When we say South Korea, you'll probably immediately think about Seoul, Jeju and Busan. But the truth is that there's so much more to S. Korea than these three main tourist cities! As much as we love Seoul (halal Korean food, please), Suzana and I were super excited when we were given the chance to not just travel to Seoul, but also explore Gyeongju :D Of course, we just had to share our itinerary for both Gyeongju and Seoul, so that everyone can discover the beauty of Gyeongju for yourselves!
We arrived bright and early at Incheon airport, grabbed breakfast and immediately boarded the bus bound for Gyeongju. No time to lose when you're in Korea!
Arrive at Incheon Airport and Head to Gyeongju by Bus/Train (5hours/4hours)
- Thankfully, there's a direct bus from Incheon Airport that stops at Gyeongju Intercity Bus Terminal. Check out the bus timings here. Bus fare is priced at 37,000won and the journey takes around 5 hours.
- Alternatively, take a direct train from the airport to Singyeongju Station. The fare is almost double the price of taking the bus.
Check-in at Your Hotel/Guesthouse (1 hour)
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- We stayed at Hilton Gyeongju, where we got an amazing view of the city from our room. Our double room was really spacious and comfy too! Plus the hotel is situated a short walk away from Bomun lake, perfect for an evening stroll.
- Take Bus no. 700 from Singyeongju station to Hilton Gyeongju. Journey takes around 40 mins.
Head to Shilla Millenium Park (2-3 hours)
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- Take bus 10 from Hilton Gyeongju and alight 2 stops away, at Gyeongju World Culture Expo. Shilla Millenium Park is a short walk away.
- Step into the ancient kingdom of Shilla as you explore Shilla Millenium Park and immerse yourself in the architecture from the Shilla period
- There are a couple of short performances that you can catch at the park which highlight the lives of the Hwarang warriors
- If you love your Korean dramas, don't forget to head to the filming site of Queen Seondeok!
Catch a Korean Performance - SILLA
- Walk over to Gyeongju World Culture Expo Park and catch the amazing Silla performance with intricate costumes and stunning stage sets!
- If you arrive slightly before the performance starts, the expo park is a pretty serene place to take a stroll and snap some photos.
- Don't forget to snap a photo with the cast after the performance before you head back to the hotel!
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Time to put on your sightseeing glasses and strap on your cameras for a full day of adventure in Gyeongju!
Bulguksa Temple (1.5 hours)
- One of the three UNESCO World Heritage sites in Gyeongju, Bulguksa temple holds a number of national treasures including the two famous stone pagodas - Dabotap and Seokgatap
- Read up about the history of Bulguksa and its many treasures before heading down, so that you can understand and appreciate what you're seeing!
Seokguram Grotto (1 hour)
- Located on top of Tohamsam Mountain, Seokguram Grotto is another UNESCO World Heritage Site housing a majestic Buddha carved in granite, also known as the Bonjon statue.
- As Buddhism is a huge part of the Korean culture, do be respectful when you're visiting as the locals carry out their prayers at the grotto as well.
#HHWT Tip: Do pack your walking shoes as you'll have a 10 to 15mins hike up the mountain!
Vegetarian Lunch at Yeonhwa Baru (2 hours)
- One of our favourite eateries in Gyeongju has got to be Yeonhwa Baru, which serves amazing temple cuisine
- Not only do they serve an amazing variety of dishes, they pride themselves on the seasonal ingredients
- Dishes served are cooked with local produce and no artificial spices are used
Cheomseongdae Observatory and Anapji Pond
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- Built during Queen Seondeok's reign, Cheomseongdae means star-gazing in Korean. The Cheomseongdae observatory is the oldest existing astronomical observatory in Asia and also the oldest surviving observatory in the world!
- The area is famous amongst locals and tourists alike for its night scenery.
- Just a short walk away lies the Daereungwon Tomb Complex, where the Cheonmachong tomb is located in. It's
- While you're there, don't forget to head to Anapji pond (or Donggung Palace and Wolji) for one of the best night views in Gyeongju!
- Don't forget to try the traditional snack - Gyeongju bread, which you can easily find in the bakeries nearby these sights.
#HHWT Tip: A day pass (4,000won for adults) will grant you access to all the above sites
Take the train back to Seoul
- When you're done sightseeing, it's time to head back to the hotel to grab your luggage and proceed on to Seoul!
#HHWT Tip: If you want to pace yourself, stay an extra night in Gyeongju and head to Seoul to following day.
Day 3 - Seoul
Check in to your hotel - Myeongdong (1 hour)
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- One of the perfect places to stay in Korea has got to be Myeongdong, especially if you're a shopaholic :P
- For our trip, we were housed in Lotte Hotel L7 Myeongdong, a boutique hotel decked out in a cheery, bright yellow!
- The location is amazing, just a 5 mins walk from Myeongdong train station and we love the pop of yellow in the entire hotel
Visit K-Style Hub (2 hours)
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- Take a stroll along Cheongyecheon to acquaintance yourself with the change in scenery of bustling Seoul while you head to your next destination - K-Style Hub!
- Newly revamped, K-Style Hub is Korea Tourism Organisation's headquarters in Seoul and has tons of activities to keep you occupied.
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- Take a virtual reality ski trip, snap photos in the VR photo booth with your k-pop idols, meet Song Joong Ki and more :P
- We even learnt how to cook :D Our cooking lesson was held by a really experienced masterchef, who has even published her own book. Do note that you'll have to make a booking in advance and request for the vegetarian option :)
#HHWT Tip:Download the HHWT Travel Planner to find more prayer spaces, halal food and top attractions in Seoul!
Explore Hyehwa and Catch A Musical (3 hours)
- Immerse yourself in the bustling arts scene of Hyehwa (part of Daehakno, which means university street).
- There are hundreds of small theatres in the area where the locals
- Try super yummy Korean BBQ at Yang Goodfor dinner!
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- Have some time left? End off your day with some late night shopping at Myeongdong!
#HHWT Tip: There's a mart in Myeongdong that opens till midnight everyday.
Pedicab Tour (2 hours)
- The L7 Hotel also provides pedicab services at a discounted rate - which means you get to see Seoul while riding a pedicab!
- The pedicab takes you to Cheongyecheon stream where you can alight and get a quick photo before zooming off to Bukchon Hanok Village and ending up
Changdeokgung Palace (3 hours)
- Gyeongbukgung may be the first palace that comes to mind when you think of Seoul, but Changdeokgung was actually the principal palace for many kings of the Joseon Dynasty, and is the most well-preserved of the five remaining royal Joseon palaces!
- Before your visit, remember to make a reservation for the Secret Garden tour!
Dongdaemun Design Plaza
- If design is your thing, visit the Dongdaemun Design Plaza and take some futuristic shots of the building while you’re at it.
- Catch a hologram k-pop concert at Lotte Fitin!
ELAND Cruise + Pang Show
- Before heading off to catch a musical, visit Dongdaemun Grilled Fish Alley for a yummy seafood dinner!
- Did we mention that there's a hilarious Korean performance that takes place on a cruise?
- The Pang Show is a non-verbal performance
Early Morning Shopping at Myeongdong (1 hour)
- If you're up for it, rise bright and early for a round of morning shopping in Myeongdong!
- Get your photo taken with Brown at the LINE store - avoid the queue by heading there once the store opens
Seoul Central Masjid
- It's always an experience to visit the local Muslim community in a foreign country, so head to Itaewon where the Seoul Central Masjid is located in
- Of course, when you're at Itaewon, you absolutely have to try halal Korean food at the Eid and Makan Halal Korea!
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Visit Ewha (Edae)
- Visit one of the most famous (and prettiest) university campus in Seoul - Ewha Women's University
- Shopaholics alert, it's time to head over to the Ewha Fashion Street and commence another round of intense shopping!
Experience the Night Life in Hongdae
Credit: @this_is_aivy on Instagram
- Take in the artsy atmosphere at Hongdae and look out for quirky art installations
- Visit BoA Guesthouse for dinner – try their fried chicken and rabokki :P
- Hongdae comes alive at night, so keep a lookout for live music performances along the streets by indie performers!
Get your last minute shopping fix at Myeongdong
- If you have some time left on your last day in Seoul, head to Myeongdong to get the stuff you've missed out on - you can also get your last minute souvenirs here
- Try the street food along Myeongdong if you haven't had the chance to do so! (Egg bread, vegetarian pajeon, etc)
So there you go! A 6D5N itinerary for your off the beaten path Korean adventure. If you're all ready to plan your trip to Seoul, don't forget to download the HHWT Travel Planner App for iOS and Android! You can find all the attractions in this article along with yummy halal food and prayer spaces near these attractions, so that you can easily plan out your itinerary for your trip! Visit www.hhwt.io to find out more ? (And if you love the app, don't forget to drop us a review too!)
Thanks to KTO Singapore and CheapTickets.sg for making this trip possible!