Last Updated: September 5, 2022

Seoul vs. Tokyo: Which One Would You Go For?

If you’re looking for an Asian capital to visit, it’s hard not to think of Seoul and Toyko as some of the top contenders.

Both Seoul and Tokyo are safe, well-developed, high-tech cities that are full of wonderful sights, culture, food, and more that will have you enjoying your visit for days on end. They are a bit like the New York and London of the west, making it hard to pick a favorite.

If you have never visited either city, then you can’t go wrong by going to see one of them, as they are both frankly awesome. Both of these incredible cities are 100% worth a flight to, but if you had to choose one, which one would you go for? That’s what we’re here to find out as we compare Seoul Vs Tokyo.

Things To See And Do

One of the most important considerations when trying to pick between Seoul Vs Korea is what each city offers in terms of things to do during the day while you’re exploring. Both of these cities are drenched in their cultural history and full of amazing modern architecture as well as feeling like they are a little bit from the future.

But, since Japan and South Korea’s cultural heritages are quite different, each one has something a little different to offer. So, how do they compare in regards to historical and cultural sites as well as green areas and design?


Seoul has a wonderful balance of both new-age buildings and funky-neighborhoods plus a load of cultural and historical sites too. You can balance your day with a dash of history and culture, then dive into some green spaces and nature, followed by some drinks at the top of a skyscraper.

Some of the most popular attractions to visit are the Bukchon Hanok Village, Gyeongbokgung Palace, and Changdeokgung Palace where you’ll get a big fix of South Korea’s history. From there you can move on to Namsan Mountain Park where you can hike up the mountain surrounded but stunning trees and plants (cherry blossoms in spring) and get an amazing view of the entire city from the top of N Seoul Tower.

Once you’ve finished your little mountain picnic, you can head down to Myeongdong and Itaewon for a drink or two to enjoy the buzzing neon-lit atmosphere or take a stroll around Lotte World Tower or the Dongdaemun Design Plaza for something more low key.

Doing the above itinerary in a day is pushing it but it gives you an idea of what’s on offer in Seoul, and you will never be lacking something to do. One thing you should know though is that Seoul is very hilly and walking around the city is just like being on a hike, so consider a lot of taxis and public transport if you want to avoid them.


Similar to Seoul, Tokyo is also full of historical, cultural, and green sites that are all spliced in amongst a very modern and lively city, but there is something more about Tokyo that you just can’t put your finger in Seoul. It’s somehow a bit more alive?! If that make sense? Maybe it’s due to Toyko having a longer history or being an older city? Who knows…perhaps it’s just my opinion?! But Toyko has more of a buzz to it that captures you.

If you’re looking for some traditional experiences head down to the neighborhoods of Asakusa and take a stroll around Asakusa Shrine, Sensoji Temple, and the Textile Culture and Ukiyo-e Art Museum. From there you can hop straight to the Shibuya Crossing, probably the most iconic image of Tokyo that you have seen everywhere, the lit-up streets that outdo Times Square in New York and Piccadilly Circus in London a few times over.

You find that you’re ready for a break by this point and it might be time for a relaxing wander through the natural surroundings of Ueno Park which is full of plants, trees, and it is done in true Japanese style. You will also find the cherry blossoms in full force if you’re there during spring.

Once you have had a little peace and quiet in the park, head on over to Tokyo Skytree for some of the best views of Toyko’s vibrant and dramatic skyline.

Tokyo has a little more to offer in terms of vibe as I mentioned but it’s also a lot easier to get around as it’s flat unlike the hills of Seoul.

The Food

One of my favorite parts of visiting a new place is getting to try the new, wonderful, and sometimes not quite to my taste flavors of the local cuisine. Seoul vs Tokyo is pretty well matched when it comes to the food on offer as they are both very food-focused cities – sushi vs ramen vs Korean bbq vs? It’s an impossible comparison for my taste buds.

Generally speaking, Toyko has was more options for eating out while Seoul is the winner when it comes to street food. But, Japanese cuisine is far more diverse than South Korean cuisine giving you a range of options and tastes that you just can’t find in Seoul but you will in Japan.


As I already mentioned, Seoul is all about street food and less about restaurants which is awesome if you’re on a budget and great when you’re out exploring. The flavors are diverse, interesting, and incorporate noodles, rice, broths, and bbq. Once you have stated everything from Korean fried chicken to hotteok, Samgyeopsal, and bibimbap, you’re well on your way to having discovered Korean food.

What’s missing from this menu is a large diversity of food types/taste classes that you will find in Tokyo.


Eating out in Tokyo is all about hopping from one restaurant to the next. Most of the restaurants in Tokyo only have a few things on their menu, unlike western restaurants which I often think have too many. This means that they do things well and that you have to keep moving around if you want to taste everything that is on offer.

I love Japanese food and that you can dance your way around from Katsu curry to tonkatsu and then onto sushi and teppanyaki all within a single day. It’s this kind of depth of cuisine that one can’t quite put their finger on in South Korea’s Seoul.


It’s often been said that cities and their residents show you their true colors at night. While this might be both wildly inaccurate and accurate at the same time, you can’t go and explore the nightlife of a new city you’re visiting for the first time, especially when you have Seoul vs Tokyo to consider, both of which are pretty amazing places to stay awake in.


Seoul has a youthful vibe to it and considering it ranks and one of the countries that consume the most alcohol in the world, you can expect to find a solid party scene in Seoul. There are nightclubs everywhere all with different vibes and music that cater to the different preferences of its residents.

Karaoke is hugely popular, as you probably already know, and you couldn’t have more of a traditional South Korean night out than hitting up a private karaoke room with friends and then going to a club after. Try out the Hongdae district if you’re looking for a young night out, or for something more fancy head down to Apgujeong and Cheongdam-dong, and if you’re looking for an ex-pat vibe of rooftop bars, Itaewon is the area of Seoul to be in.


Tokyo is famous for being alive and popping 24 hours a day. The neon-lit streets are a bustle of energy that is quite addictive and energy-filling. You don’t remember that bed is an option when out on them and Tokyo’s nightlife is full of tempting options to keep you from bed until the early hours.

Tokyo doesn’t quite have the wild and young vibes of Seoul but between the clubbing areas of Shinjuku and Shibuya, you’ll find all kinds of clubs, bars, gastropubs, and more that cater to pretty much all tastes. You can also head to Roppongi if you’re looking for a more of a western night out, or if you’re buying grey goose and dropping cash, Ginza is the posh nightlife district of the city.

Remember, you have to be 20 years old to drink in Tokyo, so if you’re not and like to party, Seoul might win in the Seoul vs Tokyo clash.

Public Transport

One thing I always take a good look at when I visit any city is how good its public transport system is. If it’s impossible to get around a city, it doesn’t really matter what wonderful things you might be able to discover inside it, as stress and time-wasting will get the better of your enthusiasm.

Luckily, the public transport in both Seoul and Tokyo are some of the best public transport systems in the world. The systems aren’t that easy to work out, but no matter where you want to go, you’ll never be far from a bus, taxi, or train, or subway that will get you where you want to go pretty quickly.


The best way to travel around Seoul is on the metro and the extensive metro system will pretty much get you to wherever you want to be. The stations are well place and are always close to popular attractions and districts, so once you’re above ground you won’t have too far to walk.

The Seoul metro is far less claustrophobic and confusing than the Tokyo subway, but it can still get busy at rush hour.


Tokyo’s subway system is extensive. You won’t need to get into a taxi if you can understand how to use it. The different train lines aren’t all run by one company and therefore one ticket doesn’t give you access to different trains every time, so be careful when buying tickets.

When it comes to buying tickets, go for a daily or weekly pass as it’ll make life cheaper, quicker, and a lot easier when navigating the numerous train companies.

Cost Of Travelling

When it comes to Seoul vs Tokyo and the general costs of visiting each one, neither of them are very cheap cities when compared to the likes of Delhi or Bangkok. These are modern capitals and if you’re thinking of going for a budget holiday to Seoul or Toyko you should think again.


Seoul is generally a little less expensive than Toyko when it comes to major things like hotels or the subway. The subway is very affordable and accommodation reasonable and the restaurants are a little less expensive in Seoul too. But when you consider the savings you can find in Japan by being clever, you’ll notice that the cities are almost equal when it comes to cost.


Your hotel in Tokyo is going to cost a bit more than one in Seoul but things like the street food in Tokyo is actually more affordable when compared to Seoul, especially if you’re looking for the best of it. You can also ride the Tokyo subway for free if you use a Japanese rail pass which helps balance the costs between the two cities.

Let’s be honest though, if you’re planning a trip to either Seoul or Tokyo, you’re final decision isn’t going to come down to the costs of things when they are both pretty expensive places to visit.

Day Tripping

It’s not only what you’ll find in the city that matters when deciding between Seoul vs Tokyo, it’s also about what is available on a day trip from both capitals. Luckily, the day trips available from Seoul and Tokyo are pretty awesome, so no matter which one you choose, you’ll end with some great options.


Seoul has some excellent day trips to choose from, so much so, you want to go on two or three of them. One must-do day trip is heading out to Nami Island.

Nami island is a few hours away from Seoul and is an island that sits in the main river of the country, the North Han River. The island is stunning with beautiful plants and trees, you’ll find museums and art galleries and it’s also a host to performances and festivals across the many stages with it.

You can also head out to the old fortress called Hwaseong, a UNESCO World Heritage that is so huge it’s over 5 kilometers squared. If you want to dabble into some modern history, you can also head to the DMZ which is the buffer zone between South and North Korea.


Toyko, like Seoul, has a lot to offer with regards to day trips as well. If you’re traveling with kids, there are two Disney Worlds. Disneyland Tokyo and Tokyo Disney Sea are on the outskirts of Tokyo and next to each other, so you could even visit both in one day.

If that sounds far too touristy, then a trip up Mount Fuji is an excellent day trip from Tokyo and I’d recommend seeing the lakes that surround it too.

For a touch of history, a visit to Nikko, the famous mountain city that is also a UNESCO World Heritage site is a great day out. The architecture is nothing short of stunning and you’ll see everything from temples to shrines and villas.

The Weather

A lot of the traveling decisions I make are based on the weather, as I usually plan to escape the cold winters of Europe in exchange for the warm sunshine of Christmas in the southern hemisphere or on the equator. When it comes to Seoul vs Tokyo and the weather, they are pretty similar except for during winter.

If you visit either Seoul or Tokyo between April and October, then you can expect highs of up to 30 Celsius in summer and lows of 15 Celsius in spring and fall.

During winter, Tokyo remains a lot warmer than Seoul despite having a similar latitude. This is because South Korea experiences a cool effect by being attached to the Asian continent while Japan doesn’t as it’s an island.

If you’re planning to visit either Tokyo or Japan between November and March you can expect Seoul to be between 3 and minus 6 Celsius while Tokyo will be between 4 and 10 Celsius.

Seoul vs Tokyo – The Verdict

As you can see, both Seoul and Tokyo have a lot to offer and if you have the money and the time, you should certainly visit them both, perhaps even one after the other. But, if you have to choose which one would you go for? This is an immensely personal choice and if it was me, I would be going to Tokyo.

Tokyo, for me, has a lot more depth to it, from the age of the city to the cuisine, and even the Japanese culture. It is a little bit more expensive to visit but some extra cost for a better experience isn’t something that has ever held me back before.

About the Author Roger Timbrook

Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!

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