Start hearty with a bowl of haejangguk breakfast stew at Sanggane Gamjatang, popular with Seoul taxi drivers, who have high standards yet inexpensive tastes. (Gwanak-gu Sinlim-ro 129; $12). This will power you up for a short hike up Mount Inwang, with a great view over the city. Spend the afternoon thrift-shopping at Namdaemun Market and its pleasantly bewildering array of high-rise, low-cost vendors, where you can also get a cheap and tasty lunch - try a bindae duk bean pancake (english.visitkorea.or.kr; $5). The war memorial and museum put Korea in helpful - if painful - context (warmemo.or.kr; $3). Then head to the studenty Shinchon district for a dinner of spicy iron-grilled chicken at Chuncheon Dakgalbi (Yonsei-ro 5ga-gil, Seodaemun-gu; $30), a few beers and soju-bombs at the nearby Aska "hof bar" (5F, Sinchon Entertainment Center; $25), and a night at Yoo's Home, a traditional guesthouse (yoos-home.blogspot.com; $70).
EASY DOES IT
Seoulites have developed an appetite for Western breakfasts, such as the Whole Shebang at the Wolfhound Irish Pub, where coffee comes with an optional shot of whiskey (wolfhoundpub.com; $20). Changdeokgung Palace and the adjoining Huwon Secret Garden make for a glorious stroll through a historic landscape (english.visit korea.or.kr; $10), with the restored hanok architecture of Bukchon Village nearby. Within that maze of traditional homes you'll find art gallery Artsonje (artsonje.org/eng; $5) and bakery and trattoria Wood & Brick, famous for its lobster ravioli (woodnbrick.co.kr; $40). For a mix of kimchi, live drumming and slapstick comedy, see Cookin' Nanta, the wildly successful kitchen-based stage show (nanta.i-pmc.co.kr; $50). Follow with chilli and kimchi pancakes at Mil Jip Mo Ja Wa Jang Dok Dae (3rd Floor, 182-5 Heukseok-dong, Dongjak-gu; $30). The mid-range Lotte City Hotel Mapo offers hyper-modern rooms with a supermarket downstairs (lottehotel.com/city/mapo/ko/; $160).
Spend a lazy, pricy, yet rewarding morning over brunch at Min's Club, a 1930s-vintage residence converted to an upmarket teahouse. (minsclub.co.kr; $50), then roll with the wealthiest Seoulites along Cheongdam "Fashion" Street, where you can buy Gangnam-style shoes at the legendary Suecomma Bonnie boutique (suecommabonnie.com). You can learn how to make rice cakes, hangwa cookies and other traditional delicacies at the Institute of Korean Royal Cuisine (food.co.kr/english; lessons $100) and catch a race or two at the elegant horse track in Gwacheon (company.kra.co.kr; $90 for premium seating). Korean cuisine has only recently gone upmarket - for years Seoul's high-end restaurants were European or Japanese but the exquisite hanjeongsik dishes at Si Hwa Dam have become world-famous (siwhadam.com; dinner from $150). And for an unapologetically opulent end to your stay in Seoul, book a room over the city at The Shilla hotel (shilla.net; from $340).
TOTAL: $730 (plus shopping)
The writer travelled at his own expense.