City Guide: Seoul
In my unending search to uncover all the top ICO companies globally and fundraise for ourselves and for our clients, we ended up in Asia (the place of all places for everything blockchain and crypto related). Much to our surprise, it ended up being far better than any of us could have imagined. The market there is just booming and we got to meet the who’s who of the blockchain space everywhere we went. During our Asia tour, we ended up traveling to: Tokyo, Seoul, Singapore and Hong Kong. It had been about a year since I had been in Asia and every time I go back, my love for the far east grows stronger and stronger.
I decided to break down my trip based on each city that we went to and follow my City Guides structure in terms of where to stay, where to eat, where to drink, where to get self-care, where to shop and where to play. I didn’t bring my usual DSLR camera since it was a work trip, so everything was shot via iPhone. Enjoy!
S E O U L 서울
Stay: My favorite hotels in Seoul are the Park Hyatt and The Shilla. The Park Hyatt is in Gangnam-gu (South of the Han River), so really convenient to get around if you’re running around that side of town. The Shilla, on the other hand, is up on the mountain (North of the Han River) and where a lot of business takes place. For this post, I’ll discuss the Park Hyatt since that’s where we stayed. It’s a super clean and modern hotel with floor to ceiling windows, an awesome soaking bathtub with Aesop products, and some of the best house keeping I have ever experienced. The lobby has striking views of Seoul and a really chill rectangular pool and multi-room gym. The only caveat about the hotel is that you have to go all the way up to the lobby to then go back down in order to get to the guest rooms, so if you’re in a hurry it’s an additional step (weird design), but also plays into the whole "modern design" experience.
Eat: I was in charge of bookings in Seoul (makes sense, given I’m the Korean), so I leaned towards what I knew and what recommendations friends were giving me. I booked Poon, a Michelin starred traditional Korean restaurant that is located on the mountain for dinner one evening. I had been there once before, but this time seemed totally different. Our Uber driver got lost (typical in Seoul) and dropped us off at the back of the restaurant so I had no idea where we were and where we were going. Our waiter saw this from above, and ran down immediately to escort us upstairs. We were one of the only groups there for dinner that night and we had to pre-book and pre-order our meals since they were made-to-order with an entire tasting menu. Poom’s spin is that they recreate traditional Korean dishes of the old royal courts and nobles and uses them in a modern way. I also booked Mingles (one of the top restaurants worldwide on several lists) which is a super hip restaurant in Cheongdam-dong district run by chef Mingoo Kang. The menu has a set seven-course tasting menu that changes every few weeks and features traditional Korean integrations with a creative spin. It’s a super cool dining room with blond-wood furniture and chill vibes. We also ate at Maple Tree House BBQ in Itaewon, got coffee at Anthracite Coffee Roasters, and got donuts at Mr. Holmes Bakehouse.
Drink: I wish I could say we raged in Seoul, but truth is, we were super busy again with investor and partnership meetings and the d10e Conference that we didn’t really have the energy to go out at night. We would go to dinner with all intentions of going out, but then end up getting massages at night. Best clubs and bars can be found here on my Seoul City Guide though if you are interested in visiting. The top of my list is always: Mixology, Mr.children, Le Chamber, and D.Bridge.
Care: Probably one of the best massages of my life was at this random underground spa that we popped into really late one evening called Andamiro. It sadly doesn’t come up on google in The States and I totally didn’t write down the address, but the Park Hyatt Concierge recommended it to us when their spa and JW Spa was booked. I went to a girl named “Yeom Me” and she was seriously a ninja. Their facilities are small and unstated, but the journey made up for it in spades. For anyone familiar with Seoul, JW Spa is an institution for massages and facials. It really is hard to go wrong here, as they have a heated water beds and the most clean and zen facilities. This isn't a traditional jimjilbang (Korean bathhouse) though, if so that is what you are looking for, try going to Siloam Spa or Dragon Hill Spa.
Shop: Seoul is known for their beauty products and beauty regimine, so of course you have to buy Korean beauty brands while visiting Seoul. My favorites are: Dr. Jart, Son & Park, Sulwhasoo, and Shangpree. Myeongdong is touristy, but it's still the go-to place for skincare and cosmetic brands. Garosugil in Gangnam is a fun street to walk on and discover new shops. They say it's the street for fashionistas, but it changes so much that it's really hit or miss, but there are still some chic art galleries, designer shops, and ateliers. Namdaemun Market is for street fashion and a place where you can get all sorts of gifts for your friends back home. Insadong Street you can also find traditional Korean crafts and it's usually the place to go to buy a traditional Korean hanbok (dress). Common Ground is an artsy pop-up mall packed with tons of small local designers and cool Seoul style. And no trip to Seoul is complete without a trip to Dongdaemun (a shopping district that closes at 5am) filled with wholesale and retail goods spread throughout the 26 malls and 30,000 shops.
Play: No trip to Seoul is complete without a stop at my favorite “home” away from home; Bukchon Hanok Village is located in Samcheong-dong and is a Korean traditional village on the mountain in Seoul. It is located between Gyeongbok Palace, Changdeok Palace and Jongmyo Royal Shrine. The village itself has a ton of swirly alleys with traditional atmosphere of the Joseon Dynasty. My favorite thing to do is to go up the hill and have a traditional tea party at Cha Masineun Tteul, the chillest tea spot in all of Seoul. They are known for their rice cake treats, their pumpkin cake, and their traditional teas (my favorite one is the flower teas). Samcheong-dong is also famed for traditional crafts shops where you can find artsy accessories, so make sure to get there early enough to walk around.