Day 2: Walking around Seoul

Day 2 Activities - Seoul, South Korea
  1. Changdeokgung Palace 창덕궁 (昌德宮)
  2. Samcheongdong 삼청동 (三淸洞)
  3. Insadong 인사동 (仁寺洞)
  4. Cheonggyecheon Stream 청계천 (淸溪川)
  5. Myeongdong 명동 (明洞)
Let me preface this post by stating some of my preferences when selecting places to visit. I have seen more than my fair share of ancient buildings, palaces, and temples in China and Japan. I also live in Taiwan for more than half the year, so I am no stranger to street markets or street food. When traveling, I also prefer to walk around the neighborhoods to absorb the city's culture instead of going to museums. Therefore, while Seoul has a number of beautiful palaces, serene temples, interesting museums, and awesome night markets, I did not visit many of them on my trip. If you've never experienced these things before though, definitely check them out if you plan to visit Korea.

I kicked off my second day with an early breakfast at the hotel. Ibis Hotel has a breakfast buffet for 14,000 won. It's pretty pricey for the selection, but it's convenient. There are far better options just outside the hotel in the Myeongdong area, especially juk (rice porridge 죽). If you are a bread person, there are also 2 bakeries nearby in Myeongdong.

KB Bank and Ibis Hotel

After breakfast, I went to KB Bank (right next to the hotel) to exchange more money. If you recall from Day 1, I only exchanged enough money at the airport to buy my bus tickets in order to hold out for more favorable rates at places outside of the airport. The money exchange at the bank was fast and easy. The bankers will understand what you want even if you ask in English. I did end up get a better rate at the bank than at the airport, so I'm glad I waited until the next day to exchange my money. One thing I wish I did before I left the bank was to ask for smaller bills. 5,000 and 1,000 bills will come in handy, especially on taxi rides.

Something I wondered before heading out was whether or not I needed to take my passport with me. The hotel front desk said it would be best to carry my passport at all times while out in Seoul, so that's what I did. The upside is that you have a form of ID on you at all times, but the downside is that you need to be vigilant about your passport so you don't lose it. I didn't need my passport at all in Korea (except to check-in at the hotel and exchange money at the bank), so in hindsight, I would've probably locked it up in the hotel safe and called it a day.

I then took a taxi to Changdeokgung Palace. I was hoping for the hotel to call a cab for me (because cab drivers seem to be on their best behavior that way), but unfortunately, the hotel lobby on the first floor doesn't call taxis for you unless you need a jumbo taxi. You are on your own to hail a cab from the street. Make sure you grab your hotel's business card before you leave so you can find your way back!

Injeongjeon at Changdeokgung

Korea's Tourism Organization has a helpful page on the different kinds of taxis in Korea, but honestly, it's hard to tell them apart when you are trying to flag one down. I hailed a gray colored taxi, which according to that website is a regular taxi. When I got in the car, I busted out with:

* * *

기사님 창덕궁 가 주세요 Gisanim, Changdeokgung ka-chuseyo.
Mr. Taxi Driver, Please go to Changdeokgung.

But instead of the 네 I was expecting to hear, the driver was like 어디?! I said Chungdeokgung instead of Changdeokgung and apparently that small discrepancy in pronunciation was enough to confuse the driver. Good thing I printed out my entire schedule. I just whipped it out and pointed to Changdeokgung in Korean and he understood immediately.

The drive took a little over 10 minutes and cost 3,000 won. It was a short distance, but the red lights ate up most of the time. Since I didn't have any small bills, I gave the taxi driver 10,000 won. He only gave me 5,000 back and before I had a chance to count the change, he drove off. I couldn't believe I got jipped by a cab driver! Although this proved to my only negative experience in Korea, it's always good to be extra careful. Count your change while you are still in the car. At the very least, you can get the taxi driver's name and number to report to the Tourist Complaint Center (Phone: 02-735-0101).

I chose to go to Changdeokgung instead of Gyeongbokgung because Changdeokgung was on UNESCO's world heritage list. There is also a famous Biwon Secret Garden, but unfortunately, I didn't get to see it because you have to sign up for a guided tour.

Seonjeong-jeon at Changdeokgung

I spent an hour and half walking around the palace. It's pretty small and if you've seen these kinds of things before, 2 hours is more than enough time to explore. Since I went on a Thursday, I was free to wander around by myself, but if you go on any other day, you have to join a guided tour. Overall, Changdeokgung was nice, but slightly underwhelming. Maybe I should have planned a bit better to take the Biwon Secret Garden tour... More on Changdeokgung here (including pictures, maps, and directions).

Map of Changdeokgung to Samcheongdong

After Changdeokgung, I ended up walking to The Second Best in Seoul in Samcheongdong, from point A to B in the above map. My guidebook raved about this restaurant's patjuk (red bean soup 팥죽) so I had to give it a try. I originally planned to take a taxi there, but after finally figuring out which way to go to head towards Samcheongdong, I decided the restaurant wouldn't be too far away.

Walking to Samcheongdong

As I made my way towards The Second Best in Seoul, I strolled through Samcheongdong, stopping at little shops here and there. There are lots of etsy-like stores, cafes, and restaurants. Everything, though, seemed a bit pricey, but it was perfect for window shopping. You can even visit the Bukchon Hanok Village and stop by some museums, but I wasn't really up for that.

Walking up Samcheongdong-gil

A cool looking restaurant

Cars parked on the curb

It took about 40 minutes to leisurely walk to The Second Best in Seoul. I ordered some patjuk and shikgye (cold sweet rice drink 식혜), but they didn't taste that great. You can read a more detailed review here.

Red bean patjuk at The Second Best in Seoul

It wasn't disgusting or anything, but it made me feel like my money would've been better spent eating patbingsu at a cafe somewhere. I don't regret walking through Samcheongdong though. It was probably better to walk there anyway because traffic seemed quite bad!

I walked back down Samcheongdong-gil on the other side of the street so I could take in the shops and restaurants on both sides of the road. Everything smelled really good, but my next stop was Insadong.

Map of Samcheongdong to Insadong

I'm not really sure if I walked the exact path I drew in the map above because I went to a tourist information booth and they kind of told me where to go.

Tourist Information Booth near Samcheongdong

I know for sure I walked along the walls of Gyeongbokgung and then through this "Green Food Zone" area. I passed by a street full of restaurants and then through a nice park-like place before reaching the Yulgok-ro 율곡로 5-way intersection.

Walking to Insadong from Samcheongdong

Walking to Insadong from Samcheongdong

Walking to Insadong from Samcheongdong

Cool looking map on the floor

Walking to Insadong from Samcheongdong

Exiting the Green Food Zone

You see this Lime Tree place and Tourist Information Booth right in front of the entrance to Insadong-gil at the Yulgok-ro intersection:

Yulgok-ro 5-way intersection

Lime Tree store across the street at the intersection

Tourist Information Booth at the beginning of Insadong-gil

Before exploring Insadong, I had lunch at Jirisan Restaurant. Jirisan got a bunch of good reviews online, so I didn't deviate from my plan, even though I passed up a bunch of delicious smelling restaurants along the way. According to the reviews I read, Jirisan is supposed to be the place to go to get some good, traditional Korean food.

Hanjeongsik and bibimbap at Jirisan

Well, the food was good, but...just good. There were lots of side dishes with the jeongsik (Korean set meal 정식) I ordered and you can ask the ajummas for refills. I think every time I read good reviews about a place, it raises my expectations so high that by the time I try it out myself, it's not as great as I imagined it to be. Read my review about Jirisan here.

After filling my belly, I wandered around Insadong for a bit. Insadong was pretty much how I imagined it to be before I arrived in Korea. Both sides of the street were lined with stores selling all sorts of touristy trinkets. There were souvenirs, clothes, vases, paintings, toys, and snacks. More on Insadong here.

Souvenirs at Insadong

I didn't buy anything, but just kind of people watched. There were definitely lots of foreigners and tourists there. I walked down the length of Insadong-gil and pretty much everything they were selling at the beginning of the street, they were selling at the end of the street.

I then made my way to Cheonggyecheon Stream, my absolute favorite place in Seoul. You just keep walking straight until you see the stream. It looks like a long walk on the map, but it took me maybe 20 minutes?

Map of Insadong to Cheonggyecheon

Getting close to Cheonggyecheon Stream

If you have to use the restroom, you can try out Seoul's self-cleaning public toilet for 100 won. The toilet's location is marked by the red x on the above map. I didn't have to go, but I still went anyway to see what it was like. It was clean, stocked with toilet paper, and polite (the robot voice).

Seoul's automatic public toilet

Time to relax and soak up the tranquility that is Cheonggyecheon Stream! I can't believe a place like this exists in Seoul. The water was clean and since I was there before dark, the young making-out couples were probably still at school or work. It's just a nice place to relax and forget the day's frustrations. Since the stream is one level below the street, it was pretty quiet. Babbling brook background noises drowned out the above traffic. More on Cheonggyecheon Stream here.

Going downstairs to Cheonggyecheon Stream

Waterfall at Cheonggyecheon Stream (you can cross and walk on either side)

I walked all the way to Cheonggyecheon Plaza and then started making my way towards Myeongdong.

Map of Cheonggyecheon Stream to Myeongdong

After reaching the plaza, I walked backwards towards Gwanggyo Bridge 광교, walked straight for a bit more, and arrived back at my hotel. I spent around 30 minutes strolling along Cheonggyecheon Stream and it took me maybe 20 minutes to walk from Cheongyecheon Stream back to Ibis Hotel in Myeongdong.

A cool grass-covered car for I'm Real

I was going to walk around Myeongdong right away, but I needed to rest my feet for a bit! Besides, I figured that since I was staying so close to Myeongdong, I could explore it whenever I felt like it. I did end up wandering around for a few minutes before my friend took me out to eat for dinner.

Overall a very tiring, but satisfying second day in Korea! I really liked walking around, but walking this much can be too much for some people to take. My feet were sore for sure that day!


  1. hi there,
    nice trip! anyway how can i get those map? it looks really helpful. i'm planning to go to korea soon.

    1. You can get maps at the airport information station before you leave. There are plenty of them and for various areas of Korea. Be sure to check Korea's tourism website because sometimes they have coupons you can print out! Have fun!

  2. hai, could you tell me how to get myeongdong from Cheonggyecheon stream by walking? do you have the map?

    1. Look at the map in the picture above. You just keep walking straight down from where Lotte is at you'll see the stream. So if Lotte is on your right and Ibis Hotel and the Myeongdong area is on your left, walk straight and you'll get to the stream.