Famed for its shopping and bar-hopping, Seoul also offers plenty of potential for a healthy city break. Savour nourishing Korean cuisine, sample the city’s saunas or re-energise with a cultural escapade…
Fans of guilt-free eating should beeline to this light and bright raw-food cafe with an inviting outdoor terrace. If no meat, zero caffeine and low sugar are your idea of fun, you’ll be high-fiving the rainbow-hued salad and fruit bowls, house-made yoghurt, and fresh-pressed juices, plus own-label quinoa, lentils and chickpeas to go.
31 Apgujeong-ro 4-gil, Gangnam-gu, +82 2515 8400. badfarmers.com
Join the city’s most seasoned palates at this retro hanok and rustic private kitchen, where Ms Kim dishes up fresh, organic fare using produce handpicked from the wild. Call ahead to book one of the two private rooms with tables, hosting up to five each.
113-1 Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu, +82 2730 7002
TIME FOR TEA
OSulloc Tea House
It may sound like an Irish theme bar, but this modern, minimal cafe specialises in all things matcha – tea, smoothies, cakes and ice cream are all infused with the health-boosting green-hued cha.
12 Myeong-dong 7-gil, Myeong-dong, +82 2774 5460. osulloc.com
This traditional ’30s dynasty-style house and pretty stone garden is now a destination for tea and homemade cake. Journey here for soothing sips and local desserts, such as signature bingsu (ice flakes with sweet pumpkin), with healthy options spanning antioxidant-rich jujube tea and ginger sweets. Reservations are for four-plus people only. Book a private room overlooking the garden or outdoor seats in summer.
8 Seongbuk-ro 26-gil, Seongbuk-gu. +82 2764 1736
SPAS, SAUNAS & REJUVENATION
Gangbyeon Spa Land
This simple, sprawling 24-hour traditional Korean spa features a bathing playground of hot and cold pools, dry and wet saunas, and a host of pampering treats using mud, salt, oxygen, igloo ice, sulphur spring water, pinewood and more.
45 Guigangbyeon-ro, Gwangjin-gu, +82 2455 3737. ispaland.co.kr
Hotel Prima Sauna
A bathing spa paradise, Hotel Prima offers a great sauna for women, as well as tempting Men’s Sauna Poseidon. Chill out while getting a sensational rub and scrub, then nip into the tranquil outdoor hot spring and volcanic rock pool. Separate floors keep the guys from the gals (ladies, nap and snack upstairs, then trot downstairs for hair, mani and makeup).
Hotel Prima, 536 Dosan-daero, Gangnam-gu, +82 2 6006 9114. prima.co.kr
Kwangdong Hospital of Traditional Korean Medicine
Ditch the Botox and go natural with anti-ageing facial acupuncture at Kwangdong Hospital. Choose between ‘Petite’ or ‘Intensive’ courses, which insert ultra-fine needles around wrinkles, muscles and acupoints to rejuvenate and lift your skin. Aiming to improve brightness and elasticity, procedures are relatively painless, although you may experience some swelling or bruising. Book in advance for appointments (90 minutes to three hours).
612 Bongeunsa-ro, Gangnam-gu, +82 2 2222 4907. ekwangdong.com
Restore your natural posture at Rebom Clinic, a medispa offering skeletal manipulation to realign your spine, pelvis or neck. Anti-ageing facial treatments are also a speciality, injecting your skin with natural pharmaceutical extracts, or trim down with help from herbal dietary remedies. An English speaking service is available and reservations are essential.
336 Hakdong-ro, Gangnam-gu, +82 2546 1357-8. re-bom.com
A haven of natural beauty in downtown Seoul’s urban bustle, this streamside walk whips you right through the middle of town with rolling city vistas. You can start the little over 10K trail at Cheonggye Plaza and stride towards Dongdaemun, or approach the latter in the opposite direction from Cheonggyecheon Museum, with snack and drink stops along the way. A welcome urban renewal project, this waterfront wander is dotted with sculptures with regular street performers and striking lighting at night.
Drift back in time at this vast, majestic palace with open courtyards and pagoda rooftops. Built in 1395, and located in northern Seoul, it was the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty, and is the city’s most dazzling, perfect for unwinding while soaking up cultural highs. Free English guided tours are available at 11am, 1.30pm and 3.30pm daily.
161 Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, +82 2 3700 3900. royalpalace.go.kr
Korea Furniture Museum
Refreshingly free from the tourist hordes, this bewitchingly beautiful family-run compound offers an original insight into 19th-century aristocratic Korean life. Ten exquisitely preserved, gleaming wooden hanok are decked with heritage furniture, antiques, art and collectables from the owners’ personal stash. Refreshingly free of tourists, this serene sanctuary is by appointment only so pre-book online. One-hour English guided tours take place Monday to Saturday (2pm, 3pm, 4pm and 5pm), with limited numbers to ensure peaceful pottering.
121 Daesagwan-ro, Seongbuk-gu, +82 2745 0181. kofum.com
The original version of this article was written by LUXE for Cigna Smart Health.
Sloping off to Korea’s vibrant capital? Don’t forget to nab a copy of the LUXE Seoul guide…