Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is one of the most spectacular cities I have ever been to. Not surprisingly, Korea is a hotspot for make-up, skincare, TV series, slow-food cuisine, innovative cafes and contemporary art. So in this guide you will find some of my favourite places to eat traditional and contemporary Korean food, where to shop and an iconic place not to be missed. I hope this guide makes you want to visit.
On6.5 is a modern restaurant in Seoul’s Anguk district. It started out as a wine bar restaurant where you can experience various new ways of eating kimchi, Korea’s most traditional dish, fermented cabbage.
It is a very special restaurant because the dishes that are served maintain Korean traditions, such as the use of kimchi, but offers unusual recipes and combinations. It opened in September 2022 and in a short time has become very famous for being frequented by Korean celebrities and for being chosen as a location for special dinners for events such as Nike and the iconic rapper G-Dragon. An important note is that being a wine bar it is compulsory to order at least one bottle, with a starting price of around 60 euros.
The atmosphere in the bar is very serene and relaxed, there is plenty of natural light, the décor is white and in shades of beige and light brown and the materials used are all wood and fabric. Even the lights are strategically placed to accompany the gaze and frame some of the exhibits handmade by the same ceramists who created the plates on which the dishes are served. A non-alcoholic drink made from seasonal ingredients and delicious kimchi chips is served at the start of the meal, their way of welcoming you and beginning this special experience.
Two of my favourite dishes:
Fried Kimchi i.e. uramaki bites with cooked prawns and fried kimchi inside… covered very theatrically with strands of sour cream! Delicious because it is fried but also beautiful to look at. (cost 19,000 Korean won about 13.5 euro)
Seasonal raw squid. It is served in a bowl dipped in a kimchi-flavoured slush with seasonal fruit on top, in my case it was white melon. The dish is very fresh and should be eaten as soon as it is served in order to enjoy the texture of the slush too. The squid was so fresh that it melted in your mouth. (cost 26,000 Korean won about 18.5 euro)
Basil kimchi, traditional kimchi is Korean white cabbage fermented for a long time in a spicy sauce. In this case it is replaced by basil. Try it, especially if you are used to eating fresh basil, it will be a novel experience.
Tamburins is a Korean fragrance brand that is part of the Gentle Monster family. Their flagship product is their best-selling perfume ‘Chamo’, which contains notes of chamomile, wood and sage. The brand is known for both the quality of its products (the hand creams with the chains and the solid perfumes that look like sculptures) and the innovative design (their perfumes are known because you can still smell them on you after many hours). The best part, in my opinion, is the experience in their stores and discovering all the design details. From the square-shaped furniture on which the products are displayed, to the upholstered walls to the combination of materials in natural tones with unexpected colours such as lime green.
The gem of the shop in the Anguk district (the one in the photo) is the shop spread over several floors: on the first floor you will find all the products, on the second only the perfumes, on the third an art installation with some candles they produce and on the top floor (the best) is a room in which giant candles are displayed, one of which is shaped like a sofa and another like a huge cat. They are made so well that they look real, it is impressive! The view then from the top floor is very nice and if you decide to leave the shop by taking the stairs you will have a very scenic view over the neighbourhood of houses with old roofs and at the bottom the skyscrapers of modern Seoul.
Tongue (텅 성수 스페이스)
Tongue is one of the hottest cafés in Seoul, there is often a queue outside to get in despite the space inside being very capacious. The décor is eclectic, colourful and unusual with juxtapositions of sofas, poufs, tables and colourful lamps in different materials.
La parte migliore ovviamente sono i dolci, elaborati con colori e forme uniche. È sempre difficile scegliere cosa ordinare.
Il mio suggerimento è quello di dare un’occhiata a quello che hanno ordinato le altre persone quando entrate, per farvi un’idea di quali siano i dolci più famosi (e che quindi probabilmente i più buoni) e per guardare un po’ quali drink sono più fantasiosi. Vi metto un po’ di foto dello spazio, dei drink e dei dolci per farvi un’idea ma sono stagionali quindi probabilmente ce ne saranno di nuovi quando andrete.
Un’altra chicca in questa sede è che in fondo a destra nella sala principale c’è anche uno spazio espositivo dove potete trovare i loro vasi e oggetti per decorare casa. Io ci ho comprato dei poggia bacchette a forma di lingua, si chiamano Tongue, mi sono sembrati divertenti e artistici allo stesso tempo.
Tutta l’esperienza in questo cafè è immersiva, dall’ingresso con una scalinata che sale fino al primo piano alla sala d’attesa in cui sono esposti tutti i dolci a mo’ d’arte all’enorme cafè con le varie sale. Da notare anche che gli ingressi alle singole sale sono tutti anticonvenzionali con delle forme strane e curve.
Nudake is one of the coolest cafés in all of South Korea, and it is no coincidence that it is part of the Gentle Monster family, the well-known brand of sunglasses worn by the most famous idols to western stars such as Beyoncé, Pharrell to celebrities like Kylie Jenner. The café is particularly renowned because their pastries, besides looking delicious, have super eye pleasing colours and very unusual shapes and textures. They look like little works of art.
Nudake’s premises in the Seongsu district is a one-storey, cream-coloured building with a huge red square on the central façade that customers often use as an Instragram spot.
The venue inside has two rooms and a courtyard. In the first room there are three large tables, on the first one are displayed all the desserts you can buy accompanied by a short description with name and ingredients. The other two tables, on the other hand, are used to display huge sculptures in the shape of bread and square human beings and you can stop there to eat. What is special about Nudake’s seats is that they are all vintage and sought-after pieces that are extremely beautiful to look at. The next room has the classic tables for couples or small groups and then there is a very minimalist inner courtyard.
Finally we get to the counter where we place our order, as in many cafes in Korea there will be a tablet where you will again find all the pictures of the desserts and also the drinks to place your order.
My suggestion is to try to go early in the day because if you wait too long the most popular cakes will sell out. The must try is the Peak Small, a kind of fairly large cake (to be shared by at least 3-4 people) with a black rolled pastry and filled in the centre with a macha cream. Other desserts that should be tried are ‘Colosseum’ which is a cheesecake and ‘Pieta’ which is shaped like the profile of a human being only inside there are several layers: biscuit, yuzu cream (Asian citrus fruit), a mousse and a thin layer of white chocolate.
Starfield Library (별마당도서관)
The Starfield Library is one of the must places to see when visiting Seoul for the first time. It is located inside the COEX Mall and is often very crowded as one can stop to read, rest and admire the space.
This library is famous because it is more than 13 metres high and the books start from the floor and reach up to the huge ceiling from which a lot of light shines through thanks to semi-transparent panels. Entering this space is an impressive experience because you will be surrounded by more than 70 thousand books.
di Maria Sheila Miani