While undoubtedly one of the world’s most convenient cities, at times Seoul can also feel like one of the most claustrophobic. Luckily, the same brilliant transportation system that gets you all around the city so easily can also get you out of there, whether you want to be on top of a mountain or on a ferry sailing across the West Sea.

Here are a few great and relatively easy day trips from Seoul – with an emphasis on day. Given Korea’s size and high-speed trains you could even technically ‘visit’ Busan on a mad whirlwind day trip on the KTX. But for this article we’ve only chosen places that are doable as actual day trips, about two hours’ journey from Seoul at the most. For these trips, you’ll only need your T-money card and a bit of loose change to be on your way.

Hwaesong

Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon

The jewel in Korea’s historic crown, Hwaseong is a beautiful sight, with nearly six kilometers of high stone walls, painted towers and imposing gates. You don’t have to be all that keen on defensive military structures to appreciate it either – the fortress encompasses some charming parks and a stream. It’s also located in the middle of Suwon city, so there are plenty of modern distractions around.

How to get there: Seoul’s subway line 1 goes to Suwon station in about an hour (but the line splits so make sure you’re not heading to Guro instead). From Suwon station, you can catch buses to the fortress from exit 4 or 5. Get off at Jongno 4-geori. Alternatively, you can take bus 3000 from Gangnam station, or bus 7700 from Sadang station.

Muuido

Muui Island

Even island getaways are possible day trips from Seoul, and one of the best is Muui Island, just south of Incheon airport. Muui Island may not be a tropical Thai paradise, but Hanagae beach has swathes of clean sand and blue water, while other parts of the island have green hills or mud flats teeming with crabs and shellfish. It’s a quiet, pleasant place to explore, and if you really like it you can camp or rent a beach-side hut.

How to get there: the island is accessed by a car ferry (last ferry departs at 7pm, or 6pm in winter). Bus 222 runs from Incheon International airport to the ferry terminal. Alternatively, bus 306 runs near the ferry terminal (a 10-minute walk) from Incheon and Dong-Incheon subway stations on line 1. Fair warning: this is the longest day trip on this list, so you’ll need an early start, and if you’re starting from the eastern or southern edge of Seoul, probably an overnight stay.

Manwolsa

Mangwolsa Temple

The trip to the mountain temple complex of Mangwolsa is so easy it won’t feel like a day trip, but technically it’s just outside Seoul city in Gyeonggi province. But who’d complain about a mountain temple you can reach on the subway?

Located within Bukhansan National Park, the temple is a large cluster of colorful buildings nestled on the side of a mountain surrounded by trees and granite peaks. Murals adorn the temple walls, and the sound of monks chanting may accompany you on the hike up. But this is Korea – it’s a CD playing through a loudspeaker. There are views from the higher buildings, and the surrounding forest is especially beautiful in autumn.

The hike takes about an hour, and while it isn’t tough by Korean standards it isn’t a stroll in the park either.

How to get there: take subway line 1 to Mangwolsa station and get out at exit 3. There are plenty of signs leading the way to the mountains. Make sure you veer to the right at the beginning of the network of trails (check the maps carefully).

Namisom

Gapyeong

With high-speed trains running on the Gyeongchun ITX line from Seoul, visiting the charming town of Gapyeong has never been easier. Mountain biking and hiking are popular activities in Gapyeong, but many people just come to get away from Seoul. Most popular of all is nearby Namiseom, an island whose long arcade of towering metasequoia trees was immortalized in the popular K-drama Winter Sonata.

How to get there: take the Gyeongchun line to Gapyeong. It starts at Yongsan, where it takes one and a half hours to reach Gapyeong. ITX express trains take 55 minutes.

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Ganghwa Island

The little-known Ganghwa Island is connected by bridge to the mainland. Large parts of the island feel like run-down outskirts of Seoul, but a short bus trip from the urban centers reveals a landscape of rice fields, ginseng farms, and interesting sights. There are ruins of old fortresses (Ganghwa island was attacked by Japan, France and the US) amid the fields, and a modern observation point lets you peer at nearby North Korea. Going back further in time, the island also contains stone tombs from the Bronze Age.

How to get there: bus 3200 runs from Hapjeong station, taking about 90 minutes to reach Ganghwa village. From here you can take local buses or taxis around the island. The island is too large to walk, but you can rent a bicycle for the day.

Wolmido

Incheon

Korea’s hardworking port city might not seem like an ideal choice for a daytrip, but Incheon has long been Korea’s window to the outside world, and the streets and parks around the old port district reflect this fascinating heritage.

Start a visit to Incheon by exploring Korea’s oldest and largest Chinatown, with its strings of red lanterns, traditional gates, and good Chinese food. Beside Chinatown are some wooden replicas of traditional Japanese-style buildings, and a few old colonial bank buildings. One of these buildings houses the Incheon Open Port Museum, which does a great job of explaining how the area’s buildings reflect the complex history of Incheon. One block down, there’s plenty of art on display in the old brick warehouses of the Incheon Art Platform. Finish off a visit with a stroll around the waterfront promenade of Wolmido, which contains a seaside amusement park. To get a physical overview of the whole area, climb up to Jayu Park.

How to get there: subway line 1 runs to Incheon (but make sure the train is bound for Incheon not Suwon). If there’s an express train, catch it: you’ll save a lot of time. For the sights around the port, get off at Incheon station, the last stop. Chinatown is next to the station.

Ho-Am Art Museum        

The Ho-Am art museum is a gallery, a garden, and a storehouse of Korea’s artistic treasures. The museum is located beside Samsung’s Everland Amusement Park (the treasures belong to the Samsung Foundation) in Yongin, but it’s a world away from the roller coasters and screaming children. The museum displays calligraphy, paintings, sculpture, ceramics and furnishings from all periods of Korean history, including 100 of the country’s designated national treasures. The garden, Hee Won, contains all the classic elements of Korean garden design. Within its stone walls the garden unfolds around wooden pavilions, hanok houses and a lotus pond.

How to get there: There are various ways to reach Everland, such as bus 5700 from Jamsil station (exit 7). There’s also the Yongin Everline, a subway line that starts at Giheung station (Bundang line) and goes to Everland. Free shuttle buses run to Ho-Am from the ticket office at Everland. Admission to the museum is 4,000 won.

Ansan

Ansan Multicultural Food Street

A very easy day or half-day trip depending on where in Seoul you live, Ansan Multicultural Food Street is exactly what the name suggests – a street with food stalls and restaurants from various countries around the world. Citizens from China, Russia, India, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, the Philippines and many other places have come to work in Ansan’s factories, and have helped make this city Korea’s most multicultural area (sorry, Itaewon).

Ansan Multicultural Food Street is not what you’d expect to find just near a Gyeonggi train station, or anywhere else in Korea: durians piled high and stinky, neat stacks of Chinese moon cakes, karaoke dens with signs in Cyrillic and Vietnamese, the competing smells of various curries, and the street snacks of several continents converging. Bring cash and a very empty stomach.

How to get there: take subway line 4 to Ansan station (a journey between one and two hours, depending on where you live). Ansan Multicultural Food Street is just in front of the station.

 

Photo credit: bifyu, travel oriented | Richard Whitten | Adam Nicholson | Christopher John SSF | Piotrus.

About The Author

Richard Whitten

Richard was born in Sydney, Australia, and lived there his whole life until moving to Seoul. Though he's lived here for four years now and is happily married, he hasn't quite lost that 'Wow I'm in Korea!' enthusiasm.