Food, General

How To Staycation in Seoul Like a Boss!

With December almost here, many of us will have some days off scattered through the next few weeks. Squeeee! Between that and the upcoming holidays, the time is ripe to treat yourself especially well. And THAT (to me) means planning an epic staycation, and I recently had a helluva staycation in Seoul.

The staycation itinerary I’m about to share is one I enjoyed over the long Chuseok break last month, and it includes all of my very favorite things: cool lodging, tasty restaurants, biking through Seoul and happening upon fun places and activities. Best part is, this plan can suit a party of one for some much-needed me time and rejuvenation or be shared with your friends for a staycation partayyyy. Do one activity or do ’em all. Grab some tea, coffee or hot cocoa, and take some notes — here’s how to staycation like a boss!

Kick Things Off with An Amazing Meal

Since check-in at my hotel was in the mid-afternoon, I decided to sleep wayyy in and start my staycation with a yummy brunch. I learned that MADE, an Italian-skewing restaurant in Apgujeong, serves a mighty popular brunch starring eggs Benedict.

It was amazing — I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had yolky eggs under silky hollandaise sauce. There are several Benedicts on the menu, and I was quite pleased with the prosciutto version I ordered. (When was the last time I had prosciutto?!) Since calories don’t count on staycations (right??), I threw in an order of mozzarella sticks, with a side of zesty marinara sauce that reminded me of home. Goodness, gracious they were perfect. Do eggs Benedict and mozz sticks pair well? I didn’t care, and my stomach was happy, so let’s just say yes!

Get Some Bomb-Ass Accommodations

After stuffing my staycation face, it was off to my hotel.

In looking for a hotel to stay in Seoul, I’d originally wanted a place that had in-room tubs and room service, but, ouch — to have both meant paying out the wazoo for a hotel. Soon, however, my search found me hotel with a very special tub.

Dormy Inn Premium Seoul Garusogil is one of a couple Seoul branches of a Japanese hotel chain, and once I read up on its amenities, I knew I had to stay there. Check THIS out:

First off, this location is right near Sinsa Station, which made it convenient to get to with a suitcase and which meant it was situated in the hip and lively neighborhood of Sinsa, which I’d never really explored before.

Second, the Dormy offers a wealth of benefits including a shuttle service to a handful of subway stations and neighborhoods; a yummy welcome beverage (nonalcoholic, you lush) in the lobby; nightly soba (Japanese noodles) service in the hotel restaurant Hatago; and a free (I said FREEEEEE) onsen spa, featuring hot pools and a dry sauna. So, see — I got my tub after all!

All that goodness and my room itself were fantastic! While it was small, the room was well laid-out and contained everything I needed and more, including a sweet view.

Plus, there were mega-thoughtful touches that brought this room to the next level, including one of those fancy toilets where the seat warms every time you sit. Y’all, this thing not only could wash and rinse the Great Down Below, but it could also dry it. I did all of it and damn near needed a cigarette after all o’dat. But enough about my dating life …

I really liked the abundance of electrical outlets in the room and how all the lights could be controlled from a command center near the bed. Smart! In fact, the technology all up in this hotel was really thoughtful — through the TV, guests can see if there are any pillows to rent (if you need extras), order everything from toiletries to sneakers, and even check up on breakfast traffic in the restaurant in the mornings.

Breakfast traffic, you ask? Yes — Dormy Inn is known for having an insanely abundant daily brunch buffet. It’s not included in the room rate, but I had it thrown in when I reserved at Agoda.com — worth it! The brunch features Japanese, Korean and Western specialties, and I nibbled on seemingly all of it. From grilled mackerel to sashimi to good, ol’ bacon, eggs and croissants, if you dreamed it, the brunch at Hatago had it. I really liked how they had a corner of the restaurant reserved for solo diners. Like I said — thoughtful!

One cool touch at Dormy was the hotel loungewear provided to every guest. It’s essentially uber-comfy pajamas that you’re allowed to wear everywhere except into the lobby. So for evening soba service and brunch, you’re surrounded by folks dressed just like you — it’s surreal and fun!

As if there aren’t enough bennies at this place, don’t miss one feature I wasn’t able to take advantage of: a visit to the hotel’s SoLa Sky Lounge. This sleek bar is on the top floor of the hotel and not only offers a cool view of the city, but features a sweet happy hour — from 6 to 9 p.m. nightly, 20,000 won gets you all-you-can-drink cocktails. Perrrrfect if you’re making your staycation a girls’ getaway. OK, OK … also perfect if you’re going it alone. Cheers!

My stay at Dormy was so incredible that I’m glad I booked for two nights; one night simply wouldn’t have been enough to soak up all the goodies the property offers. Now you know!

Explore The ‘Hood!

If you do lay your head at the Dormy, a world of fun activities awaits just outside your door (and I don’t mean at the McDonald’s two doors down. Although since I don’t have a Mickey D’s near my rural Korean hometown, I mayyy have visited this one near Dormy twice.).

Take a left outside the Dormy’s front door and another left at the first street, and the Sinsa neighborhood unfolds right before you, packed to the gills with great places to see, shop, eat and sip warm drinks. You can easily burn a couple hours hopping from block to block, and while Garosu-gil is Sinsa’s main avenue for shopping, I rather like the smaller streets a block on either side of it.

After traipsing through the neighborhood, I indulged in one of my favorite pasttimes — biking along the Han River. I snagged a bike from one of the city bike rental stands and clocked 11 miles on a perfect day for cycling. Alas, it’s way too cold for biking now, in my opinion, so you may prefer to tuck yourself into a cafe in Sinsa with a good book and sip on some coffee!

Explore Seongsu, aka the Brooklyn of Seoul

After more bike riding, this time through Seoul Forest (above), I met up with friends to check out some cafes in Seongsu, a quirky enclave on the other side of the river from Sinsa. It’s been called the Brooklyn of Seoul, and as a Brooklyn native, I don’t know if I’d go that far in describing a few gritty, artsy blocks of the city, but it certainly has a NYC-tinged je ne sais quoi that’s definitely worth a visit.

My friends and I started out at Daelim Channgo (above), a sprawling cafe-restaurant that’s also an edge art space. I felt instantly hipper upon stepping into the place, with its exposed brick, high ceilings and hipster bent.

We were hungry, and, happily, Daelim serves albeit pricey food that’s pretty tasty and comes in big, shareable portions. Dive into the quesadillas or fish and chips (above) with a friend and treat yo’self to a beer to wash it all down. The tiramisu in the dessert case looks delectable, so save room for that. Or, save your sweet tooth for my next Seongsu recommendaton.

Cafe Onion, a popular coffeehouse a quick walk from Daelim Warehouse, is well-known for its towering Italian cakes piled high with powdered sugar. We couldn’t resist sharing a couple of the pastries for dessert, and they didn’t disappoint; I highly recommend accompanying them with a creamy milk tea! Once you’ve got your cakes, walk through Onion’s very open interior and find a cozy corner — there are plenty of small rooms with sumptuous cushions and huge windows so others can peek in enviously. There’s also an expansive patio with a long communal table, as well as a lively rooftop space with seating, but unless you’re a legit snow bunny, those corners just might have to wait for spring!

After filling our bellies, you might want to burn off a few calories. Happily, there’s a bowling alley not far from Onion!

Union Star has disco lights and pulsating dance music, as well as a self-serve bar area where you can grab a beer. Get your shoes and a ball and go to town! And good luck — if you roll a strike when a neon pin is in the front position, you win a beer!

End Your Staycation with … Yeah, More Amazing Food

To cap off my relaxing, rejuvenating, refreshing urban break, I had to once again scratch my Italian-food itch. This time I went to Brera, an Italian-owned eatery just across the street from Beotigogae Station. I’m pretty obsessed with this place, and though they serve up excellent pasta and pizza, in my three or four visits to this place, I’ve never been able to rip myself away from the lasagna Bolognese. It’s a plate of meaty, cheesy luxury that I paired with a full-bodied house red.

Brera actually just earned a Michelin star, so don’t just take my word on its excellence. If you’re dining solo, as I was, it’s great to sit near the window and enjoy the view. But Brera is also fantastic with friends or a date!

I hope you take some time to enjoy part or all of my staycation tips — got some of your own tips? Let me know in the comments!

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