Is there any city more underrated than Seoul? Vestiges of its post-war economic devastation still linger, in tiny, shack-like restaurants, in office workers’ long hours, and in the all-function-no-form “apartment forests” that house tens of thousands. But today the capital is a futuristic mega-city, packed with modernist skyscrapers, chic fashionistas and the kind of restaurants, bars and nightclubs that wouldn’t seem out of place in Nueva York o París.
Seoul’s no longer defined by concrete, convention and kimchi. Its youthful denizens are making their mark on the city. Korean brands are doing big business in shopping districts like Myeongdong – local cosmetics and clothes set the standard for Asia. Nightlife in student-packed Hongdae goes on until dawn, cafes are full of trendsetters on their smartphones, and great design – whether it’s a takeaway coffee cup, a boutique hotel room or the restoration of an ancient temple – is a citywide priority. The same efficiency that brought Korea from poverty to global powerhouse in half a century is evident in how smoothly Seoul functions and the number of global companies doing business here, but it’s the creative energy that makes this city an exceptional destination.