Wednesday, February 7, 2018

48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide

Seoul had been a dream destination of mine for a couple of years. More precisely, since I first tried Korean food in London in 2011, but the food certainly isn't the only reason I was intrigued by South-Korea. Over the years, I met some of the most interesting people from Seoul, who showed me glimpses of one of Asia's most important hubs for culture, entertainment and arts. It sounded like a city of contrasts, both very careful about preserving and respecting centuries of tradition, but at the same time being a front-runner in cultural development. We only had two days in this city, so we used our time optimally and kind of raced around the city to soak up as many experiences as possible (which is exactly how I like to experience a new city). 
48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide

Itaewon  
We arrived in the evening from Guangzhou, China, and after a quick shower at the hotel, I went straight to Itaewon to meet up with a friend from Belgium who happened to be there for work. This area is known for its huge amount of bars, clubs, restaurants, and shops. Since it's near the army-base, I noticed a lot of expats walking around here. We checked out a couple of bars in this super crowded area (it was a Friday). Fun, but next time I'll do more research on where the best bars are since the options are overwhelming! 

48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide



Glad Live Hotel Gangnam
When booking a hotel, I honestly had no clue which area to choose, so I since there were some things I wanted to see in the Gangnam area, I booked a hotel there. The Glad Live Hotel is a relatively new hotel (so new that some parts of the hotel are not finished yet) and it's pretty budget-friendly. The rooms are functional and comfortable and reminded me a bit of the Muji style. 


The only BIG problem with the hotel is the nightclub, which is located in the basement of the hotel. The staff warned us that there might be a little noise coming from the club at night. A little turned out to be A LOT, and the bass was so strong that the whole room shook at night (and we were on the 7th floor), and I'm not even exaggerating. I didn't sleep at all the first night, but the second night (from Sunday to Wednesday the club is closed) I slept very well. So if you're planning on staying in Seoul between Sunday and Wednesday, I can highly recommend this hotel, otherwise not. 
>> 223 Bongeunsa-ro, Nonhyeon-dong, Gangnam-gu


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide

Gangnam-gu
Gangnam literally means "South of the river", and is one of Seoul's 25 districts and also the third largest district. The part of Gangnam I like the most is the area around Dosan Park. Firstly, there are a TON of cool stores, from high-end to concept stores with unique brands. In this area there are also lots of small and cute cafés and restaurants. Lastly, I also like this area because of the interesting architecture and variety of building styles (no urban planning whatsoever). 


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide



OUR Bakery
I had done a little research in advance, and this was one of the places on my must-do list. OUR Bakery (not to be confused with OUR restaurant, pictured below, same owner though) is a little café/bakery serving up freshly baked goods all day. You can look into the kitchen where a big team is busy kneading, rolling, folding and baking pastries and bread.  The coffee is amazing and ALL the pastries are absolutely incredible. My favorites: the "tiramisu" croissant, matcha tea cake with earl grey "jam" and the coconut snowflake croissant. To think that I don't even like croissants usually... We came here both days because is was that good. 
>> 0-11 Dosan-daero 45-gil, Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide

48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide

48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide

48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide

48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide

48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide

48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


Kukje Gallery
Along the right-hand side of the Gyenongbokgung Palace park, there's a street (Samcheong-Ro if I'm correct) with lots of small galleries and museums. One of those is Kukje gallery, a contemporary art gallery which comprises of several buildings. One of them is covered by a veil of chain-mail which is really cool (have a better look here). They do different exhibitions all the time here so it's worth having a look. We also checked out the Hyundai Gallery down the street, which is the oldest art gallery in Seoul. 
>> 54 Samcheong-ro, Sogyeok-dong, Jongno-gu


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


MMCA Museum

The MMCA, also known as National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, is located just a few steps away from Kukje Gallery. It's a huge museum with contemporary art ranging from photography to installation art to architecture. Though the art wasn't really my taste, I think this depends on the exhibitions. Good to know: free entrance for students and under 24 y/o.
>> 30 Samcheong-ro, Sogyeok-dong, Jongno-gu


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


Gyeongbokgung Palace 

Located in the north of Seoul, this is the largest palace built in the Joseon dynasty in 1395. It was destroyed in the 20th century and has been restored ever since. This also means that the palace and its surrounding buildings don't feel as "old", but it's still a cool contrast with the modern city buildings in the background (especially with the snow!). Good for a walk around, since you can't enter any of the buildings. 


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide



Gwangjang Traditional Market
When we arrived at this market, we thought it was closed. Turns out we entered at the clothing section, which only opens at 9 pm. We walked a little deeper into the market and hit the jackpot... The food-part is open from 9 am till 11 pm, so you can enjoy all kinds of typical Korean street food here all day long, like gimbap (a kind of sushi), myeon (noodles), kimchi, meat on skewers etc. We had some thick mungbean pancakes called Bindae-tteok, which are so filling that we didn't manage to try anything else. I could have come here every day to try something new! 


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


Changdeokgung Palace

This is another one of the "Five Grand Palaces" built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty (just like Gyeongbokgung). I actually prefer this one, since the setting is more natural, and there's a big garden in the back with lotus ponds, pavilions, and landscaped trees. You can enter the garden with a guide, and since we didn't time it well we had a Korean guide which is maybe not the most informed choice, so plan your visit well! 


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide



Zaha Hadid's Dongdaemun Design Park & Plaza
In the middle of the shopping district in the center of Seoul, you'll find Zaha Hadid's 8,000-square-metre cultural complex, which makes it one of the biggest projects she realized. It reminds me of a massive spaceship, and the park around it provides a nice little oasis in the middle of the bustling city. It's a huge hub for art, design, and technology, so there's plenty to see and do. We saw little concept stores and a design event by Ikea but the thing I liked the most was the Max Mara exhibition, which was just incredible. So look out for the fashion exhibitions here!


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide

48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide

48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide

48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


Mukjeon (묵전)
At night, even though we were dead tired, we braced the cold and went on the hunt for good Korean food. We just walked to Dosan Park area in Gangnam and then asked a group of young people if they knew a good Korean place. They didn't speak any English but motioned us to follow them, which we did for about 5 minutes. Once we arrived at the restaurant, we said goodbye and had a look at where they had brought us. I was doubting to go inside because the restaurant looked kind of weird from the outside. But once we walked upstairs, we found a really small but cozy little room with 6 tables and only Koreans. 

We ordered a bunch of things from the menu, not really knowing what we'd get. The dish pictured below comprised of smoked pork, two kinds of kimchi, fresh garlic and chili, cabbage, two kinds of gochujang and a plate of fresh oysters. As you know, I eat mostly vegan/vegetarian but I decided to try everything here, and it was truly delicious. Especially the smoked pork was unlike anything I've tried. I also ate 80% of the two kimchi mountains we got, which was incredibly spice (I nearly cried) but I loved it. 


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


South-Korea is apparently known for fresh oysters and I agree that these were the best oysters I've ever tried. 


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide

Another great dish we tried was cold buckwheat noodles, which is also a traditional dish. Very different but great in contrast with the other extremely spicy dishes. 


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide

This was some kind of shellfish salad, but we didn't manage to eat it because it was simply too spicy. All the green and red is chili so my mouth was on fire after one bite! 


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


We also had a pot of rice wine (or something?) which was great to cool the fire from the kimchi and the hot sauces. What I liked most about this restaurant that it was really small, authentic and it felt very local. Exactly the kind of place I had in mind, and we would've never found it if we didn't ask those people on the street! 
>> 645-11 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide


Pictured: me in a kimchi coma, as happy as can be. 


48 hours in Seoul South-Korea (part I) | Guide

I hope you enjoyed this first part of my Seoul diary/guide! Part two coming soon. 

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