Bonum Seoul Korea Hotel

Seoul is a bustling metropolis that never stops; that's a fact. It's crazy to think that the home of the world's fastest internet connection was a war-torn city only 60 years ago, and yet today it's the fourth largest economy globally and synonymous with Samsung, K-pop and plastic surgery. My visit to the South Korean capital was the exciting sensory overload I expected, but sometimes a girl just wants a break from all the crowded streets and urban noise. That's where Bonum 1957 Hanok Stay and Hotel comes in.

As soon as I walked through their fancy iron gates on a freezing January morning, I knew I was in for a treat. Sitting on the edge of Seoul's traditional Bukchon Hanok Village, it was hard to believe that I was still in the heart of such a pulsating city. The building was erected in 1957, but like all the others in the village, its design followed the centuries-old Korean architectural style of 1392 — curved tile roofs, wooden pine columns, and walls made of heavily textured hanji paper formed the low, dainty buildings.

Upon entering my suite, I noticed how skillfully Bonum had mastered the art of mixing contemporary with traditional. Rich wood flooring, feathery robes and those high-tech toilets you can only find in Asia (I still don't know what all the buttons do) were all there. To top it all off, a balcony was wrapped along the outside, complete with a patio set for sipping roasted rice tea while looking over the courtyard. The scene was so picturesque, I wasn't at all surprised to find out that Korean sensation, Psy, had actually filmed one of his music videos here.

Should you choose to skip the suite and sleep in authentic 1392 style, Bonum offers that option as well. The annexed hanok building across the courtyard retains truly authentic interiors, furniture included. Guests here sleep on the padded maru floor, heated by traditional ondol engineering: a fire pit is lit underneath the stone floors, which also serves for cooking and heating bath water. 

But maybe even better than the hotel itself is the location. Bukchon was an exclusive neighborhood for scholars, government officials and privileged families back in the 14th-century Choseon Dynasty, and its level of preservation is astonishing. Most of the homes here are still inhabited by local families, who carry on traditional Korean crafts and open up their homes for tourist workshops. Some of these include hanji paper making, embroidery, shamanic art, jewellery, and making and eating gimbap. Bonum itself was converted into a hotel only several years ago when the owner's grandfather passed away, and while it's the only actual hotel, many of the other residences also serve as guesthouses. 

Only a five-minute walk away from the hotel brings you even more sightseeing options. Try the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art for something fresh, or the long-preserved Changdeokgung Palace and its Secret Garden for something classic. Gyeongbokgung Palace is also a must-see for any first timer in Seoul, as is Insadong Street (Ssamziegil included). All that walking and sightseeing will probably make you hungry, so make sure to take advantage of the numerous teahouses and delicious eats found on every corner. Aboong's frozen-yogurt-stuffed taiyaki was my favorite — it's equal parts beautiful and delicious.

No matter what I chose to do each day, the highlight was always to finish off and wind-down with a snack and drink in Bonum's restaurant bar. There really was no better place I could've called home in all of Seoul.

Disclaimer: VIVA was a guest of Bonum 1957 Hanok Stay and Hotel, however opinions and comments made by the writer remain unbiased and independent.