The Neighbourhoods of Seoul

We visited almost every major neighbourhood in Seoul. Each one is different, and offers a different feel. For instance, Itaewon is a major ex-pats area (especially American Military personnel), with lots of western cuisine or Hongdae is a university district, full of pubs, fried chicken and cheap clothing stores.

DONGDAEMON

This is one of our favourite neighbourhoods. It is the home of Gwangjang market, Pyoung Hwa clothing market, Duty Free shopping (adored by the Chinese) and more markets.

The Gwangjang Market is famous for its array of local food stand that line the middle of the alleyways and the fact that is has stalls for everything from fabric to fresh fish. Our favourite thing to do here is find our Kimchi Dumpling stand. There are loads of them, but we found one and went back three times. The dumplings come in two flavours, Kimchi and Pork and spring onion; ask for a mix of both!

While walking the streets we stumbled upon the Pyoung Hwa Clothing Market. This market is a wholesale distributer of pretty much everything sold on the streets, think hats, socks, ties, outdoor equipment and more! The best thing about this place is its huge, heaps of variety, unique and best of all individuals can buy here to! We bought some hats, ties and socks!

While walking the streets we stumbled upon the Pyoung Hwa Clothing Market. This market is a wholesale distributer of pretty much everything sold on the streets, think hats, socks, ties, outdoor equipment and more! The best thing about this place is its huge, heaps of variety, unique and best of all individuals can buy here to! We bought some hats, ties and socks!

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HONGDAE

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This is the university neighbourhood. It is full of fast food, good shopping and markets. You can find gems (food or shopping) here, just like anywhere. This is the place to hang out and drink, if you are so inclined, as the pub and club culture of Seoul lives here. We cruised through this neighbourhood on two occasions and really enjoyed it. There are some fantastic beer and fried chicken pubs here.

The first time we visited was in the afternoon, and we were looking for a small afternoon snack to tie us over to dinner. So we stepped into a Fried Chicken Pub and ordered a plate of fried chicken. Little did we know that all the servings here are huge and we actually ended up with a massive pile of chicken to fed about 10 people! It was huge, and delicious. Safe to say, we didn’t end up having dinner that night.

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Sobok Ice-Cream (Hongdae). Brown Rice flavour (left) is unbelievable.

The streets wind themselves around, and there are awesome little gift shops, sunglasses shops, and endless Korean clothing stores that line the streets. The clothing stores, are more about disposable fashion and one size fits all, but its hard not to resist and do some shopping!

ITAEWON

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Cacao Boom will change your life. Period.

Itaewon is home of ex-pats (almost exclusively American) and amazing western food. . will find Mexican, tapas, fish and chips, Korean BBQ, Indian, Thai and even good pub food, with dessert places dotted in between. The best food we found was at Vatos Urban Tacos, go early because it is POPULAR. But, be willing to go to Itaewon a few times for some great food and explore the streets yourself. Most tourists will hop out at Itaewon station and walk down Itaewon-ro 27, but we challenge you to get off at Noksapyeong (one station away) and explore this side of Itaewon.

We found Cacao Boom in Nokysapyeong who, hands down, serve the best chocolate ice-cream we have ever tasted. We went three times! It is the most delicious ice-cream in the world! Seriously incredible, taste like real chocolate and feels like mousse! We also had “fish and chips” here at an “English” Pub, which was really cool and a nice break from rice!

MYEONGDONG

The major shopping district in Seoul. One side is dominated by three big Lotte department store (think Myer times by 100). The remainder is a series of narrow streets which are filled with restaurants, street shopping (local and international brands) and markets (food and clothing) that crank up at night.

However, most importantly, Myeongdong is home to the best Isaac Toast in Korea. Your probably wondering what Isaac Toast is? Well, I’m glad you asked, because it’s the best food in the world. It’s a sandwich like no others. The bread is fried in butter, then a special mayonnaise sauce is applied with a meat of your choice (bacon, beef patty, chicken patty) then egg omelette, cheese, finely shredded cabbage. Amazing.

isaac-toast

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We also discovered Kiwi Juice in Myeongdong, which is also AMAZING. We cant believe this isn’t a “thing” anywhere else in the world.

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A short walk from Myeongdong is the Namsam area. Here there is a huge sprawling market scene that specialises in baby wear and jewellery, but houses stalls selling lots of clothes and food for miles. Behind these markets is the Seoul Tower and Namsam Mountain. Here we revisited our love lock we put here on our last visit in 2015. It’s still there! If you want to visit the Namsam Mountain and Seoul Tower, definitely take the cable car up (your choice how you get down though). From the top you get a good view over Seoul in all directions and there are often traditional Korean performances happening.

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We found our lovelock from our first visit to Seoul!
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Traditional performance on Namsan Mountain

INSADONG

Insadong is the home of Bukchon Village,  Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace. Okay, so these places are kind of not really near each other, but all on a similar side of town. Bukchon Village, is one of the few remaining traditional style villages in Seoul (most destroyed from war). We walked through the village, feeling like we had stepped back in time. The houses are so beautiful, and the streets are filled with traditional inspired offerings, and some houses allow you to even walk through! After a walk through the village, you can finish up in Insadong, a boutique style stores and cute cafes!

The two main palaces in seoul, are worth a visit. They are large and grand. But the best thing about the Changdeokgung has a secret garden attached, that can only be accessed by a tour from the grounds staff. It was so magical, the gardens were so well manicured, quiet and traditional!

GANGNAM

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Oppa Gangnam Style! The home of Psy’s hit song. The Gangnam neighbourhood is the home of everything. Here there is enormous shopping malls, international flagship stores (think Shake Shack!) underground shopping (selling exclusively local Korean products). This area is the social epicenter of Seoul. Gangnam is our least favourite district. Although the song makes it out to be party central, its more of a home for plastic surgery and more about the wealthy locals than a place to visit itself. Sure it’s cool for a visit, but don’t be sad if you have to miss it! Jut up the road from Gangnam is Apgujeong, which is known for its luxurious shopping and big name brands. Here you’ll find COS – our new favourite store.

OUTSIDE SEOUL

Soon you will be able to view our posts on both the DMZ Tour and Suwon; both of these were day trips from Seoul. Apart from these two experiences, the best thing we did outside the city limits of Seoul was visit the Seoul Zoo. It is situated 40 minutes outside the city (by subway) and although a bit dated and tacky, offers a huge range of animals. There are animals from all over the world and some that I have never seen before, like a mandrill. The mandrill is the animal used for Rafiki in The Lion King. For less than $5 each to enter, it was a worthwhile experience.

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Cycling around Seoul
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