Following the Weekend FT’s smooth (and expensive) guide to a weekend in Seoul — after which you would need a whole week to recover — the FT’s Korea Correspondent Anna Fifield has responded with a slightly more realistic schedule, published in their Korea supplement on 23 October. No ginseng facials, and no itineraries which assume that the whole population of Seoul has evacuated for the Chuseok holidays leaving the roads to just you and your taxi driver. Fifield’s weekend is for those curious about encountering Korean culture, while the Weekend FT’s is more designed for the business traveller with too much money to spend. So here goes:
Do a palace — the Deoksu-gung, Gyeongbok-gung or preferably the Changdeok-gung with the Secret Garden. Late morning, off to browse Namdaemun market. Buy some street food from any ajumma you happen to find there. Alternatively, browse Insadong and get lunch there. Follow this with a visit to the Jogyesa temple near Insadong:
Tea time: go to see a B-Boy show at the Chongdong art hall behind Deoksu-gung. Take a breather, then head south to check out the human handicrafts in the bars and restaurants of Gangnam — the creations of Korea’s finest plastic surgeons. Recommended restaurants are Tani Nomadic Bistro or Park (both behind the Galleria department store) while the cool bars are Circle, Spot, or S-bar.
Banish the cobwebs with a bracing stroll up Bukhansan and observe the crazy hiking gear worn by your fellow-walkers. Indulge in some hair of the dog at the bottom of the hill with some dongdong-ju to wash down your kimchi-jeon.
Spend the afternoon at the National Museum of Korea (above) or the Leeum, and as the sun gets lower head back towards Samcheong-dong (“much cooler than tacky Insadong”) for a stroll and some window-shopping, with maybe a bite to eat in Dogahun (opposite the Gyeongbok-gung) or Sujebi in the heart of Samcheong-dong. Round off the day with some live music at Jazz Story.
That’s more my style of weekend, though it assumes an ability to overcome hangovers that I don’t possess any more, and I would also make sure I set aside time on the Saturday to visit Seoul Selection or the Royal Asiatic Society offices to stock up on books.
Sounds like I’ve got my next Seoul weekend break mapped out.