Work today, fly tomorrow • April 2014

Seven reasons to hang out in Seoul

As one of the world’s largest cities, with a population of more than 10 million, Seoul is the economic, political and cultural hub of South Korea. But the hardest working city in the world also has plenty of charm to entertain you once business is done, says local writer Nell McShane Wulfhart

The soul of Seoul

In Kyungnidan, Seoul’s ‘buzziest’ (and tiniest) neighbourhood, the small streets are filled with new independent bars and restaurants. Stop by the cosy Magpie Brewing Co for a locally made craft beer, hit up Bào for a build-your-own stir-fry, then head to Golmok Vinyl & Pub to see DJs spinning (records only) and trendsetters sipping beers.


The bathhouses

The jimjilbang are an integral part of life in Korea, providing a communal experience that’s both social and therapeutic. For local-style lounging, head to Siloam, a multistorey spa where the heated rooms and steaming pools are the ultimate in relaxation. A ticket buys you 12 hours, but just one or two before your flight home will do wonders for your state of mind.


Eat live octopus

Seoul’s giant Noryangjin seafood market near Noryangjin Station on Subway Line 1 is the place to try sannakji, octopus so fresh it’s still wriggling as it goes down your throat. Get a stallholder to chop one of the fist-sized octopi into bite-sized pieces, pull up a plastic chair next to the senior citizens getting rowdy with a bottle of soju (the local hooch), and chase the moving bites across your plate.


Coffee and cartoons

Theme cafés are rife here, but Mustoy Café is one of the most fun to visit as it’s part art studio. Along with their coffee, each customer is given a small clay figurine to decorate in bright colours (the figures were designed by the creator of Pororo The Little Penguin, the most popular children’s cartoon character in Korea).


Go south of the border

Vatos Urban Tacos is at the forefront of the burgeoning Korean-Mexican fusion wave. The chic location in Itaewon often has queues out the door, with locals and foreigners lining up for giant margaritas, tacos stuffed with marinated short ribs, and chips laced with local specialities carnitas and kimchi.


All made up

Looking good is big business in Korea, for men and women. The Myeongdong shopping district is packed with domestic cosmetics chains like Etude House and Nature Republic, where high-quality face creams and top-of-the-range make-up go for a song. Watching the hordes of Japanese tourists stuffing their suitcases is enough of a reason to go.


Escape the city

Take a break from traffic and subways on the banks of the imposing Han River, home to the monster in The Host. Single or tandem bikes can be rented by the hour, and the cycling paths are beautifully clean. Cycle down the river, stopping for views and snacks at the numerous convenience stores, and enjoy the unusual-in-Seoul sensation of having plenty of space.


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This article has been tagged Destination, Travel Tips