Restaurants in Seoul
South Korea has a very distinct cuisine, which may take some getting used to for foreigners, but provides an exciting and unique taste experience. The selection of Seoul restaurants is vast and varied with everything from local specialities, such as Saeng Galbi (pork or beef ribs cooked on a barbeque), to huge American cheeseburgers and exotic Moroccan kebabs on offer. Options for eating out in Seoul range from cheap noodle stalls to fine-dining establishments. Travellers keen to mingle with the locals should note that Koreans like to share food and eating is a very communal activity - it is polite to accept offers to share food and friendly to offer to share in return.
The Itaewon entertainment strip has the best collection of Seoul restaurants, serving both local and international cuisine. Otherwise, good areas for traditional Korean food are Gangdong-gu and Yeongdeungpo-gu, while restaurants with international menus can be found in Gangnam-gu, Seodaemun-gu and Namdaemun.
Tipping is not customary in South Korea but some Seoul restaurants may add a service charge of 10 percent to the bill. Restaurant hours vary quite dramatically throughout the city and reservations are recommended for the more upmarket and popular venues, although it is generally possible to stroll into a decent restaurant off the street.
Don't miss the experience of dining at Sanchon, or sipping tea at their attached tea house. Run by a former Buddhist monk, this restaurant specialises in vegetarian dishes prepared with ingredients from the mountain valleys and flavoured with subtle herbs and roots. The menu features a perilla seed soup, radish mushroom and red pepper wraps, Goso-namul (seasoned goso, a wild vegetable favoured by monks), as well as a tofu stew and traditional Korean pastries. Traditional folk dancing every evening is made more colourful by Nong Ju rice beer or a glass of fruit wine. Reservations recommended.
Address: 14 Gwanghun Dong, Jongno-gu, Insadong
Telephone: (0)2 735 0312
Myeongdong Hamheung Myeonok
Myeongdong Hamheung Myeonok is one of the best Seoul restaurants to go to for a relaxed naengmyeon (cold noodle) meal. Their sweet potato noodles can be enjoyed in a delicious oxtail broth, or perhaps with spicy hwae (raw fish). Open daily from 9.30am to 10pm, reservations not required.
Address: 26-1 Myeongdong 2-ga
Telephone: (0)2 776 8430
For the ultimate dining experience, offering a French fusion menu or a seven course set meal, the Seoul Hilton's Seasons restaurant scores top marks for cuisine, service and ambiance. Executive Chef Hyo Nam Park is a recognised master of his craft who enhances traditional French dishes with his own special touches. Both the set menu and the à la carte change frequently. The setting is decidedly elegant and intimate, and the service discreet and old-fashioned. Open daily for lunch and dinner, reservations essential.
Address: Millennium Seoul Hilton Hotel, 395-5 Ga, Namdaemun
Telephone: (0)2 753 7788
Aptly named, Dugahun is set in the 'very beautiful house' of the Hyundai Gallery, and also has a lovely outdoors area for alfresco dining. Menu favourites include the king-crab, grapefruit and avocado salad, and the glazed beef tenderloin. Open Tuesday to Sunday for lunch and Monday to Saturday for dinner, reservations recommended.
Address: 109 Sagan-dong
Telephone: (0)2 3210 2100
Chinese cuisine is popular in Seoul, as evidenced by the large number of Chinese restaurants. One of the tried and trusted restaurants in this genre is Wan Chai with a vast menu covering all the traditional favourites. Named after Hong Kong's nightlife district, Wan Chai is popular with young Koreans and serves tasty Chinese food in a relaxed environment. Highly recommended are the spicy noodles and spicy Hong Kong shellfish.
Address: 5-35 Jangchun-dong, Seodaemun-gu
Telephone: (0)2 392 7744
This cosy French restaurant serves a fine selection of sweet and savoury buckwheat crepes, quiches, galettes (cakes) and salads, and also boasts a good range of French wines. Open daily for lunch and dinner, reservations not essential.
Address: 123-1 Itaewon-dong
Telephone: (0)2 795 2465
Diners at Baekje Samgyetang are seated on comfortable floor cushions around the restaurant's polished wooden tables and served traditional Korean cuisine, such as samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup), best accompanied by a glass of insamju (ginseng wine). Open daily from 9am to 10pm. Reservations are accepted but not required.
Address: 50-11 Myeongdong 2-ga
Telephone: (0)2 776 3267
The Flying Pan Blue
Located in a quiet Itaewon alleyway, The Flying Pan Blue is a popular café set in a lofty building and charmingly furnished with chairs that don't match each other, at all! Menu favourites include chicken curry sandwiches, Saturday brunch pancakes, bagels with cream cheese and the delicious chocolate mud (brownies with wine sauce). Open from breakfast till 9.30pm Monday to Saturday, reservations recommended.
Address: 123-7 Itaewon-Dong
Telephone: (0)2 793 5285
Become our Seoul Travel Expert
We are looking for contributors for our Seoul travel guide. If you are a local, a regular traveller to Seoul or a travel professional with time to contribute and answer occasional forum questions, please contact us.