Thanks in part to the popularity of the Hallyu wave, Seoul is rising in prominence as a top Asian holiday destination. Sure, it’s always fun to shop ’til you drop along the streets of Myeongdong. Or check out interesting locales made famous after they appeared in top Korean dramas. But forget the usual touristy joints—the city’s more alluring when you go off the beaten path and explore it like a local. From cool cafes to awesome watering holes, schedule these to your “Must Visit” list the next time you’re headed to the city.
Known to Seoulites as Daerim chang-go (or Daerim Warehouse), this art gallery-meets-cafe is a hipster’s dream come true. Located in Seongsu-dong and converted from an old warehouse, the place is also a lesson in industrial chic done right, with accents of green breaking the coldness of exposed beams, raw brick walls and concrete flooring. An open space at the back of the warehouse lets in just the right amount of sunlight into the space, which means it’s impossible to take a bad picture when you’re at Column2016.
Address: Seongdong-gu, Seongsu-iro, 78-gil, Seoul, South Korea
If you’re a fan of the less-is-more aesthetic popularised by the likes of Kinfolk and Cereal magazines, then you’ll totally dig the vibe at Samecafe. Sip into a cup of coffee while you admire the clean lines and minimalist colour palette that are accompanied by black-and-white pictures lit by strips of neon light.
Address: 133-17 Itaewon 1(il)-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Tucked away in a small street far removed from the rowdy bustle of Itaewon, The 2E is a small and cosy bar perfect for conversations deep into the night. The drinks are decent, and accompanied by a variety of finger food to keep the palate satisfied. We recommend seating at the al fresco area when the weather’s good.
Address: 743-1, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Hongdae needs no introduction. The youth enclave that surrounds Honggik University—Seoul’s most popular art institution—is filled with locals and tourists alike, 24/7. The sheer size of this place means there’s something interesting to check out at every corner. Perched at the top of a five-storey building that rises up from one of Hongdae’s popular thoroughfare is Rooftop 720, a bar that lets you take a breather from Hongdae’s frenetic energy. Done up to resemble a Hawaiian beach bar, it’s best to visit Rooftop 720 come Spring or Autumn, when the crisp cool air will add a refreshing kick to your drinks.
Address: Mapo-gu, Honggik-ro 3-gil 36, 5th floor, Seoul, South Korea
Like Rooftop 720, T12 is another one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss it bars. But unlike the former, the latter is located underground. If you’re worried about feeling claustrophobic, fret not—T12 is extremely spacious, thanks to its two-storey high ceiling and hip ambiance lighting. It’s the perfect spot to pre-drink with your pals before the clique heads out to paint the town red.
Address: Mapo-gu, Seogyo-dong, 363-22, Seoul, South Korea
By Gerald Tan