North of the river of­fers cul­ture, his­tory, food and en­ter­tain­ment

WORDS TAM­SIN COCKS

Business Traveller (Asia-Pacific) - - CONTENTS -

Ex­plore the area from Dong­dae­mun to City Hall: a trea­sure trove of his­tory, cul­ture and food 1 Dong­dae­mun De­sign Plaza

Start your tour with the un­miss­able land­mark that is the Dong­dae­mun De­sign Plaza (DDP). The curved, fu­tur­is­tic venue, de­signed by the late ar­chi­tec­tural maven Zaha Ha­did, is one of the city’s key event and ex­hi­bi­tion venues but day-to-day is a hub of cre­ativ­ity. Boutique brands con­gre­gate in the De­sign Mar­ket on the first floor, with plenty of quirky mod­ern gifts and gor­geous home­ware prod­ucts to browse, while the De­sign Lab em­bod­ies the spirit of in­no­va­tion; at 3D print­ing spe­cial­ist IOYS, vis­i­tors can get scanned and have minia­ture fig­urines printed in their own like­ness (prices start from about 70,000 won/ US$65 for an 8cm fig­ure).

Au­dio-guided tours of the space­ship-like venue are also avail­able, en­com­pass­ing the many art­works and the His­tory and Cul­ture Park. For lunch, head to newly opened Hino’s Recipe in the DDP for mod­ern Ital­ian cui­sine. The bright, airy restau­rant is the brain­child of the CEO of YG Foods (a sub­sidiary of YG En­ter­tain­ment, which cre­ated K-Pop megas­tars such as Big Bang). ddp.or.kr

2 Ik­seon-dong

From the DDP, hop on Sub­way Line 5 (via the His­tory and Cul­ture Park) to Jongno 3(sam)-ga Sta­tion, or a 20-minute taxi ride will take you to Ik­seon-dong street. Like its pop­u­lar neigh­bour Insa-dong, the area fea­tures maze-like streets bear­ing tra­di­tional Korean hanok build­ings. How­ever, while Insa-dong (once fa­mous for an­tiques and art gal­leries) is start­ing to be­come com­mer­cialised with big chains and tacky tourist shops, the up-and-com­ing Ik­seon-dong is an un­spoilt cul­tural gem. Young artists and en­trepreneurs have started to re­pur­pose the old work­ing-class area with mod­ern boutique and hand­i­craft stores, but plenty of tra­di­tional el­e­ments re­main, with lo­cal restau­rants and beau­ti­ful tea­houses fea­tur­ing leafy in­te­rior court­yards.

3 Jeong­dong Theater

An­other quick taxi ride (or Sub­way Line 1 to City Hall sta­tion) will take you to Jeong-dong – the “Euro­pean Quar­ter” of Seoul that is still home to many for­eign em­bassies. There’s plenty of his­tory to soak up while wan­der­ing the leafy boule­vard of Jeong­don-gil, which starts at Dae­han­mun Gate and skirts Deok­su­g­ung Palace. Free, guided walk­ing tours, spon­sored by the gov­ern­ment, can be booked via Visit Seoul (english.vis­it­seoul.net/ walk­ing­tour).

For a more lively cul­tural im­mer­sion, head to Jeong­dong Theater. Launched in April, The Palace: Tale of Jang Noksu trans­ports you to the Joseon Dy­nasty in a 90-minute per­for­mance that of­fers spec­tac­u­lar han­bok cos­tumes, an in­sight to tra­di­tional instruments

and dance, creative stag­ing and a com­pelling story about Jang Noksu, the thief turned slave, turned royal con­sort. The en­tire per­for­mance is done with­out words (aside from some brief story set­tings re­layed in four lan­guages on a mon­i­tor by the stage). If you want a hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence, there is also the chance to learn how to play the iconic jan­guu drum at 3pm in the Jeong Dong Maru venue above the theatre.

Show starts at 4pm Tue-Sat; ticket price 40,000-60,000 won (US$37-56); jeong­dongth­e­ater.com

4 Seoullo 7017 and food walk­ing tour

Af­ter sit­ting, it’s time to stretch those legs. Head south to City Hall Sta­tion to link up with Seoullo 7017 – a new sky park built along a dis­used 1970s over­pass in a sim­i­lar vein to New York’s High­line. The el­e­vated path has be­come a leafy trail through the heart of the city bus­tle, pep­pered with cafés, gar­dens and stages for a va­ri­ety of street per­for­mances. Book a food tast­ing and cul­tural tour with Gas­tro Tour Seoul to fur­ther el­e­vate the ex­pe­ri­ence. Guided ex­cur­sions of Seoullo 7017 take in his­tor­i­cal sights such as the old back­streets of Pi­mat­gol and the Yakhyeon Catholic Church, while mak­ing reg­u­lar pit stops to en­joy flavours from Seoul’s his­tory – from tra­di­tional kim­chi-flavoured pan­cakes and tteok (rice cakes) to mod­ern Korean fried chicken and beer. Tours cost around US$80 per per­son for sched­uled tours – al­ter­na­tively you can book cus­tom tours; gas­tro­tourseoul.com

5 La Yeon

Make sure you save space for your fi­nal des­ti­na­tion. Hop in a cab and head to The Shilla Seoul. Be­fore get­ting in the lift, see if you can sneak a peek at Yeong Bin Gwan – a gor­geous tra­di­tional venue orig­i­nally used to house for­eign VIP guests, but now a wed­ding favourite. Oth­er­wise, head up to the

23rd floor to the three­Miche­lin-starred Korean restau­rant La Yeon. The com­bi­na­tion of an el­e­gant set­ting, views stretch­ing out across the city, and beau­ti­fully pre­pared and pre­sented tra­di­tional Korean cui­sine, is the per­fect way to end the day.

Ad­vance book­ing is nec­es­sary; lunch 12-2pm, din­ner 6-10pm; din­ner set from 160,000 won (US$150); +82 2 2230 3367; lhw.com/ho­tel/The-ShillaSeoul-Seoul-Korea BT

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