The last week of 2022 is almost here.
Most popular restaurants and hotels have been booked for weeks and department stores are packed with people doing last-minute Christmas shopping.
People across the country will be getting together for a family dinner or sharing wine with friends in brightly lit bars.
However, if all the year-end workplace and family obligations have you tired and worn out, you might consider heading to a calm, peaceful spot where you can reflect on the past year and make plan for the new year.
Here are some locations in Seoul that you can privately visit by yourself, from early in the day and through the night.
Nestled in a forest next to Inwangsan trail, Chosochaekbang is ideal for early birds looking to enjoy a book with a cup of hot coffee or tea.
The book cafe occupies a former guard post which stood outside the Blue House for some 50 years.
The two-story book cafe which opened in 2020 offers a panoramic view of Seoul.
Some 100 old and new books, mostly on the environment, climate change, food and wellness line the shelves on one side.
More than a dozen different kinds of bread and pastries baked fresh each morning are available.
Since the library cafe opens at 8 a.m. daily, the cafe attracts a lot of hikers on their way to the nearby mountains.
Several transparent tents with seats inside are installed on the outdoor deck.
Those willing to brave the winter cold can head to the Bukhansan National Park which is just across the street. If you are in a mood for more books, try the nearby hanok libary named Chungwoon Literature Library, which is only a 10 minutes' walk away up a gentle slope.
Chosochaekbang is open from 8 a.m. to 9:50 p.m. Parking space is limited.
Sikmulgwan Plant House
Lush green spaces are hard to come by in an urban setting like Seoul, and even more so during the cold winter season.
Natural sunlight pours into the cafe through the glass roof a clear day, with trees and plants breathing in the spacious shelter.
Located two bus stops away from Irwon Station, Sikmulgwan Plant House combines a botanical garden, an art gallery and a cafe.
An admission fee of 13,000 for adults and 7,000 won for children entitles you to a choice of complimentary drinks, from matcha to hot chocolate.
Lush trees fill the Foliage Plants Zone on the first floor while Glasshouse has numerous potted plants. A terraced courtyard just outside is a popular photo spot. The Cafe Lounge, on the second floor, is a quiet place for people to read and write and has botany books stacked on one side. The third and fourth floors are special exhibition spaces.
“I was offered a chance to hold an exhibition in January and waited for the winter season for the best outcome of my installation,” Mingyes, a textile artist whose works are presented on the fourth floor, told The Korea Herald. “My project is on the balancing of plants and life through their roots, and Sikmulgwan PH is an ideal place since most visitors are aware of and interested in the issue.”
The paper wristband given at the counter gives you access to all areas. Sikmulgwan PH opens daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Nokwon Salon, a social book salon with all kinds of books and alcoholic beverages, opens after sundown.
Located just a few steps from Chungmuro Station, the place is an evening hideout for bookworms from 7 p.m. until midnight.
“I noticed a pharmacy on the street corner one day, and thought it might be fantastic if the place could be turned into a bookstore that cures the soul,” Noh Jung-hyo, owner of the bar and bookstore Nokwon Salon, told The Korea Herald. After a few months, Noh’s dream came true.
The rustic wooden pharmacy shelves were repurposed as bookshelves.
With the help of friends and acquaintances who donated their books and vintage props, the place turned into a cozy little enclave where people can spend time alone or together with others, surrounded by old and cherished books.
The place also holds a regular book discussion once a month which is open to everyone. Titles of the books and special guests are posted on Nokwon Salon’s Instagram account.
The salon’s signature drink is the Nokwon and Tonic, a vivid green cocktail that resembles a classic mojito, only a little milder in taste. A range of finger foods can also be ordered. A small platter of olive salad, cheese and crackers cost 7,000 won.
Nokwon Salon also operates as a cafe from noon to 4 p.m.