There are many reasons to visit Seoul. The city boasts an eclectic mix of attractions, ranging from Unesco World Heritage sites to colourful markets, a vibrant nightlife and an impressive war museum. The food alone could justify a trip, thanks to the young and creative chefs pushing boundaries and abundance of quality street food.
Seoul is particularly inspiring for technology and design enthusiasts. The home of companies such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai, South Koreans are used to being at the forefront of innovation. So, for all you tech fans, as well as those of you who just want to eat, here are our Seoul must-sees…
For the technophiles…
Samsung d’light is well worth the visit. Located in the same building as Samsung’s headquarters, this three-storey complex showcases the tech giant’s latest products and offers a glimpse into the company’s vision for the future. The exhibition is interactive and visitors are invited to experiment and play with the gadgets on show. Entrance is free.
Dongdaemun Design Plaza is an architectural masterpiece in its own right. Designed by Zaha Hadid and comprising 45,133 unique aluminium panels on the outside, this cultural hub includes art and exhibition halls, a design museum and Korea’s largest art and design shop, Design Lab, which is one of the best places in town to buy works from young Korean designers.
T.um is just awesome. Few visitors come away from here without releasing at least a few amazed gasps. Hosted by one of the country’s biggest telecommunications companies, this hi-tech museum easily tops the digital-lover’s must list. Gesture-controlled homes, media walls, self-driving cars and avatar-assisted virtual shopping are not only on show but available to experience for yourself. It’s free to enjoy but reservations are required.
For the tech shopaholics…
For a huge selection of phones, gadgets, cameras and other tech paraphernalia, head over to the aptly named Techno Mart. Located opposite the Gangbyeon Subway Station (line 2), it’s estimated that around 2,000 shops and dealers occupy the eight floors, which are all dedicated to electronics.
U-Street (Ubiquitous Street) refers to the 760m-long district between Gangnam and Sinnonhyeon subway stations. It’s worth a visit even if shopping is not your thing so you can try out one of the 22 digital Media Poles that line the street. These 12m-high structures offer digital content, including transportation information and maps, as well as a built-in cameras so that users can email a photo or video of themselves to their loved ones back home.
For the foodies…
Ask Seoulites the name of their favourite barbecue restaurant and watch as they draw a blank. Most agree that little distinguishes one spot from another, so the best advice is to dive into the first one you see.
But, for a more upscale experience, make a reservation at Jungsik (www.jungsik.kr). This is the only South Korean restaurant to make the San Pellegrino list of Asia’s Top 50 restaurants (ranking 20th) and is a great venue where you can experience modern and innovative Korean cuisine. Chef Yim Jungsik is credited with being one of the first to apply molecular gastronomy to Korean ingredients and his dishes are as much a feast for the eyes as they are for the palate.
Tasting menus start from as little as Dhs165.
Where to stay
Hotel W-Seoul Walkerhill
(www.wseoul.com) is the South Korean capital’s must-stay location. Less a hotel and more a celebration of design and trend-setting events, the Hotel W is the ideal place to call home during a tech and design-inspired getaway. Overlooking the Han River, it’s conveniently located between downtown Seoul and the Gangnam district. A free shuttle ferries guests to nearby Gwangnaru (line 5) and Ganbyeon (line 2) metro stations. Rooms start from Dhs740 per night.
(www.sophiagh.com) is just off one of Seoul’s most youthfully artsy streets and has an authentic dynastic feel. The dark-wood Josean structures and courtyard make you feel like you’ve gone back 150 years, creating a great contrast to – and respite from – modern Seoul on your doorstep. Rooms start from Dhs200 per night.
How to get there
Both Emirates and Korean Air offer one direct flight a day from Dubai to Seoul, each lasting just under eight-and-a-half hours. Fares start from around Dhs3,900 and can be booked at either www.emirates.com or www.koreanair.com.