Seoul tour: a culture trip through the South Korean capital

With new galleries and bustling bars, all eyes are on the South Korean capital. Our ‘Postcard from Seoul’ guided tour explores the cultural must-sees of the moment

Dongdaemun Design Plaza
Dongdaemun Design Plaza designed by Zaha Hadid Architects
(Image credit: press)

Seoul’s summer monsoon season brings with it a biblical rain that doesn’t shower but saturates. Each time the rain clears, a new Seoul is born; umbrellas become parasols and the muted urban vista makes way for a vibrant, old-meets-new vernacular, accentuated by a lush, mountainous backdrop.

In recent years, Seoul has undergone another sort of rebirth. After the international phenomena of K-pop, K-beauty, K-style and K-cinema, it now seems to be the moment for K-art, thanks to the rise of local players and the arrival of international cultural titans. Our arts editor, Harriet Lloyd-Smith, explores how, with new museums and galleries, bustling bars and restaurants, all eyes are on the South Korean capital. 

Postcard from Seoul: 8 arts and culture must-sees 

International galleries 

Continuous Life and Death

teamLab, Continuous Life and Death at the Now of Eternity II, 2019, Digital Work, 12 channels, Endless

(Image credit: © teamLab, courtesy Pace Gallery)

Joining acclaimed native galleries such as Hyundai and Kukje, a new wave of global blue-chips – including Thaddaeus Ropac, Lehmann Maupin and König – have flocked to Seoul for a piece of the action. Ahead of Frieze Seoul 2022, two major players announced ambitious extensions. Pace Gallery will expand its multi-level arts complex with a new outdoor sculpture courtyard, while Perrotin will open a new space in the upmarket retail neighbourhood of Gangnam, joining its original outpost in the historic art district of Jongno. 

Frieze Seoul

Frieze Seoul

Coex, 513 Yeongdong-daero, Gangnam-gu, 06164, Seoul

(Image credit: press)

The inaugural edition of Frieze Seoul in 2022 marked a major moment for Asia’s art scene. Held at Coex and led by director Patrick Lee, Frieze’s fourth global location, and its first in Asia, welcomed more than 110 galleries and featured a special section, Focus Asia. The much-anticipated addition to the art world calendar took place alongside KIAF (the Korea International Art Fair), placing Korean art firmly on the international stage. Frieze Seoul 2023 is set to take place 6 – 9 September.

Seoul Museum of Craft Art

Time and Boundaries

‘Craft, Moving Beyond Time and Boundaries’ at Seoul Museum of Craft Art, 4 Yulgok-ro 3-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul

(Image credit: press)

The Seoul Museum of Craft Art opened in 2021 as the first institution of its kind in South Korea. Shows in 2022 included ’Craft, Moving Beyond Time and Boundaries’, exploring how age-old traditions can collide with contemporary experimental approaches. Korean craft also took the spotlight at the 2022 Loewe Foundation Craft Prize, exhibited at the museum in July, where seven of the 30 international finalists hailed from South Korea, including this year’s winner, horsehair weaver Dahye Jeong. 



2-1 Gwanhun-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul

(Image credit: press)

All this cultural consumption demands sustenance, and a culinary gem lurking in a backstreet nook of the Insadong district promises to awaken tastebuds you didn’t know you had. Sanchon is an acclaimed vegan temple food restaurant established by a former Buddhist monk. The soul- and body-cleansing a la carte menu offers distinctive dishes involving kimchi, tofu, seaweed, japchae glass noodles and lotus fruit – the latter a punchy experience for the unseasoned palate. The food is accompanied by live piano music, live birds chirping, bounteous live greenery and an adjacent art gallery.  

Design Museum at Dongdaemun Design Plaza


‘Meta-Horizons: the Future Now’ by Zaha Hadid Architects in collaboration with Refik Anadol at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza Design Museum, Seoul, in 2022

(Image credit: press)

The new Design Museum at the Zaha Hadid Architects-designed Dongdaemun Design Plaza was inaugurated in 2022 by the exhibition ’Meta-Horizons: The Future Now’, exploring ZHA’s work across digital technology, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and sustainable strategies. Created in collaboration with artist Refik Anadol (who created the Seoul Light: Seoul Haemong multimedia public installation at DDP in 2019), the show was a multidisciplinary collision of virtual and physical worlds. 

281 Eulji-ro, Euljiro 7(chil)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul

Kukje Gallery

Kukje Gallery’s Wellness K. 

(Image credit: Photography: Chunho An. Image courtesy of Kukje Gallery.)

With its unique union of world-class art, wellness, food and design, Kukje is part art gallery, part state-of-the-art lifestyle hub. Within the multi-use art complex’s K1 building (which secured a Wallpaper* Design Award in 2021) is Wellness K, an inventive fusion of fitness, mindfulness and aesthetics. Within a space designed by Teo Yang studio, the wellness centre offers members personalised programmes including strength and core training, yoga, dance, and meditation. What’s more invigorating than lifting weights within feet of a Julian Opie? 

54 Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Oul at the Four Seasons Seoul 

Four Seasons

(Image credit: press)

Cocktail hour at the Four Seasons Seoul has long been headlined by the ‘secret’ subterranean speakeasy that is Charles H. But above ground, the newly-opened Oul is shaking things up. The late-night bar concept, tailored to the Korean ‘Generation MZ’ (encompassing Millennials and Gen Z), offers contemporary takes on a long history of Korean liquor crafting and fermentation, such as a reimagined Gyeongseong-era sujeonggwa cinnamon punch, and a Kimchi Highball with a twist of green chilli soju. With its dynamic Obangsaek colour palette and neon signage, Oul is a new mixology hotspot for experimentally-minded night owls. 

97 Saemunan-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul

SongEun Art & Cultural Foundation

Art & Cultural Foundation

(Image credit: Jihyun Jung)

Seoul has long been a hub for projects by internationally acclaimed architects, from Mario Botta, Jean Nouvel and Rem Koolhaas (who each designed a wing of Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art) to Dominique Perrault, whose Ewha Womans University blends seamlessly into its hillside landscape. In late 2021, Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron made their South Korean debut with the SongEun Art & Cultural Foundation, an angular, monolithic 11-storey structure in the high-end Gangnam district. The building – which houses a non-profit cultural space championing Korean and international emerging art – has become something of a Seoul landmark, a feat in a city defined by such a dense urban tapestry. 

441 Dosan-daero, Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul


This article appears in the September 2022 Issue of Wallpaper*, available on newsstands now, as well as on the Wallpaper* app on Apple iOS, and to subscribers of Apple News +. Subscribe to Wallpaper* today

Harriet Lloyd-Smith was the Arts Editor of Wallpaper*, responsible for the art pages across digital and print, including profiles, exhibition reviews, and contemporary art collaborations. She started at Wallpaper* in 2017 and has written for leading contemporary art publications, auction houses and arts charities, and lectured on review writing and art journalism. When she’s not writing about art, she’s making her own.