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Hot hanoks

Six hanok hotels and guesthouses in Seoul that will save you from the tropical nights of the city

Six hanok hotels and guesthouses in Seoul

Cheong Yeon Jae

The story of Cheong Yeon Jae begins in 1936, when a millionaire moved from Ganghwa Island to Seoul and built a house. Almost 80 years later, in 2014, the current owner Lee Sang-hak bought it with the intention to live there with his family. However, he changed his mind as he wanted more people to experience the advantages of a hanok, and after a year of grand remodeling, it was reborn as a hotel. It was a very well-preserved building to begin with—including its seokkarae (raft), dori (purlin), giwa (roof  tiles) and teul (window frames)—but he made sure that every detail of the house was made right. Thanks to that, this place consistently receives 9.5 out of 10 points on various hotel booking websites. The five guest rooms exude an elegant atmosphere with hanji (Korean traditional paper) wallpaper and pure cotton bed sheets. Every morning at 8am and 9am, they serve Korean food with four different side dishes for breakfast, and the staff here speaks English, Japanese and Chinese. 

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According to their website, the name of this hanok hotel has a deep meaning, translating into: “A place where one can enjoy the traditions of times past and rest one’s soul.” Human national treasure, master carpenter Chung Young-jin, renovated this building that once hosted the 130-year old Jindan Academic Society and three other hanoks in the vicinity. These four hanoks surround a square courtyard with a pavilion, a chimney, and a fireplace. They are sizeable structures, especially when you consider that they are located in the middle of the urban center. The guest rooms feature white wallpaper and silk blankets filled with cotton wool. The hanoks are even equipped with Japanese bathing tubs and yellow soil jjimjilbang saunas that will banish the fatigue of weary travelers. Guests can try making kimchi or wearing a hanbok. Laundry is free.

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This traditional hanok guesthouse is over a century old and has only been open to the public since 2013. Surrounded by stone walls, the building is located on the alley that leads to Joongang High School, coming from Gye-dong. As you walk through the front gate, you will first encounter the large main hall, courtyard and garden, which resembles that of a palace. This guesthouse has five guest rooms, each of them equipped with a private bathroom that has everything from toothbrushes, towels and shampoos, to hair dryers. You can unpack here and spend time in Insadong, Samcheong-dong,  Gyeongbokgung and the surrounding areas or read all day, chilling out in the main hall enjoying the breeze. 

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side Hanok guesthouse

Presumably, the painter Goo Bon-woong once lived in this old hanok. During remodeling, the general structure of the building was kept intact, but the generous use of metal and glass for the interior add a touch of sophistication. Every room has large, open windows that look out onto the garden, and the maple, ginkgo and cherry trees change their colors every season, making this place that much more attractive. This guesthouse is a modern interpretation of the traditional values of a hanok, including appreciation for the beauty of landscape. Pieces of wooden furniture, designed to fit the structure of the building, are both harmonious and practical in these medium-sized rooms.  

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Dalzip Bukchon

The owner of Dalzip Bukchon says that all the positive online comments and reviews are rather burdensome and that it’s because of his “grumpy nature” that this guesthouse is so meticulously clean without a single strand of hair or speck of dust. Even though it’s a small and simple place, guests always have a pleasant stay here thanks to the staff taking good care of every part of the house. Small pots and chairs in the garden and books in the shared kitchen make it more like a home than a guesthouse. There are five rooms in total—some for two and some for three people. All rooms are furnished with small tables, cupboards and bedding. For breakfast, various dishes, including chicken porridge, rice with Korean soybean sprouts, salad and bread, are served every day.

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This guesthouse combines the true character of a hanok and the  convenience of an apartment. When remodeling this traditional hanok, it was furnished with modern elements such as beds, bathtubs and separate storage solutions. The floor-to-ceiling glass doors between the yard, the main hall that keeps out wind and rain and the clean shared kitchen make this place live up to its promise of being a modern hanok. There are six guest rooms, including rooms for two with  queen-sized  beds, rooms for three with ondol and even a dormitory, which is unusual for a hanok guesthouse. The bunk beds in the shared room are equipped with privacy curtains and lamps. For breakfast, simple options like bread, cereals and coffee are served.  

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