Seoul is a wonderland for shopping and the shopping districts like Insadog, Myeongdong and Apgujeong are always packed to the brim.
For those who are on the prowl for hip, young fashion, the Myeongdong district is the place to head. The little boutiques are full of energetic and colourful clothing, but unfortunately visitors have to have the right body type. Most of the fashion is in sizes that are geared towards the petite Korean students and Japanese tourists that flood the area. For those that are lucky enough to have that figure, there are tons of Asian fashion labels to peruse.
Apgujeong is where Seoul's elite go to do their shopping. There are a few department stores in the area that sell upscale high quality clothes, but there are also plenty of boutiques with domestic labels to explore for those who don't enjoy the department store experience. Visitors can even head on down to Seoul's own Rodeo Drive, or ‘Rodeo Street’ to be more accurate, where they’ll find labels like Gucci and Armani. One of the major draws of the Apgujeong district are the high quality custom-tailored suits that are made by the tailors there. They are also fairly affordable, so this is definitely something that the discerning visitor does not want to miss out on.
When it comes to shopping for great Seoul souvenirs like artisan handicrafts, visitors can find them in the popular souvenir district of Insadong. The Samcheongdong district also hosts a lot of great souvenirs, but they are much more expensive. The trade off in price is that the goods in the artsy Samcheongdong district are genuine as they are primarily sold by galleries. When shopping in either of these districts, consider picking up a traditional tea pot, hand dyed fabrics, Hanji paper lamps, custom ink stamps and najeonchilgi wear, which is lacquer-ware that is inlaid with mother-of-pearl.
Seoul has a big spa culture. The city took the techniques from Scandinavian bath houses and upgraded them to their own version, called ‘jimjibangs’. These relaxation centres are popular with the young and old and the rich and the poor - everyone enjoys them. At spas like the Dragon Hill Spa, the rooms vary on temperature and they host different properties. Some rooms host salt steam, heated jade rocks or charcoal fires that are thought to have their own particular beneficial properties. After visitors have worked up a sweat, they can hop in a hot or cold tub to have a soak or hire a professional scrubber to assure that they leave refreshed and squeaky clean. What makes Dragon Hill Spa preferable to the other spas in the city is that it hosts private rooms for those that do not want to work up a sweat with a bunch of other people. Many of the other spas are public, but Dragon Hill prides itself on privacy.
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The Exclusive Tour Korea Company offers scenic tours for the discerning visitors. They offer tours for private groups that are completely custom designed by the visitor. There is no set itinerary and the customer decides where their group wants to visit. However, it is recommended that visitors head to Seoul's high point of Mount Bukhan, Bukchon Hanok Village for a glimpse of traditional Korea, the artsy yet natural Cheonggyecheon Stream, the glittering Jogyesa Buddhist Temple and Gyeongbukgung Palace.
Creativecommons.org/ Dietrich Ayala
Visitors will be hard pressed to stand anywhere in the city and not find somewhere to eat. A lot of the eateries in Seoul are relatively inexpensive and low class, but for the discerning visitors there are a number of fine dining options available.
Surrounded by the premiere hotels of downtown Seoul, Arirang is bright and airy in its design but simple in its food. This is, in essence, a kebab place. They serve wonderful high-end kalbi (grilled meats) and the ever-popular Korean barbeque. The meats are seasoned in the kitchen then brought to the table of diners and cooked up in front of them, giving the whole restaurant an aroma of roasting meats.
At OK 2 Kitchen, chef Susumu Yongari draws from the flavours of Korean cuisine but presents dishes that are all his own. The menu in the restaurant changes with the seasons, so frequent diners can always sample something new and visitors can always be assured as to the freshness of ingredients. With dishes like poached duck egg and truffle salad, a fresh new take on Korean pumpkin soup and a sashimi plate with oyster and basil sauce and whitefish ceviche, OK 2 Kitchen's menu is easily the most creative in Seoul.
creativecommons.org/ Andy Rusch
Since it was built in 1979, The Shilla Hotel has built a fantastic reputation. Today, the hotel contains a luxurious French spa and all the trappings of a five star hotel. The rooms are a little different than you would expect from a luxury hotel as the design is more Korean, but that is a good thing. It combines Korean design with modern luxury and all this with stunning views of Mount Namsan in the distance.
Unlike the Shilla, the Westin Chosun Hotel is extensively modern. They understand the needs of 21st century travellers. The rooms are a little smaller than one would expect, but comfortable and elegant in design. The rooms come with free wireless internet (a rarity among Seoul hotels) and a touch screen monitor that provides city information.