys.  So happy I got to buy everything on my list!

seoul-myeongdong2

FOOD CENTRAL

Myeong-dong has family restaurants, fast food chains, and several other dining options. Their samgyupsal tasted different! Almost similar to steak, so great! Street-foods, albeit expensive, really taste well!

HOTEL

K-Guesthouse Myeongdong 3 is located in the heart of Myeongdong, so the location is very strategic and convenient. A walking distance from the subway, and you’ll get to walk past the multitude of street vendors, beauty stores, and restaurants. Very easy to locate!

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Photo grabbed from their hotel page via Agoda

The staffs are all friendly. The room is a bit small, but we only sleep in it so we care less as long as the beds are comfy. The breakfast is self-service so you need to cook your own food and wash the utensils. The towels are small though, it’s like a hair towel only. So we brought our own towels (as I was able to read the comments via Agoda about this). Overall, our stay was okay. The coffee shop at the bottom was great too! They offer you 20% discount when you present your hotel key card. We’ll definitely book this hotel again when we return to Korea for another vacation. Thumbs up!

Address: 35-9 Myeongdong 10-gil, Jung-gu, Myeongdong, Seoul, South Korea, 04537
Nearest Station: Myeongdong Exit 4 or 8

Transportation Options and Getting Around
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TRANSPORTATION COST (PHP) – 2 pax
Discover Seoul Pass: Free access to 21 tourist attractions within 24 hours | Cost Per Person: PHP 1,632.00/pax
via KLOOK:  https://www.klook.com/activity/3819-discover-seoul-pass-seoul/
PHP 3,264.00
T-Money Top-Up PHP 3,430.00
    Day 1: KRW 15,000/pax
    Day 7: KRW 10,000/pax
    Day 10: KRW: 10,000/pax
AREX Express Train One-Way Ticket: Incheon Airport to Seoul StationCost Per Person: PHP 297/pax
via KLOOK: https://www.klook.com/activity/1163-airport-to-seoul-city-center-arex-train-incheon/
PHP 594.00
AREX Express Train One-Way Ticket: Seoul Station to Incheon AirportCost Per Person: PHP 297.00/pax
via KLOOK: https://www.klook.com/activity/1163-airport-to-seoul-city-center-arex-train-incheon/
PHP 594.00
TOTAL TRANSPORTATION EXPENSES PHP 7,882.00
SUBWAY

My favorite experience in Seoul? Subway! Seoul is one of the countries with the best transportation system in the world.  The trains are well-maintained and always on-time, the commuters don’t pile up even during rush hours. People are very disciplined, they know how to queue.

Another option is to take the bus. Seoul has a very organized bus system. Fees vary depending on your destination and distance traveled. You can use your T-Money when paying for your bus ride.

Taxis are also available. We weren’t able to ride a taxi since the subways are already very reliable and convenient. Some drivers don’t speak English so be ready with your translate apps to aid you when giving directions.

Over-all, I would recommend taking the subway trains. It’s easy to understand and much cheaper!

DISCOVER SEOUL PASS / T-MONEY / AREX EXPRESS TRAIN ONE-WAY TICKET

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Yellow Card – Airport Railroad Express (AREX);
Blue Card – Discover Seoul Pass/T-Money Card

The Discover Seoul Pass gives free access to a selection of 21 tourist attractions within 24 or 48 hours. It also acts as a T-Money which can be topped-up and refunded for any remaining balance. The T-Money is used for paying your subway or bus rides. It can also be used to purchase goods at convenience stores. Since our travel dates coincide with the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, we got these very-limited cards! Yey!

There are several ways to travel from Incheon International Airport to Seoul. We opted for the Airport Railroad Express (AREX) – Express Train. We reached downtown Seoul in less than 45 minutes. The cheaper (but longer) option is the All Stop Train which stops by 13 subway stations from the airport to Seoul Station.

There is a deposit fee amounting to KRW 500.00/pax. You can refund this when you exit at Seoul Station.

Foreign Exchange
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As of April 7, 2018:

  • 1 South Korean Won (KRW) = 0.049 Philippine Peso (PHP)
  • 1 South Korean Won (KRW) = 0.00094 US Dollar (USD)

I suggest exchanging your PHP to US Dollars and a few South Korean Won prior your travel dates. In BDO, you need to reserve 3-5 days before you’re able to buy USD. I do not recommend exchanging money in airports since the rates are lower. In addition, call your banks and/or credit card companies for a travel advisory so you won’t encounter any issues when using your ATMs and credit cards abroad. Making a travel advisory also prevents fraudulent transactions since the bank will be monitoring your account activities.

You can find plenty of money changers in Myeongdong, Hongdae, and Gangnam. Bring your passport or any ID, since they verify  first before exchanging your money.

Connectivity
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Seoul has blazing internet speeds. Though most of the public places offer wi-fi connection, we decided to rent our own wi-fi router. There are several options for you to stay connected during your stay there.

Klook offers wi-fi device rental for as low as PHP 230/day. Please take note that a security deposit is usually collected by the merchant which will be refunded once you return the device.

Book your 4G Wi-Fi Device via Klook here: https://www.klook.com/city/13-seoul/47-tag/?p=1&order=0

Since we’re happy with our previous provider, we rented again from Flytpack. Booking through Flytpack was easy. Just go to their website and select your travel dates, the number of router you’re renting and your target destination. Payment is usually via Paypal or credit card. Please take note that you also need to pay for a deposit which will be refunded (within 14 days) once you return the device. The router was delivered to me 3 days before our travel dates, and I scheduled a pick-up day after our arrival.

  • Wi-Fi Router Rental (PHP 300.0) for 9 days: PHP 2,700.00
  • Courier Delivery: PHP 170.00
  • Security Deposit: PHP 1,800.00 (regular fee is PHP 2,800 but I got a PHP 1,000 discount from Citibank’s promo; refunded within 14 days)
  • Service Fee: PHP 25.00
  • Additional discount from Citibank’s promo: -PHP 324.00
  • TOTAL AMOUNT PAID: PHP 4,371.00

Book your 4G Wi-Fi Device via Flytpack here: https://flytpack.com/wifi

Disclaimer:

  1. Actual expenses included in this guide account for 2 persons.
  2. Venue information are based from Visit Korea website. For more information, visit their website.

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Day 1: Arrival | Jung-gu
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TIME ACTIVITY COST (PHP) – 2 pax
7:00 AM 2:00 PM Travel to Incheon International Airport, South Korea, Disembark and Clear Immigrations
2:00 PM 4:00 PM K-Guesthose Myeongdong 3 Hotel
Check-in hotel, unpack
4:00 PM 7:00 PM N. Seoul Tower and Namsan Park via Discover Seoul Pass
7:00 PM 8:00 PM Dinner at Namdaemun Market No admission fees
8:30 PM 9:00 PM Take subway to Hotel
10:00 PM Lights Out & Rest
Meal Allowance (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) PHP 2,500.00
DAY 1 TOTAL EXPENSES PHP 2,500.00

◊ N Seoul Tower and Namsan Park

The N Seoul Tower stands on Mount Namsan and is the highest point in the city. The tower is lit by LED lights which constantly change color. You can reach the tower by taking the Namsan cable car up Namsan Mountain.

I remember that our phones died here due to extreme cold temperature (-7 degrees). It was an uphill battle climbing from the bus stop up to the hill top where the pavilion was located. We arrived around 6PM so it was dark already. The park probably had a different ambience in daylight.

Some of the things-to-do here are: take photos wearing Korea’s traditional clothing at L/F Hanbok Culture Experience Center; visit the Teddybear Gallery at 2F, Ssentoy Museum and Hello Kitty Island at 5F, Sky Restroom at T4; see the panoramic view of Seoul at the Observation Deck T4-T5; and hang your own padlocks at the Love Lock on the Roof Terrace.

Address: 105 Namsangongwon-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Operating Hours: Observatory: Mon-Fri/Sun 10am-11pm, Sat 10am-midnight
Admission Fees: Observatory: KRW 10,000 adults

Namdaemun Market

Namdaemun Market is the largest traditional market in Korea with shops selling various goods. Though it is said that the market is open 24/7, 365 days a year and is always bustling no matter what time it is night or day, unforunately, most of the stores were closed when we went on a Sunday evening.

Address: 21 Namdaemunsijang 4-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Operating Hours: 24/7 depending on stores

Day 2: Jong-no
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TIME ACTIVITY COST (PHP) – 2 pax
8:00 AM 9:00 AM Visit Gwanghwamun Square No admission fees
9:00 AM 11:30 AM Visit Gyeongbokgung Palace via Discover Seoul Pass
11:30 AM 12:30 PM Visit National Folk Museum of Korea via Discover Seoul Pass
12:30 PM 1:30 PM Lunch at Mukshidonna Tteokbokki Samcheongdong
1:30 PM 2:30 PM Visit Bukchon Hanok Village No admission fees
2:30 PM 4:00 PM Visit Changdeokgung Palace and Huwon/Secret Garden via Discover Seoul Pass
4:00 PM 5:00 PM Visit Changgyeonggung Palace via Discover Seoul Pass
5:00 PM 6:30 PM Explore Insadong Street No admission fees
6:30 PM 7:30 PM Visit Cheonggye Plaza & Cheonggyecheon Stream No admission fees
7:30 PM 8:30 PM Visit Dongdaemun Design Plaza No admission fees
8:30 PM 9:30 PM Free Time, Stroll around, Dinner at Myeongdong Shopping Street
9:30 PM 10:00 PM Walk back to Hotel
10:00 PM Lights Out & Rest
Meal Allowance: Lunch & Snacks PHP 3,500.00
Meal Allowance: Dinner PHP 1,225.00
DAY 2 TOTAL EXPENSES PHP 4,725.00

◊ Gwanghamun Square

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You can find the statue of King Sejong the Great and Admiral Yi Sun-Shin at the Gwanghwamun Square. The entire square is located at the center of two roads near the Gyeongbokgung.

Address: 172, Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Operating Hours: 24 hours

◊ Gyeongbokgung

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seoul-royal guards

Gyeongbokgung means “palace greatly blessed by heaven”. I would consider Gyeongbokgung Palace as one of the most iconic landmarks in Seoul and is the most beautiful amongst all five palaces. The changing ceremony of royal guards happen at 10:00 in the morning.

Address: 161, Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Operating Hours:  09:00-18:00
Admission Fees: Adults (ages 19-64): KRW 3,000 / Groups (10 people or more):KRW 2,400

This integrated palace ticket includes entrances to the four palaces: Changdeokgung Palace (including Huwon, Secret Garden), Changgyeonggung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, Gyeongbokgung Palace and Jongmyo Shrine. Ticket is KRW 10,000 and is valid for use for three months after purchase.

◊ National Folk Museum of Korea

Located inside Gyeongbokgung Palace, the National Folk Museum of Korea houses historical artifacts that were used in the daily lives of Korean people in the past. Through the displays, visitors can learn about the domestic and agricultural lifestyles, as well as Korea’s cultural beliefs.

Address: 37, Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Operating Hours:  09:00-18:00
Admission Fees: Adults (ages 19-64):KRW 3,000 / Groups (10 people or more):KRW 2,400

◊ Restaurant: Mukshidonna Tteokbokki Samcheong-dong

The budae-jigae or “army stew” of Mukshidonna was incomparable to the ones we had during my birthday in Tagaytay. This restaurant lets you choose your ingredients to cook in a single pot of delicious stew.

All the stews were served with tteokbokki (Korean rice cake). We got seafood, cheese, ramyeon (Korean instant noodles), odaeng (Korean fishcake) and fried rice as ingredients. Super yummy! And spicy! I love the pickled radish, sour-ish yet somewhat sweet.

Address: 19-1 Anguk-Dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Operating Hours: Daily 11am to 8.30pm (Closed on certain Sundays)

◊ Bukchon Hanok Village

Bukchon Hanok Village contains 800+ traditional hanoks (Korean houses). You can find traditional Korean architecture in modern Seoul in this place.

I would’ve rented a hanbok, as I originally planned to explore Jong-no wearing a traditional dress. But unfortunately, this day was the coldest (-9 degrees) and I definitely cannot walk wearing few layers of thin clothing.

Address: 37, Gyedong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Operating Hours: Open all year round
Admission Fees: None

◊ Changdeok-gung and Huwon

Changdeokgung or the “Palace of Prospering Value” is one of the original five grand palaces that were built during the Joseon dynasty. The last king of Joseon dynasty lived here. The Secret Garden tour lasted for 1 hour. I imagined the trees during autumn, this garden will definitely be a very nice sight when all the leaves started to color beautifully.

The lakes were frozen. Oh well, winter has a different charm. Very solemn, calm. Tranquility at its best.

Address: 99, Yulgok-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Operating Hours: Closed on Mondays; Feb-May, Sep-Oct 09:00-18:00 | Jun-Aug 09:00-18:30 | Nov-Jan 09:00-17:30
Admission Fees: Adults (ages 25-64): 3,000 won / Group (over 10 people): 2,400 won

◊ Changgyeong-gung

Changgyeonggung Palace was first built by the 4th ruler of the Joseon Dynasty, King Sejong, for his retiring father, King Taejong. It often served as residential quarters for queens and concubines. It later became a park with a zoo and a botanical garden during Japanese colonial rule.

Address: 185 Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Operating Hours: Closed on Mondays; Feb-May, Sep-Oct 09:00-18:00 | Jun-Aug 09:00-18:30 | Nov-Jan 09:00-17:30
Admission Fees: Adults Individual: KRW  1,000 / Group (over 10): KRW 800

◊ Insadong

Insadong-gil is a popular neighborhood that is often visited by locals and tourists wanting to experience traditional culture of Korea. Streets and narrow back alleys are lined with art galleries, wooden tea houses, restaurants, cafes and small shops selling arts and crafts.

We were able to try the traditional tea at Dawon Traditional Tea Garden located at 11-4 Insadong 10-gil, Gwanhun-dong, Jongno-gu. I tried their medicinal tea (I had colds and coughs then) while Troy had the ginseng tea. The rice cookies were like butchi here in the Philippines.

Address: 62, Insadong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Operating Hours: Depending on stores

◊ Cheonggye Plaza and Cheonggyecheon Stream

We were not able to visit the plaza and stream since we ran out of time. And I assumed the stream was also frozen so we decided to just visit this some other time.

Address: Taepyeong-ro 1-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul
Operating Hours: Open all year round

◊ Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)

Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) has a meaning of Dream, Design, and Play. Famous for being the building without corners, DDP is such an architectural feat. Hundreds of lighted flowers were planted in front of the building.

Address: 281, Eulji-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul
Operating Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10:00-19:00 | Extended hours 10:00-21:00 on Wed/Fri

Day 3: Gangwon-do | Gyeonggi-do
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TIME ACTIVITY COST (PHP) – 2 pax
8:00 AM 10:00 AM Travel to Gangwon-do
via KLOOK:  https://www.klook.com/activity/2528-nami-island-garden-morning-calm-seoul/PHP 4,664.00/pax
PHP 9,328.00
10:00 AM 12:00 PM Visit Gangchon Rail Park
1:00 PM 2:00 PM Lunch
2:00 PM 4:00 PM Explore Nami Island
5:00 PM 6:00 PM Explore Petite France
7:00 PM 9:00 PM Visit The Garden of Morning Calm
9:00 PM 10:00 PM Free Time, Stroll around, Dinner at Myeongdong Shopping Street
10:00 PM 10:30 PM Walk back to Hotel
11:00 PM Lights Out & Rest
Meal Allowance: Lunch & Snacks PHP 2,150.00
Meal Allowance: Dinner PHP 1,450.00
DAY 3 TOTAL EXPENSES PHP 12,928.00

◊ Gangchon Railbike

Gangchon Rail Park is a popular tourist attraction where visitors can pedal along old railroad tracks while taking in the lovely Bukhangang River scenery. Again, this place was sooo cold! Especially when the wind blows from inside the tunnels!

I remembered one tunnel where it played Gangnam Style of Psy. It also had mini-light shows which were entertaining. I cannot focus though since I was really really freezing to death.

Address: 1383, Gimyujeong-ro, Chuncheon-si, Gangwon-do
Operating Hours: March-October 10 times daily / November-February 9 times daily
Admission Fees: Two-seater: KRW 30,000 | Four-seater: KRW 40,000

◊ Nami Island

Arguably the most iconic place in Seoul, Nami Island is famous for its beautiful tree-lined roads. It was also popularized by a Korean drama, Winter Sonata, where the characters’ statue was built. You can reach the half-moon island by riding a ferry.

Address: 1, Namisum-gil, Namsan-myeon, Chuncheon-si, Gangwon-do
Operating Hours: [Ferry Schedule] 07:30-09:00 (30 minute intervals) | 09:00-18:00 (10-20 minute intervals) | 18:00-21:40 (30 minute intervals)
Admission Fees: Adults KRW 10,000

◊ Petite France

Petite France is a French cultural village set in the Korean countryside. Tourists can lodge on French-styled houses and experience French food, clothing, and household culture.

Address: 1063, Hoban-ro, Cheongpyeong-myeon, Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do
Operating Hours: Sun-Thu 09:00-18:00 | Fri-Sat 09:00-20:00
Admission Fees: Adults KRW 6,000

◊ The Garden of Morning Calm

If you have watched the Korean Drama Love in the Moonlight / Moonlight Drawn by Clouds, the garden where the prince always spends his time was shot at The Garden of Morning Calm. Depending on the season, the arrangement of the entire garden varies.

  • Spring: Spring Garden Festival
  • Summer: Festival of Roses, Hydrangeas and Roses of Sharon
  • Autumn: Festival of Chrysanthemums and Autumnal Tints
  • Winter: Lighting Festival

Address: 432, Sumogwon-ro, Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do
Operating Hours: 08:30-20:00
Admission Fees: Adults KRW 9,000

Day 4: Sinchon
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TIME ACTIVITY COST (PHP) – 2 pax
10:00 AM 11:00 AM Visit Jongmyo Royal Shrine — KRW 1,000/pax PHP 98.00
11:00 AM 12:00 PM Visit Jogyesa Temple No admission fees
12:00 PM 2:00 PM Lunch at Deoksugung Palace
2:00 PM 3:00 PM Explore Deoksugung Palace — KRW 1,000/pax PHP 98.00
3:00 PM 4:00 PM Visit Ewha University/Fashion Street No admission fees
4:00 AM 6:00 PM Visit Hongdae (Hongik University Street) No admission fees
9:00 PM 10:00 PM Free Time, Stroll around, Dinner at Myeongdong Shopping Street
10:00 PM 10:30 PM Walk back to Hotel
11:00 PM Lights Out & Rest
Meal Allowance: Lunch & Snacks PHP 1,500.00
Meal Allowance: Dinner PHP 1,450.00
DAY 4 TOTAL EXPENSES PHP 3,146.00

◊ Jogyesa Temple

We initially went to Jongmyo Royal Shrine, but unfortunately, it was closed every Tuesday. So we headed to Jogyesa Temple instead. This is the main temple and headquarters of the Korean Buddhist Jogye Order. Jogye is a Korean Zen sect and the largest sect of Korean Buddhism. The admin ladies gave us a Buddhism booklet. Outside the temple, several stores were selling Buddhist beads, clothes and calligraphy items.

Address: 55, Ujeongguk-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Operating Hours: Temple site daily 24 hrs

◊ Deoksugung

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If you have watched the Korean Drama Goblin, the famous stone-wall where the lead characters had many scenes together were shot here. Deoksugung means the “palace of virtuous longevity”.

Address: 99 Sejong-daero, Jung-gu, Seoul
Operating Hours: 08:30-20:00
Admission Fees: Adults KRW 1,000

◊ Ewha Women’s University

The Ewha Womans University area is one of the most popular shopping districts in Seoul. The shopping streets are filled with accessory shops, clothing boutiques, shoe shops, cafes, and salons.

We tried the famous porridge of Bonjuk. They offer a variety of porridges at reasonable prices. I tried the Seafood Porridge worth KRW 9,000. It comes with side dishes and Korean condiments.Yummy and feels healthy!

Address: 52, Ewhayeodae-gil, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul
Operating Hours: 24/7

◊ Hongdae

Hongdae is a neighborhood known for its youthful and romantic ambience, underground culture, and freedom of self-expression. This place has a lot of unique cafes, galleries, accessory stores, fashion shops, art markets, and gourmet eateries.

Address: Eoulmadang-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Operating Hours: 24/7

Day 5: Daemyung Vivaldi Ski Resort
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TIME ACTIVITY COST (PHP) – 2 pax
8:00 AM 5:00 PM Ski at Daemyung Vivaldi Ski Resort

via KLOOK:  Basic Group Ski Lesson Package VOUCHER — PHP 4151/pax

Purchase ski gloves — KRW 15,000/pax

PHP 9,772.00
7:00 PM 9:00 PM Free Time, Stroll around, Dinner at Myeongdong Area
9:00 PM 9:30 PM Walk back to Hotel
10:00 PM Lights Out & Rest
Meal Allowance: Lunch & Snacks PHP 1,617.00
Meal Allowance: Dinner PHP 931.00
DAY 5 TOTAL EXPENSES PHP 12,320.00

seoul-ski

Where to celebrate Valentines Day? Somewhere unique and far!

We tried a day-time skiing at Vivaldi Ski Resort. The Klook voucher we purchased included a 30-minute basic ski lessons. The instructor taught us how to stand, ski, break and accelerate. As much as I wanted to try skiing down a slope, I got scared and backed-out the last-minute. I fell down several times, and ultimately decided to just walk down the slope. Hahaha, such a loser! Troy, on the other hand, looked like he enjoyed. He knew how to skate, so the adjustment was easier for him.

Since this place is a very far from the city, we had limited food choices. Nonetheless, I will remember this experience for the rest of my life.

Address: 262, Hanchigol-gil, Seo-myeon, Hongcheon-gun, Gangwon-do
Operating Hours: Daytime 08:30-17:00 | Nighttime 18:30-22:30

Day 6: Myeong-dong | Lotte World
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TIME ACTIVITY COST (PHP) – 2 pax
10:00 AM 11:00 AM Walk to Myeongdong Cathedral No admission fees
11:00 AM 6:00 PM Visit  Lotte World
via KLOOK: https://www.klook.com/activity/251-lotte-world-seoul/ PHP 1,226.00/pax
PHP 2,452.00
7:00 PM 9:00 PM Free Time, Stroll around, Dinner at Myeongdong Area
9:00 PM 9:30 PM Walk back to Hotel
10:00 PM Lights Out & Rest
Meal Allowance: Lunch & Snacks PHP 2,739.10
Meal Allowance: Dinner PHP 921.20
DAY 6 TOTAL EXPENSES PHP 6,112.30

◊ Myeongdong Cathedral

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We got lost the first time we went here, and walked around in circles. It’s so funny that this church was just a walking distance from our hotel. With a very nice facade, Myeongdong Cathedral is one of the most photographed places in Seoul.

Address: 74, Myeongdong-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
Operating Hours: Weekday Mass: 6:30, 18:00, 19:00 (Except Monday evening) | Sunday Mass: 7:00, 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 16:00, 17:00, 18:00, 19:00 (Youth Mass), 21:00

◊ Lotte World

Lotte World is a theme park with both indoor and outdoor attractions. I wasn’t able to understand some of the rides because it’s in Korean (no English translation available). Since it was very cold to stay outside that day, people lined up in the indoor rides. There were instances where we queued for more than 30 minutes. An express pass  was sold separately, but I don’t want to spend more than what we budgeted so we just queued on the popular rides.

Address: 240, Olympic-ro, Songpa-gu, Seoul
Operating Hours: 09:30-22:00
Admission Fees: Adults KRW 52,000

Day 7: Everland Theme Park
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TIME ACTIVITY COST (PHP) – 2 pax
10:00 AM 7:00 PM Visit Everland
via KLOOK: https://www.klook.com/activity/252-everland-seoul/PHP 2,840.00/pax
PHP 5,680.00
7:00 PM 9:00 PM Free Time, Stroll around, Dinner at Myeongdong Area
9:00 PM 9:30 PM Walk back to Hotel
10:00 PM Lights Out & Rest
Meal Allowance: Lunch & Snacks PHP 2,004.10
Meal Allowance: Dinner PHP 2,009.00
DAY 7 TOTAL EXPENSES PHP 9,693.10

Everland is an outdoor theme park located at the far end of Seoul. By train, we commuted to Everland for more than an hour. The park was very big and nice, but most of the attractions were closed during winter season. Some animal shows were also cancelled, they were probably hibernating? Hehehe!

Nonetheless, we enjoyed as much as we can, riding the attractions which were open. The highlight of this day was seeing upclose an awake Panda. Sooo cuuute (and lazy)! Hahaha! After it ate, it slept. The other Panda was sleeping all that time in a tree branch.

We also tried the mini-safari and got the chance to see different animals. I had the opportunity to have a face-to-face encounter with a giraffe! I though it was going to bite me! Hahaha!

Address: 199, Everland-ro, Pogok-eup, Cheoin-gu, Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do
Operating Hours: 10:00 AM – 08:00 PM
Admission Fees: Adults KRW 54,000

Day 8: Gangnam | Itaewon
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TIME ACTIVITY COST (PHP) – 2 pax
10:00 AM 11:00 AM Try cake pots at Banana Tree PHP 1,107.40
11:00 AM 1:00 PM Explore Gangnam Area
2:00 PM 4:00 PM Visit War Memorial of Korea No admission fees
5:00 PM 7:00 PM Shop for souvenirs at Lotte Mart – Seoul Station PHP 1,640.52
7:00 PM 9:00 PM Free Time, Stroll around, Dinner at Myeongdong Area
9:00 PM 9:30 PM Walk back to Hotel
10:00 PM Lights Out & Rest
Meal Allowance: Lunch & Snacks PHP 2,352.00
Meal Allowance: Dinner PHP 1,901.20
DAY 8 TOTAL EXPENSES PHP 7,001.12

◊ Gangnam

This is the last day of our itinerary and we decided to just chill around the places we have not yet visited. We headed to Gangnam and explored Apgujeong Rodeo Street and Sinsadong Garosu-gil Street.

You can find a lot of fashion-related stores, ranging from luxury brands to the more common brands, dermatology clinics and beauty salons at Apgujeong Rodeo Street.

On the other hand, if you want to cafe-hop, Sinsadong is probably the best place to find unique and great coffee shops along the Ginkgo-lined street.

◊ Banana Tree Coffee Shop

I saw this restaurant in the internet that sells cakes in a pot and I got curious how it tastes. It took us 30 minutes to find the Banana Tree Coffee Shop. Its chocolate cakes were so cute and yummy! Very nice presentation. The cafe latte was great too!

◊ War Memorial of Korea

The War Memorial of Korea exhibits and preserve materials related to the Korean War. The museum houses approximately 33,000 artifacts with about 10,000 on display at an indoor and outside exhibition halls.

Address: 29, Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Operating Hours: 09:00-18:00
Admission Fees: None

◊ Lotte Mart

Our last stop! Shopping for souvenirs at Lotte Mart – Seoul Station. This branch sells groceries, daily essentials, fashion items, and much more. The store occupies the second and third floors of the building, and is open from 09:00 to 24:00.

Address: 432, Cheongpa-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul
Operating Hours: 09:00–24:00

Day 9: Home-bound!
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TIME ACTIVITY COST (PHP) – 2 pax
8:00 AM 8:30 AM Checkout @ Hotel
8:30 AM 9:30 AM Travel to Incheon International Airport via AREX
12:00 PM 4:00 PM Travel to Ninoy International Airport, Manila
Meal Allowance: Lunch & Snacks PHP 1,644.00
Day 9 TOTAL EXPENSES PHP 1,644.00

Sad to say, but all good things must come to an end. Noo! I don’t want to go back yet! We still have a lot of places we could visit, and 9 days were still not enough to visit them all. *sigh *double sigh

We checked-out early and left the hotel key in the reception area. We took the subway to Seoul  Station and rode the AREX Express Train back to Incheon International Airport.

subheaderlineIf we had more time, we could have visited these places:
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Since we’ve got a packed itinerary, we weren’t able to visit the places which were originally included in our itinerary. But hey! More reasons to go back to Seoul, right?

  • Samsung Museum of Art
  • Namsangol Hanok Village
  • Cheonggye Plaza and Cheonggyecheon Stream
  • Jongmyo Royal Shrine
  • Gyeonghuigung
  • Inwangsan
  • Seodaemun Prison
  • Gwangjang Market

Summary of Expenses
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Here’s the total actual expenses of our 9D/8N Seoul trip:

AREAS OF INTEREST EXPENSES COST (PHP) – 2 pax
ON-SITE EXPENSES
JUNG-GU Day 1 Expenses: Entrance Fees, Misc, Meals PHP 2,500.00
JONG-NO Day 2 Expenses: Entrance Fees, Misc, Meals PHP 4,725.00
GANGWON-DO Day 3 Expenses: Entrance Fees, Misc, Meals PHP 12,928.00
SINCHON Day 4 Expenses: Entrance Fees, Misc, Meals PHP 3,146.00
SKI RESORT Day 5 Expenses: Entrance Fees, Misc, Meals PHP 12,320.00
LOTTE WORLD Day 6 Expenses: Entrance Fees, Misc, Meals PHP 6,112.00
EVERLAND Day 7 Expenses: Entrance Fees, Misc, Meals PHP 9,693.00
GANGNAM,  ITAEWON Day 8 Expenses: Entrance Fees, Misc, Meals PHP 7,000.00
HOME-BOUND Day 9 Expenses: Entrance Fees, Misc, Meals PHP 1,644.00
TOTAL ONSITE EXPENSES PHP 60,068.00
PRE-PAID EXPENSES
Air Asia Airfare (MNL-ICN-MNL) PHP 37,314.00
Additional Baggage – 25kg + Seats Selection PHP 1,532.00
Hotel Accommodations (9 Days / 8 Nights) PHP 19,000.00
Transportation Expenses PHP 7,882.00
TOTAL OTHER EXPENSES PHP 65,728.00
OVERALL EXPENSES: 9D/8N PHP 125,796.00
(PHP 63K/pax)

Our pre-paid expenses have been settled prior the trip. I would say that we spent a great deal of money on airfare. As I mentioned, the tickets were expensive since I booked them late. So stay tuned if there are airline seat sales since you can save a lot of money if you score discounted tickets.

We also splurged on food, but that’s okay! We love Korean cuisine and totally enjoyed its authenticity here compared to the Korean dishes served way back home.

Not included in this list were our expenses for personal effects, e.g. winter clothes, Korean cosmetics/skin care products. If you’re tight on budget, you can just skip these two.

Tip: You can definitely save more if you plan DIY. It’s more exciting but needs a lot of work! So if you have longer time preparing, I suggest you plan out your trip super ahead of time. Research is very important, especially on the accuracy of directions. But hey! It’s exhilarating to get lost once in a while, right?

So that’s it! I hope you got something from this post. Let me know how your trip goes! Enjoy! 🙂

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3 thoughts on “The Land of Morning Calm: Our 9-Day Winter Travel Guide to Seoul

  1. realmofadreamer says:

    I’ve always wanted to go to South Korea. I love watching kdrama and they always show beautiful sceneries and delicious looking food. We are actually planning to go next year. I’ll come back here once we’ve finalized our plans for tips on what to do and where to go.

    Here from GT!

    Like

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