Meaning “a place where one can enjoy the traditions of times past and rest one’s soul,” Rak Ko Jae certainly lives up to its name. Styled after a Chosun Dynasty–era house, the 130-year-old hanok (traditional Korean house) was used by a secret society during the Japanese occupation of Korea before World War II as a place to study and preserve Korean language and culture. In 2003, a master architect, designated by the Korean government as a “Human National Treasure,” renovated the hanok, and now it’s one of the most picturesque places to stay in all of Korea’s capital. Stepping through the gate into the peaceful courtyard feels like going back in time, and the lotus pond, yellow-mud sauna, and traditional Korean cuisine only add to the anachronistic feeling. Guests staying at the small and intimate Rak Ko Jae can take part in many elements of traditional Korean culture such as making kimchi, trying on a hanbok (traditional Korean clothing), or experiencing an afternoon tea ceremony.
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The Jongno district in Seoul is one of the oldest and most historic districts in Korea’s capital, and within easy walking distance of the area’s main attractions. Although it hasn’t entirely escaped the city’s rapid modernization, this is the neighborhood where you’ll find charming teahouses, magnificent palaces, and traditional markets nestled amid coffee shops and chain stores. Rak Ko Jae is equidistant between two of Seoul’s five main palaces built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty: Gyeongbokgung Palace (the grandest) and Changdeokgung Palace. Also nearby is the popular walking path along Cheonggyecheon Stream, and the cultural neighborhood of Insadong, where visitors can purchase traditional handicrafts, watch street performers, and indulge in Korean street food.
Need to Know
Rooms: 4 rooms. From $225. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: 11 a.m. Dining options: Both breakfast and dinner are included in the price of the accommodation at Rak Ko Jae. Meals are served in the guest rooms. Guests can choose a western continental breakfast or a traditional Korean breakfast complete with rice and kimchi. Dinner consists of samgyetang, which is a flavorful chicken and ginseng soup, or dolsot bibimbap, the quintessential Korean rice dish served in a stone pot. More extensive Korean options are available for an additional fee. Spa and gym details: While there is no gym at Rak Ko Jae, you can steam your cares away in the hotel’s complimentary natural mud sauna.
Who’s it for: Leisure travelers, history buffs, and cultural enthusiasts looking to immerse themselves in the rich traditions of Korea. Our favorite rooms: While all the rooms are extremely peaceful and traditional, the Master Bedroom captured our attention—the floor in this hanok is made entirely of natural jade. Don’t forget, hanoks are traditional, which means the beds are too—they consist of thick mats spread on a heated floor. Plan ahead: Rak Ko Jae offers a plethora of traditional experiences, some complimentary and some for a fee. But whether you choose a day tour, a kimchi-making class, or a traditional Korean musical performance, you’ll need to make a reservation in advance.