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 — may very well be declined service.  

That is as a result of eating places in South Korea choose teams of two or extra, owing to a posh 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 spite of everything.

Solo rejections generally occurred at household eating places and barbecue retailers, two quintessential spots to pattern a number of the nation’s greatest delicacies. Solo diners may 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” way of life pattern that has visibly taken root within the nation.

Consuming out

Hongojib is not like most barbecue locations in Seoul.

Situated within the energetic neighborhood of Yeonnam-dong, the restaurant — and its predecessors, akin to Sinssi Specific and Hongo — have swapped conventional communal eating for the rising pattern of honbap, or consuming alone.

Diners eat at counters relatively 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 Specific’ 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.”

“Should 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 alternative 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 common for her movies about Korean tradition, from bus etiquette to the most effective time to go to the nation.

In her movies, she recommends solo vacationers strive eating places akin to Labap for advantageous 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 sizzling cooked meals,” she stated, referring to Korean spicy rice desserts.

South Korean vacationer data helpers information vacationers in Seoul’s common Myeongdong purchasing district.

Jung Yeon-je | Afp | Getty Photographs

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

“It additionally helps if you add in just a few 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 method and we actually recognize it.”

The place to remain

South Korea is common with guests from Asia, particularly China and Japan, however guests from Western international locations, specifically america, are on the rise. American vacationers had been the fourth-largest supply market till 2019, however catapulted to the highest demographic in 2022, in response to 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 begin later this yr, in response to The Korea Herald.  

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

New co-living corporations, like Episode and Mangrove, had been created in response to the rise of single-person households in search of reasonably priced locations to stay in Seoul. Some residential buildings permit short-term lodging, which solo vacationers can e-book.

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, non-public rest room and a view of Mount Namsan.

In contrast to resorts, 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 common, 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 common locations, Busan and Jeju.

Celib Soonra is one other residence designed for solo residents and vacationers. Stays underneath three months may be booked by way of 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 conventional 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 resorts too

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

An ondol room at Ibis Gangnam.

Supply: Morgan Awyong

Accor’s Ibis model affords an instance of this. On the Ibis Kinds Ambassador Seoul Gangnam, I may see how small modifications could make an enormous distinction, such because the communal backyard on the lodge’s fifteenth ground, the place I labored on days I had tight deadlines.

I additionally slept in an ondol room on the lodge, which had heated flooring and conventional bedding, one thing that’s normally 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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