Generally we are on a budget when we travel, and our eight day break in Seoul was no exception. Usually, we would have a list of free things to do (which we did), but a week is a long time to spend in one city! We did some research and eventually decided to buy Discover Seoul Passes so we could experience some of the [paid] attractions the capital has to offer. We planned every step of our 48 hours (the time limit on our passes) to get maximum bang for our buck. This resulted in a very fun and action packed few days.
Here is everything you need to know about the Discover Seoul Pass (DS Pass from here on)
₩1000 = US$0.89 = £0.69 = €0.77
• You can buy your pass online and pick it up at Incheon International Airport (we bought ours on govoyagin.com with a 15% discount – just make sure to select the right date when you start your order!) or buy straight from the Discover Seoul website
• Choose the pass that best suits you and your visit. They are 24 hours (₩39900), 48 hours (₩55000), and 72 hours (₩70000)
• Download the Discover Seoul Pass app before you arrive to save time
• With every DS Pass you get a free ONE WAY ticket on the Incheon Airport Express (AREX). We used ours to get into the city when we arrived. Go to the AREX ticket booth and show your DS Pass to redeem your one way ticket. There is a ₩500 deposit which you get back at a machine in Seoul station. This DOES NOT activate your DS Pass – it is separate (same if you use your pass as a T-money card, just remember to preload the card before travel. This can be done at machines in train stations, subway stations, and convenience stores)
• Your DS Pass activates as soon as you use it to enter one of the attractions
• You can enter an attraction up to the minute your pass expires – so long as you have your ticket before then, you can stay as long as you want (unless they close of course!)
• There are two city-bus tours included. We got these first thing in the morning (one on each day of our 48 hours) as they last all day long. This meant we had the option to hop on and off the bus as we pleased – although we used it very little, preferring to walk most of the time
• The pass includes a one-Day bike hire of the Seoul Bikes (green and white bikes you will see dotted around the city). Use your DS Pass number to get a code on the BikeSeoul website. This code is valid for 24 hours (and used to unlock a bike). [Eg: your pass expires at 7pm on Friday. At 6:30pm you get your code from the BikeSeoul website. You have until 6:30pm on Saturday to unlock a bike. Once you unlock a bike, you may use it until midnight that day. You can put one bike back and unlock another with the same code, but only on that same day. Therefore we recommend getting a bike earlier in the day.] We got our code just before our passes expired, then used it to rent bikes after our passes had expired, hence not wasting precious attraction-visiting time! We recommend cycling along the Han river where the cycle paths and flat, easy, and dotted with nice rest stops. Not to mention great views of the city across the river
• Make a list of the attractions you would most like to visit and prioritise them. The DS app will tell you which attractions are close together, so try to visit them in a logical order. We visited a few places that didn’t appeal to us hugely, but they were close by so went anyway. This is the beauty of the pass
• Take the weather into consideration. You don’t want to be walking around the palaces in Hanbok in the rain! Also check which attractions are open later than others, as this can be a good way to fill your evenings and make the most of your time [Eg: the TrickEye Museum is open until 9pm. Visiting at around 7pm would give you plenty of time to enjoy the attraction without eating into daylight hours]
• You also get discounts with the DS Pass – check out the list on the app
• Have fun – the attractions are great. Don’t get too caught up trying to see everything, make sure you enjoy it
In this section we will tell you what we thought of the attractions we visited, and whether they are worth your time. Obviously this is a matter of opinion, but should serve as a general guideline. We will not be reviewing attractions we did not visit. They are listed in the order we visited them, along with the admission cost if you should visit without using a DS Pass.
Definitely should make your list. Offers unique views of the city. You can stay as long as you want and it is open late. We recommend visiting for sunset. Generally at its busiest mid-morning when the tour busses are around. Good way to use your pass in the evening/at night.
Seoul Tiger Bus (Hop on, hop off)
General admission: ₩18000
Worth it: YES
Like I said, we mainly got the ticket as a ‘just in case’, although we used it little. If you are not so into walking it would be a good way to get around, as well as a perfect way to get your bearings at the beginning of your trip. We did one full circuit on the bus at the end of the day (mainly to escape the heat and use their fast wifi).
Leaves from Seoul Station.
Hanboknam is a Hanbok (traditional Korean dress) rental shop located between Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace. The DS Pass gives you almost free reign over the shop, meaning you can choose any outfit you want and get 90 minute rental. It is great fun choosing your outfit, trying it on, and wandering around Seoul/the palaces. This is something we would never have done otherwise, but we both really enjoyed it. A really great experience.
The Alive Museum was really disappointing. Located in Insadong means it is close to other attractions and easily accessible, but probably a waste of your time. It appears to be old, worn down, and ready to retire. The concept is similar to that of the TrickEye Musem, but about a decade behind the times. If you are in the area, pop in for a few photos but if you have to choose, TrickEye is the better of the two.
General admission: ₩5000
Worth it: NO
Also located in Insadong, we found this museum to be underwhelming. We were mainly excited about the ‘tasting room’ which turned out to be a closet with a fridge in, where you help yourself to tiny paper cups with three different samples in (under the watchful eye of a CCTV camera). The history could be interesting if you are a real Kimchi lover, and they have brought in some interactive displays which we spent a few minutes on, but other than that it was a quick stop.
Make sure you include this on your trip! We had no idea what Running Man was, apart from the fact that it is a popular South Korean reality TV Show…This didn’t help us much. Basically, you have an hour to run around solving puzzles and completing tasks for points. Mazes, mind games, physical challenges… if you have a competitive streak you might want to wear your running shoes! This was possibly our favourite attraction is Seoul (partly because we had no expectations, but mainly because we are big kids!) Also in Insadong.
Seoul City Bus Tour (Hop on hop off)
General admission: ₩15000
Worth it: YES
Leaves from Dongdaemun Design Plaza
Our trip here wasn’t planned. We found we had some time and were close by (there is a Seoul city bus stop right outside). We spent 45 minutes here, having fun and taking photos. They have some interactive exhibits that were a laugh (although a few were down when we were there). Not really our thing, but if you are into celebrities, wax works, or K-pop bands it will be right up your alley. So, worth a look in at least.
Note: There is no admission fee to the palaces if you are in traditional dress.
All the palaces are worth visiting, and are all included on the DS Pass. However, the admission cost is low so if you find yourself running out of time maybe save your Palace visits for after your pass expires and pay the $3!
Another visit we had not really planned, yet among our favourites. This cute collection of Teddy Bears makes for an adorable stop. Forget the outside world and be transported away to this magical land full of cuddly creatures. AND if you tag them in a photo on Instagram while there, get a free homemade cookie! (Managed to find free wifi in their cafe – chocolate chip shortbread was delicious)
One of the highlights of our trip – have your phone at the ready and prepare to laugh. This museum is all AR (Augmented Reality), simply download their app (free wifi available on site) and walk around. Don’t be shy, ask others to take photos for you and do the same for them. It is a social experience. Use both video and photo for best results. It wasn’t overly crowded when we were there, and people were courteous, waited in line, and stayed out of shot. Could be less enjoyable at peak times though. We visited in late afternoon.
After TrickEye we went into the Ice Museum (same place, included with DS Pass). We were in shorts and t-shirts and it was -4°C in there, so needless to say it was a quick trip. Literally everything is made of ice; an igloo, a slide (yes, you can go on it), a throne, a train, polar bears, and an entire living room including TV… Once you are done, hang out in the café and have your face printed on a latte to warm up (about ₩3800)
This was a bit of an afterthought. We managed to walk there before our passes expired and about 45 minutes before they closed! A nice member of staff gave us a private tour (we were the only people there) and told us about Korean football history. We tried the VR (avoid it if you get motion sickness!) and the VR goalkeeping which was different and entertaining.
The museum is located in the old World Cup Stadium so is quite far from the centre. As it is not really close to other attractions, it is only worth making the trip if you have a real interest in football.
We found the Discover Seoul Pass to be good value for money when used correctly. 48 hours gave us enough time to do everything we wanted to, without stretching ourselves too much (although we are happy to walk 20+km a day). If you want to take your time, we would suggest getting the 72 hour pass, especially if you are travelling with kids. It should still be easy to get your money’s worth!
Reminder: we got our passes at a discount price from govoyagin.com – if you do this, pay EXTRA attention to the date you choose. You must select the date you will collect your card. Once your order is placed, it is non-refundable. We accidentally chose the wrong date, but luckily our order was not yet confirmed and we could cancel. Learn from our mistakes, not your own!
Total, we paid ₩46750 for the 48 hour pass, instead of ₩55000.
If you total up all of our admissions (+ AREX one way ticket + T-money pass) you get ₩173500 – this is what it would have cost us without the pass (a savings of ₩126750).
Obviously, we didn’t make the most of all these attractions – we barely used the hop-on hop-off busses, and some of our visits were brief. Some we stopped into ‘just because we could’, and to help us gather information for this blog. However this method allowed us to discover attractions we wouldn’t otherwise have considered.
We hope this guide has helped you plan your stay in Seoul, and that you have a fantastic trip!