Seoul Cool

Seoul Cool | I have family in Seoul which is my perfect excuse (not that I need any!) for frequent visits to South Korea’s capital city. This bustling metropolis of 10 million residents – home to K-Pop, futuristic architecture and cutting-edge mobile technology – has a relentless, youthful vibe that entices visitors to just experience everything!

Long after you’ve marveled over vintage fighter planes at the War Museum, felt Korea’s deep divide along the DMZ, shopped and eaten your way around Myeongdong, done the horse dance at the Gangnam Style monument, or even played with a real raccoon at a themed cafe – there’s yet more to do and see in this quirky, fascinating city.

There are around 22 flights a day from Hong Kong to Seoul. And with an urban sprawl that rivals that of New York City’s, you’re guaranteed to never be bored. Check out our Top 5 things to do right now that solidly earn this city its ‘Seoul Cool‘ street cred.

Seoul Cool: Top 5 Things To Do in Seoul Right Now

Common Ground

200 Achasan-ro, Jayang-dong, Gwangjin-gu
This is Seoul’s first-ever pop-up park made entirely of 200 shipping containers. On the ground level, the Market Hall houses apparel stores you’d usually only see online, plus over 20 counterculture brands. Upstairs, the Terrace Market has trendy dining outlets selected from hip areas such as Hongdae and Itaewon. And outdoors, you’ll delight at the Street Market with its row of food trucks touting mouthwatering eats.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza

281 Eulji-ro, Euljiro 7(chil)-ga, Jung-gu
Yet another masterpiece by the late, great architect, Zaha Hadid, DDP  is an amorphous structure that defies the very essence of a “structure.” It’s made of concrete, aluminium, steel and stone – but from it’s shape-shifting look – especially as the sun traverses across the horizon and shadows do their work – it might as well be made of liquid mercury. You’ll have a ball photographing this complex, both inside and outside. There simply are no straight lines. No two camera angles look the same. The complex is home to art  and exhibition halls, coffee and retail shops, design workshops and playgrounds, and more.


18 Toegye-ro, Bongnaedong 2(i)-ga, Jung-gu
This disused highway overpass that cuts diagonally across Seoul Station was decommissioned in 2015. It reopened in May last year and its redevelopment is nothing short of miraculous. The road literally stops, transitioning into a green oasis that gradually ascends above and in between the city. It’s replete with mist spritzers, terraces, foot baths, lotus ponds and round-shaped panes along the footpath that give pedestrians a view of the traffic and railroad tracks 17 metres below. The garden is one kilometer-long and lined with over 24,000 plants representing 228 species of trees, shrubs and flowers found in and outside Korea.

Anthracite Coffee Roasters

240 1st floor – 3rd floor, Itaewon Road, Yongsan-gu
Nothing says ‘Seoul Cool’ more than the city’s independent coffee shops. They’re so achingly stylish, your eyes will weep. And Anthracite in Itaewon is the grand daddy of them all. It’s a temple of raw concrete, container boxes, the requisite mismatched seating, and much more. You’ll be welcomed by an outdoor seating area. Once inside, you’ll see a long counter behind which you can literally watch and smell the roasting process as it happens. The brew here is surprisingly bright and lemony – an experience you may of course take with you, as there are take-home beans on retail shelves. Upstairs, a lush garden rises in the middle of a spacious “warehouse.” Thick, large cargo nets hang pendulously from the ceiling. Large picture windows provide  sweeping views of the city below.

Bukchon Hanok Village

37, Gyedong-gil, Jongno-gu
The traditional Korean house that dates back to the Joseon dynasty is called a “hanok.” There are  hundreds of hanoks here, each one breathing new life as a gallery, workshop, guest house, coffee shop, restaurant and  more. Think about enjoying a photography or art exhibition whilst sipping craft beer. In other hanoks, traditional Korean crafts dust off history’s mustiness and once again come to life with a fresh, hipster vibe.

I’ve stayed everywhere in Seoul – from boutique-y lofts in Myeongdong to hostels in Hongdae. On my last visit, I stayed at the Grand Hyatt Seoul, which sits at the foot of the Mount Namsan nature reserve. Since you’ll be saving money on your room nights, you might as well splurge on access to its superb Club Lounge. Now, that’s Seoul cool!

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James Gannaban