A cultural autumn in Seoul
A little piece of France in Seoul
Francophiles should feel right at home in Seoul‘s Little France, which is home to around 40 percent of Korea‘s French population. Although it‘s location covers both Banpo-dong and Bangbae-dong—very close to Express Bus Terminal Station and Gangnam‘s financial district—this humble strip of cafès, restaurants, bakeries and luxuriously quaint homes exudes a relaxed and charming atmosphere, a stark contrast to the bustle its surrounding area. The village formed when the Lycèè Francais dè Seoul, the city‘s only international French school, moved to the area from Hannam-dong. French residents, particularly those with children, soon followed, eventually producing one of the city‘s most Europeanesque neighborhoods. Don‘t forget to have a cup of coffee and a glass of wine.
You’re in the perfect neighborhood for European cuisine and all kinds of Western delights. Stove (T. 02-518-7596, www.thestove.co.kr) was serving perfect pasta and exquisite brunches before either offering became a food fad across the city. The restaurant also serves risottos, salads, steak, burgers, grilled fish and fire-oven pizza. Sud (T. 02-553-2574), a little past the main road, specializes in Southern Italian cuisine, and arguably makes the best fire-oven pizza in the city, not to mention hearty salads and pastas worth paying for. If you’re in the mood for something Asian, It Spice (T. 02-595-8754) specializes in Vietnamese and Thai dishes that are clean, nourishing and healthy. Try their Thai beef salad as an appetizer. The area is saturated with places that serve wine, among which Tour du Vin (T. 02-533-1846) is particularly famous, but the smaller places are also nice. As far as cafès go, Gontran Cherrier (T. 02-599-0225) has a wide variety of baked goods.
Montmarte Park (T. 02-2155-6860) is a very nice place for a walk.
Central City (T. 02-6282-0114, www.centralcityseoul.co.kr) shopping complex, underneath Express Bus Terminal Station, is nearby, as well as the Gangnam branch of Shinsegae Department Store (T. 1588-1234, department.shinsegae.com)
Sinbanpo Station 신반포역 (Line 9), Exit 4. Go straight and take your first right. Keep walking until you get to large street and cross. Seorae Village starts as soon as you cross.
Seoul Lantern Festival 서울등축제Nov. 7–23, Cheonggyecheon Stream
Seoul is a city with history stretching back 2,000 years, first founded in 18 BC by the Baekje Kingdom. It then served as the capital of the Joseon Dynasty for over 600 years, undergoing both prosperity and calamity. The Seoul Lantern Festival is meant to commemorate the breadth and magnificence of Seoul’s history, highlighting its various UNESCO Cultural Heritage designations, along with other Korean cultural icons like Hangeul and kimchi, with a massive fleet of lanterns handcrafted by domestic and international artisans. The festival will cover 1.5 kilometers of the stream, stretching from Cheonggyecheon Plaza to Samilgyo Bridge. The festival runs from 5 to 11 PM on each day of its duration.
T. 02-3788-0800, seoullantern.visitseoul.net
If you’re looking for a quick bite, Eat Pizza (T. 02-733-7482) serves simple Roman-style pies that are affordable and come out fast. Plus, they serve beer. Those seeking high-class Korean food should go to Gosang (T. 02-6030-8955, www.baru-gosang.com), where you can indulge in several courses and a plethora of side dishes. For the youth who like a bit of fun and want something eclectic, Julio (T. 02-730-5324) is a good bet for modern Mexican food, with jumbo-sized margaritas served with bottles of beer turned upside down into the glass. For some good ol’ fashioned Korean barbecue, try Bbalgan Doeji, (T. 02 776 7528), where they serve all the grilled favorites like pork belly and ribs.
Aside from the lanterns, the walk along Cheonggyecheon Stream is always worth the exercise. If you’re in the mood, stop by Gyeonbokgung Palace (T. 02-3700-3900, www.royalpalace.go.kr) or the Ilmin Museum of Art (T. 02-2020-2050, ilmin.org).
The Seoul Finance Center Mall (T. 02-3783-0114, www.sfckorea.co.kr) has some high-class shopping, as well as several eateries and coffee parlors.
Gwanghwamung Station 광화문역 (Line 5), Exit 5. Cheonggyecheon Stream should be on your immediate left upon exiting the station.
Tree-lined Trendiness: Garosu-gil 가로수길
Cosmopolitan and hip
Meaning “street lined with trees,” Garosu-gil is the perfect spot for a late-autumn stroll. Its boutique shops, luxurious shopping, trendy eateries and expansive selection of gourmet desserts and coffee make it the ideal locale for cosmopolitan city slickers. Although it was originally a street for artists‘ workshops and small galleries, the Gangnam boom has since elevated it to the heights of glamor and glitter. Located in Sinsa-dong, the street is close to the clubs and bars of Apgujeong but also places you near Jamwon Hangang Park. Fashion designers have taken advantage of Garosu-gil‘s trendiness to set up shop, giving customers access to new and unique items that are difficult to find in your average mall franchise or chain store. If that‘s not enough, a visit to the Simone Handbag Museum—that‘s right, a museum dedicated solely to handbags—should do the trick.
Here a few places for the shoppers, although keep in mind that there are plenty of others:
Simone Handbag Museum
T. 02-3444-0912, www.simonehandbagmuseum.co.kr
The museum mentioned above holds all you’ve ever wanted to know about handbags.
London Sole is a shoe boutique that specializes in flats.
This is a Korean brand known for its women's dress shirts and blouses. They also offer dresses, pants and skirts for highly driven career women.
Salt and Chocolate
T. 02-542-8589, www.saltandchocolate.co.kr
Not just another shoe shop, Salt and Chocolate caters particularly to the younger crowd.
T. 02-547-0603, www.no7.co.kr
No. 7 is recommended to the fashionable men among our readers.
Able (T. 02-3445-7335) serves an excellent brunch. Try their omelet frittata with a cup of coffee. Pan Asia (T. 02-541-7940) has an eclectic menu that features dishes from Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand. Les Pages (T. 02-540-3240) offers an elegant atmosphere, and tasty but casual Italian—not to mention many tempting desserts. They also have a nice book selection for some after-meal reading.
Sinsa Station 신사역 (Line 3), Exit 3. Walk straight and turn left after the Tous Les Jours
Take a Walk: Yangjaecheon Stream양재천Take a nice autumnal stroll along a serene stream set near trendy eateries and coffee parlor
The Yangjaecheon Stream is an essential spot for anyone who wants to breathe in the city‘s autumnal beauty. Both sides of the stream are lined with nicely paved walkways, most of which are covered in a soft, ergonomic layer of padding to lessen the shock on walkers‘ joints. Trees abound no matter where you walk, which means lovely foliage everywhere. The stream originates in Mt. Gwanaksan and flows through the Gwacheon-gu and southern Gangnam-gu districts before joining Tancheon Stream, which stretches all down to Bundang. The paths that run from Dogok-dong to Daechi-dong are the official walkways of Yangjaecheon Stream. At night, the trees and the streetlights make it quite the date spot, and the bike trails that stretch all the way from Gwacheon to Gangnam are ideal.
The Yangjaecheon Stream Cafè Street runs along the north side of the stream, right next to the walking path. Hanulso (T. 02-578-1417, www.hanulso.net) is one of the avenue’s nicer places that offers fine dining and an extensive wine selection. For something more fun and casual, drop by Bruce Lee (T. 02-576-8845) for some dim sum. For something more eclectic, Cuisson82 (T. 02-529-3582) is a French bistro that's making quite the splash among locals.
Yangjae Citizen‘s Forest nearby has over 70 different species of trees scattered around its massive premises. An interesting feature is the ”acupuncture path,” a walkway featuring strategically placed stones that are supposed to activate certain pressure points on your feet and relieve pain. Visitors can wash their feet in a man-made stream afterwards. The forest park also has several basketball courts and open fields for the athletic types.
Dogok Station 도곡역 (Line 3), Exit 4; Gaepodong Station 개포동역 (Bundang Line), Exit 4; Daemosanipgu Station 대모산입구역 (Bundang Line), Exit 4. Look for signs pointing to the stream.
Going Up: Bukhansan National Park북한산 국립공원
One of the best hikes you can find near the city
Officially designated in 1983, Bukhansan National Park is the nation‘s 15th national park, meant to both preserve natural space and provide a safe, convenient place for outdoor activity. Covering the districts of Dobong-gu, Seongbuk-gu, Jongno-gu, Eunpyeong-gu and more, the park‘s massive premises include dozens of gorges and granite peaks, with numerous streams in between. Park grounds boast around 1,300 species of flora and fauna, as well as historical and cultural sites like Bukhansanseong Fortress and over 100 Buddhist temples and monk cells. Mt. Bukhansan is also making a name for itself among the city‘s rock climbers, with several courses in rock climbing being held regularly on park grounds.
Geuminsokjib (T. 02-379-4897) is the place to go for a nice round of makgeolli and jeong, or traditional pancake. Daebomyeong-ga (T. 02-907-6998) serves traditional Korean fare with plenty of side dishes.
Mt. Bukhansan has three main peaks: Baekundae (836.5 m), Insubong (810.5 m) and Mangnyeongdae (799.5 m). One of the most popular trails starts from the Bukhansanseong Hiking Support Center and leads to Baegundae Peak. After passing the support center, you’ll see a forked road that leads two ways: to the Gorge Trail or Nature Trail, the latter being for the naturalists and the former being for those who want a view. The two trails merge at Daeseomun Gate, one of the gates along the original fortress wall. You'll eventually see a trail that leads to Borisa Temple, where the real mountain actually starts. The total journey is a little over 3 kilometers, and lasts around three hours.
Bukhansanseong Fortress was first constructed during the Baekje Kingdom in 132 but has since been demolished and rebuilt several times over, having seen the armies of the Silla Kingdom, Goguryeo Dynasty, Goryeo Period and Joseon Dynasty.
Gupabal Station 구파발역 (Line 3), Exit 3. Take Bus No. 704 all the way to the base.