The largest island off the coast of the Korean Peninsula, Jeju Island is rich in natural landscapes – teeming with deciduous forests and volcanic formations – that draw starry-eyed honeymooners in droves. More reasons are now cropping up, though, to spend time in its cities before heading to the beaches and national park.
Arguably the fastest-changing neighbourhood is Tap-dong, recently transformed from gritty to unabashedly hip. This is thanks in part to Kim Chang-il, renowned art collector and owner of Arario Museum (above), who established four galleries – occupying a former cinema, a bike shop and two motels – in the area.
Before leaving Tap-dong, be sure to also tap into the local craft beer scene at Magpie Brewing Co. (below). Its seasonal brews include Lightning, a subtly sweet black lager made with Korean pumpkins and malted barley smoked over applewood.
Changes are afoot on the other side of the island as well, with more hotels, eateries and cafes mushrooming in laid-back Seogwipo. Here, spend the night at Podo Hotel (below), which blends in with the landscape at the base of Hallasan mountain and resembles a cluster of grapes from above. Designed by award-winning architect Itami Jun, the one-storey hotel comprises high-ceilinged Korean- and western-style rooms and suites with warm wood accents that come with private terraces and jacuzzis with water piped in from hot springs.
Food-wise, a must-try at Seogwipo is b.pork Bistro (12 Seogwipo), which serves up Jeju Island’s famous black pork – typically grilled at the table – mixed with pasta or in tacos.