Sunday, February 12, 2012

Fourteen even better places to visit in Seoul (with pictures!)

Roboseyo recently wrote about five places to visit in Seoul that are not the typical touristy places. As I prepare to move out of Seoul and back into suburban Gyeonggi-do, here are some of the places I've loved visiting over and over during the two years I've lived in Seoul. I will no doubt keep on returning to these places.

The list is not in any particular order, though I've grouped them by neighbourhood to give a vague sense of itinerary.

1. Visit Deoksugung, especially at night, for the lit-up Daehanmun, the quiet and the crowds. Deoksugung is the dimunitive member of Seoul's five palaces, but it is where the Joseon dynasty lived out its final years. The Western buildings inside bear testament to a Korea that tried, without avail, to modernize. Get out at City Hall station, exit 2.

Daehanmun, the entrance to Deoksugung, at night.

While you're there, consider dinner at Deoksujeong around the corner from Deoksugung. They serve typical jjigae dishes, but also fish and galbi. For a very serious neighbourhood, it's an inexpensive, boisterous and tasty meal.

Another option is coffee at the Sogong-dong Starbucks, an exceptionally wide location that's mostly quiet and empty in the evenings. This location has Korean-style architecture, historical plaques on the inside and many soft leather couches.

2. Another favourite of mine is Oori Bunsik and the Good News Cafe at the bottom of Namsan, both quiet places with good food. Oori Bunsik, which seats about 16 people, is especially nice on cold days. It serves typical Korean food (rice, jjigae) but closes at 8 and will stop serving one of rice or noodle by 7:30. Have a cafe and a waffle at the Good News Cafe next door. The location is tricky if you've never been there, but you want to take the bus to the Yongsan Library, the top of which is on the main road, and get off at its ground floor, which is on the bottom of a side road.

3. The Gwanghwamun location of Kyobo Books is another favourite of mine, considering that you can eat, shop and read there for hours. They have a large selection of English-language books, though as is the case elsewhere, it's biased in favour of new releases and classics. Gwanghwamun is also a great place to relax at night, assuming that it's not lined by riot police. Get off at Gwanghwamun station on line 5 or Jonggak station on line 1.

3. If you've already been to Bukhansan or simply don't want to go to the top, try the dullegil, which is a 70-km route that circles the mountain. It's not a very strenuous hike and you'll see many hidden-away restaurants on the way, though your challenge might be covering enough distance to get back to civilization before dark. I personally recommend the Uiryeong-gil section that bisects the route, though if you're not a Korean nor with one, you'll need to make reservations about a week in advance.

4. If you're looking for a cafe that serves good, strong coffee but isn't a chain and is in fact nicer than a chian, check out Caffe Themselves (the misspelling is Italian, I'm told) by Jongno-3-ga. They have great coffee, great desserts and baristas who wear ties with their collars in the style of the early twentieth-century. I have chose Neville Chamberlain as my example, for some reason.

Nearby is Potala, a Tibetan restaurant that also has some Indian, Nepali and Chinese dishes. It's owned by a man from Tibet and functions as a meeting place for Korean Buddhists, activists and other people who are countercultural enough to grow facial hair.

5. In the ethnic food category, we have New Delhi with locations at Gangnam, Hyehwa and Kyung Hee University, Uzbek food at Samarkand (locations at Anam and Dongdaemun), and great Chinese food with Xinjiang-style skewers at Oedae Lamb Skewers (walk out of exit one of HUFS station, its above the Olive Young).

Gobble 'n' Go in Apgujeong is not ethnic, serving great burgers, fries and chili, but it's a nice, quiet place south of the river and everything I mentioned is north of the river.

1 comment:

Fadzlin said...

I wonder is the Oedae Lamb Skewers place halal? Being Xinjiang style.