The most stunning out of the 3 major palaces in Seoul, Gyeongbokung Palace’s sprawling premises remain untouched by time. Arrive early to catch the rare Guard Changing Ceremony to catch a glimpse of how the royal guards of Joseon Dynasty used to perform this duty. Stop by the waterlily-covered Hyangwonjeong Pavilion before taking the east exit to continue on to Bukchon Hanok Village.
61 Sajik-ro, Sejongno, Jongno-gu
Gyeongbokgung Station, Exit 5
Bukchon Hanok Village
Bukchon Hanok Village is home to hundreds of traditional homes called “hanok”. The sloping streets offer views over much of village. Small boutiques and cafes are tucked into alleys - try out a unique dessert menu at Cafe Bora and try on unique frames at standout local brand Gentle Monster.
Daelim Contemporary Art Museum
Located by Gyeongbokgung Palace, Daelim Museum is well known for its photography focused exhibitions and has been designed with special consideration of photos sensitivity to humanity, light and temperature. Be sure to check out the curated exhibitions and grab a coffee at the Vincent Cornu-designed leafy cafe downstairs.
21, Jahamun-ro 4-gil, Jongno-gu
Gyeongbokgung Station, Exit 3
D Museum in Hannam-dong is focused on interactive and experimental exhibits often bringing forth young artists. I toured one of my my most memorable exhibitions to date here - Hermes' "Wanderland". The journey through Wanderland was a curious adventure strolling from room to room holding a looking glass, peeking into objects from Emile Hermes' collection from 24 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore in Paris.
5-6, Dokseodang-ro 29-gil, Yongsan-gu
Leeum Samsung Museum of Art
Located on the slope of the Namsan Mountain in Hannam-dong, Leeum is divided into 3 main buildings showing traditional and modern collections. If you only have time to visit one museum, making it this one, as architects Jean Nouvel, Rem Koolhass and Mario Botta have combined their aesthetics to create a truly unique experience. We recommend entering through the outdoor courtyard, a marvel in its own right with multiple Anish Kapoor and Calder pieces soaking up the sun.
0-16 Itaewon-ro 55-gil, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu
Hangangjin Station, Exit 1
More Than Less
Coffee is where Seoul truly shines and More Than Less (mtl) - a select shop and design studio tucked away in the sloping streets of Hannam-dong is our favorite of the bunch. Owners Hyobin Kim and Sang-gyu Woo created the concept store to allow customers to relax in a cozy environment and browse their products.The raw, industrial look complemented by custom built furniture and draping plants is inspired by the Bauhaus Era and the couple’s shared love for Germany. In fact, mtl is the sole distributor for Bonanza Coffee in Seoul. The shop showcases a curated collection of objects for the home as well as their own accessories line Steekish.
743-10 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu
Located on the top floor of Queenmama Market, Manufact Coffee is a stunning A-roofed bright and airy space set up like a cafeteria. The linear coffee bar is decked with treats and an extensive collection of Dutch Coffees in glass bottles. They manufacture their own machines to suit and study different beans, so expect a perfect cup. All beans are roasted in house and the Nicaragua (availability will depend on season) stands out to us. Go early to grab a spot in the balcony overlooking the affluent Dosan Park neighborhood.
50 Apgujeong-ro 46-gil, Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu
Secretly located in an unground lot amongst residential buildings close to Dosan Park, Underyard may be tricky to find but is very much worth the effort. Expect a chic, no-frills interior with single-origin coffee beans and an excellent cast iron shakshuka.
62-20 Nonhyeon 2(i)-dong, Gangnam-gu
Anthracite Coffee Roasters
Set within a repurposed shoe factory, Anthracite has kept the original bare concrete wall to reflect the brutalist industrial heritage of the lot. The concrete is offset by a large display of plants and otherwise left untouched. Grad a cup and stay a while, or browse the rest of the complex where D&Department, Millimeter Milligram and Freitag houses stellar furniture and home objects.
240 Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu
Bear Cafe serves specialty coffee in a quiet alleyway in Gwanghwamun. Set in a 70-year-old traditional hanok where the original structure has been left undisturbed, Design Eum added a few modern touches to highlight the juxtaposition of the space. Expect a traditional Korean courtyard with bonsai, a ceramics & magazine shop and the most tranquil setting to take a break from the bustling city life.