For a dining experience that will be remembered long after your trip is over, don't miss Seokparang, one of Seoul's most historic restaurants, celebrated for its hanjeongsik, or Korean table d'hôte. Travel back in time to dynastic Korea as you step over the gated threshold, following a stone path through a tranquil garden to enter a small traditional home. As unassuming as Seokparang may be at first sight, its story goes back much further than the century-old persimmion tree that sits in its courtyard. This villa was once a residence of Heungseon Daewongun, an illustrious prince known for his statesmanship and artistic abilities. Even today, the hanok retains the characteristic features of houses built for the ruling class of the late Joseon Dynasty: Circular windows, gray brick walls, and low ceilings create an atmosphere rarely found in modern-day Seoul. One can almost make out the royal spirits wandering the grounds, eager for a taste of their past. The ambiance is so enchanting, in fact, that Seokparang is a favorite dining spot for local and international dignitaries.

It's not just the atmosphere that makes Seokparang a cherished dining destination. The restaurant's dishes are reminiscent of Korea's royal cuisine and use the very same recipes, passed down through palace kitchens and aristocratic households. The restaurant's chefs incorporate the most refined ingredients available each season and prepare all the sauces and seasonings by hand. Although the set menus vary, each course is seemingly fit for a king (or queen, or concubine). Some of the memorable items include songitang (pine mushroom stew), eomandu (fish dumplings), and jeonbok galbijim (steamed abalone and ribs). Even the brass vessels in which the courses are served are antiques. As is customary with Korean royal dishes, the flavors here lack the oomph expected of Korean cuisine. However, the food quality, service, and elegant atmosphere make Seokparang worthy of a place at the top of your Seoul itinerary.