Six ways to escape the winter chill in Seoul
Stay warm and snug on a wintry minibreak in the South Korean capital.
1. High tea, low table
Offering heated floors and an array of warm pick-me-ups, traditional Korean teahouses are just the ticket for escaping the winter chills. Cha Masineun Tteul is often touted as one of the city’s best spots for an authentic teahouse experience. Located in the historical Bukchon neighbourhood, it’s housed in a renewed Hanok building with large windows overlooking the mountain scenery. Everything about the place is charmingly traditional, from the no-shoes policy to sitting on comfy pillows on the floor. The atmosphere is far from stiff, with most customers being young university-age adults who spend hours sipping tea and gossiping.
2. Crafts crawl
For European visitors, the Insadong district feels like the Korean equivalent of a cosy German market town with its charming side streets, traditional treats, and wealth of arts and crafts. The centre of culture during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Insadong today is one of the top places in Seoul to see and purchase traditional Korean fine art, antiques, and porcelain. Fans of stationery are also spoiled. Strolling through the neighbourhood, visitors see dozens of paper shops from those selling hanji (traditional paper) and calligraphy brushes to modern establishments featuring designs by hip local artists, cute notebooks, and funky pencils.
3. Not just a meat-feast
Premium meat and plentiful sides make Korean barbeque (gogi-jip) the ultimate comfort food for a cold day. Tender slices of beef and pork are grilled right at the table and dipped in rock salt, with fresh, tasty sides to keep it fresh and light. A bowl of cold noodle broth is a classic way to round off the BBQ experience. Ultra-popular Maple Tree House with six venues around Seoul combines culinary excellence with a visual feast of tasteful modern design and eccentric details.
4. Plant power
When in Seoul, expect to experience some unforgettable dining. In addition to a must-try array of street foods and traditional fares, it’s also worth sampling a modern alternative. A good choice is Si Wha Dam, where your nosh comes with a distinct artistic twist. With venues in Itaweon and Insadong, Si Wha Dam combines traditional ingredients with modern fine dining, creating portions almost too pretty to eat. Plated on Korean pottery, each dish is like a little piece of art, decorated with seasonal flowers and plants. A winter day’s favourite is hearty kimchi carbonara spaghetti.
5. Shoppers unite
For a proper Korean shopping frenzy, head to Myeong-dong. Boasting two major department stores, several malls, and an array of smaller shops, this buzzing district sees more than one million shoppers pass through daily. Besides hosting all the major local and international clothing brands and restaurants, the area is a hub of a thousand Korean cosmetics and skincare stores, most of them conveniently clustered around the central street, Jungang-gil.
6. Hi-rise hotels x 2
All in one
Seoul’s new Four Seasons hotel, opened in 2015, is its own little eco-system with seven restaurants, food hall, spa, and even a secret bar. If the weather turns icy, there’s no need to rug up, as this hyper-hotel is bound to keep you well-fed, entertained, and pampered for days.
For insatiable shoppers, Lotte Hotel is a convenient option in the middle of the Myeong-dong shopping precinct. All the rooms in this five-star establishment are individually designed, from cool to quirky, with one entire floor dedicated exclusively to female visitors.
Text and photos Amanda Soila