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A Foodie's Guide to Seoul

Seoul

Seoul is the city of K-pop, Soju, and delicious Korean food that you will want to keep going back for. Whether it’s in the beautiful summer or snowy winter, Seoul always has something to offer. If you’re visiting this incredible Asian city soon, you’ll need a guide to the best food spots in town. Here’s the low down:

Seoul

Seoul

Myongdong

Most people’s go-to spot for shopping is Mydongdong. With streets packed with boutiques from local labels and fashion boutiques, to beauty and skincare shops galore, it is a place you can spend hours exploring. When your legs need a break or if you need to refuel, between the streets there are also plenty of foodie spots offering diverse cuisine to choose from.

Myeongdong Kyoja

Head here for juicy pork dumplings and thick al-dente rice noodles in a warm, thick broth -- perfect for the chilly weather. They have a couple of branches in the area but there’s often still a short wait. It’s worth it for the delicious, quick and affordable meal!

Jangsu Galbijip

Korean Barbecue lovers must head to Jangsu for a sizzling dose of traditional Korean galbijip or barbeque beef ribs. Grilled in the kitchen fresh to order and presented on a cow-shaped hot plate, the meal comes complete with rice, soup and pickled vegetables.

Ilpumhyang

There’s plenty of Chinese restaurants in the area, but for a real taste of Korean jjajangmyeon, or black bean sauce noodles, this second-floor hidden restaurant is the spot to beat. A family-style Chinese restaurant, you’ll also find generous portions of comforting dumplings, soups and rice here, popular with many locals.

Korean dumplings

Korean dumplings

Hongdae

Popular with local university students, Hongdae and the Hongik University area has plenty of trendy shops to offer. Food-wise, you’ll find the latest instagrammable cafes, bars and restaurant options dotted among flagship stores and boutiques.

Sinseon Seolnongtang

Seolnongtang is a traditional Korean dish featuring thick white ox bone broth, hence its picturesque name in Korean, literally translating as “broth as thick as snow”. Open 24 hours a day, Sinseon is popular with the locals and is the ideal spot to enjoy a dish any time of the day. Sinseon has quite a few branches around town, so keep a lookout!

Namul Meongneun Gom

For a no-fuss homestyle Korean meal, head to Namul Meongneun Gom. From bibimbap and braised chicken to spicy stir-fried squid, these comforting dishes are made with local ingredients and served in a beautiful traditional Korean house, or hanok setting with an airy courtyard.

Ttobogetji Tteokbokki

No trip to Seoul is complete without tteokbokki, or chewy rice cake rolls cooked in a spicy broth. Ttobogetji Tteokbokki is a popular chain with its main branch in Hongdae, serving tteokbokki on gas stoves, topped with fresh vegetables and fish cakes. People who can’t handle their spice can order extra fried potato chips with butter and garlic to tone down the spiciness too.

Seoul street food

Seoul street food

Sinsa-dong

Across the river, you’ll find Gangnam and Sinsa-dong, where more upscale and luxury places are located. It’s the place to discover cafes as well as plenty of designer labels and independent stores.

Cafe Kitsune Garosugil

Whether you’re a fashion fan or not, Cafe Kitsune is a fantastic spot to stop for a coffee break. It is situated inside the Kitsune flagship store and serves a short menu of fragrant espresso concoctions. Hidden inside a private terrace, it is also a romantic photo spot during the day with plenty of natural light.

Hanchu

Get your fix of KFC, or Korean fried chicken here! Hanchu has a casual atmosphere, with an affordable menu popular with local young people. Take your pick from the signature crispy or sweet chilli fried chicken and wash it down with an ice-cold beer or two. If you fancy a snack, make sure you order the stuffed fried peppers.

Pro Soy Crab

Another must-have dish in South Korea is the soy sauce marinated raw crab. Pro Soy Crab is one of the more reliable outlets in Seoul to enjoy the dish. Usually served with pickled vegetables and white rice, it’s a must-try dish for adventurous foodies. Another perk is that they are open 24 hours a day!

Korean fried chicken

Korean fried chicken

Itaewon

Itaewon is best known for being Seoul’s main nightlife district, but just one station away at Hangangjin there are a few independent boutiques and bars to check out. I chanced upon one of my favourite restaurants in Seoul here, so don’t skip this hip area packed with hidden gems.

Parc Seoul

There’s nothing better than authentic, homestyle food when you’re visiting a foreign country. Parc gives you just that, with a daily-changing menu, cooked just the way the owner’s mother does at home. Almost always full, it is advised you make bookings well in advance.

Space Shinseon

Both a small gallery and a cafe spanning several levels, Space Shinseon leads you down a beautiful spiral staircase and opens up into a bright area with a view over the streets. Art fans will enjoy its periodic exhibitions, and others can just take in the view with a coffee in hand. 

Spicy soy crab

Spicy soy crab

Markets

Gwangjang Market

There’s no better place to get your fix of street food and souvenirs all under one roof. Vibrant and buzzing, this day market is packed with vendors selling fresh produce and local delicacies. The central food market also gives you a great selection of popular Korean dishes like green bean pancake, Netflix-approved dumpling noodles and more.

Namdaemun Market

This huge complex houses different buildings and stalls offering household goods and local items. It also features plenty of alleys hiding food stalls selling everything from bibimbap to fresh eel soup. It’s always busy but a fantastic spot to shop for good deals.

Written by Karen Chiang

As a third-cultured millennial, I have been writing about travel and lifestyle for several years for the likes of BBC Travel, Lonely Planet, Crave Magazine, and WGSN. Now living in Hong Kong, I love to explore cities one bite at a time, preferably in hip neighbourhoods and hidden alleyways. Follow my adventures on Instagram @livewellbasics.

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