Exploring Korea’s art and Seoul in 72 hours felt like an enchanted fairy-tale from the future. There’s something to charm every traveller, whether you find your nirvana in gastronomy, café-hopping, bookshops, urban architecture and design, history and culture or shopping.
The centuries-old capital with its unique collection of historical monuments, medieval palaces, ancient walls and humble temples is set in a striking mountain valley where its 10 million citizens revel in the city’s contemporary spirit while honouring its rich heritage.
To indulge your design-lust and to see why South Korea has earned a reputation for forward-thinking art and fashion, take a trip to the MMCA where they celebrate the Korea Artist Prize which is recognised not only as the flagship exhibition of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, but indeed as the most prestigious art award in Korea.
For a sense of Seoul’s rich history, step inside the grounds of the exquisite Gyeongbokgung Palace where the National Folk Museum of Korea presents over 4,000 historical artifacts that reveal the domestic and agricultural cultures of the past. You may even be lucky enough to catch a cluster of young girls dressed in elegant Hanboks (traditional Korean dresses).
The ancient neighbourhood of Insa-Dong, though fairly touristy, is well-worth visiting for the contemporary galleries alone. Don’t miss Ssamziegil; a delightful hub for creatives where a stack of over 70 stores across four floors, connected via a spiral staircase sell a diverse selection of kitsch items from fashion to art and accessories.
For coffee-stops and after-hours amusement, visit Itaewan. This gritty, expat-friendly neighbourhood is near to the main U.S. Army base. It’s choc-a-block with secret speak-easy bars, house-clubs, restaurants and even more shops selling everything from reproduction Korean furniture and tailored suits to jewelry and traditional Korean pottery.
Make your trip feel that bit more local with a K-Pop-glitter manicure, egg bread (Gyeran Bbang) from a street food vendor and of course, Korean BBQ with a healthy portion of Kimchi for good measure.