South Korea’s capital city is a bastion for quirky cafes, K-pop and a killer drink and food culture. This sprawling city can be overwhelming, but journalist Katie Lockhart makes it easy with her Seoul, South Korea, Destination Guide.
Considered the first luxury hotel built in Korea in 1914, it’s gotten a major facelift thanks to Marriott’s Luxury Collection. Art Deco-inspired furniture combined with trendy art and plush deep purples and greens make it one of the coolest hotel destinations in the city. The sprawling city views from its high-society restaurants, bar, pool and fitness center aren’t bad either.
Located in Seoul’s swanky Gangnam neighborhood, these boutique hotel rooms have serious style with 1920s-influenced fluted headboards, curved furniture and wall pendants. Cozy and compact, the marble bathrooms include black and white mosaic tiles. And as the sun sets, head to the rooftop terrace for fantastic skyline views.
One of the most in-demand spots for barbecue, their beef ribs are among the best in town. Expect to wait a while for a seat here, but trust us, it’s worth it. Cooked first over straw and finished on a traditional Korean hot plate, it’s incredibly tender and flavorful.
Famous for appearing in a popular K-drama, this dessert shop is one of the most Instagrammable in Ikseon-dong, a neighborhood of tiny winding alleys and stores. Known for its souffle castella cakes in all different flavors and creative coffees, it’s the perfect afternoon pick-me-up.
This speakeasy may take a minute or two to find. Open a nondescript door at the Four Seasons Hotel Seoul, and you’re inside the #7 bar in Asia. Named after a fictitious world traveler, the drinks are inspired by his adventures, like the tropical Tahitian Unicorn. Make a reservation here well in advance; it’s usually booked solid.
The tallest building in South Korea (and the 5th tallest in the world) has incredible views over the entire city. Take the elevator 123 floors to the top for 360-degree vistas from Seoul Sky, the observation deck. Adrenaline junkies can also sign up for a SkyBridge Tour and step outside the glass walls.
Arguably the most famous sight in Seoul, this palace was built in 1395 but burnt down multiple times throughout its history. Today it’s been impeccably restored, with vibrant colors, intricate carvings and peaceful grounds. Rent a hanbok (a traditional Korean outfit) for free admission to the palace.
One of the oldest residential areas in Seoul, dating back 600 years, these traditional hanok houses line the winding, hilly streets. Dotted with small guesthouses and even smaller cafes like Bukchon Observatory, travelers can meander through one of the city’s most beautiful sections as Seoul’s shiny new buildings loom in the distance. For a traditional experience, stop by tea houses like the Living Room at Bukchon Binkwan or Cha-teul.
While fish markets are always at their prime in the wee hours of the morning, travelers can come here for lunch or dinner. Peruse the various sellers for the best king crab, scallops, abalone and fish on display. Once you’ve chosen your catch, follow your seafood fixer to one of the market’s many restaurants to be prepared for you. It doesn’t get much fresher than that.
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