Summertime’s superlative humidity, high temperatures and hungry mosquitoes are part and parcel of the Seoul life. Whether you’re bracing for it or totally embracing it, the heat is on and it’s only set to rise. For our cool down guide, we specifically picked weekday and weekend friendly no-travel options to provide you with a cool down handbook for those moments of wilted desperation. Keep your head up, glass full, mind steady and your clothes loose. Play it cool, guys.
There may be no more authentically Korean way to cool down in the heat of the afternoon than a lunch of naengmyeon. This frosty dish of buckwheat noodles in a spicy or vinegary sauce can be, ahem, polarizing. If you’re a hater, we hereby beg you to give naengmyeong a second try. Key in on places that specialize in the dish and take the time to craft a broth that’s anything but bland. The above photo was taken at Ilsan’s Cheong Su Naengmyeon, which serves little else besides killer cold noodles.
#2- Swap Your Hand Phone for a Hand Fan
A second classic cool-down method. Walk into any stationery store, purchase W1,000 hand fan in the shape of your favorite stationery superstar or animal. (We assembled some cute ones from Papearl to give you some inspo.) Take with you everywhere. Bonus strategy is to keep one at your desk and one for on the go. Wave it at your face when needed (all day long).
#3- Hamilton Hotel Pool
It’s hard to determine if Itaewon’s Hamilton Hotel Pool is a bigger draw for cooling down or showing off. Let’s just say it kills two birds in one scene. Poolside at the Hamilton is a menagerie of personalities and extremes in poolside fashion, including a bald man in a green thong. The trick is finding a spot to sun in. Get there early and hire a towel for 3,000 if needed. Entry is W20,000. Naturally, beer and cocktails are served.
#4- Keep Cold with “Gold Class”
Is it any wonder why summer movies are such a thing? Cavernous, over-air-conditioned movie theaters are perfect places for heat-avoidance. We suggest adopting a Christmas in July mentality and treating yourself to CGV’s “Gold Class” movie tickets. For around W30,000, you’ll get a smaller viewing room (with your VIP peers), reclining seats, snacks including egg tart, nuts and a soft drink, glass of beer or wine. Heat: 0, Swag: 1.
#5- Cold Comfort
It’s been found that looking at images of cold things can actually make you feel cooler. Yes, you finally have another reason to re-watch March of the Penguins, as if you really needed one. For a work-friendly way to get some cold comfort comparison, this link has live video feed of the United States’ McMurdo Station in Antartica. Maybe this will recall the frigid misery of Korea’s winter 2013. Feel any better about the heat yet?
#6- Puttin’ on the Spritz
Evian started the craze of designer spritzes, and Korea’s own Skin Food sells a frosty cooling spray. Here is summer’s answer to the hand warmer: it’s cheap, easy, instant relief and especially helpful for sticky sweat relief. On a budget? Hit Daiso for a dirt-cheap spritz bottle. Fill with water and keep it in any refrigerator you frequent.
#8- Sidewalk Fountains
Finding them can be a scavenger hunt, but sidewalk fountains and man-made streams are examples of Korea’s urban planning at its finest and coolest. Frolic in one for five minutes to cool your body and your inner child. Catch some mist or drench yourself, gently elbowing the kids out of the way. There are known sidewalk fountains in Gwanghwamun, Ilsan, as well as Hangang Park* and outside of Coex. To any aspiring cartographers reading this post, making a sidewalk fountain map of Seoul could be your ultimate summer project. And, this blurb would be incomplete without mentioning Cheonggyecheon. It may be a tourist beehive in the warmer months, but Cheonggyecheon’s sunken public streams at a steamy sunset is the stuff of summer magic.
#7- Tray Cool
Anyone who has spent more than ten minutes on Pinterest has heard of all the clever things you can freeze in your ice cube trays. We suggest following this craze. Korean golden melon, watermelon, or any berry blended with a little fruit juice and popped in the freezer makes a great ice water accessory or snack. The blog My Korean Kitchen also has a moderately difficult recipe for a homemade honeydew melon ice pop. A splash of soju in any of these suggestions makes good adult versions, too.
#9- Pass the Gochujang
It’s not much of a coincidence that the world’s great spicy dishes come from countries with sweltering climates. Chili peppers contain a chemical called capsaicin that foments sweating and lowers your body temperature. We know, we know; you’re already sweating. So what’s the harm, then? Get out for dak galbi or your neighborhood’s fieriest jayeuk. Sweating it out via spice might not be the most glamourous way to cool down, but it’s a low-effort, yummy one.
*For the Hangang fountain (our feature picture), Come out of exit 3 Yeoudio Station and walk straight until you get to the park. You then need to take a right and keep walking for a while until you get to a subway tunnel. The area is just at the other end.