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Best of Seoul

This Asian city is at a fascinating crossroads of past and future.

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Rating: 4 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Easy
Duration: Multiple days

Overview :  From art-museums and galleries to high-tech shopping and tasty traditional fare, this cultural immersion trip has all aspects covered.

Tips:  The best way to get around Seoul is on the excellent subway system. Buses and cabs (a 15-minute taxi ride runs about $7) are a good... more »

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Points of Interest

1. 50

At the new hot spot called 50, that amount of dollars will buy you exactly half a bottle of unremarkable Kendall-Jackson wine.

650 Sinsa-dong


2. Bar Da

This exquisite bar is truly a hole in a concrete wall, full of glamorous nerds munching on dried anchovies.

365-12 Seogyo-dong, Mapu-gu


At Budnamujip restaurant, in an area far south of the Han River and the city’s center, the specialty is galbi, short ribs traditionally seasoned with such flavors as Asian-pear juice, sesame seed, rice wine, sugar, and of course, that Korean mainstay, garlic. After you put on a bib, mounds of galbi are grilled before you: the meat at Budnamujip is... More

4. Hanjanui Chueok

Enormous pitchers of Hite beer land on tables and are consumed instantly by the eclectic, raucous, smoky clientele. The bar food here would find few peers anywhere in the world. There is so much juice and spice in each tender piece of fried chicken, the overall result crisp and soft in equal measure, crying out for beer and the cool radish cubes... More

5. Hurest Well Being Club Spa

The Hurest Well Being Club sits between the 15th and 17th floors of a skyscraper, and offers great views of the surrounding office towers and the teenybopper shopping area of Myeong-dong.

1 Jung-gu Myeongdong, Myeongdong Tower, 31-1


The new Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, up on Mount Namsan and overlooking the seedy Itaewon district, has been spearheading Seoul’s reputation as an arts destination. Funded by the family that controls the Samsung conglomerate, the vast Leeum museum campus consists of a fortress-like homage to terra-cotta designed by Mario Botta, a stainless-steel ... More

This sleek, newish, 24-story glass tower, set south of the Han River near the COEX convention and shopping center, caters to Seoul’s nouveaux riches and visiting business travelers. The sleek, minimalist interiors—in both the common areas and the185 rooms—are airy and punctuated by Korean antiques. The guest rooms, with their floor-to-ceiling... More

8. Plastic

A café frequented by the wealthy plastic-surgery set.

631-12 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu


9. Seobuk

The specialty here is gamjatang stew, a mash of pork and potato covered with sesame leaf. Korean cuisine is all about taste, not presentation. The dish is remarkably free of grease and sugar, the taste is clear, and the succulence of the pork leaves no doubt about the owner’s claim that he buys the pigs himself. This restaurant has been around for... More

10. Solmoemaeul

At this airy place, the emphasis is on royal cuisine, which stretches back to a time before Korea’s fateful encounter with the chili pepper some 250 years ago, and may thus be gentler on some Western palates. Order the pumpkin soup, silky acorn jelly, and beef of heavenly provenance, all to be wrapped in tiny radish crêpes that are presented... More

11. Stereo Bar

Head to the candy-colored basement Stereo Bar, where a slogan written on an ashtray could pretty much sum up the national mood: don’t work too hard. Is it really worth to you?

334-1 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu


12. The Shilla

If hotel design were an Olympic sport, the Shilla would be the Michael Phelps of Seoul properties. Adjacent to the 23-acre, lushly landscaped Jangchungdan Park, where walking trails wind among pine trees and sculptures by Korean artists, the 465-room hotel provides luxurious seclusion in this otherwise extremely congested city. The rooms are... More

The hippest hotel in town (as all W’s aim to be) occupies an angular, 14-story glass building overlooking the Han River, 30 minutes east of downtown Seoul. The 252 guest rooms are categorized with hypey, not-very-useful names (Wow, Wonderful, Fabulous, and Cool are a few of the designations)—each with individual features like molded, egg-shaped... More

The War Memorial of Korea features dioramas of life in wartime; its hokey cardboard nature notwithstanding, the exhibit shows a civilization that came within millimeters of being completely snuffed out.

8 Yongsan-dong 1-ga, Yongsan-gu


15. Yongsan Electronics Market

Head to the Yongsan Electronics Market, also known as Electroland. Here a half-dozen buildings of substantial size house entire shops devoted to GPS navigators and MP3 players, hyper-advanced super-cell phones, and the ever-popular Nintendogs, which allows cooped-up city dwellers to raise an imaginary dog with the aid of a stylus and a tiny screen... More