As you may know if you have been following me on Instagram, I am at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics working very hard indeed. In my new milieu I have been meeting lots and lots of wonderful and lovely people, most of whom are completely new to Korea. Whist I am still settling in to my temporary home of Gangneung, and getting the lay of the land, I know Seoul very well which is why I wanted to make the Fat Girls Olympic Visitor’s guide to Seoul. A chance to share my favourite places, to eat, drink, or dance the night away. Regular readers you will probably know most of these, but it’s always good to have a nice reminder of a few treasures, and please feel free to comment below and eat me know any you think I might have missed.
Vatos – I think you all know how much I adore Vatos, and it is usually the first place I bring my guests when they arrive. The Korean Mexican fusion is a great way to introduce new visitors to Kimchi & Galbi in a more familiar way. The place is always lively and happening and serves the most amazing cocktails. I recommend the Che Putin, a delicious mix of Moscow mule and mojito. Food wise the tacos, kimchi fries and honey tequila wings never disappoint.
Brera – Italian restaurants in Seoul are found a plenty, but what you may be used to Italy or elsewhere in the world you might not find here in Korea. However Italian run Brera ticks all the boxes. They have an amazing menu filled with a variety of homemade pastas, gnocchi and thin crust pizzas. I’ve yet to have a bad meal here, so order anything you like and tell Giovanni I sent you.
Itaewon Gogit Jip– As you are in Korea, it is more than likely that you will want to eat some Korean food. My absolute favourite dish to eat us of course the BBQ. And my favourite place to do so is at Itaewon Gogit Jip. For one they offer all you can eat meat for 16,900. The meat includes belly pork, pork neck, galbi, rib eye beef and a couple of other cuts all cooked on a charcoal grill. Once you’ve worked your way through your board you can order at will and pick your favourites. Side dishes are also refillable, and a great way to experience lots of Korean side dishes at once.
Casablanca – Probably the most popular and undisputed best sandwich in Seoul falls to the Moroccan Casablanca. The chicken & lamb sandwiches are orgasmic and served on the most incredible crispy bread. They also own Morococo Cafe across the street which serves up main dishes and incredible lamb & chicken over rice bowls, including vegan options.
Plant – As a vegan or vegetarian, you may be struggling to find foods that you are used to. Being vegan is not a typical thing here, though it is getting more popular. My favourite vegan restaurant by far is Plant. They have an amazing array of dishes including tacos, burgers, desserts, and baked goods. Is also like to recommend a vegan food delivery service called Sprout, they deliver all over the country and have some delicious and affordable dishes.
Honestly I would be here all day writing about all the restaurants I adore, so others that I love and deserve to be as mentioned are Manimal (BBQ – Itaewon), Spice Market (Thai – Itaewon), 300 Degree (Italian Pizza – Itaewon), Gino’s ( NY Pizza – Itaewon /Gangnam), Itaewon the Burger (Burgers – Itaewon/Gangnam), Plus 84 (Vietnamese – Insadong), Summer Lane (Brunch – Gyeongridan), Scoff (British Bakery – Gyeongbuk), Menya Sandaime (Japanese Ramyeon – Itaewon), Normal (Modern Korean Fusion- Sinsa), Mishmash (Modern Korean – Itaewon), McCoys (French-ish bisto -Haebangchon), Nori Table (Sushi – Itaewon), NY B&B (Breakfast & Burgers – Itaewon/Gangnam).
If you have met me on more than one occasion, you will know that I like to drink, rather a lot. Nothing makes me happier than a couple of really amazing cocktails. Whilst up in the Olympics villages, it is mostly beer and soju being offered, Seoul has a thriving drinking culture, and there is not much that you cant find. In fact, stores are able to sell alcohol 24 hours a day, and most pubs will stay open very late with no official closing time. If there are customers in the bar, they may even stay open all night. I have walked out of bars at 8am on many occasion.
The Workshop – One of my favourite pubs to visit is the Saffa style Workshop pub in Haebangchon. This neighbourhood located near to Itaewon is filled with great places to eat but workshop is always one I tend to stop by. They have an awesome happy hour every day from 6pm – 7pm which includes a 1+1 Moscow Mule. They also have great burgers, pies, and other comfort food style pub grub.
Fountain – If you are looking for a good time then Fountain in Itaewon is always jumping. The arcade bar is filled with free video games and serves some pretty awesome well priced drinks. Personally I adore the Ameretto Sour, and the Paper Planes. On the weekdays is fun but on the weekend it’s packed to the rafters. If you are looking for a pub/club to dance the night away and have a lot of fun then this is it. Just one thing they usually check ID here, even if you look a lot older than 18, so be sure to at least have a photo of your passport on your phone.
Southside Parlor – This Texan Bar is probably my favourite cocktail bar on the city, it is also conveniently located just next to my house. They have some of the best and most friendly bar tenders in town who are always willing to rustle you up something strong and delicious. My usual is the Pimp Cup a Texan take on the British Pimms.
Tap Public – If craft beer is your thing, then Tap Public has more varieties than anywhere in the country, 58 to be precise. The menu is a mix of local and international beers, with something for everyone. Plus the funnest part is that you get to pour them yourself. You are given a computerized wrist band when entering that you tap on the beer you want to try, they are charged per 100mls so you can try as many or as little as you want. They also have a nice variety of gastro pub style dishes, if you don’t want to drink on an empty stomach.
For LGBT visitors you may find Seoul a little bit more on the conservative side than you are used to. However while Seoul may not be loud and proud, there is a wonderful and welcoming gay community in Itaewon. The stretch of bars is on the aptly named ‘Homo Hill’, which is just one street over from Hooker Hill, a street where you will find a lot of very friendly ladies willing to take care of you. If you are looking for a good Drag Show then head over to the Rabbit Hole in Haebangchon, where some of the most beautiful ladies in drag put on a show every weekend.
Clubs – Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m not much of a clubber these days, but for those who like to party all night, you may want to head over to Hongdae the university area where you will find an ample supply of pubs and clubs. In Itaewon Fountain and Bara Boom go late, and in Gangnam try Octagon or Arena for a super club vibe.
One thing you don’t want to miss out on in Seoul, is trying the very popular street food. Whist you will find it in some form or another in every neighbourhood in the city, there are a few places where it is more plentiful than others.
Gwangjang Market – Gwangjang Market is one of the oldest markets in Seoul, having opened in the early 1900’s, and it is filled to the brim with loads of amazing street foods. One of the best things about this market aside from the sheer array, is that all the stalls have seating so you can hang out and enjoy your food, rather than eating standing up and scoffing it on the go. For those who like to shop there is also an amazing vintage clothing market on the second floor where they an incredible array of cheap coats, shirts, and jumpers, just don’t forget to haggle on the price.
Myeongdong – After dark the shopping district plays host to wired and wonderful food carts offering all kinds of trendy street foods. There are so many different things to eat in this street and most are 5,000 or under.
Tongin Market – While Tongin is not the largest food market in Seoul, but one of the cutest and most adorable thanks to the lunch boxes they offer between 11am – 4pm. In the Center of the market you will find a stand where you can buy an empty container for 5,000, you will also be given a handful of old coins which you can use to buy the many different varieties of traditional Korean street foods. This is located a short walk from Gyeongbuk Palace, so if you are seeing the sights this is a perfect place to grab a bite to eat while still experiencing some Korean traditional vibes.