One day three ways: Seoul


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 (; $5). The war memorial and museum put Korea in helpful - if painful - context (; $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 (; $70).

TOTAL: $145


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 (; $20). Changdeokgung Palace and the adjoining Huwon Secret Garden make for a glorious stroll through a historic landscape (english.visit; $10), with the restored hanok architecture of Bukchon Village nearby. Within that maze of traditional homes you'll find art gallery Artsonje (; $5) and bakery and trattoria Wood & Brick, famous for its lobster ravioli (; $40). For a mix of kimchi, live drumming and slapstick comedy, see Cookin' Nanta, the wildly successful kitchen-based stage show (; $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 (; $160).

TOTAL: $315


Spend a lazy, pricy, yet rewarding morning over brunch at Min's Club, a 1930s-vintage residence converted to an upmarket teahouse. (; $50), then roll with the wealthiest Seoulites along Cheongdam "Fashion" Street, where you can buy Gangnam-style shoes at the legendary Suecomma Bonnie boutique ( You can learn how to make rice cakes, hangwa cookies and other traditional delicacies at the Institute of Korean Royal Cuisine (; lessons $100) and catch a race or two at the elegant horse track in Gwacheon (; $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 (; dinner from $150). And for an unapologetically opulent end to your stay in Seoul, book a room over the city at The Shilla hotel (; from $340).

TOTAL: $730 (plus shopping)

The writer travelled at his own expense.