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 New York ou Paris.
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.