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Seoulthe soul of south korea

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1 City 5 Ways: Seoul


Ground zero for Gangnam style, the workaholic, party-hard South Korean capital has blossomed in recent years into a design hot spot, with an international rep for high-tech fashions and gadgets, street art and sophisticated galleries. The thriving culinary scene offers everything from grill-your-own beef at street-side stalls to kimchi tacos in hipster hangouts. Traditional culture is nurtured in craft shops and the rituals of temples and shrines. And locals love nothing more than lacing up their boots and heading for the hills: Join them for hikes beside the historic city wall that snakes over Seoul’s ring of guardian mountains.




Where to Stay: Four Seasons Hotel Seoul
This superb new luxury hotel, steps from central Gwanghwamun Square, is a slick blend of the traditional and contemporary. A standout among its restaurants and bars is the André Fu-designed Kioku, serving Kyoto-inspired Japanese cuisine. 

Morning: Tongin Market
Covered street markets have become a rarity in central Seoul, making this charming one, just west of the city’s main palace, well worth it. Sample snacks such as gimbap (seaweed-covered rice rolls) and savory pancakes from its stalls. 

Midday: Noryangjin Fish Market
A new complex houses Korea’s biggest wholesale seafood market. Shop for the freshest catches, then have the stall holders prepare your choice to be enjoyed raw or cooked at the onsite restaurants.

Afternoon: Dawon
After browsing Insadong’s craft shops and boutiques, rest your feet at this traditional teahouse, part of a complex of galleries surrounding a shaded courtyard, and enjoy a wide variety of herbal and fruit-flavored Korean beverages. 

Dinner: Jungsik
New York-trained chef Yim Jungsik offers a sensational menu of neo-Korean cuisine prepared using molecular gastronomy techniques. Sample creative dishes such as truffle egg with white kimchi or a baby octopus rice bowl. 



Dongdaemun Design Plaza & Park        
 Dongdaemun Design Plaza & Park        

Where to Stay: Park Hyatt Seoul 
Oak and stone décor, accented with local antiques, is the hallmark of this serene, minimalist escape from Seoul’s hyperactivity. Relax on your bed or in the bath with sweeping city views through floor-to-ceiling windows. 

Morning: Dongdaemun Design Plaza & Park
The late architect Dame Zaha Hadid left her inimitable mark on Seoul with this giant spaceshiplike complex, with a lawn on part of its roof and concrete walkways that swirl and flow like rivers. Discover top local designers at the shops here. 

Midday: Citizens Hall
There’s a fair-trade café as well as local design shops in Citizens Hall beneath the rising glass wave of Seoul’s new City Hall. Gaze up in the lobby at a vertical garden featuring 65,000 hanging plants. 

Afternoon: Myeong-dong
Head here to saunter between branches of top department stores Lotte and Shinsegae as well as Lab 5, a floor in the Noon Square complex featuring local designers. 

Dinner: Coreanos Kitchen
With branches in Itaewon, Gangnam and Apgujeong, Coreanos’ Mexican street food includes tacos and burritos spiced up with Korean ingredients such as kimchi pickles and the succulent meat of galbi (braised beef ribs). 


Seoul City Wall Museum        
 Seoul City Wall Museum         

Where to Stay: JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul
For quick access to Seoul’s historic city walls, you can’t beat this stylish hotel facing Heunginjimun Gate. Many of its rooms provide superb views of the area’s eye-popping mix of old and new Seoul architecture. 

Morning: Seoul City Wall Museum
The city is seeking UNESCO World Heritage status for its 18.6-kilometer circuit of 14th-century fortifications. Gain insights into Seoul’s great wall at this high-tech museum leading up to viewpoints in Naksan Park. 

Midday: Jaha Sonmandu
On the lower slopes of the Bukaksan Mountain, Jaha Sonmandoo is celebrated for its traditional steamed or boiled dumplings. Whether you opt for the meat or vegetable versions, they’re well worth the hike uphill. 

Afternoon: Inwangsan Mountain
Panoramic urban views are guaranteed on the hike along the section of city wall from Buamdong over the sacred mountain Inwangsan—and you also may see a shamanist ceremony at the Inwangsan Guksadang shrine.

Dinner: N Seoul Tower & N. Grill
A cable car will take you to the summit of Namsan Mountain, crowned by iconic N Seoul Tower and its N. Grill, pairing the inventive cuisine of British chef Duncan Robertson with glittering city views. 



Where to Stay: Minari House
This charming guesthouse with four minimalist rooms is steps from Ihwa Maeul, an old neighborhood revived by street art murals. There’s also a chic café and gallery (with an artist in residence) opening onto a lovely garden. 

Morning: MMCA Seoul
Partly based in a converted art deco building, this branch of the city’s main contemporary art museum features interesting exhibitions and shares a street with several excellent galleries. 

Midday: Arario Museum in Space
Take in the fabulous collection of contemporary works here—including pieces by Nam June Paik and Damien Hirst, then grab a bite in one of the cafés and restaurants in the building’s glass tower annex.

Afternoon: Leeum Samsung Museum of Art
Installations by leading contemporary artists dominate this inspiring gallery, but there is traditional art, too, including luminous celadon pottery and Buddhist statues. 

Dinner: Mudaeruk
Capturing the youthful spirit of the Hongdae Area of the Sangsu District, Mudaeruk is a multidimensional space where you can nibble at sharing boards of snacks and sip craft beer while enjoying an exhibition or live music. 


Gwangjang Market        
 Gwangjang Market         

Where to Stay: RakKoJae
Experience what it’s like to live in a refined hanok, a traditional single-story wooden home surrounding a courtyard garden. En suite rooms are compact and have futons, rather than beds, on the all-jade floors. 

Morning: Gyeongbokgung Palace
Seoul’s principal palace combines new reconstruction with original buildings, gardens and impressive museums. Don’t miss the regular changing-of-the-guard ceremonies at the main entry gate Gwanghwamun. 

Midday: Balwoo Gongyang
The vegetarian diet of monks is the starting point for the subtle and delicate dishes served at this restaurant in the Templestay Information Centre and overlooking the lively temple Jogye-sa. 

Afternoon: Bukchon Hanok Village
Start at the Bukchon Traditional Culture Center and then lose yourself in the hilly streets of Bukchon—lined with some 900 traditional hanok homes— and discover your own slice of traditional Seoul. 

Dinner: Gwangjang Market
Women here grind up mung beans and fry them in batter, making the crispy, golden pancakes that are a speciality of Seoul’s best night food markets. 

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