The Best Places For A Day Trip If You're Staying In Seoul, According To Seasoned Travelers

Seoul, a vibrant metropolis where the traditional seamlessly blends with the contemporary, stands as one of the world's top city destinations — and rightfully so. It's easy to be captivated by the dynamic energy that defines Seoul Special City (its official name), from its rich cultural heritage, technological marvels, and staggering natural beauty. It is also one of the most eco-friendly cities in the world, which is always a good thing. Yet, beyond the city's grandeur, the allure of its neighboring destinations promises a different perspective, a breath of fresh air conveniently close to the capital city.

From bustling theme parks to sleepy countryside, some of these destinations intensify your Seoul urban experience while others provide an intriguing contrast. Even with just a day to spare, consider immersing yourself in these captivating locales to add even more layers to the already impressive tapestry of your Seoul experience. So, when in Seoul, expand your horizons to the best day-trip destinations, curated based on firsthand experiences and itineraries of seasoned travelers, confirmed by online reviews and tourism boards.

Wander around the picturesque Nami Island

It takes just about an hour to escape Seoul's bustling metropolitan energy and immerse in the tranquility of nature on Nami Island. It's so serene that even a simple walk along its fairytale-like, tree-lined pathways becomes a rewarding activity. Each lane boasts different vegetation, bewitching visitors as they walk through Pine Tree Lane, Ginkgo Tree Lane, Redwood Tree Lane, and more. The scenic walkways are also adorned with sculptures and art installations scattered across the island, promising an abundance of fun photo spots where craftsmanship meets nature.

An even more verdant and picturesque slice of the island can be found in The Garden of Morning Calm. This botanical haven boasts over 25 meticulously landscaped, themed gardens. All you need to do is wander through the enchanting pathways, take deep breaths, and enjoy the vibrant blooms. After a relaxing walk in nature, head to Petite France, a charming French-style cultural village inspired by the timeless story of "The Little Prince." Beyond the enchanting architecture, this theme park also features exhibitions, galleries, and shops.

The easiest way to embark on this journey from Seoul is by taking a shuttle bus to Gapyeong Wharf. From there, visitors can opt for a five-minute ferry to Nami Island or elevate their adventure by choosing the zip wire, promising a breathtaking aerial view of the island as they descend.

Uncover Korea's division at the DMZ

There's a good reason why the DMZ tour rank among the most popular day trips from Seoul on Tripadvisor. The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is one of the most heavily militarized borders in the world, but for visitors, it serves as a unique vantage point to explore the compelling and tragic history between North and South Korea.

Typically, a day trip to the DMZ starts from Imjingak Park, a poignant yet beautiful destination commemorating the separation of families during the Korean War. This park features numerous powerful landmarks and monuments, including the Freedom Bridge, which 12,773 prisoners of the Korean War crossed to make their way home in 1953. After that, visitors can proceed to the Dora Observatory for panoramic views of North Korea and then explore the Third Tunnel of Aggression, which runs beneath the border of the Koreas.

Without signing up for an organized tour, visitors can only go as far as Imjingak Park. If you want a more extensive and comprehensive experience, it's best to book your trip in advance. Many tours offer a convenient pick-up from Seoul, where visitors can start their 47-minute drive to the DMZ.

Discover the beauty of Yangsuri countryside

Yangsuri is a charming and quaint countryside with picturesque landscapes, serene rivers, and intriguing spots to explore. When venturing this way from Seoul, Dumulmeori is a must-visit destination. A meeting point of two rivers, Dumulmeori is an eco-tourism delight with a breathtaking waterscape surrounded by mountains and lush greenery — a dreamy paradise recognized by K-drama fans the world over.

From Dumulmeori, visitors can rent a bike or take a leisurely 20-minute walk across the bridge to Semiwon Garden. This garden is renowned for its gorgeous lotus ponds that are in full bloom between July and August. If all the walking and biking leave you hungry, stop by the nearby Yangsuri Traditional Market to savor various local flavors.

To reach Yangsuri, take the subway from any station in Seoul to Yangsu Station. From there, it's a 20-minute walk to Dumulmeori, but you can also take a bus or rent a bike to start exploring.

Embrace an ancient capital in Gyeongju

Once the capital city of the ancient Silla Kingdom, Gyeongju remains a bustling area and has blossomed into a UNESCO World Heritage site. Often hailed as "the museum without walls," this vibrant city offers exploration amid numerous cultural artifacts, all set against a backdrop of serene natural beauty. When you see a park with peculiar mounds all around, you've arrived at Daereungwon Tomb Complex. While it may look like just another picturesque landscape, it's actually the resting place of kings, akin to the pyramids for Koreans. Just minutes away from these royal tombs stands the Cheomseongdae Observatory, the oldest surviving astronomical observatory in Asia.

Hop on a bus for a short ride to Bulguksa Temple, a marvel of ancient Korean Buddhist artistry featuring intricate wood carvings and stunning pagodas. Take a moment to appreciate the architectural and historical beauty, hang your wishes onto the colorful lanterns, and meander through the temple's serene gardens and lakes.

Given the wealth of exploration Gyeongju offers, consider starting your journey in the morning by boarding the Korea Train Express (KTX) train from Seoul to Gyeongju Station, which will take just over two hours each way. Getting around Gyeongju is a breeze, thanks to its well-connected network of intercity buses. For those who prefer a more leisurely pace, there are plenty of bike rentals available.

Outdoor escapades at Seoraksan National Park

Dust off your hiking boots and prepare for an adventure into the heart of South Korea's untamed beauty in Seoraksan National Park. The area is blessed with lush forests, towering peaks, and vibrant landscapes, creating a canvas of natural wonder. Begin the day at Sinheungsa Temple, nestled at the park's entrance. Home to a towering bronze Buddha statue, this temple provides a serene introduction to the area, setting the tone for a day of breathtaking exploration.

After soaking in the tranquil atmosphere, head towards the park's main trails, each offering its own unique attractions catering to various preferences and hiking abilities. The Biryong Falls trail is a breezy 3-mile hike along the water and through a bamboo forest, boasting two picturesque waterfalls along the way. Ulsanbawi Trail, on the other hand, is more demanding at 4.2 miles long and involving strenuous stairways, but will reward hikers with a spectacular view of Seoraksan's iconic granite peaks and panoramic surroundings stretching all the way to the East Sea, also called the Sea of Japan.

To reach Seoraksan National Park, catch an intercity bus from Seoul Express Bus Terminal or Dong Seoul Terminal to Sokcho, a journey taking approximately two hours. From Sokcho Express Bus Terminal, take a local bus towards Seoraksan National Park for an additional 30-minute trip, or opt for a taxi for convenience.

Discover the coastal city of Busan

A day trip from Seoul to Busan allows you to explore the distinct personalities of Korea's two largest cities. In a short train journey, visitors will transition from the dynamic energy and urban landscapes of Seoul to the coastal charm and cultural richness of Busan. Begin your adventure at Gamcheon Culture Village, also known as the "Machu Picchu of Busan," with colorful houses dotting the hillside. Beyond its captivating bird's-eye view, each alleyway in this neighborhood is adorned with vibrant street art curated by local residents. From there, head to Jagalchi Fish Market, Korea's largest seafood market, where visitors can enjoy all kinds of local delights.

Continue your adventure to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, a seaside sanctuary perched dramatically on Busan's coastline overlooking the East Sea. Beyond its stunning views, this temple is renowned for its intricate Buddhist architecture, reflected in its many pagodas, stupas, and statues. A one-hour bus ride will take you to the world-famous Haeundae Beach, where you can stroll the sandy shore, take a refreshing dip, or unwind against the city's skyline while enjoying a magnificent sunset.

To embark on this delightful journey, take the KTX train from Seoul station to Busan station, a journey that will take a little over two and a half hours. Once in Busan, navigating the city is also a breeze with its reliable bus and metro network. Somehow, it remains one of the most under-the-radar destinations in Asia.

Escape to Alpaca World

Who would have thought your unforgettable trip in Korea could include spending a day with alpacas? A delightful excursion to Alpaca World promises to infuse your itinerary with a whimsical adventure in the countryside. As you arrive, the adorable, fluffy creatures extend a warm welcome in their expansive pastures, the view reminding you that this park is not a typical traditional zoo. Here, alpacas roam freely, inviting visitors to take leisurely walks amidst the stunning rural scenery.

Alpaca World is not just about alpacas. It is a haven for a diverse array of animals, from capybaras and rabbits to deers and peacocks, among others. Each group of animals has its designated area, allowing visitors to interact with them in different ways and providing a well-rounded experience for nature enthusiasts of all ages. To make the most of your day, plan your visit on a weekend when they often host special animal-friendly events and performances. Alpaca World is a one-hour bus ride from Dong Seoul Bus Terminal to Hongcheon, followed by a 30-minute taxi trip.

Explore the cultural richness of Incheon Chinatown

Venturing to Incheon Chinatown is a unique cultural experience unmatched by other places in the country. As Korea's sole official Chinatown, this neighborhood brims with history and culture and is a feast for your taste buds. The entrance gate, an iconic landmark with striking colors and intricate details, leads to rows of restaurants and street food unique to the neighborhood's Korean-Chinese dynamics. One must-try is the renowned Jajangmyeon, a mouthwatering black bean noodle dish.

Do not miss a peek into Uiseondang Temple, celebrated for its authentic Chinese-style architecture, statues, and murals distinct from any other Korean temple. And if you'd like to see even more murals, explore the Three Kingdoms Mural Street, teeming with 160 artistic depictions of stories from the Three Kingdoms Period in Korea, dating back from 57 B.C. to A.D. 668.

Getting to Incheon Chinatown takes less than one hour by train from Seoul's Express Bus Terminal Station. Take Line 1 and hop off at Incheon Station, then talk a short walk toward the unmistakable Chinese-style gateway.

Breathe in the air at Bukhansan National Park

Offering an expanse of lush greenery close to the capital city, Bukhansan National Park is often hailed as "the lungs of Seoul." Boasting Seoul's metropolitan skyline view from a panoramic natural landscape, Bukhansan is the most popular national park in Korea, according to Tripadvisor. To immerse yourself in this magnificent scenery, set your sights on Baegundae Peak, the highest point in the park. The shortest and easiest trail to the peak can be completed in under three hours, beginning at the charming Doseonsa Temple.

For those inclined towards cultural exploration, a detour to Bukhansanseong Fortress is not to be missed. This historical site boasts ancient walls and gates that once protected the capital as its northernmost stronghold. Wander through the well-preserved relics and imagine the fortress's role in safeguarding Seoul over the centuries. The park has over 100 Buddhist temples and hermitages, including Guknyeongsa, home to a towering Golden Buddha statue, and Jingwansa Temple with its impressive, intricately adorned architecture.

Bukhansan National Park has several entrances, all easily accessible from Seoul with less than one hour of travel time. For a convenient entrance nearest Baegundae Peak, catch a bus from Gupabal Station in Seoul to Bukhansanseong and continue with a taxi or a 30-minute walk.

Unveil underground marvels at Gwangmyeong

This charming city just southwest of Seoul is a popular escape from the urban buzz, offering plenty of destinations to explore and activities to enjoy. Kick off your adventure by delving into the captivating Gwangmyeong Cave, a former gold mine transformed into an underground theme park. History meets art as you traverse illuminated tunnels, discovering exhibitions that showcase the city's mining legacy through contemporary art installations.

The next stop unveils an unexpected gem. Gwangmyeong Ikea is the world's second-largest, attracting even international travelers for a curious stroll or a unique shopping experience in its expansive showroom. For a hearty meal, venture to Gwangmyeong Market, where local flavors take center stage. Indulge in an endless choice of fresh seafood, street food snacks, and other local delicacies. This market also sells virtually everything from souvenirs to everyday trinkets for your loved ones back home.

A quick KTX train from Seoul will take you to Gwangmyeong Station in less than 30 minutes. From there, take short taxi rides to connect you from one destination to another.

Get creative in Paju

A city pulsating with cultural charm and unique attractions, a day in Paju will enrich and inspire your soul. Start your day at Heyri Art Village, a creative enclave and home to at least 380 artists. The area is bustling with art installations, galleries, and cafes in every corner, so just stroll through the eye-catching streets and immerse yourself in the quirky and artsy vibe. With more than 40 museums and galleries, artistic wonders await at every turn. Some popular options include the White Block Art Center & Cafe and the Museum of Modern History of Korea.

Next, venture into Provence Village, a charming locale that transports you to the idyllic landscapes of the French countryside. Wander through cobblestone streets, vibrant gardens, and artisan shops, all inspired by the delightful ambiance of its namesake region in France.

A trip from Seoul to Paju takes just about an hour. Just make your way to Hapjeong Station, find the bus stop just outside, and take bus 2200 to Heyri.

Step back in time at Korean Folk Village

Korean Folk Village is a living museum that beautifully preserves and showcases Korea's rich cultural heritage against a scenic mountain backdrop. The atmosphere aims to transport you back in time to experience daily village life in the Joseon Dynasty (A.D. 1392 to 1897). The neighborhood proudly presents over 200 restored traditional houses across the country, ensuring an authentic immersion at every turn.

Explore the intricate alleyways to discover various crafts experiences like pottery, weaving, and metalworking, all performed using unique traditional methods. Visitors are also welcome to join a class and learn these crafts firsthand. Don't miss the captivating cultural performances unfolding throughout the day. From tightrope dancing to martial arts on horseback, these vibrant displays illustrate the diverse facets of Korean tradition and entertainment.

To reach the Korean Folk Village from Seoul, take bus 4101 in front of Stanford Hotel Myeongdong near Myeongdong Station for a 45-minute ride, followed by a short walk to the village's entrance.

Experience thrills and wonder at Everland

As Korea's largest theme park, Everland presents an exhilarating blend of heart-pounding rides, enchanting gardens, and captivating attractions suitable for visitors of all ages. The adventure begins in the Global Fair zone near the entrance, where iconic landmarks from around the world come to life. From there, explore the other themed zones — American Adventure, European Adventure, Magic Land, and Zootopia — each with its own unique rides and highlights.

Make sure not to miss T-Express, which proudly holds the title of South Korea's first and longest wooden coaster, guaranteed to get the adrenaline pumping. The park also features high-tech VR adventures, family-friendly rides, a designated zoo, and scenic spots like the peaceful Four Seasons Gardens. Beyond the extensive array of rides, Everland also boasts a wide range of culinary delights from around the world to satisfy any taste buds. South Korea also has a theme park dedicated to cheese if you prefer your excitement with a side of cheddar.

Getting to Everland is a breeze, as there is a shuttle bus that departs from several spots in Seoul — Myeongdong Station, Hongik Station, Seoul Station, and more. The journey to the theme park takes about one hour.

Our methodology

First, we meticulously gather firsthand travel stories and itineraries to compile an extensive list of potential day trip destinations from Seoul. Then, we cross-reference this list with reviews from Google and Tripadvisor to shortlist the most popular ones with positive comments. Additionally, we prioritize the accessibility of each location from Seoul — choosing destinations that involve no more than a three-hour journey each way and are well-connected to public transportation networks.