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where to eat and stay in Seoul

A decade in the past, an individual who walked right into a restaurant in Seoul and requested for “han myung-I” —a desk for one — may very well be declined service.  

That is as a result of eating places in South Korea want teams of two or extra, owing to a fancy mixture of native social dynamics, revenue margins and easy logistics — a tableside grill must be cleaned whether or not it serves one patron or 4, in spite of everything.

Solo rejections generally occurred at household eating places and barbecue retailers, two quintessential spots to pattern among the nation’s finest delicacies. Solo diners might circumvent it in two methods: by putting an order for 2 or agreeing to a minimal spend.  

Nevertheless, with the expansion of one-person households in South Korea, extra individuals are selecting to dine, drink and journey alone — embracing the “honjok” life-style pattern that has visibly taken root within the nation.

Consuming out

Hongojib is not like most barbecue locations in Seoul.

Positioned within the full of life neighborhood of Yeonnam-dong, the restaurant — and its predecessors, resembling Sinssi Categorical and Hongo — have swapped conventional communal eating for the rising pattern of honbap, or consuming alone.

Diners eat at counters somewhat than spherical tables. And dishes aren’t served household model — every diner is given private settings for condiments and cutlery together with their very own grill.

Sinsii Categorical’ solo counter, the place the creator ate, with a small grill and privateness divider.

Supply: Morgan Awyong

Orders are positioned and paid for with tablets. And meals — alongside a cluster of traditional banchan, or aspect dishes — is served inside minutes.

Marianne Lee, a Korean schooling marketing consultant, mentioned this model of consuming is a change from the times when “everybody has to eat in groups, everybody has to drink collectively, everybody has to go for a similar menu.”

“In case you needed to have a Chinese language meal, but when your supervisor says let’s go for Japanese noodles, you’d don’t have any alternative however to go,” she mentioned. “However these days, individuals respect having their very own time.”

With a following of greater than 40,000 on TikTok, Lee — who mentioned she’s spent equal components of her life in the UK and South Korea — is common for her movies about Korean tradition, from bus etiquette to the most effective time to go to the nation.

In her movies, she recommends solo vacationers strive eating places resembling Labap for positive eating, or Gimbap Cheongu and Pomato for his or her broad number of Korean meals.

The latter two “are open 24 hours and promote tteokbokki, rice dishes, soup and different sizzling cooked meals,” she mentioned, referring to Korean spicy rice desserts.

South Korean vacationer data helpers information vacationers in Seoul’s common Myeongdong procuring district.

Jung Yeon-je | Afp | Getty Photos

Lee suggests visiting the favored vacationer spots first, resembling Namsan, Myeong Dong, Insadong and Itaewon, the place individuals typically communicate some English. Multilingual vacationer guides wearing crimson coats and hats are there to assist with vacationers’ questions too, she mentioned.

“It additionally helps whenever you add in a couple of Korean phrases, like hoksi (possibly) earlier than you ask your query in English,” she provides. Koreans hear higher than they communicate, so she feels that it helps to “soften the method and we actually respect it.”

The place to remain

South Korea is common with guests from Asia, particularly China and Japan, however guests from Western international locations, particularly america, are on the rise. American vacationers have been the fourth-largest supply market till 2019, however catapulted to the highest demographic in 2022, in accordance with Tourgo, a analysis initiative of the Korea Tradition and Tourism Analysis Institute.

Earlier this 12 months, South Korea introduced a brand new visa for digital nomads is within the pipeline. The visa, which might permit foreigners to remain in Korea whereas working remotely for an employer out of the country, is slated to start out later this 12 months, in accordance with The Korea Herald.  

Fortunately, it is now far simpler to discover a place to remain than it was previously.

New co-living firms, like Episode and Mangrove, have been created in response to the rise of single-person households in search of inexpensive locations to dwell in Seoul. Some residential buildings permit short-term lodging, which solo vacationers can e book.

The creator, Morgan Awyong, within the communal kitchen of Mangrove Dongdaemun.

Supply: Morgan Awyong

I stayed at Mangrove Dongdaemun for a month in a clear and compact room that got here with a workstation, personal rest room and a view of Mount Namsan.

In contrast to accommodations, there are communal kitchens and coworking areas, plus a fitness center, yoga rooms, library and even free laundry self-service. An app hyperlinks residents with chat boards and actions like “New Joiner Nights.”

The idea is common, mentioned Mangrove employees member Kim Serin, who added that the constructing is full many of the 12 months. She mentioned short-stay requests are growing, and that the corporate is working to fulfill this want with new initiatives coming in two different common locations, Busan and Jeju.

Celib Soonra is one other residence designed for solo residents and vacationers. Stays below three months could be booked through Airbnb, which is how I booked my keep.

Morgan Awyong within the communal tea room at Celib Soonra.

Supply: Morgan Awyong

My room was much less cookie-cutter and got here with native touches like a standard tea room, and the rooftop has panoramic views of Changdeokgung palace and Jongmyo Shrine.

Its neighborhood, Gwonnong-dong, is extra intimate too, and the hip cafe-filled Hanok village of Ikseon-dong is however a 10-minute stroll away.

Enterprise accommodations too

Enterprise accommodations, like these from the hospitality model Accor, are additionally working to create hybrid dwelling areas the place vacationers and locals can “dwell, work and play,” in accordance with its web site.

An ondol room at Ibis Gangnam.

Supply: Morgan Awyong

Accor’s Ibis model provides an instance of this. On the Ibis Kinds Ambassador Seoul Gangnam, I might see how small adjustments could make an enormous distinction, such because the communal backyard on the lodge’s fifteenth ground, the place I labored on days I had tight deadlines.

I additionally slept in an ondol room on the lodge, which had heated flooring and conventional bedding, one thing that’s often discovered solely in conventional homes and hanoks that caters to teams. Close to Gangnam’s Coex Mall, it was additionally a steal at lower than $55 an evening.