5 Family-friendly Accommodations in Seoul

5 Family-friendly Accommodations in Seoul

So you’ve made the decision to bring the whole family to experience Seoul for a much-needed vacation at the end of the year, hoping for a nice cooling winter getaway. The flight has been booked and you know the hot spots you want to check off on your list. And now, the conundrum — where to stay?

Seoul is as developed a cosmopolitan city as they come, so you’ll be sure to find a host of accommodations to stay at. Ranging from exquisite hotels to quality Airbnbs, and even a luxurious traditional Hanok (traditional Korean house), here’s our picks of some of the top accommodations for the entire family.

HOTELS

Hotels have been on the back end of some decline with the rise of Airbnbs over the past couple years but when it comes to good quality accommodations for families, hotels still reign supreme for many.

Lotte Hotel World

Ranking high on most lists out there, if you want a hotel that caters for the family, there’s perhaps no better option than Lotte Hotel World. It’s not anywhere near the central tourist-y hub of Seoul, but trust us when we say you’re kids will love it.

Image of Lotty Lorry Room with image courtesy from LOTTE HOTEL

Their signature character Lotty Lorry rooms are a hit among the kids. Lotty and Lorry are of course the mascots of Lotte World Adventure, the famed theme park in Seoul. Designed in bright colours with soft toys of the mascots and a cute cartoon-y decor, it’s certainly a room that will be nothing short of memorable for your kids.

With the stamping grounds of Lotte World Adventure theme park just outside the hotel’s doorstep, it’s a dream vacation for a family with small kids.

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Grand Hyatt Seoul

Moving closer to the city centre, we have the Grand Hyatt Seoul.

Grand Hyatt’s proximity to Myeongdong and cultural spots is what sells it, aside from the myriad of high class amenities and facilities. The panoramic stunning views of the city that the 601 rooms offer are simply a bonus.

Most importantly for the kids, the hotel has a fully utilised outdoor space which is a swimming pool in the Summer and wait for it, an ice skating rink in the Winter. If you’re heading to Seoul during Winter, it’s time to lace up those skates at Grand Hyatt Seoul.

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Airbnbs

Airbnbs have revolutionised the accommodation game for years now and it’s not difficult to see why with prices that are nearly unmatchable by hotels. For families that want the “home away from home” feel, these Airbnbs will do the trick.

Image via Airbnb

JJ’s Luxurious Suite

This Airbnb is an apartment suite that is big enough for the whole family and then some. Able to accommodate up to 5 guests, this apartment suite has the look, feel, and even some of the amenities of a hotel.

Add on a stove, microwave, dining utensils, and a washing machine, there’s everything you can find for perhaps an extended stay in Korea. It’s an apartment suite for the family, and its location near Gyeongbukgung Palace would mean it’s relatively near the central hubbub of Seoul but not too crowded at night to disturb for a family’s night rest.

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Henry & Bonnie’s Apartment

Image via Airbnb

Location, location, location.

It’s all about location and convenience with this Airbnb apartment. Tucked in the busy streets of Myeongdong, everything in the shopping enclave are minutes away from the apartment. Oh, you won’t have to worry about having a big family because the listing can host up to 7 people.

There are also plushies of the iconic Line mascots, Brown and Cony, injecting some youthfulness into the apartment, something that kids will appreciate I’m sure.

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TRADITIONAL HANOKS

If you want to have a fresh accommodation experience for your family, then a stay traditional Hanok would be due. The dense city of Seoul is inundated with towering skyscrapers and where hotels are a dime a dozen, it’s safe to say Seoul is as modern as they come.

Hanoks, however, are traditional Korean houses which bring you back to a long bygone era of Korean history. Staying in a Hanok is an experience that is off the beaten track as many say, something that would be memorable for the whole family.

Rakkojae is one luxury Hanok reminiscent of an aristocratic Chosun Dynasty home. The place in Seoul has a history of about 130 years, and stepping through the front gates of Rakkojae makes it feel you’ve stepped into your very own historical Kdrama.

If you’re worried about how Rakkojae compares to hotels and Airbnbs, have no worries because all the basic amenities are available here including WiFi! Each room features a jade stone ondol floor, and onsite is a yellow mud sauna facility along with a wide range of cultural immersion programs from kimchi making to a traditional tea ceremony.

So, if you truly want something out of the ordinary, away from the typical hotels and Airbnbs, staying in Rakkojae is the way to go.

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Experience Old Seoul in Bukchon Hanok Village

Experience Old Seoul in Bukchon Hanok Village

Bukchon Hanok Village is a collection of traditional Korean houses that date back 600 years. It is also a popular tourist attraction, drawing throngs of visitors with the lure of providing a glimpse into the traditional Korean way of life.

What’s unique about Bukchon (lit. Northern VIllage) is that this is a genuine residential neighbourhood in Seoul. Many of the houses here are privately owned family homes (hanoks). Perhaps because of the historic surroundings, it is not uncommon to see residents here carrying on with centuries old practices, such as running errands within the neighbourhood while dressed in hanboks – traditional Korean garb.

Today, Bukchon is a fascinating mix of cultural centres, guesthouses, restaurants, gift shops and cafes, intermingled with residential homes. This imbues the area with a vivid  authenticity that is hard to find anywhere else.

Understandably, it is tempting to want to capture a piece of living history and make it your own. While you’re visiting and enjoying this rustic gem of a village, do remember to be mindful and respectful of the residents who live here.

Here’re our top recommendations to fully enjoy Bukchon.

NOTE: Due to excessive crowds and their attendant problems, the government has restricted visiting hours to Bukchon. Visitors are only allowed from 9am to 5pm, Mondays to Saturdays.  

 

Hanbok rental

Image by vickyl1003 via Instagram.

Han Sangsu Embroidery Museum

Image by _susanna_yeongran_kim via Instagram.

Han Sangsu Embroidery Museum

Image by iamesunk via Instagram.

What to See & Do

An easy and fun way to enhance your immersion in this delightful village is by dressing the part. Head over to any of the hanbok rental shops to get fitted and dressed for the day. Now you’re ready to truly enjoy Bukchon.

The Han Sangsu Embroidery Museum offers classes where you can learn to embroider handkerchiefs for the perfect souvenirs. The two halls filled with Korean embroidery exhibits and garments should provide plenty of inspiration.

Another option for craftsy folks is kum bak yeon, traditional gold printing on silk, which will garner you some truly unique and personalised keepsakes.

Bokchon Son Mandu

Image by guang_b16 via Instagram.

Doore Yoo

Image by cityfoodsters via Instagram.

Baengnyeon Samgyetang

Image by tonialvarez8 via Instagram.

What to Eat & Drink

Korea’s cuisine is delicious, and their traditional fare – emphasising fresh ingredients – even more so. Have a bite of history at Bukchon Son Mandu, a nationally beloved dumpling chain said to have its beginnings right here in Bukchon Hanok Village.

Another unique option is the Michelin-starred Doore Yoo, which serves up a rendition of Korean vegetarian incorporating original recipes from Korea’s Buddhist temples. There’s even a foraging menu available, if you book in advance.

If you’re in a need of a pick-me-up, head over to Baengnyeon Samgyetang, conveniently located at the entrance of the village. Tender and flavourful whole chicken, boiled with ginseng and herbs, is a popular folk remedy to revive vitality.

Besides delicious home-style cooking, there are also plenty of modern cafes to indulge your sweet tooth.

The Coffee Mill is a converted hanok that now houses a cosy cafe, run by an artistically inclined owner that likes to draw headshots of customers. Come by to pick up a coffee and chat, and you might walk away with a handdrawn headshot. Its slightly secluded location makes it the ideal rest stop for crowd-weary travellers.

Tea lovers should make a visit to Cha Masineun Tteul, which is said to have some of the best teas in the area. Set in a hanok, the cafe features floor-seating and commanding views of the nearby Gyeongbokgung Palace

If it’s cake and pastries you’re after, you’ll want to head over to Layered. The popular bakery serves up English-style treats such as scones, pound cake and bread.

The Coffee Mill

Image by thecoffeemill_official via Instagram.

Cha Masineun Tteul

Image by mari.yah via Instagram.

Layered

Image by comaru_08 via Instagram.

Top image courtesy of Korea Tourism Organisation.

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How to Explore Seoul Like a Hipster

How to Explore Seoul Like a Hipster

Myeongdong, Itaewon, Insadong? Yes, I know, you’re so over them, and only visitors new to glitzy Seoul think they are must-see destinations. Oh, stop rolling your eyes already and tell me, where do stylish Seoullites like you hang out?  

Determined to find out the answer, on my last vacation in Seoul, I chose to immerse myself in this energetic city, wandering off the popular tourist paths in a bid to truly get to know the locals. Here’s a list which I have canvassed from my sources which will appeal to your hipster ego.

Ok fine, you’re not a hipster. But check the list out anyway because these personality-packed hangouts will appeal whether you wear Converses ironically or not.

(The truth is: hipsters hardly acknowledge that they are one, but it is evident on their Instagrams.)

Image by seasaltandbun via Instagram

Seongsu-dong

To be honest, I am reluctant to write about Seongsu-dong. Why? Because it has been receiving a lot of attention and its ‘not-so-mainstream’ vibes are diminishing. And that– is against the hipster’s code. (Right, Korea’s ultra-famous boyband Big Bang shot their ‘FXXK IT’  music video here. So, there’s nothing obscure about this district anymore.)

Image by no.00093 via Instagram

Perhaps.

But for those who have never seen the music video, this unassuming locale, turns out to be where the young, stylish crowd spend their weekend afternoons.

Seongsu-dong used to be a district for craftsmen, especially the shoemakers. There is a permanent exhibition in the subway station which chronicles the neighbourhood’s history of shoemaking.

And what cemented its reputation as the ‘Hipster Neighbourhood of Seoul’ in recent years was the opening of the industrial-chic Cafe Onion and the bourgeoning street art murals in the back alleys.

Image by bee_8hs8 via Instagram
Image by _kly95 via Instagram

The decrepit warehouse-turned-bakery, Cafe Onion is worth making a pit stop for – freshly baked artisanal pastries, good coffee, and local chatters at the communal tables.

What I like most about this cafe is how unpretentious it seems, nothing over-the-top, Cafe Onion wants merely to serve delectable baked goods and coffee, and cultivate a sense of community in the neighbourhood.

The spacious cafe and bakery not only appeals to the younger crowd, the ahjussi (uncle) from the auto repair shop in the vicinity frequent this bakery too. I particularly enjoyed my afternoon at their rooftop terrace, here is where you can see their bakers at work on the same floor.

Is Seongsu-dong a gritty neighbourhood? More like a nondescript neighbourhood that has preserved its industrial beginning – taking cues from old factories and auto repair shops, taking on a unique charm of its own. >

Cafe ONION

Address: 277-135 Seongsu-dong 2(i)-ga, Seongdong-gu

Tel: 070-7816-2710

Opening Hours:

Mon-Fri 08:00AM to 22:00PM

Sat-Sun 10:00AM to 22:00PM

Image by b_ddesign via Instagram
Image by by_glitterglitter via Instagram.

Image by somjeed_m via Instagram.

Seongsu-dong is also known as Seoul’s up-and-coming art district, and it is worth exploring on foot. Factories, artists studio, and residences line the streets in an easy cohabitation that will make your senses tingle with “hipster vibes”.

Local tip: Recognise this location? That’s right, this is one of the filming locations for the Korean drama – Goblin

Location: 310-63 Seongsu 2(i)-ga 1(il)-dong, Seongdong-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Directions: Walking distance from Seongsu Station on Line 2 (Exit 4)

Mangwon Market

When it comes to food markets in Seoul, chances are you’ll find yourself in one of those crowded, oldest, largest traditional markets such as Namdaemun market or Gwangjang traditional market.

But true hipsters won’t be caught dead squeezing with the crowds. Instead, they will be hanging out at the one market that is less crowded, less explored but well patronized by the locals. And that is the discreet charm of Mangwon Market.

It is a smaller traditional market located in the western end of Seoul. Here you can pick up fresh produce and eat your fill from the mind boggling variety of street food. Don’t leave without trying one of the famous fried doughnuts!  

Mangwon Sijang

486-8 Mangwon-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul

Nearest station: Mangwon Station (망원역) on Line 6 (Exit 2)

Opening hours: Daily from 10:00AM to 20:30PM

German House

Finally, where to unwind with a pint of beer after a day of exploration?

Leave the university bars out of the hipster’s itinerary, they are typically located in Hongdae and Konkuk university areas.

Enter German House, a bar that serves exotic craft beers from around the world. What makes this drinking place exotic is that it is housed in a renovated hanok (traditional Korean house). 

As a result, drinking here feels appropriately remote, away from the vibrant city centre and distinct from well-known Itaewon, the go-to nightlife destination for most.Adding to its appeal, German House is located in traditional alleyways lined with hanoks, nicely scratching the hipster’s itch for novelty and offbeat experiences as you find your way there.

German House

16-4, Daemyeong 1-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Tel: 02−742−1933

Nearest station: Hyehwa Station on Line 4 (Exit 4)

Opening hours: Daily from 12:00PM to 02:00AM

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Seoul Stunning: Best Evening Hiking Trail

Seoul Stunning: Best Evening Hiking Trail

I was wrong about Seoul being just another concrete jungle.

The capital of South Korea has plenty to offer – from addictive Kpop hits and bustling night markets, to majestic palaces and historic avenues, there are more ways than one to experience this city.

But perhaps what struck me the most is how the citizens of Seoul are blessed with picturesque mountainous views amid its urban sprawl.

For someone like me who grew up in a city-state where mountains are all but non-existent (save for some hiking trails that are unique in their own ways), the excitement was at an all-time high (pardon the pun).

If you’re wondering which mountain hiking trails you should absolutely attempt in Seoul, I urge you to get your trek on Inwangsan.

The name literally means ‘mountain of benevolent king’ in Korean. It might as well add another title: monarch of hiking trails. Pay tribute to this king with a trek up the mountain and you will be richly rewarded with a picture-perfect sunset, and mesmerising sights of countless city lights sparkling like so many imperial jewels.

Situated in the central area of Seoul, Inwangsan is a mountain with a height of 338 meters, which offers a stunning panoramic view of the city. Get to spot major landmarks like Gyeongbokgung Palace, Namsan Park, Seoul Tower and even the residence of the South Korean president.

Hiking up Inwangsan is akin to witnessing Seoul’s historic past. An ancient fortress wall, dating back to the 14th century, runs parallel to the hiking trail. But to get the true measure of its significance, you’d have to go higher.

The ancient fortress wall traces the crestline of Seoul’s sacred mountains namely Bugaksan, Naksan, Namsan and Inwangsan. It was built during the Korean dynastic kingdom period to protect the city from invaders.

Gazing out at the metropolis of 10 million from the peak of Inwangsan was magical.

Under the hypnotising sunset sky, fellow hikers spread out in blankets enjoying rice wine and delectable local snacks. The entire trail took 90 minutes and over 10,000 steps to reach the summit. I just wish that I could have brought a bowl of Kimchi fried rice to dine by the sunset.

What made this hiking trip even more memorable – I was told the North Korean spies made their way along Inwangsan due to its proximity to South Korea’s presidential residence in a bid to assassinate the then President Park Chung Hee in 1968.

This incident caused a ban on public access to Inwangsan, which was finally lifted in 1993.

The mountain is also a military base so don’t be surprised to see South Korean soldiers patrolling the area. Also, please do not use a drone here.

Well, I thought I had conquered Inwangsan, but in reality, the vastness and beauty of Inwangsan has conquered me.

Will I attempt this steep and sweaty hike up over again? Absolutely. The view from the peak is well worth the struggle.

If you’re an urban dweller or desk jockey who find it difficult to work out in a gym (even if they’re blasting your favourite K-pop hits), perhaps it’s time to get outside.

How to Get There

By Train: Gyeongbokgung Station (Orange line), Exit 1

This is the nearest hiking trail from the central area of Seoul, it is easily accessible. Don’t worry about getting lost, you will meet many enthusiastic Korean hikers along the way who would be more than happy to point you in the right direction. In fact, hiking is their national pastime. There are well-marked trails and handrails along the path.

The Essentials

Choose lightweight, quick-drying sport attire. Bring at least 1 litre of water. The incline to the peak is sharp, put on a sturdy pair of hiking shoes and bring a hiking stick if you need extra support. If you’re planning to stay after sunset, remember to bring along a torch. The trail is not lit after dark and the descend from the peak of Inwangsan is perilous. The incline to the peak is sharp, put on a sturdy pair of hiking shoes and bring a hiking stick if you need extra support. If you’re planning to stay after sunset, remember to bring along a torch. The trail is not lit after dark and the descend from the peak of Inwangsan is perilous. 

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