Bukchon Binkwan by Rakkojae is an intimate bolt-hole that features upstairs rooms in a vernacular Korean style and a modern tea lounge below.
Heritage buffs have a newly restored hanok, or a traditional Korean house, to stay in the next time they visit Seoul. The family-run company behind Rakkojae, one of the most revered hanok hotels in town, recently debuted its sophomore property in the South Korean capital’s most-photographed historic neighborhood. Fresh from two years of meticulous renovations following its 2019 acquisition by municipal authorities, Bukchon Binkwan — whose name translates to “a house in Bukchon to host honored guests” — is a characterful boutique hotel with just five guest rooms.
Arranged around a courtyard with views down the hill toward the city’s downtown skyline and the Namsan Tower, the complex was originally built in the 1920s by Sekwon Jung, a Korean independence activist and developer who is credited with the modernization of hanok architecture as a response to a proliferation of Japanese-style buildings during the colonial period. Bukchon Hanok Village owes much of its character to Jung’s vision to create affordable traditional housing for ordinary people, as he had more than 200 compact hanok constructed in the area over the course of the 1920s and 30s.
Each of the accommodations at Bukchon Binkwan are decorated with ceramics and antiques such as vintage wooden chests and candlestick telephones. Located within the main house, two Anbang one-bedroom suites offer city views from a private patio, and come with bathrooms featuring a small hinoki (Japanese cypress) wooden tub. A pair of Sarangbang junior suites, which also feature private patios, are found inside the adjoining sarangchae hanok of the complex, as is the sole Gunnunbang guest room that opens out into a communal garden.
While the upper floor of the hotel is only accessible to guests, The Living Room Korean Tea House on the ground floor is open to the public. The modern space has large expanses of glass, plush armchairs, four-seater tables, and an exposed concrete ceiling whose beams recall the wooden rafters found in hanok. It serves as a community lounge where guests can read, work on their laptops, sip on herbal concoctions, and enjoy meals, including a Korean set breakfast of kimchi, a protein, and rice and soup served with banchan (there’s also a continental option with added eggs and bacon).
Located beside Bukchon Binkwan is Rakkojae Culture Lounge. Styled as a modern-day sarangbang, a reception room aristocrats in the Joseon Dynasty used to welcome distinguished guests to their homes, the venue showcases high-end Korean culture through reservations-only experiences. Options range from a traditional tea ceremony and a six-course meal showcasing seasonal local ingredients to an in-depth tasting flight of Korean brews and spirits.