|Hwigyeomjae in Bukchon Hanok Village in Jongno District, Seoul, is the main house for Seoul Beauty Travel Week that runs until Oct. 5. Courtesy of Seoul Metropolitan Government|
Festival promotes how to rest well, eat healthy and appreciate life in Seoul
By Ko Dong-hwan
Seoul isn't just about hearing K-pop at local hotspots or strolling around Gyeongbok Palace donning rented hanbok. There are also vast cultural options for people to eat, experience and learn. These options aren't widely popular or easy to spot on streets. Rather, even many local Koreans aren't familiar with some of these cultural activities, including: visiting a rare hanok house with outstanding views of Seoul, a high-end restaurant serving only temple food and hidden hiking routes around the centuries-old city wall or around a royal palace.
Seoul Beauty Travel Week, starting Sept. 30 and running through Oct. 5, is Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon's initiative to introduce tourism options related to health and well-being that are not so well-known to visitors. Arranged in partnership with 45 selected shops in Seoul's central Jongno District, the program runs under three main themes: rest well at unique accommodations, eat healthy foods and appreciate life through special activities. The city government promotes each of these as a different kind of "beauty" that's available only in Seoul.
|Trekking next to the city wall on Mount Inwang behind Cheong Wa Dae under the moonlight is one of the special activities offered by Seoul Beauty Travel Week. Courtesy of Seoul Metropolitan Government|
Seoul Beauty Travel Week has designated Hwigyeomjae, a large traditional Korean house in Bukchon Hanok Village which was built in the early 20th century, as its main base that functions as an information center and a common event hall for all participants. It is the first time that Hwigyeomjae, designated in 1977 as national folklore cultural heritage, is open to the public, according to the Tourism Business Division under the city government's Tourism and Sports Bureau, which planned the week. During this festival, the authority refers to Hwigyeomjae as "Seoul Beauty House."
"'Seoul Beauty Travel Week' is part of 'Seoul Beauty Month' in October, which the city government has planned to promote the city's local markets and geographical sites that cater to one's well-being and allow one to understand and discover the meaning of their unique beauty inside," said Choi Gyeong-joo, the chief of Tourism and Sports Bureau. "Tourists from foreign countries as well as other regions of Korea can get really acquainted with their bodies and souls by taking part in this special week."
Hanok tours, healthy eats
Interior designer Teo Yang is the executive director of Seoul Beauty Travel Week, as appointed by the city government. The CEO of Teo Yang Studio and an honorary ambassador of Seoul, the 41-year-old is well-known for his love of hanok. He boasts several global credentials, including running the only Korean firm among the 2021 list of the world's top 100 global spatial design firms selected by Phaidon Press, a global art and architecture book publisher. The director, on the opening day of Friday, led a welcome session at Hwigyeomjae, including a tour of the house, and gave participants a little lecture on his interpretation of art.
|Interior designer Teo Yang is the executive director of Seoul Beauty Travel Week. Courtesy of Seoul Metropolitan Government|
Wrapping up the festival on Wednesday, Hwigyeomjae exhibits photos by popular Korean photographer Hasisi Park, whose love of downtown Seoul is reflected in her works. Under the title "You Take Your Own Speed of Relaxing Here," the photographer, who resides in the district, tells why she chose to live in Jongno District and took the photos, which consist of local scenes around the district.
Sixteen hanok in Jongno that boast outstanding appearances with the unsparingly rich use of wood mixed with a modern touch are participating in the festival. People can just visit them for a quick tour or book them online for lodging. From movie lovers to bookworms and meditators who just want to lose themselves in music, visitors have various options to choose from to indulge in their cravings. Fourteen of those hanok, some of which are privately owned, are also open for daily public tours, including Yang's residence and workplace.
|Participants of a special class at Hwigyeomjae on how to make a perfume with natural ingredients found in Seoul watch the instructor, back left, Oct 2. Courtesy of Seoul Metropolitan Government|
Whether traditional Korean culinary dishes or healthy foods not found anywhere else in the world, seekers of "edible beauty" can try any one of 14 restaurants, cafes, liquor stores and bakeries. For those who refuse to sit idly and wait to get served, the answer is getting your hands on activities that are sensually appealing, challenging and enriching. From outdoor mountain trekking to bike tours, mastering the nooks and crannies of Gyeongbok Palace, jogging around royal palaces and visiting various galleries, all 15 activity programs suggest different ways to unearth and nurture your beauty.
During the special week, people can visit Hwigyeomjae at 7 p.m. to join a special class on how to drink Korean tea as well as make a perfume with natural ingredients.
Those interested in Seoul Beauty Travel Week can easily find more information at Boolocally, a map-based tour guide app that in 2022 won an award by the Seoul Metropolitan Government.