When You Hunger for Art and FoodPyeongchang-dong, set at the foot of the Bukhan mountain in northern Seoul, is one of the city's most exclusive neighborhoods, a carefully preened district studded with mansions. At least, it was exclusive. A new, flourishing art scene and some fancy new eateries in the area are attracting rising numbers of outsiders.
Gana Art Center, located at the foot of Bukhan mountain, attracts crowds of visitors who come to enjoy special lectures and concerts as well as art exhibitions. The center, with its exhibition halls, outdoor stage and sculpture park, is what one of the gallery's representatives describes as a "complex cultural space." Its exhibition halls, connected by a yard and stairs through which visitors weave their way, and a terrace boasting stunning views of the Bukhan peaks, are some of the center's main attractions. Every month, the center also puts on a concert or two in its 300-seat outdoor performance space.
The Total Museum of Contemporary Art, located the next to Gana Art, is housed in a three-story building. Its rooms are connected by paths that resemble caves and sewers (without the sewage), making moving around the gallery fun in itself. It also has a large yard where people can take a break and enjoy the spring sunshine. The museum holds a chamber music concert every month at its outdoor 180-seat auditorium.
Seoul Auction House offers visitors the chance to watch an art auction, something of a rarity in Korea. Auctions are held there once or twice a month and attract over 100 visitors. The artwork up for grabs at auction varies greatly in price, from 100,000 won ($75) to several million won, depending on how well known the artist is. Participants can bid for a variety of imported wines at prices starting from 20,000 won. There is no admission fee for the event but bidders are limited to those who have paid their annual 50,000-won membership fees. The next auction will be held on April 20.
About 50 meters from the Seoul Auction House building is the oddly-named Growrich Gallery that opened last month. The gallery was formerly located in Sagan-dong, a neighborhood not far from Pyeongchang-dong. According to a curator, the move has breathed new life into the gallery, as the new premises offer larger and superior exhibition space.
Hungry viewers can find refreshments on the first floor of the Celamuse Porcelain Museum (02-394-7486), a remodeled residential house, but they should reserve special Japanese dishes such as sukiyaki (thin-sliced, lightly boiled beef served with glass noodles, tofu and vegetables) in advance. A serving of sukiyaki costs 25,000 won. On the second floor of the museum, a variety of porcelain made in Europe between the 17th and 20th centuries is on display.
Wil Restaurant (02-3217-1090), housed in the Gana Art building, serves up Italian cuisine including pasta, steak and seafood dishes. Its clientele is a combination of hungry hikers and dressy city folk who have come to test its excellent reputation. Lunch specials of lasagna and steak are 28,000 won ($22). Most beverages are about 5,000 won.
Also in Pyeongchang-dong are several well-known European-style restaurants. In My Memory (02-391-3643) is a French restaurant found on the way to Hyeongje-bong, one of Bukhan's peaks. The restaurant looks like a residential house with a beautiful garden and attracts many climbers who happen to be passing by. The garden is adorned with pleasing bronze statues and the sweet music inside lends the restaurant an inviting atmosphere. Escargots, edible snails cooked in French style, are 12,000 won, and lunchtime specials go for 22,000 won.
Cafe Motte (02-379-6500), on the third floor of the Seoul Auction House building, boasts a spacious terrace and nice views. It sells light snacks like sandwiches and pasta dishes as well as various kinds of German beer.
The restaurant Swiss (02-394-5003) boasts a great selection of wine. Order a steak or grilled fish dish and a glass of wine as recommended by the owner of the restaurant and you have an idyllic evening before you gazing out at the beautiful views.
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