Going beyond Gangnam style for a deeper look at South Korea’s capital.
South Korea’s capital is a hard nut to crack, travel-wise. Much to the disappointment of many K-pop-obsessed visitors, it can be difficult to gain insider-level intel on the city’s ultra-hip world of trendy cafés, boutiques and artsy spaces—not to mention hard-to-find restaurants with untranslated menus. But with these suggestions, you can get a slightly more local perspective.
84 Sogyeok-dong, Jongro-gu, +822-739-6334.
The specialty here is wang mandoo guk—literally, giant dumpling soup. At the front of the restaurant, a team of veteran chefs with lighting-quick hands stuff, fold and crease doughy pockets of goodness.
817-28 Yeoksam-dong, Gangnam-gu, +822-3452-7273, www.bulzip.co.kr
Enjoy some top-notch soju and BBQ pork belly at this lively watering hole.
150-7 Samseong 1-dong, Gangnam-gu, +822-5612-2834.
Fill up on authentic Korean steak, barbecued simply with garlic and cabbage on a burner right at the center of the table. The high-quality rib-eye (from cows raised in Korea, of course) is the star of the show. It isn’t cheap. But it’s delicious—even more so when the waiter makes kkakdugi (white-radish kimchi) fried rice in the same pan used to cook the beef.
809-6 Yeoksam-song, Gangnam-gu, +822-557-6460, www.kkanbu.co.kr
Stop by for the quintessential Korean late-night meal of fried chicken, fries and beer.
549-9 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, +822-546-1567.
A restaurant serving traditional Korean fare just off of Garosu-gil, a trendy street that by day is great for shopping, people-watching and latte-sipping. Relax atop cushions on a raised platform against walls lined with old newspapers and feast on bulgogi, kimchi pancakes, bean-paste soup, egg soufflé (less weird and more yummy than it sounds) and an array of banchan (little side dishes).
75-1 Taeyoung Building #102, Insa-dong, Jongro-gu.
This small restaurant serves up delicious ddeokbokki, a favorite spicy street food made of sliced rice cakes, noodles and egg.
Hongdae Weekend Market
564-35 Yeonnam-dong, Mapo-gu, +822-325-8553. www.freemarket.or.kr
Amid throngs of students and creative types, local artisans sell crafty goods from cutesy jewelry to hand-drawn postcards to sophisticated leather credit-card holders.
199-17 Sindang-dong, Jung-gu, +822-2231-0936.
This place sells the type of clothes and accessories stocked by boutiques across Seoul, except at bargain prices.
B1-B2/F, 1303-22 Seocho 4-dong, Seocho-gu, +822-1544-1900, www.kyobobook.co.kr
Stock up on artsy Korean stationery at this top-notch bookstore.
170 Gwanhoon-dong, Jongro-gu, +822-2732-6427, www.osulloc.com.
This teahouse and store is part of a 33-year-old brand that harvests its leaves from fields on Jeju, a much-loved island off the country’s south shore.
Where to stay
Located at the secluded Mount Namsan, Banyan Tree Club & Spa Seoul (From KRW600,000 [B16,488].San 5-5, Jang Chung-Dong 2-Ga Jung-Gu, +822-2250-8000. www.banyantree.com.) has only 16 rooms and 16 suites so you’re sure to have plenty of privacy. Each room also has its own indoor relaxation pool. For a fashionable-yet-more affordable option, rooms at the W Seoul - Walkerhill (175 Achaseong-gil, Gwangjin-gu, +82-2465-2222) are from KRW265,000 (B7,280). While Bangrang Hostel (397-14 Jungnim-dong, Jung-gu, +822-6414-2246) has long been a favorite among budget travelers with rates from KRW18,000 (B495) per bed and KRW30,000 (B825) per room.
THAI Airways, Korean Air and Asiana Airlines fly direct from Suvarnabhumi to Seoul’s Inchon Airport daily. Rates are roughly the same, starting from around B19,000 roundtrip.