where to eat and stay in Seoul

A decade in the past, an individual who walked right into a restaurant in Seoul and requested for “han myung-I” —a desk for one — might be declined service.  

That is as a result of eating places in South Korea desire teams of two or extra, owing to a fancy mixture of native social dynamics, revenue margins and easy logistics — a tableside grill needs to be cleaned whether or not it serves one patron or 4, in any case.

Solo rejections generally occurred at household eating places and barbecue shops, two quintessential spots to pattern among the nation’s finest delicacies. Solo diners might circumvent it in two methods: by putting an order for 2 or agreeing to a minimal spend.  

Nevertheless, with the expansion of one-person households in South Korea, extra persons are selecting to dine, drink and journey alone — embracing the “honjok” life-style development that has visibly taken root within the nation.

Consuming out

Hongojib is not like most barbecue locations in Seoul.

Positioned within the full of life neighborhood of Yeonnam-dong, the restaurant — and its predecessors, similar to Sinssi Categorical and Hongo — have swapped conventional communal eating for the rising development of honbap, or consuming alone.

Diners eat at counters somewhat than spherical tables. And dishes aren’t served household model — every diner is given private settings for condiments and cutlery together with their very own grill.

Sinsii Categorical’ solo counter, the place the writer ate, with a small grill and privateness divider.

Supply: Morgan Awyong

Orders are positioned and paid for with tablets. And meals — alongside a cluster of basic banchan, or facet dishes — is served inside minutes.

Marianne Lee, a Korean training marketing consultant, stated this model of consuming is a change from the times when “everybody has to eat in groups, everybody has to drink collectively, everybody has to go for a similar menu.”

“When you wished to have a Chinese language meal, but when your supervisor says let’s go for Japanese noodles, you’d don’t have any selection however to go,” she stated. “However these days, folks respect having their very own time.”

With a following of greater than 40,000 on TikTok, Lee — who stated she’s spent equal components of her life in the UK and South Korea — is fashionable for her movies about Korean tradition, from bus etiquette to the perfect time to go to the nation.

In her movies, she recommends solo vacationers strive eating places similar to Labap for positive eating, or Gimbap Cheongu and Pomato for his or her extensive number of Korean meals.

The latter two “are open 24 hours and promote tteokbokki, rice dishes, soup and different scorching cooked meals,” she stated, referring to Korean spicy rice truffles.

South Korean vacationer info helpers information vacationers in Seoul’s fashionable Myeongdong buying district.

Jung Yeon-je | Afp | Getty Pictures

Lee suggests visiting the favored vacationer spots first, similar to Namsan, Myeong Dong, Insadong and Itaewon, the place folks typically communicate some English. Multilingual vacationer guides wearing crimson coats and hats are there to assist with vacationers’ questions too, she stated.

“It additionally helps whenever you add in a number of Korean phrases, like hoksi (perhaps) earlier than you ask your query in English,” she provides. Koreans hear higher than they communicate, so she feels that it helps to “soften the strategy and we actually respect it.”

The place to remain

South Korea is fashionable with guests from Asia, particularly China and Japan, however guests from Western nations, specifically america, are on the rise. American vacationers have been the fourth-largest supply market till 2019, however catapulted to the highest demographic in 2022, in line with Tourgo, a analysis initiative of the Korea Tradition and Tourism Analysis Institute.

Earlier this yr, South Korea introduced a brand new visa for digital nomads is within the pipeline. The visa, which might permit foreigners to remain in Korea whereas working remotely for an employer overseas, is slated to start out later this yr, in line with The Korea Herald.  

Fortunately, it is now far simpler to discover a place to remain than it was previously.

New co-living corporations, like Episode and Mangrove, have been created in response to the rise of single-person households in search of inexpensive locations to reside in Seoul. Some residential buildings permit short-term lodging, which solo vacationers can guide.

The writer, Morgan Awyong, within the communal kitchen of Mangrove Dongdaemun.

Supply: Morgan Awyong

I stayed at Mangrove Dongdaemun for a month in a clear and compact room that got here with a workstation, personal toilet and a view of Mount Namsan.

In contrast to lodges, there are communal kitchens and coworking areas, plus a health club, yoga rooms, library and even free laundry self-service. An app hyperlinks residents with chat boards and actions like “New Joiner Nights.”

The idea is fashionable, stated Mangrove workers member Kim Serin, who added that the constructing is full many of the yr. She stated short-stay requests are growing, and that the corporate is working to fulfill this want with new initiatives coming in two different fashionable locations, Busan and Jeju.

Celib Soonra is one other residence designed for solo residents and vacationers. Stays beneath three months could be booked through Airbnb, which is how I booked my keep.

Morgan Awyong within the communal tea room at Celib Soonra.

Supply: Morgan Awyong

My room was much less cookie-cutter and got here with native touches like a standard tea room, and the rooftop has panoramic views of Changdeokgung palace and Jongmyo Shrine.

Its neighborhood, Gwonnong-dong, is extra intimate too, and the hip cafe-filled Hanok village of Ikseon-dong is however a 10-minute stroll away.

Enterprise lodges too

Enterprise lodges, like these from the hospitality model Accor, are additionally working to create hybrid residing areas the place vacationers and locals can “reside, work and play,” in line with its web site.

An ondol room at Ibis Gangnam.

Supply: Morgan Awyong

Accor’s Ibis model provides an instance of this. On the Ibis Types Ambassador Seoul Gangnam, I might see how small modifications could make an enormous distinction, such because the communal backyard on the resort’s fifteenth flooring, the place I labored on days I had tight deadlines.

I additionally slept in an ondol room on the resort, which had heated flooring and conventional bedding, one thing that’s often discovered solely in conventional homes and hanoks that caters to teams. Close to Gangnam’s Coex Mall, it was additionally a steal at lower than $55 an evening.

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