Seoul is a massive city and just seeing all of the tourist attractions and famous neighborhoods can be a daunting task, but what if you’re looking for a more authentic Korean experience? Well, never you fear! Seoulistic is here with some recommendations for neighborhoods that are less well-known but equally as interesting as Gangnam!
Everyone who has spent much time in Seoul knows about Hongdae (the Hongik University area), but every university area is unique to fit the personalities of the universities they surround.
Ehwa Women’s University (line 2) has a wealth of lady-like activities such as cute cafes and boutique-y restaurants and clothing stores. There’s even a dress café where you can try on period costumes, hanboks (traditional Korean clothes), and wedding dresses! Some women insist that Ehwa is THE best shopping in Seoul, but others say Sungshin Women’s University (line 4) is superior. Sungshin has Rodeo Street, with a wealth of bars, game rooms, shopping, and some very nice food vendors!
A visit to the Konkuk University (lines 2 and 7) or the Yonsei University (sinchon station, line 1) areas will afford you a chance to see the neon-ignited streets most people think of when they think of Asia. These streets are really a treat to see at night and are sure to also ignite the partier within you as every store blasts music out onto the alley. For something more quiet, head to Korea University (line 6, but most of the interesting things are closer to Anam station) for quiet cafes where you can unwind and soak in the intellectual atmosphere.
For a beautiful day out, go to the Seoul Dream Forest (Miasamgeori Station, line 4) where you can get a stunning view of Seoul from the observation tower and hang out with some very friendly deer! Head to HyeHwa (line 4) afterwards for dinner and a show! This is the theater district and the neighborhood has more than grown to suit its clientele. This will more than prepare you for a night of bar-hopping in Suyu (line 4). Suyu has exploded in recent years into a beehive of activity (and the Chuncheon dalkgalbi restaurant down “neon alley” has some of the best dalkgalbi in Seoul ^^)
Have a more traditional experience by heading to Jegi-dong (line 1). Here you can learn all about herbal medicine at the Seoul Herbal Medicine Market and the neighboring museum. You can also get a taste of how the upper-crust live by heading to Seongbukdong (Hansung University Station, line 4). This is the neighborhood where the elites of Seoul once lived, and many of these old houses have been maintained and can be visited on a walking tour.
South of the River
The south of the river was once mostly swamp, but now it is anything but! Yeongdeungpo (line 5) has the beautiful Yeouido Park (lines 5 and 9). Situated on an island in the Han River, Yeouido Park can easily feel like an oasis from the roaring city. Another relaxing, though somber area is in Dongjak (line 4 and 9), where you can walk through Seoul National Cemetery or take a long stroll along the Han before watching the rainbow waterfall on the Banpo Bridge at night.
You can get a feel for ancient Seoul in Amsa (lines 5 and 8) and Garak (lines 8 and 3). The Amsa Prehistoric Settlement Site very accurately re-creates the life of Koreans during the Neolithic Era (7000-1000 BC). In Garak, there’s the Korea House, where you can learn everything from Korean tea etiquette, kimchi making, or martial arts! If these touristy things aren’t your bag of tea and you want something more modern, head to the markets in either location, both are among the best in Seoul!
One of the best simple pleasures of Seoul is choosing a random neighborhood and then allowing yourself to just wander the streets. You never know what you might stumble on! What hidden gems are in your city?
Margaret has been living and working in Seoul since 2011. Originally hailing from the United States (Maine and Tennessee, to be precise) she’s more than found a home amongst the wonders of Seoul. She eats more kimbap that could possibly be healthy for her and has a bad habit of bursting into KPop songs to which she does not know even 80% of the lyrics. Check out her blog at margarettriesbeing.com for more in-depth (that is to say, rambling) articles on Seoul How-To’s, Survival Tips, and excessive use of animated gifs.