From Celadon to Samsung: South Korea

Be enthralled by the art and culture of South Korea, a country which offers the sophisticated traveller an abundance of cultural heritage contrasted with the world’s latest trends in arts, fashion and lifestyle.

Explore the cities of Seoul and Busan and their impressive art galleries, including the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, Space Lee Ufan and the Busan Museum of Contemporary Art. Delve into the nation’s history and imperial past in Changdeok Palace, once the home of the Joseon Dynasty, and the National Museum of Korea, and see how ancient meets modern in the vibrant nation of today.


This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.

Depart Australia or New Zealand on suggested Asiana Airlines flights to Seoul. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.

Arrive in Seoul in the evening and transfer to your hotel for check-in (included in tour price).

This morning attend a welcome briefing and talk with Ann before visiting the National Museum of Korea, the largest museum in the country, which houses a flagship collection of Korean art and history. After a private guided tour of the extensive exhibits, enjoy a special welcome lunch of traditional Korean cuisine at the museum’s restaurant.

Continue to the AmorePacific Museum of Art, where traditional Korean and contemporary art are showcased in a spectacular architectural setting. Designed by David Chipperfield, the building’s latticed façades have large voids that integrate man-made construction with hanging gardens and green space.

Then take a brief orientation tour through Seoul, past the iconic City Hall where a glass tsunami structure folds around the original modernist building, and Gyeongbokgung Palace, the complex which has housed Korea’s kings since 1395.


Begin the morning with a visit to the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art. The Museum’s two buildings house extensive collections of traditional Korean and modern art, including permanent exhibitions featuring works by Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko and Damien Hirst, and rotating exhibitions of modern and contemporary art from Korean and international artists.

Continue with a guided visit of D Museum and see how this space has evolved from displaying experimental photography, to showcasing contemporary design and bringing new culture to the streets through synergistic relationships with the surrounding university district.


In the morning travel to the Icheon Ceramics Village. During the Joseon Dynasty, Icheon became the centre of traditional pottery in Korea and remained the ceramics capital of the country for over 500 years, partly due to the abundance of natural materials in the area. Here, observe local artisans at work in one of the village’s 300 ceramics firms which produce beautiful traditional celadon or cheongja ware, buncheong stoneware and baekja white porcelain along with elegant, modern designs. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant featuring the region’s signature dish of rice in a stone hot-pot.

On the way back to Seoul visit the picturesque Silleuksa Temple in Yeoju, perched on the winding banks of the tranquil River Namhan. The temple, named for a legend where the Buddha uses his serene power to calm an uncontrollable horse, is believed to have been established during the reign of King Jinpyeong in the late 6th century. Return to the hotel and enjoy the remainder of the evening at leisure.


Enjoy the morning at leisure.

In the afternoon, wander through the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) on a private guided tour of this futuristic cultural centre designed by renowned architect Zaha Hadid. Then visit the Samsung d’light Exhibition, where virtual reality and the latest technologies are combined to create an innovative experience that explores how people interact with the digital world.

This evening enjoy dinner at a restaurant in the Gangnam district. Korea’s most affluent neighbourhood, Gangnam is a bustling area overflowing with the colourful clutter of brightly lit billboards and skyscrapers.


After a talk by Ann, depart the hotel for a visit of Changdeokgung Palace, including a guided tour of the Royal Secret Garden. Built by King Taejong of the Joseon Dynasty in the early 15th century, this magnificent royal palace consists of 13 buildings and 28 garden pavilions, while behind it lies the 32-hectre Royal Secret Garden, originally accessible only to the royal family and ladies of the court.

Then continue to the Bukchon Hanok Village, a traditional residential area which has been preserved and restored to exemplify what urban life would have looked like 600 years ago. Explore boutique museums of Gahoe folk painting and Korean knots, as you wander through the beautifully preserved hanoks (traditional Korean houses). After time at leisure for lunch, visit the Korea Furniture Museum, which contains an unparalleled exhibition of antique Korean interior design, including over 2,000 pieces of traditional furniture and 10 complete hanoks.


Leave Seoul and take a fast train to South Korea’s second largest city, Busan. Home to the largest port in Korea, Busan is famous for its seafood and bustling markets, as well as the dramatic surrounding scenery – high cliffs overlook the picturesque coastline and the whole region is ringed by forested mountains.

This afternoon enjoy a walking tour of Dalmaji Hill. The famous road, which winds up the face of this coastal bluff, is littered with trendy private galleries and quirky cafes that all provide an extraordinary view of the Korea Strait. Dinner will be in a local restaurant.


In the morning depart for the Busan Museum of Contemporary Art and view works created for the Busan Biennale. Five floors of gallery space house a variety of multi-disciplinary installations from South Korea’s leading contemporary artists including Lee Bul and Do Ho Suh. South Korea is at the forefront of Asian contemporary art and, as one of the most rapidly modernising countries in the world, has pioneered an art scene which draws on ancient Buddhist and Confucian philosophy, popular culture and modern social issues.

In the afternoon visit the Gamcheon Culture Village. Nestled in the side of a mountain, Gamcheon was originally built by Korean War refugees in the 1950s but is now a patchwork of pastel-coloured houses. Explore vibrant laneways bursting with quirky street art and enjoy lunch at leisure in the labyrinth of alleys. Then stop at Busan’s charming Bosu-dong Book Alley, where dozens of independent book boutiques line a stretch of narrow road and tottering piles of books, magazines and comics spill out onto the pavement.


After a talk by Ann, depart for the Space Lee Ufan, a private museum dedicated to showcasing the work of celebrated Korean artist Lee Ufan. Enjoy a guided tour of the artist’s minimalist installations, which are heavily inspired by Eastern philosophy and principles of de-Westernisation. Continue to the Busan Museum of Art for a private guided tour of the highlights of its expansive collection of Asian modern and contemporary art, before enjoying free time to explore at your own pace.

This evening join Ann and fellow tour members for a special farewell dinner in a restaurant on Haeundae Beach, which affords spectacular views of Busan’s coastline.


Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.

Check out of the hotel and join a group transfer to Gimhae Airport for afternoon flights to Australia or New Zealand on Asiana Airlines via Seoul. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist with your flights and other travel arrangements, including additional nights’ accommodation either before or after the tour.


Per person, twin-share

AUD 8,250

Single supplement*

AUD 1,150

Deposit per person (at time of booking)

AUD 1,000

Final payment due

23 August 2020

*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.

Room category upgrade available on request; please enquire with us.

Tour code


Fitness level

Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness level definitions.

Suggested airline

Asiana Airlines
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.


Australian and New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa for South Korea.

Tour price includes

  • Accommodation in 4-star superior hotels with breakfast daily (B)
  • Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner); drinks with dinners
  • Comprehensive sightseeing, including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
  • Lectures and talks with your tour leader, Ann MacArthur
  • Transportation throughout on comfortable, air-conditioned coaches
  • Airport/hotel transfers on arrival in Seoul and on departure in Busan
  • Gratuities for local guides and drivers
  • Hotel porterage (one piece per person)

Tour price does not include

  • International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
  • Items of a personal nature (e.g. telephone, laundry, drinks, mini-bar, room service, taxis etc.)
  • Airport porterage
  • Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)


Your hotels
Seoul – Courtyard by Marriott Seoul Namdaemun****+
Busan – Haeundae Grand Hotel ****+ 

N.B. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.