Last weekend my globe-trotting uncle Jeff swung by Seoul for a speedy visit. We were super psyched to get the opportunity to show him around, and tried to pack as many sights and gastronomical delights into the weekend as possible!
We met Jeff after we finished work on Friday evening and headed out for a late dinner and drinks at Cafe Sukkara. The cafe’s quiet ambiance was just what we needed to settle down and plan out the sight-seeing route for the weekend. The following morning, Jeff treated us to breakfast in the Westin Chosun’s hotel restaurant which miraculously had two vegan options on offer: grilled tofu with seaweed, mushrooms, and bok choy, and a “Superfood” salad loaded with beets, asparagus, chickpeas, avocado, and all other kinds of green goodness. The hotel was just a short walk away from Gwanghawmun, so the sightseeing began right after breakfast.
Walking past City Hall, covered in yellow ribbons and wreaths commemorating the Sewol ferry disaster.
The weather was scorching on Saturday, way hotter than it should be this time of year. The fountains had been turned on along Gwanghawmun so there were lots of kids out splashing around.
We took a detour on the way to Gyeongbokgung to show Jeff Cheonggyecheon, which was filled with tiny fish and lined with people dipping their toes into the water to keep cool.
We passed so many demonstrations and fundraising events on the way to Gyeongbokgung, from protests against organ farming in China to this huge fundraiser for Myanmar. I think Jeff was actually taken aback by how globally aware and concerned Seoulites are.
There were hundreds of hand-painted shoes on display, many with inspirational messages and images, and some that were just plain funky-looking.
We finally made it to Gyeongbokgung, which felt like a desert with its huge stretches of stone and gravel.
Gyeongbokgung’s a real ‘been there, done that’ kinda place. It’s just so massive, and there’s really not that much to see…
The highlight of Gyeongbokgung is definitely Hyangwonji pond with its pavilion floating in the center. We came upon this pond on our way out of Gyeongbokgung during our first visit last year, so we headed straight there this time, before we got too hot and tired to really appreciate it!
We wanted to cross as many sights off of Jeff’s Seoul bucket list as possible, while also showing him around our favorite areas and treating him to our favorite restaurants, so after a quick visit to the National Palace Museum we headed out to Itaewon for lunch.
We stopped at the Baker’s Table for a hearty lunch. Good bread is SO hard to come across in Korea, as the majority of it is sugar and butter-laden. Thankfully, most of the bread at the Baker’s Table is vegan, so we totally stuffed our faces, and snagged a couple loaves to take home, too.
Jeff basically went vegan for the weekend, though I certainly hadn’t expected him to! The Baker’s Table does a mega tasty vegan sandwich loaded with spicy pesto, hummus, and stuffed with sauteed mushrooms.
The portion sizes here were unexpectedly decent. We really struggled to finish off this bowl of spicy wedges and Jeff’s house salad. After lunch, we wandered down past the Baker’s Table to the Magpie Brewery where we indulged in a round of pints and were treated to some free samples of new brews, too!
We headed back to the hotel to relax for a few hours and escape the heatwave. Then, we ventured out to Hongdae for dinner at one of Seoul’s most popular vegan-friendly restaurants, Slobbie.
Eoin and I shared a huge sweet and sour tofu and mushroom bowl, and Jeff got a big plate of pajeon, fried savory pancake filled with spring onions and chillies, which I’d never seen served as a main meal before. We also introduced Jeff to makgeolli, cloudy Korean rice wine, which always gives me a hangover after a few sips. I don’t think Jeff was too keen on it, either, but it’s worth the experience!
We wandered around Hongdae for a while after dinner before stopping in at Fell+Cole for ice cream.
Fell+Cole is a gastronomical ice creamery focused on using local, organic ingredients with a Korean twist (makgeolli ice cream, anyone?!) They also have two vegan sorbet options, the flavors of which change regularly.
Jeff got a cherry and rose ice cream, and Eoin and I got a scoop of boozy salted watermelon sorbet and cayenne pineapple sorbet.
We spent most of Sunday in Insadong, where tacky tourist shops sit squashed in between independent art galleries and antique shops.
We also stopped by Jogyesa Temple, which still had all of its lotus lanterns up from Buddha’s Birthday.
From there we wandered around the Bukchon Hanok Village, which failed to impress me the first time we visited it last year, and didn’t seem much better this time around, unfortunately! We finally headed for a belly-busting temple food lunch at Sanchon.
Jeff was a little shocked by the 19-dish, six course menu, but we got through it!
I think Jeff got his fill of oily pajeon within one weekend. These ones were pretty soggy, definitely not my preference.
The main meal! Accompanied by fermented pine needle wine, buckwheat tea, and iced plum tea.
We left Jeff with a full stomach, collected Duggie from Bau House puppy cafe where he’d spent the weekend, and headed back home. Thanks for visiting, it was a real pleasure getting to show you around Seoul! ^^ We LOVE getting visitors! *hint hint!*