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Seoul is a unique and exciting city that perfectly blends the past and future. While it loves to embrace its history and has beautiful sites dating back hundreds of years, South Korea is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world. The history of Seoul is fascinating, and the city is full of places where you can learn about its culture and traditions. Seoul is also popular for its many forms of entertainment. Seoul is known internationally for its nightlife, shopping, and food scene. Head just outside the city, and there is lots of natural beauty to discover across South Korea as well. No matter what your interests, Seoul will have something that you’ll love. Planning a trip to Seoul is the perfect way to experience a culture that’s completely different to what you’re used to.
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The best time to visit Seoul
Seoul has four distinct seasons throughout the year, giving visitors who book cheap airfares from Sydney to Seoul very different experiences.
Summer and winter both have extreme weather that may not be enjoyed by all travellers. Summer (June to August) is monsoon season. During this time, it’s hot and humid and rain is common. This is also Seoul’s high season when there are larger crowds and higher prices. Winter (December to February) gets cold and can bring heavy snowfall. However, winter can still be fun if you book cheap airfares from Sydney to Seoul for Lunar New Year. This marks the first day of the lunar Korean calendar and is an exciting time to book return flights from Sydney to Seoul. The date changes each year, but it always falls between late January and mid-February. During Lunar New Year, Seoul is full of festivities and celebrations.
To experience the best of South Korean weather, plan your trip from SYD to ICN for spring or autumn when weather is mild and crowds aren’t too large. Both seasons experience very little rain, and Seoul comes alive with colour during both times of the year. Spring is full of flowers blooming, including cherry blossoms, and autumn has beautiful and vibrant foliage. During both spring and autumn, you can find some great deals on return flights from Sydney to Seoul as well as low hotel rates.
Departing From Sydney
Sydney Airport (SYD) is conveniently located 7 kilometres (4.3 miles) south of the CBD, making it easy to get to. Sydney Airport is one of the major international hubs in Australia, and has a variety of airlines flying in and out.
Each day, there are about 75 to 100 return flights from Sydney to Seoul Incheon International Airport (ICN). A range of airlines fly this route, including AirAsia, Air China, Singapore Airlines, Qantas, Virgin Australia and Thai Airways. Direct flights are available from SYD to ICN, getting you into Seoul airport in less than 11 hours to start your holiday.
Getting to Sydney Airport
Sydney Airport offers several transport options to satisfy every budget. The most affordable way to get from Sydney to the airport is on the Airport Link train. Airport Link departs from several stations around Sydney, including Central Station, Wynyard, Bondi Beach and Darling Harbour. You can even catch a train from suburbs as far out as Wollongong. While train times and prices vary by departure point, trains from the CBD take about 15 minutes, and trains from Bondi take about 45 minutes. CBD train tickets are $18.70 AUD one-way, and Bondi tickets are $19.70 AUD. Tickets can purchase separately or travellers may use your Opal card.
Since the airport is so close to the CBD, taking a taxi or Uber is a good option to get to the airport quickly. A taxi ride from the CBD takes about 20 minutes and costs up to $60 AUD. If you’re travelling from Bondi, you’ll have a similar fare between $45 to $65 AUD and a journey taking less than 30 minutes.
Parking at Sydney Airport
Sydney Airport offers a variety of parking options to fit every budget. Be sure to book your parking space in advance to get the best rates and ensure your preferred parking lot doesn’t fill up.
Where to Park at Sydney Airport
• The Blu Emu car park is the cheapest option. A shuttle takes you to the Domestic Terminal, and from there, you can catch a free train to the International Terminal. Rates start at $30 per day to park.
• The P7 car park offers quick access to the International Terminal. It’s only a 5-minute walk away and has covered parking. When you book in advance, rates for the P7 car park start at $55 per day.
Arriving in Seoul
Seoul is the largest city in South Korea and is home to two of the country’s three busiest airports: Incheon and Gimpo. Incheon International Airport (ICN) is the primary airport for visitors to Seoul and the largest airport in South Korea. It’s located 48 kilometres (30 miles) west of Seoul and is made up of two terminals, which both receive international flights. Gimpo Airport (GMP) is Seoul’s second airport and is located just 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) west of the city. Gimpo Airport (GMP) has two terminals, and all international flights to Seoul arrive into Terminal 2. Both airports offer quick and easy options to get into central Seoul.
How to Get from Incheon Airport (ICN) to Your Seoul Hotel or Accommodation
The AREX train line offers a couple of routes into Seoul. From Incheon Airport (ICN), you can catch the Express train, which runs on a direct route from the airport to Seoul Station, arriving in 45 minutes. The train picks up passengers from both terminals, and one-way tickets cost 8,000 won (about $9.75 AUD). AREX also offers an All Stop train, which arrives to Seoul Station in about an hour. As well as Seoul Station, it makes stops at other stations, including Gimpo Airport (GMP), Hongik University, and Gongdeok. Tickets for the All Stop train cost 4,750 won ($5.90 AUD). You can also receive a small discount for both AREX routes if you have a ticket from Korean Air or Asiana Airlines.
The magnetic levitation train, called the Maglev, is the newest mode of transport from Incheon Airport (ICN). It is a high speed train and is free to all passengers. The Maglev departs from the airport every 15 minutes and reaches Yongyu Station in 12 to 14 minutes. From there, you can connect to the Seoul Subway. Subway ticket fares are calculated by the distance you travel between stations. A ticket is 1,250 won ($1.55 AUD) for the first 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) travelled and an additional 100 won (12 cents AUD) for every 5 kilometres (3.1 miles) after that.
The Korea Train Express (KTX) is the country’s high-speed bullet train system. Five KTX routes pass through Incheon Airport (ICN) and stop at Seoul Station in the city centre. Trains to Seoul cost 12,500 won ($15.50 AUD) and arrive to the city in 30 minutes. KTX Trains into Seoul only run every couple of hours. Before planning to take the KTX, check the timetable in advance to see if any of the train times are close to your flight’s arrival time.
If you would like to take a taxi from Seoul Airport into the city, they are available from both terminals. Uber is also available, but cost a bit more from the airport than regular taxis. In normal traffic conditions, you’ll be able to get from Incheon Airport (ICN) to the city centre in about 60 to 70 minutes. A taxi from Incheon Airport (ICN) into central Seoul costs between 55,000 and 75,000 won ($68.20 to $93 AUD).
How to Get from Gimpo Airport (GMP) to Your Seoul Hotel or Accommodation
The AREX All Stop train from Incheon Airport (ICN) passes through Gimpo Airport (GMP) on its way to the city. From Gimpo, you are only four AREX stops away from the city’s main train station. Stops include Digital Media City, Hongik University, Gongdeok, and Seoul Station. The train from Gimpo Airport (GMP) costs 1,450 won ($1.80 AUD) and gets you into Seoul Station in about 20 minutes.
You can also take the Seoul Subway from Gimpo Airport (GMP) into the city. From the airport, catch line 5, which will take you into the city centre. During the trip, you’ll have several opportunities to change subway lines to get to the exact stop you need for your hotel. If you are staying by Seoul Station, change to Subway line A at Gongdeok station, and travel one more stop to Seoul Station. The subway fare in Seoul is calculated by distance between stations. A ticket starts at 1,250 won ($1.55 AUD) for the first 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) and costs 100 won (12 cents AUD) for each additional 5 kilometres (3.1 miles) travelled.
With the airport’s close proximity to the city, a taxi from Gimpo Airport (GMP) will get you into central Seoul quickly and easily. Catch a taxi from outside your terminal and you will be into the city centre in about 20 minutes. A taxi fare from Gimpo Airport (GMP) into the city costs about 13,500 to 20,100 won ($16.75 to $24.95 AUD).
Things to do in Seoul
Gyeongbokgung Palace was the main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty, which ruled from 1392 to 1897. Of the five Joseon palaces, Gyeongbokgung is the largest and is considered to be the most beautiful. Although the palace hasn’t been occupied for decades, you can still watch guard ceremonies that are performed just as they were back in the Joseon era. The Changing of the Royal Guard takes place at 10am and 2pm, and a second event - the Gwanghwamun Gate Guard on Duty Ceremony - happens 11am and 1pm. You can also see Gatekeeper Military Training at 9:30am and 1:30pm. These ceremonies are held every day apart from Tuesdays.
This neighbourhood skyrocketed to stardom thanks to a its namesake song, released by Psy in 2012. Located south of the Han River, Gangnam is the entertainment epicentre of Seoul. The neighbourhood is popular among K-Pop stars and Korean celebrities and is home to some of the country’s largest entertainment companies. Gangnam has some great shopping and is one of the hottest nightlife areas in Seoul. It’s also a great place to experience Korean food, including Korean barbecue, bibimbap, and bulgogi.
Jogyesa is a 14th-century Buddhist temple that acts as the centrepoint for Korean Buddhism. Ceremonies and rituals are still held at the temple regularly, and every year, there is a lantern festival celebrating Buddha’s birthday in May. The trees surrounding the temple are also fascinating: they are almost as old as the temple itself. The temple is free to visit and is a great place to learn about the spiritual side of Seoul.
Bukchon Hanok Village
Bukchon Hanok Village is the ultimate juxtaposition to Seoul’s ever-growing cache of modern architecture. This neighbourhood north of the city centre has been specifically preserved to showcase its history. You’ll feel as though you’ve travelled back in time several hundred years as you walk through streets and laneways lined with houses built in traditional Korean architecture and that date back to the Joseon Dynasty. Many of the houses have been converted into tea rooms, guest houses, and cultural centres, but some are still lived in. The village is ideal to learn about Korean history and culture.
Located right in the middle of Seoul, Mount Namsan is a nice spot to take in the beautiful views of the city. You can hike up Mount Namsan, or if you’d rather relax on the way up, you can catch a cable car. From the summit, you can go even higher by heading up the Namsan Seoul Tower. The top of the tower sits 480 metres above sea level and has a fantastic panorama of Seoul, the surrounding mountains and the sea.