Despite being rooted in centuries-old traditions, the South Korean capital is unabashedly trendy and forward-looking.
ILLUSTRATIONS ESRA CAROLINE RØISE
“Coffee Bar K has one of the broadest single malt selections on the entire peninsula, in addition to impeccable drinks, magnificent ambience and spectacular company. Seoul’s the third city to get one—the other two are in Tokyo and Singapore.”
CELLULAR DEVICE ENGINEER
“If I’m looking to go to a club, it’s got to be Club Eden. Seoul barely had a nightclub scene before, but since Eden opened, others have been striving to replicate it. None have so far, though.”
ACTOR, DIRECTOR, PRODUCER FOR SEOUL PLAYERS
“My favorite thing to do is walk on the banks of the Cheonggyecheon Stream at night. It always has some beautiful light installations on display. Summer or winter, it’s lovely and peaceful.”
Image – Photolibrary
GET FIRED UP ABOUT POTTERY AT ICHEON CERAMICS VILLAGE
Korean pottery has a thousands-year history, reflecting shifting dynasties, religious influences and styles popular in Japan and China. The two most popular styles—Goryeo celadon and Joseon white—are both produced in Icheon Ceramics Village, an easy day trip from Seoul. There are about 300 ceramics producers here, and you can watch them in action, throwing delicately curvy vases and glazing them with intricate patterns of red cranes and lotuses. The designs come from Buddhist spiritual traditions, the light colors from the local clay’s natural hue. During your tour, you’ll learn more about all that, and if you like, even receive a tutorial on how to make your own vase or bowl. A word about making your own: It will take a couple of days for creations to be fired. Meanwhile, please try not to act like a bull in a china shop.
Image – JTB Photo/Photolibrary
SOUTH KOREA’S NATIONAL DISH, KIMCHI, REACHES FAR BEYOND THE CABBAGE PATCH.
The beloved spicy pickled cabbage most of the world knows as kimchi is to Koreans only one variety of the dish. Often made with radishes or cucumbers, it can be mild, sweet or eye-wateringly spicy. Sometimes it’s flavored with fish, too. Visitors are encouraged to try as many types as possible, which shouldn’t be difficult, as it’s served at every meal.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of kimchi to Korean culture: Not only did the first Korean astronaut bring some along on his trip, but one of the most coveted household appliances is the kimchi refrigerator, which has special controls for different stages of pickling.
If all that’s not enough to satisfy your kimchi appetite, visit the Kimchi Field Museum (www.kimchimuseum.co.kr) for a look at everything from the massive ceramic crocks in which the dish was traditionally made to the lactic acid bacteria (under a microscope, of course) that spark the fermentation process.