If you’re on the hunt for a genuinely hip experience, a day spent out and about in Seoul is just what the doctor ordered. The Korean capital was recently called the “cutting-edge of cool” by National Geographic magazine, who praised the city’s “red-hot energy.”
But in a metropolis as big as Seoul, tracking down hotspots can be daunting. With the Samsung C&T Newsroom’s guide to the Korean capital, though, you can ensure your next sojourn in Seoul features cool by the cartload.
Design, Culture and Fashion
Rise and shine, sleepyhead! The day starts early in Seoul. Subway lines and bus routes are open just before 5:30am, many restaurants offer food for early-risers – and by 7, you’ll find most streets thronging with activity and foot traffic.
The coolest cats in the capital know that if you want to beat the tourist hoards to fashion mecca Dongdaemun, you need to get there early. Grab a bite to eat at one of the area’s many street food stalls on your way.
It’s photo op time! That’s right, it’s never too early get snapping in Seoul. You’ll certainly want to get a shot of Korea’s most-tagged-on-Instagram spot, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP). This Zaha Hadid-designed, Samsung C&T-constructed architectural marvel has been described as a “landmark” by those in the know at CNN. The plaza’s futuristic façade is made of over 45,000 differently shaped panels, giving it an out-of-this-world, UFO-like look.
The DDP’s Art Hall hosts conventions, concerts and performances, including Seoul Fashion Week – and brand exhibitions from the likes of Chanel and Dior. You might even catch the likes of television personality Irene posing for her latest cover shoot, or makeup pundit Pony live-casting a new beauty secret video.
By the time you’re done with all that, it should be around 10:30am – store opening time. Shop till you drop! (Or until lunch, at least.)
Back to the Future
Midday’s a great time to pay a visit to Samcheong-dong, one of Seoul’s oldest and most central districts – and home to some of Seoulites’ favorite best-kept-secret eateries.
While you’re here, take the opportunity to inject a little culture into the day. After all, Samcheong-dong was once home to artisans who provided pottery, calligraphy, furniture and more for the royal court at nearby Gyeongbok Palace– the main palace of the Joseon, Korea’s last royal dynasty.
The days of feudal Korea are long gone, but area has retained its creative spirit and artisanal boutiques are aplenty.
Samcheong-dong is now a quaint neighborhood replete with stores, cafes and restaurants, many of which are housed in traditional Korean buildings. Take a stroll through the tranquil streets and take in their eclectic assortment of cosmopolitan and Korean-inspired wares.
You can also check out Samsung C&T Fashion Group’s Heartist House, a charity store in a hyper-sustainable converted warehouse, run by a devoted group of volunteer designers and fashion gurus. In fact, Heartist is a lifestyle select shop that sells products made to create value in our lives. They collaborate with environmentally-friendly, fair-traded, and charity-oriented entities to promote domestic/international good-will brands. If you are looking to pick-up some memorable and meaningful souvenirs from Seoul, this would be the perfect location for you.
From here, make your way south into the old center of the city, where modernity and tradition stand side-by-side: Massive, glass-fronted skyscrapers rub shoulders with centuries-old temples and palaces. Even Seoulites love the fact that in the capital, the old and the new always go hand-in-hand.
The Samsung C&T Engineering and Construction Group-built City Hall is always worth a visit. Opened in 2012, its curvy floating structure makes a perfect backdrop for another social media selfie. All sorts of events – from concerts to global food fairs – take place on the oval-shaped Seoul Plaza outside the building, which is also a stone’s throw from historic Deoksu Palace.
The recently-built Seoul City Hall is a reinterpretation of traditional Korean homes, with the eaves of the traditional homes recreated in glass. In total, 6, 771 pieces of glass of various shapes and sizes were attached around the exterior to harmonize a natural flow of the building’s curvature. Also, this building generates nearly 30% of its own energy use by utilizing green energy sources including solar panels.
Shop, Shop and Never Stop
Time to hit the north central part of town. You’ll want to stop by Itaewon, the most international part of the city, as well as Gyeongnidan and Haebangchon, another couple of areas that have recently developed into multicultural enclaves.
And while you’re here, be sure to pay a visit to Hannam-dong, a part of town where chic isn’t just a watchword – it’s a way of life. If you want to get up to speed on the latest in fashion and interior trends, you’ll need to make time in your day for Hannam.
Artists and creative thinkers have flooded to Hannam, transforming it into a buzzing hive of contemporary culture. Celebs love it – and the area’s now one of the best places in town for star-spotting.
A hard-to-miss spot here is the Comme des Garçons’ Korean flagship store. Samsung C&T Fashion Group is an official distributor of the Comme de Garcons brand, and this store is filled with six stories of trendy styles and eye-catching designs, making it a must-see for fashion aficionados.
In fact, flagship stores are aplenty here. Just adjacent to Comme des Garçons store, the newly opened Theory store is the place to head if you’re looking to rock the business-casual look. And the capital’s biggest BEAKER store, also just a stone’s throw away, is a hub of intercontinental fashion and design, featuring some white-hot couture and interior design from New York, Paris and London.
Nowhere in Seoul parties as hard as the northwest. The area’s home to some of the capital’s most dynamic universities, meaning there’s always a youthful vibe in the air here. As well as a plethora of hip and affordable clothes and accessories, you’ll also find musicians and other street performers on almost every corner.
It’s time to get your grub on! Fortunately, Shinchon is awash with restaurants and street food – as are the nearby Hongdae, Sangsu and Yeonnam neighborhoods.
While you’re here, you can also visit Samsung C&T-constructed Campus Complex at Ehwa Women’s University. At 68,657sqm, this is Korea’s largest environmentally friendly underground campus facility. It is the brainchild of architect Dominique Perrault (famed for conceptualizing the French National Library), and is a visual feast both inside and out.
In order to create harmony between the old buildings and this modern structure, Dominic Perrault fully utilized the underground areas with a simplified design. His elegant work was able to turn the disadvantages of an underground structure into advantages – most notably through the creation of ‘the waterfall of light’ that features enchanting glass walls on each side of a long hallway that embraces ample levels of natural light. Moreover, vertically-installed stainless steel panels between the glass enables light to reflect inward into the building from all directions.
Hongdae is all about the arts. It’s the beating heart of the city’s vibrant indie music scene, and its street food is as worth raving about as its ever-lively clubs, which stay open till the sun comes up.
Want more good news? If it’s cool you’re after, you’ll find it by the truckload around here. Not only Hongdae area, but neighboring Sangsu and Yeonnam are also home to some of the swankiest late-night watering holes in the city. That means there’s no excuse not to party till the break of dawn – and discover why the world’s media says the Korean capital is “a 24-hour city running on K-pop and kimchi.”