Seoul is one of the most up and coming hubs for fashion and art. Over the past two decades, the city has experienced what seems to be the largest artistic boom in Asia. Catering to a variety of tastes, Seoul’s art scene is one of the most unique in the region. Here are the best destinations for art lovers for when you only have 24-hours to explore.
Seoul Museum of Art
The Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA), features the finest modern art in the country. On three floors, visitors have the chance to explore six exhibition halls, as well as a lecture hall and an extensive library where you can dive into art books, magazines and visual materials. One of the most popular permanent exhibitions features artworks of the famous Korean painter Chun Kyung Ja and should not be missed. Moreover, the museum constantly offers interesting temporary exhibitions. These include displays of works by Picasso to the cover photos of the National Geographic. The museum’s main building is near Deokstgung Palace in the center of the city. However, there are two more locations, one in Namhyeon-dong, Gwanak-gu (SeMa NamSeoul) and the other in Gyeonghuigung (SeMa GyeongHuiGung).
Insider Tip: Visitors will be able to take part in free Korean traditional art classes, held in both Korean and English.
Seoul Arts Center
Home to the Korea National Ballet and the Korea National Opera, the Korean Symphony Orchestra, the Korea National Contemporary Dance Company and the National Chorus of Korea, Seoul Arts Center (SAC) is much more than an art museum. The center features five main buildings, three of which feature exhibitions on everything from graphic design and graffiti, to art deco and special exhibitions on artists such as Le Corbusier, Alphonse Mucha, and Korean artist Koo Hye-sun.
Insider Tip: Sign up for the free SAC Membership and you can book your tickets online and jump the line!
2406 Nambusunhwan-ro, Seocho 3(sam)-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul
Dongdaemun Design Plaza
Designed by world-renowned architects Zaha Hadid and Samoo Architects and Engineers, the neofuturistic Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), has been a major destination for art and fashion since its opening in 2014. The multi-purpose plaza houses a large number of exhibition halls, as well as a fashion design center. The bi-annual Seoul Fashion Week is also held at DDP and attracts big international names every spring and fall. Currently, the Plaza is holding a special exhibition on Piero Fornasetti, as well as the first international exhibition of the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., a collection of the 140 winning photographs of the Smithsonian Photo Contest. On weekends, vendors sell hand-made items and clothing around the DDM premises and a weekly food truck event is also held.
Insider Tip: Open to visitors 24 hours a day, you can beat the crowd when visiting the DDM in the evenings. Download the self-guided map on the DDP Website to get the most out of your visit.
Dawon Traditional Tea Garden
Surrounded by smaller art galleries, this teahouse is one of the oldest in the city. Local artists love to sit down for a delicious cup of Korean Jujube tea and find inspiration from the sweet smells coming from the cherry blossom trees in the garden of the teahouse. This place is the perfect spot to relax in between gallery and museum hopping.
Insider Tip: Be warned, Koreans usually sit on the floor in traditional teahouses.
This inspiring space is the perfect location to grab a cup of coffee and some cake in the afternoon. Takeout Drawing is not only a café, but also showcases artworks by local artists. Even the beverages and snacks seem to be tiny works of art as they come in all shapes and colors. Be sure to order Paul’s Meringue Factory, a delicious espresso topped with homemade meringues.
This gallery was one of the first of its kind when it opened its doors in 1970. Since then, artist Park Myeong-Ja has made it her goal to introduce the Korean public to art of all genres. Today, the gallery features artworks of world-famous artists, but also supports up-and-coming artists from Korea and outside. The gallery currently presents an exhibition of abstract paintings by Ryu Kyung-Chai.
80 Sagan-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
63 Sky Art Gallery
Situated over 260 meters (853 ft) above sea level, the gallery on the 60th floor of Seoul’s 63 Building offers both impressive artworks and incredible views of the city. The 63 SKY ART Gallery houses three spacious exhibition halls, a performance hall, a Sky Art café and much more.
Insider Tip: Save time and money by using the gallery’s free shuttle bus which picks up visitors from four stops at the following subway stations: Line 1 Daebang Station, Line 5 Yeoinaru Station, Line 5 Yeouido Station, and Line 9 Saetgang Station. For further details and a timetable, please refer to the official 63 Sky Art website.
Take a Street Art Tour
While Seoul features world-class galleries and museums, the city also offers an outdoor mural village with a rich history. In fact, most of the houses located on the steep mural area were built after the Korean War in order to find quick housing for the people of Seoul. Today, the village is still home to many locals and has also transformed into a colorful playground for local street artists. The project came to life in 2006, when the city of Seoul instructed around 70 artists to decorate the area with paintings and sculptures. Moreover, the area is filled with charming cafés and boutique shops selling unique and handmade items.
If you appreciate food art, Chef Ryu will impress you with Korean fusion dishes at his restaurant Ryunique in Seoul’s Sinsa district. Having worked in first-class kitchens in Japan, Australia, and the UK, Chef Ryu offers incredible interpretations of traditional Korean cuisine with a modern twist. His signature dish is seared duck breast with smoked leak and orange miso jus, which earned him a place among Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016.
Insider Tip: The restaurant is quite small so be sure to book a table, especially when visiting on weekends.
Si Wha Dam
This elegant dining space combines traditional and modern Korean flavors. On top of exquisitely prepared dishes, the restaurant interior will remind visitors of an art gallery with its Korean antiques, tasteful centerpieces, and Asian ceramics. What’s especially interesting is that all dishes are served on ceramic plates made by local artists in Seoul.
5-5 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Hong Yuan at The Westin Chosun Seoul is one of the best restaurants for Cantonese cuisine in the city. The space features alluring red decorations giving the illusion of dining at the Forbidden City in China. Seafood, vegetables, and tofu allow for a varied menu of traditional yet modern dishes.
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