There are neighbourhoods offering unique atmospheres across Seoul, a city that has undergone rapid industrial development and redevelopment in a short period of time. You can find a sophisticated neighbourhood that is comparable to any metropolis around the world, as well as a residential hub that preserves hanok (traditional Korean village) with a touch of modern style.

    Some neighbourhoods have cafes and bakeries created through sensible remodelling of abandoned factories, while others have been reborn as creative villages for young artists. These places have developed into neighbourhoods with unique characteristics. Instead of settling in just one spot, make sure to dedicate at least a day for exploring Seoul's popular neighbourhoods.

    1

    Myeongdong

    Shopping paradise that has everything you can imagine

    Boasting a daily average floating population of over 2 million, Myeongdong has solidified itself as a dynamic tourist center. It faithfully serves the role as the center of shopping, finance and culture. You cannot describe Myeongdong without mentioning shopping. Having everything from luxury brands to popular spa brands, it is actually more difficult to find what’s not in Myeongdong. It has long been a must-visit area for foreign tourists insomuch that most shops with sizeable floor spaces have hired full-time employees fluent in foreign languages. Notable shopping malls in Myeongdong include Lotte Department Store, Lotte Young Plaza, M Plaza and Noon Square.

    Fans of K-pop and Hallyu often visit the Myeongdong Underground Shopping Center where they can buy a variety of goods. You will probably get hungry as you enjoy shopping, right? Myeongdong is filled with restaurants and street carts where you can taste foods from all over the world. Visit Myeongdong to enjoy shopping as well as unique street foods.

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    2

    Ikseon-dong Hanok Street

    A place where tradition and modernity coexist beautifully

    Ikseon-dong Hanok Street is an extremely unique place different from other cool city centres in Seoul since it still holds the traces of history intact. Countless young artists have moved to Ikseon-dong and combined tradition and new ideas to recreate the present-day Ikseon-dong Hanok Village with a unique atmosphere. Ikseon-dong Hanok Village has many clothing stores, cafes and bars that have been remodelled while maintaining the basic hanok architecture. Delicious restaurants with their own unique vibes are found on every street, which has helped the village rise as one of the hottest spots.

    The narrow streets, which are barely wide enough for two people to walk shoulder to shoulder, will provide you with an extraordinary experience. Find enjoyment walking along these alleyways. The village is a perfect place to hang out for families as well as lovers. Set out on an adventure into an exciting maze that is Ikseon-dong.

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    photo by Alejandro (CC BY 2.0) modified

    3

    Yeonnam-dong

    A neighbourhood filled with different stories on every street

    Once considered as a town on the outskirts of Hongdae, Yeonnam-dong has now become a popular gathering place for crowds of people every weekend. Gyeongui Line Forest Park, which is also known as Yeontral Park because the area reminds people of New York’s Central Park, is a forest path that runs through the city centre. Neglected train tracks have been transformed into resting spots and, as delicious restaurants and cool attractions started to pop up nearby, the area has become one of the city’s most popular neighbourhoods.

    Yeonnam-dong has many small but cute cafes. Drawing café, which has been introduced both on British and American media outlets as a cool tourist attraction, is the most popular of them all. Here, you can experience optical illusions where the entire interior of the café appears as a cartoon. Inside Drawing café, you will feel as if you’ve become a character in a cartoon. Take a stroll along Gyeongui Line Forest Park and enjoy the unique vibe of Yeonnam-dong where trendy youngsters meet and hang out.

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    4

    Hongdae

    A neighbourhood of youth and arts

    Anyone would think that the streets of Hongdae symbolize youth and arts in Korea. Hongdae streets, a playground for young people, are filled with a variety of stores specializing in fashion, beauty, lifestyle, books and stationery as well as designer brands, select shops, bookstores, cafes and restaurants. There are many famous streets including Walking Street where busking and dancing performances are year-round fixtures, Mural Street on Wausan-ro 22-gil, and Hongdae Club Street, which leads to Sangsu Station.

    Hongik Children’s Park in front of the main gate of Hongik University hosts flea markets and, in Sangsang Madang, you can meet the works of witty and clever young artists. How about walking through the streets of Hongdae to feel the youthful and dynamic vibe they exude? Enjoy Hongdae during the day when all the stores showcase their charms as well as at night when it is bright as day.

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    photo by cezzie901 (CC BY 2.0) modified

    5

    Seongsu-dong

    Where industrial growth meets modern sensibility

    Seongsu-dong was once an area where shoe factories and small workshops crowded together. Young artists began to move in the area one by one and remodelled old factories and buildings to open cafes and restaurants with unique ambiance. Called today the Brooklyn of Seoul, Seongsu-dong is famous for handmade coffee bars and organic restaurants that have been transformed from warehouses.

    Cafes in Seongsu-dong are all different. They all showcase their own unique style, which is fun just to look at. Some of the more popular places include Café Onhwa, Café Ogert, and Myosa Seoul. Shop for shoes, stop by cute cafes and set out on an adventure on the streets of Seongsu-dong.

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    6

    Dongdaemun

    Shopping paradise bustling with nightlife

    Dongdaemun is a shopping district that boasts a huge scale with over 30,000 stores keeping its lights on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can experience K-fashion at Dongdaemun with its one-stop system where everything from production planning and design to production and distribution happens in one place. One of the must-visit venues in Dongdaemun is the “Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP).” The building was designed by world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid bringing great architectural value. Daytime is all about experiencing atypical beauty while nighttime is filled with fancy and splendid lights.

    DDP features large-scale exhibition spaces, a rooftop park and ultra-modern stores, all of which frequently host famous exhibits, fashion shows, new product launch ceremonies, forums and conferences. Whenever you go, the place overflows with things to see so make sure to stop by if you get a chance.

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    7

    Hannam-dong

    A neighbourhood where you can catch the latest lifestyle trends

    Hannam-dong is filled with diverse stories and many things to enjoy and see on every street. Hannam-dong is packed with restaurants and cultural spaces including Passion 5, the mecca of bakery lovers full of desserts and pastries that please both the mouths and eyes; and Hyundai Card Music Library, which houses over 10,000 Korean and international recording albums and is a must-visit place for those who love retro music. In addition, the area also features various elements of humanities and arts, specialized bookstores and, even a traditional crafts museum.

    The main road is made up of flagship stores of global brands lined up one after another. Walking in the inner alleys, you will find many unique stores of young artists and merchants. These contrasting establishments exude their own charms and, at the same time, maintain Hannam-dong together in a harmonious way. Look around at both the famous brands and lifestyle stores lined up on the way from Hangangjin Station to Itaewon Station in Hannam-dong to find out the latest trends.

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    photo by Alejandro (CC BY 2.0) modified

    8

    Itaewon

    Where you can experience the world in Korea

    Often called a foreign country in Seoul, Itaewon has solidified itself as one of the most unique and special places in the country. Don’t you want to know how a foreign country in Seoul feels like? You can taste exotic dishes on World Food Culture Street, which can be said to be the main street of Itaewon. From Asian to Eastern European flair, the area is filled with restaurants of various cuisines. Day and night on the streets of Itaewon are polar opposites, making comparisons between the two enjoyable. Unique restaurants also line up on Serosu-gil, which is on the other side of World Food Culture Street. There are many hidden, delicious gems tucked away.

    The Seoul Central Mosque located near Serosu-gil is also a good place to check out. The mosque attracts many people who love to take photographs. The mosque offers a good viewing opportunity to see a dome and minarets, which are notable architectural elements of Islamic mosques. In Itaewon, enjoy the feeling of making a brief visit to a foreign country.

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    9

    Gangnam

    Where you can enjoy a relaxing cup of coffee after a stroll

    Dosan Park near Apgujeong Rodeo Street in Gangnam is a downtown park that commemorates the spirits of Dosan Ahn Changho as a patriot and an educator. Being a small park in the midst of high-rise buildings adds special value. The surrounding area is filled with cool cafes where stylish fashionistas like to congregate. Walking straight from the entrance of the park will lead you to the tomb of the burial remains of Mr. Ahn and his wife. Making your way to the east will bring you to a statue and a path great for taking a light stroll.

    Now, once you’ve finished checking out the park, it is time for a café run. It is not an exaggeration to say that all the cool youngsters hang out at Dosan Park, so the area delights your eyes. Although the area is one of the most expensive places in Seoul and accordingly prices of the establishments here are high, you will have no regrets wherever you decide to go. Enjoy an exciting day in Gangnam amongst the chic and stylish youth.

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    10

    Mullae-dong

    A place where the energy of artisans and creative fever of artists coexist

    Mullae 3-ga in Yeongdeungpo-gu where small ironworks are gathered together is a place of unique energy and vibes that are not found anywhere else. Shall we go on a cultural experience trip to Mullae Artist Village? In the early 2000s as companies in the complex began to relocate their factories due to re-development, young artists started to move to the area and set up their workshops in the vacated ironworks, naturally leading to the formation of an artist village. In every alley, the industrial culture and arts of the 1970s and 1980s are intertwined exuding a truly unique vibe.

    Throughout the village, murals and creations of installation artists capture your eyes. The numerous exhibition spaces allow you to enjoy a variety of artworks while experiencing a new culture. Alternate Artspace IPO, which is run as a non-profit, supports the pure creative works of many artists. Immerse yourselves in culture and arts in ever-changing Mullae-dong.

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    photo by Minseong Kim (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

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