In a city that is growing more chic by the day, local brand Low Classic is at the vanguard, with outlets in Myeong-dong and Sinsa-dong. Over on Apgujeong’s Rodeo Street, Boy+ (663-15 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu) stocks several cutting-edge Korean labels, including Park Seung Gun’s Push Button.
And sales at 8 Seconds have been brisk since the Samsung clothing franchise launched its collaboration with K-pop star G-Dragon – the range includes denim jackets, coats, beanies and striped tops (below). Shop for Korean beauty products at Innisfree, Olive Young and Tonymoly in Myeong-dong.
Take a ride
With one of the world’s largest rapid-transport systems, Seoul’s subway map may look daunting at first, but the network is easy to use. The Gyeongchun Line takes passengers out of the city, and ends at Chuncheon, a scenic lakeside city in Gangwon province.
Near here is the much-visited Nami Island, where parts of the popular TV series Winter Sonata were filmed. Take Line No. 1 to Suwon, where the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Hwaseong Fortress (below) is located, and onward to Onyang Oncheon station in Asan, which has been a hot-spring getaway for centuries.
Playing the markets
Stretching a full city block, Gwangjang Market (88 Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno-gu) is renowned for everything from fabrics and hanbok (traditional Korean attire) to its food stalls and restaurants, which serve nokdujeon (mung-bean fritters) and yukhoe (steak tartare).
At the smaller Tongin Market (18, Jahamun-ro 15-gil, Jongno-gu) in the Seochon neighbourhood, visitors use brass tokens to load up a tray at food outlets, then enjoy their selection in a central cafe space. Tteokbokki (rice cakes in red pepper paste) and jeon (fritters) can be found next to fried cheese and skewered pieces of steak. For a bit of everything, head to Namdaemun Market (21, Namdaemunsijang 4-gil, Jung-gu), the largest in the country.
Top of the pops
Fans of South Korea’s homegrown music phenomenon K-pop won’t want to miss the Gangnam Style statue along the east side of Coex Mall. The bronze monument pays homage to the Psy song that swept the world.
A short walk away is SMTown (below), a complex with six floors that are devoted to K-pop performers. The Sum (Celebrity Shop) on the second level stocks signed portraits and items produced through collaborations between artistes and designers. The experience continues on K-Star Road near Apgujeong Rodeo station, which is home to dozens of venues, such as restaurants and boutiques, frequented by K-pop celebrities.
Drink’s on me
Embracing the city’s casual approach to alcohol, most of Magpie Itaewon’s clientele stand with their glasses of craft beer in the alley outside the small but revered venue. Hopscotch (14-1, Hyoja-ro 7-gil, Jongno-gu) is a gastropub within a traditional Korean house that’s next to Gyeongbok Palace. Its truffle fries go well with an extra pale ale from The Hand and Malt Brewing Co. To sample makgeolli (rice wine; below), drop by Sanchez (Basement 1, 85 Anguk-dong, Jongno-gu).
– TEXT BY MATTHEW C. CRAWFORD
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This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.