Despite being rooted in centuries-old traditions, the South Korean capital is unabashedly trendy and forward-looking.
Author Layla Schlack
DAY THREE | A cup of coffee or tea is lovely, but on some mornings only a roller coaster will do. Take a cab past the looming Olympic Stadium (1), built for Seoul’s 1988 Summer Games. A mile and a half farther along, you arrive at Lotte World (2), a massive complex housing a shopping mall, the Lotte World Folk Museum, an ice-skating rink and an indoor amusement park—one of the largest in the world. Start in the department store basement for a red bean pastry, then head upstairs to the roller coaster, which is for some reason named the French Revolution. Vive la France! you think, before making your way to more steady ground.
Get on the No. 2 subway to COEX (3), a megaplex featuring an outsize aquarium, as well as a shopping mall brimming, like so many malls the world over, with boisterous teens. You have a gander at the electronics and the stylish, well-priced clothes, and stop in at Kraze Burger, a diner-themed stand that gives a local twist with a curry-flavored barbecue sauce. It may seem odd, but you can’t get enough.
Ready for some fresh air, you head to the nearby Bongeunsa (4) complex of Buddhist temples. You wander among them, stopping into Bookgeukbojeon, where believers pray for miracles. Doffing your shoes, you take a seat and ask for one of your own. On your way out, have a look at Mireukdaebul, a 75-foot statue of the Buddha. Ten thousand followers worked for 10 years to build the figure. Gazing up at it, you’re thankful to all 10,000 of them for helping create such peace in the midst of this metropolis.
You carry that feeling of serenity with you to the InterContinental Grand Seoul (5) for dinner at Table 34, where you make your way through three courses of French food. Back at your own hotel, you decide at the last minute to join the crowd at Club Eden. Sipping a domestic Hite beer and watching the youth in their finest evening wear, you think Seoul’s in good hands.
Senior editor LAYLA SCHLACK has the most charm-bedecked cell phone of all the Hemispheres staff