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April 11, 2018

A Blast from the Past: Exploring the Market Streets of Euljiro

Before the days of discount supermarkets and department stores, markets were the primary locales for shopping, trading and gossiping in Korea. Unfortunately, due to rapid modernization and an increase in more convenient shopping facilities over the past few decades, the country's traditional markets have continuously lost patronage and are quickly diminishing both in size and number. While efforts are being made to preserve them, it is predicted that they will cease to exist in the next couple decades.

Although Seoul is abundant with must-see destinations and experiences, few of them provide an authentic glimpse into Korean culture as well as the city’s traditional markets. And no other market is better to experience an insightful look into the daily lives of the Korean working class than Euljiro’s streets.

Surrounded by Jongno, Myeongdong, and Dongdaemun, the area remains concealed in the shadows of the attractions of its more well-known neighbors. But opt to do a bit of exploring here and you might just be pleasantly surprised by the discoveries you make.

Nostalgia in a Cup

Begin your walk at Euljiro 3-ga Station, a destination frequented by shoppers eager to explore and load up on luxury items at Myeongdong's Lotte Duty Free. Bypass the bright lights and crowds of tourists and venture instead toward the oft-overlooked Euljiro 4-ga district.

But before you hit up the market streets, stop by Coffee Hanyakbang to get your caffeine fix. Tucked away into an impossibly narrow alley and hiding among a series of shabby buildings is perhaps Seoul's most magical coffee shop. Decorated like a dabang (traditional Korean coffee house) from the Japanese colonial period, the cafe instantly transports visitors back in time.

Wooden floors creak with every step, the counter and wall panels are inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and antique furnishings are arranged beautifully with great attention paid to every detail. But it's not just the interior that makes Coffee Hanyakbang a must-visit. The coffee, hand roasted in-house, is out of this world, not to mention reasonably priced. Don't miss their signature beverage: ultra-strong hand-drip filter coffee brewed by the barista with extreme meticulousness.

In case you're in the market for a fine tailored suit, stop by Knockers next door. The tiny, Kingsman-esque family boutique offers amazing service and only the highest quality of materials (at equally high prices). In addition to suits, the shop also sells shoes and accessories and has a "gentlemen's quarters" on the third-floor where patrons can enjoy a glass of whiskey or a cigar. The owners speak English very well so you won't have any problem communicating exactly what you want.

Path to the Past

Continue east and along the way, pass tiny specialty shops selling industrial supplies and home interior goods that are situated alongside rows of ceramic squat toilets and piles of floor boards.

Let your senses lead you up and down cramped alleys that smell of gasoline where sparks escape electric saws. The unmistakable sounds of metal on metal echo throughout the area where welders and mechanics armed with power tools abound. Rain or shine, these workers carry on with their daily tasks, seemingly unmoved by anything, eager to put in a hard day’s work.

Take a break at Chuncheon Makguksu, a dining establishment known for its cold noodles. Opened in 1962, the restaurant has stood the test of time, owing its success to its delicious food and loyal patronage. Try the makguksu (cold buckwheat noodles) and dalkmuchim (spicy chicken salad), perfect dishes for hot summer days, as their pungent spices fight the heat, or so believe the Koreans.

The old restaurant is generally frequented by mostly elderly diners - many of whom have frequented the restaurant since its opening - who add to the atmosphere with their boisterous banter. For them, Chuncheon Makguksu is a taste of their younger days, flavors that undoubtedly bring back memories of a different Korea, a Korea without iPhones or Starbucks. A Korea that the neighborhood of Euljiro still embodies today.

Baking Up a Good Time

When “My Name Is Kim Sam Soon,” a Korean drama that follows a young, unhappy pâtissier as she approaches 30, took off in 2005, home baking started to become a trend throughout Korea. Since then, the hobby has attracted some serious enthusiasts who flock to the area’s Bangsan Market, a locale often mentioned in the drama, for all of their baking needs.

Originally known as a wholesale market specializing in packaging, promotional materials, printing services and product manufacturing, the market has become a mecca for all things related to baking and brims with just about every kind of baking supply imaginable. Bake tins and trays of all sizes are stacked on top of one another, while cookie cutters and dainty packaging supplies hang outside of shops.

Continue onward along the beautifully landscaped Cheonggyechon. Compared to the western end of Seoul’s iconic stream, which is usually accessorized with art and crowded with tourists, couples and office workers, this area is surprisingly peaceful throughout the year. Take a few moments to relax on the banks where water flows calmly around stones, reeds and stalks - a unique contrast to the hustle of the nearby markets.

Make your way back to browsing quirky wares. Along the streets that snake from the Cheongyechon southward, clocks of every shape and size tick-tock on walls. Electronic wiring pokes through boxes in bundles. LED lights flash random greetings in bright neon. Men race inches away from passersby on bicycles that seem to be straight out of the 19th century. It’s easy to get lost in this maze of shops that is sure to overwhelm your senses, but getting lost is half the fun of wandering Seoul’s traditional markets.

As you cross over to the other side of the Cheonggyechon, prepare yourself for a culinary treat.

Traditional Tastes

One of the more widely known shopping centers of the area is Gwangjang Market, a bustling textile market that sells everything from silken hanbok to linen bed sheets. In the past few years, however, it has become more popular for its food than its clothing. Tourists and locals alike gather at the market’s central ground level to sample sundae (blood sausage) and mayak kimbap, a snack of seaweed-wrapped rice that is so addicting that its name literally means “drug” kimbap.

Image: KoreaNet
Follow the lead of the locals, grab a seat at one of the market restaurants, and order piping hot binddatteok (savory mung bean pancakes) and a bottle of makgeolli (rice beer), the Korean go-to comfort food in rainy weather. Feeling adventurous? Top off your order with a plate of tender and delicious meori gogi (pork head meat). Don’t be fooled by the cantankerous servers. Sure, they may come across as tough and grumpy, but they’re quick to reciprocate a smile.  

As you wrap up your meal, take in a final glimpse of the Seoul that most visitors never see. The real Seoul: tenacious and glazed in gasoline, flashy and loud and pungent, where common people work relentlessly day in and day out so that their children might grow up to live a more prosperous life.

Despite stiff competition from supermarkets and discount franchises, the markets of Euljiro are not going down without a fight. Perhaps they will disappear within the next few decades. Hopefully they will be around for a lot longer than that. Either way, they maintain a unique charm that makes them a necessary destination on any nostalgic tourist’s itinerary.

Walking Map

Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching unless noted. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.
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February 13, 2018

Considering Cosmetic Surgery? Co-founder & CEO Joy Kang Explains Why Eunogo is the Right Place to Start

Worth approximately $500 million annually, the South Korean medical tourism industry is experiencing an all-time high. But despite its increasing growth, the industry still presents a number of challenges to international visitors looking to go under the knife, including safety concerns, price transparency and language barriers.

Enter Eunogo, a trusted, government-approved community marketplace designed to help people discover, research and book cosmetic treatments in Korea.

Co-founder & CEO Joy Kang sat down with Seoul Searching to discuss the growing cosmetic surgery industry in Seoul as well as how international visitors can have the best possible medical experience during their next visit to the peninsula.

SS: In the past few years, South Korea has become the cosmetic surgery capital of the world. Can you tell me why the industry is so big here?

Joy: First, there is a cultural reason behind it. In South Korea, many people view cosmetic surgery as an investment for their self-improvement, relationship and career. They think: "If I have a complex about my appearance, I don't have to live with it. I can change it" or "If I can age better by delaying the physical aging process with a procedure, why not do it?"

Second, because there's a demand in the market, supply follows. So, there are more and more medical students becoming plastic surgeons and they are able to get more experience and enhanced skills due to high local demand. Because the plastic surgery market is becoming increasingly crowded and competitive, surgeons have to differentiate themselves by further developing their skills and using the best technology.

More and more foreigners are beginning to come to Korea to have cosmetic procedures done. Why?

Joy: The main reason they are coming is because Korean cosmetic surgeons are some of the most skilled and experienced in the world, and the technology they use is the most advanced. Also, many visitors feel that having surgery in a foreign country is more discreet and private, as they can return home almost fully recovered.

Although most people wouldn’t fly to Korea specifically to have a non-invasive procedure done, many visitors are eager to have a Korean skin care session or facial. In the same way that people traveling in Thailand want to experience Thai massage or those visiting Japan want to experience onsen, many tourists in Korea want to experience a cosmetic procedure, as it’s something Korea is famous for.

What are some of the most popular procedures among international visitors?

Joy: Procedures vary by individual, but we've had many clients coming for breast augmentation. V-line surgery has also become very popular.

Many also come to Korea for revision surgery after experiencing unsatisfactory results from their previous cosmetic surgery, as revision surgery requires more complex skills. 

The majority of customers from the US and Europe prefer non-invasive procedures and look to Eunogo to find a verified program at discounted price. 

Tell us about Eunogo – what is it and why was it started?

Joy: Based in Seoul and Singapore, Eunogo is a reliable concierge service for premium Korean beauty and wellness procedures in Asia.

Sophia Hwang and I started Eunogo in July 2015 to help people experience the finest quality beauty and wellness services in Korea and subsequently increase their confidence. Since then, we've been working to provide verification of medical services in Korea and access to top-tier doctors based on their specialty, and act as private coordinators for effective communication and transparent pricing. 

Most of our clients are busy, independent women and men who want to improve their appearance. We help them to save time and money by providing them with quality assurance and support through our Eunogo service. We aim to become the most trusted beauty adviser where people come to book verified premium procedures that are suitable for their needs.

I head up the business and marketing side of things where Sophia leads clinic partnerships, medical quality control and patient care. She is a board-certified nurse and worked at a major cosmetic surgery clinic in Seoul for six years before starting Eunogo. 

What are some of the biggest concerns of international visitors when they get cosmetic procedures in Korea, and how does Eunogo help to alleviate some of those concerns?

Joy: The major pain points are: verification and safety, language and price transparency. 

South Korea has over 2,000 plastic surgery clinics, making it very difficult for people to decide which doctor to choose. Utilizing the Korean government’s open medical data, Eunogo uses a rigid 40-item screening criteria to pre-select the right medical partners and ensure the highest quality and safety. 

This includes checking ‘behind-the-scenes’ – looking into the reputation of the doctors, seeing which celebrities visited which facilities, or if any clinic has a history of covering up an accident. We conduct constant quality checks and if a clinic fails to meet our criteria, or handles customer requests poorly, we exclude them from our list. 

Language barriers are yet another concern, as a number of doctors are not able to speak foreign languages fluently. Because communication is of the utmost importance when dealing with medical issues, we provide a trained medical coordinator who speaks the client’s language to ensure this is not a problem.

Last is price transparency. In the past, it wasn’t uncommon for clinics to charge international visitors an inflated price. We wanted to ensure this didn't happen by providing transparent pricing. I wouldn't say that Eunogo works with the cheapest medical service providers because we prioritize quality and safety over price. Nevertheless, we provide the best value.

What differentiates Eunogo from similar services?

Joy: For starters, we are licensed by the Korea Ministry ofHealth and Welfare. Eunogo has been financially supported by the Korean government since our founding. Our business cases have also been featured at many Korean government events including the Government 3.0 Global Forum Ceremony. In this way, we have more credibility than other services.

Furthermore, Sophia and I bring more than 10 years’ experience in the industry, which enables us to provide our customers better service through our strong relationships with our medical partners. 

We also add a personal touch. Many other companies operate medical tourism platforms where people can book a surgical procedure in the same way they might book a flight or hotel on Agoda. We considered using this type of model in the beginning, but after putting ourselves in the customers’ shoes, we asked ourselves, "Do I really want to book a surgery like I book a hotel room?" The answer was clear: absolutely NOT. Therefore, we do our best to interact with each of our customers on a very personal level.

For more information about Eunogo, visit their website and shop or email them with your inquiries. 

Photos provided by Joy Kang unless otherwise noted. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized. 

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February 7, 2018

Highlights of the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival

Every year, over a million people flock to the sleepy town of Hwacheon to participate in the Sancheoneo Ice Festival. The festival, which takes place annually, is consistently voted one of the best local festivals in Korea and was even named one of the "Seven Wonders of Winter" by Lonely Planet.

I participated in the festival back in 2010 but much to my dismay, was unable to catch any sancheoneo, the region's prized mountain trout. I decided to try my luck again and headed out to the pristine streams of Hwacheon for another round of ice fishing. This time, however, my luck seemed to improve, as did my willingness to explore the rest of the festival grounds. As it turns out, the Sancheoneo Ice Festival is much more than just an ode to the region's fish... it is, in fact, a celebration of the beauty of winter in Korea.

For those interested in braving the cold temperatures, be sure not to miss any of the festival highlights listed below.

Ice Fishing

Ice fishing, the draw of the festival, is an entertaining activity despite the excruciating patience it requires. Fortunately for foreigners attending the festival, there is a designated space which is far less crowded than the general areas. Additionally, there are many volunteer interpreters who are more than willing to instruct those less versed in the art of ice fishing on how to use the rather unusual pole and are quick to assist in unhooking and bagging caught fish.

There's nothing quite like the scene of thousands donned in brightly colored coats and hats bobbing a single line and lure up and down in a hole on a thick layer of ice... except for being part of it! (Tip:  If you prefer to sit while you fish, bring along a small chair and mat that can also be used to keep your personal belongings dry.)

Bare-handed Fishing

For the less patient, bare-handed fishing allows for a more exhilarating experience. Participants trade in their coats for t-shirts and shorts and are given five minutes to catch up to three fish with their bare hands, all the while storing them in their shirts.

Despite the freezing temperatures, all the participants seemed to be having the time of their lives. Especially the one guy I spotted who managed to catch a trout with his teeth.

BBQ Grills

After catching the trout, participants bring them to one of the barbecue stations set up near the ice fishing areas. To save time, the fish are essentially traded with staff for fish that have been cleaned, cooked and wrapped in foil. All diners have to do is warm them up on one of the already-prepared BBQ pits and eat (don't forget to bring your own beverage!)

The atmosphere is unique and the delicious flavors of the fish make the cold far more bearable. For those that prefer to eat their fish raw, there are separate vendors that will prepare the trout sashimi style.

Snow Sculptures

A walk around the festival grounds is a must, if only to see the impressive snow sculptures. A "castle" made entirely of ice and illuminated by bright lights can also be explored.

Sleigh Races

A mix of couples, friends, families and soldiers show off their creative sides by entering homemade sleighs into a race to compete for monetary prizes. Most of the participants went all out, donning ridiculous costumes and taking on personalities to match the concepts of their sleighs. Some of the more interesting entries this past weekend included a Roman chariot, a guy dressed up as a computer and an iridescent sancheoneo.

Ice Activities

For those wanting even more action, there are many activities to partake in. Ice bikes, ice soccer, and ice skating are a few of the tamer programs available while the ice ATVs and ice go-carts cater to the adrenaline-junkies. These activities are all priced separately and it is advised to purchase tickets first thing in the morning, as the lines can get long in the afternoon.

Regardless whether you catch a fish or not, good times are guaranteed at the Sancheoneo Ice Festival. Like all festivals in Korea, there is plenty of good food to be had (try the roasted rice cakes with honey!) and there are a number of musical performances to be enjoyed throughout the day. So, grab your scarf and gloves and head out to Hwacheon to experience good clean winter fun!

More Information

To Get There:  Take advantage of the Gangwondo-sponsored shuttle buses for foreigners.  For only 10,000 won, the bus will take you from Gwanghwamun Plaza in Seoul to the festival grounds and back.  For more information and to make reservations, click here.  To make your own travel arrangements from Seoul or other cities in Korea, click here for a list of routes and directions.

Festival Hours:  Most events run from 9am to 6pm.

Admission:  Admission to the festival grounds is 8,000 won ($8USD) for foreigners and includes a free fishing pole or 5,000 won food voucher.  Activity costs vary and start at 5,000 won.

Although the 2018 Sancheoneo Ice Festival has already passed, the very similar Pyeongchang Trout Festival is on until February 25. Get more information here

Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching.  Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.

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January 29, 2018

Seoul's Modern Architectural Marvels

After the end of the Korean war, Seoul, like many Korean cities, was left in shambles. Reasonably so, rebuilding efforts were focused more on practicality than aesthetics to reconstruct the city quickly and efficiently.

These days, however, Seoul's skyline is an eclectic mishmash of contemporary architecture, from towering cement apartment complexes to eye-catching glass and steel marvels. Impressive modern buildings can be found just about anywhere in Seoul, a UNESCO City of Design, but there are a certain few that I think visitors should keep an eye out for while exploring the city. Check them out below.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza 

As one of Seoul’s most eccentric modern architectural complexes, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) is without question the heart of all things design in South Korea. Designed by the late architect Zaha Hadid, the building takes on flowing forms with dynamic lines of light and a distinct Hadid style.

Appealing to young trendsetters with its wide range of attractions, the neo-futuristic structure is a one-stop-shop for food, shopping, and entertainment. The DDP hosts international events such as the bi-annual Seoul Fashion Week; showcases of renowned fashion brands such as Louis Vuitton and Chanel; and art exhibitions featuring the works of Alessandro Mendini, Paik Nam-June and Kim Young-Won, among others.

Get There: Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station, Exit 1.

Photo: Nestor Lacle
Ewha Womans University Ewha Campus Complex

From above, it's difficult to distinguish just what Ewha Womans University's ECC actually is. This is because the ingenious complex designed by French architect Dominique Perrault is mostly underground. Despite this, the entire interior of the building is spacious and full of light. Merging architecture with landscape, Perrault created a functional yet tranquil space to study. Or to enjoy one of the many facilities the building has to offer: an indie cinema, a fitness center, cafes, and boutiques.

Get There: Ewha Womans University Station, Exits 2 and 3.

Lotte World Tower  

As the tallest building in Korea – and one of the top 10 tallest in the world – the 555-meter-tall Lotte World Tower is a monument to Seoul’s skyline. The sleek tapered form of the 123-story building stands out from the Korean capital's rocky mountainous topography, and is organized around a stacked mixed-use program, housing retail, office and residence facilities along with a 7-star luxury hotel.

The design of the structure marries a modern aesthetic with forms inspired by traditional Korean ceramics, porcelain and calligraphy. Incorporated into the design are a number of sustainable design strategies such as photo-voltaic panels, wind turbines, external shading devices and water harvesting systems.

The tower is also home to a skywalk and an observation deck, making it one of the best spots to take in the stunning view of Seoul's vibrant city lights.

Get There: Jamsil Station, Exits 1, 2, 10, 11.

Seoul Central Post Office

The Seoul Central Post Office, also known as Post Tower, was designed by the Space Group, Korea's leading modern architectural firm. Resembling a giant unzipped zipper, it's an unusual contrast to the European-style water fountain and Bank of Korea building that stand directly across from it. Post Tower is especially impressive at night, when it is illuminated in lights of every color.

Get There: City Hall Station, Exit 7; Euljiro 1-ga Station, Exit 7 towards Shinsegae Department Store; Hoehyeon Station, Exit 7.

Leeum Samsung Museum

Undoubtedly the most famous private art gallery in Korea’s capital, the Leeum Samsung Museum is a must-visit for all art aficionados.

Museum 1 was designed by Maria Botta, who incorporated patterns of traditional Korean architecture into the building's design. The citadel-esque structure secures some of Korea's most prized works, including Buddhist art, paintings, metalwork and calligraphy. The works are centered around an eye-catching rotunda that emulates Korean pottery while soft lighting adds a sense of sacredness to the collection.

With its glass walls, blocky structure and rusted stainless-steel materials, Jean Nouvel's Museum 2 anticipates the contemporary pieces housed inside it. A more generous use of natural light complements the modern distinctiveness of the permanent exhibits. Both international and Korean contemporary works are displayed.

Get There: Hangangjin Station (Seoul Subway Line 6), Exit 1.

Image: Severin.stalder
Some Sevit

Initiated by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, Some Sevit (aka Floating Islands) are part of the city's "Han River Renaissance," a scheme intended to stimulate Seoul's water landscape.

New York’s H Architecture and Seoul’s Haeahn Architecture collaborated and won a design competition to create the floating islands that have since their construction become a cultural icon of the Korean capital.

The design concept of the islands represents the stages of a blooming flower: a seed, bud and blossom. Each structure takes on the form of one of these stages, manifesting as delicate yet eye-striking formation of glass, wood and steel. The islands contain several cultural, educational and recreational functions, and are a popular venue for many featured events in the city.

Get There: Express Bus Terminal Station, Exit 8-1.

Urban Hive

Standing over central Gangnam like a giant cheese grater, the "Urban Hive" is one of the more memorable buildings south of the Han River. Having been erected one floor at a time and entirely from concrete rather than with interior columns or a steel-framed foundation, the building set a new precedent for skyscraper construction in Korea.

The architect, Kim In-chul, also placed much emphasis on the human element when planning the Urban Hive. Included in his award-winning design are a rooftop garden and 3,371 window-like holes that each offer a unique view of the cityscape.

Get There: Sinnonhyeon Station, Exit 3

Photo: Manfredo1
Seoul City Hall

Completed in 2012, Seoul City Hall is arguably one of the most futuristic buildings on this list. Situated just behind the former Japanese-constructed City Hall and overlooking Seoul Plaza, the building's facade, made of solar panels and special UV filtering glass, appears as a tsunami-like wave. Despite the controversy this coincidence created in regards to Korean-Japanese relations, it's unquestionable that the building's design and functionality are extraordinary.


The building's interior is an interesting and somewhat mind-boggling combination of jungle and outer-space. Escalators ascend into spaceship-like pods, installation art pieces of plastic tubing and balloons hang from the ceilings and live plants crawl up the walls. 

Get There: City Hall Station, Exit 5


Located near Hongik University, one of Seoul's top design schools, Sangsangmadang is an intriguing building that entices passersby with its imaginative facade: a curvy steel frame over an 11-story glass structure.

Although this building is impossible to miss from the outside, many often don't realize that it's interior is also worth checking out. The unique complex houses a cinema, a performance hall, a contemporary art gallery and a shop that sells fun and funky products designed by Korean artists.

Get There: Hongik University, Exit 9.

Photo: Eons Between
Jongno Tower  

Built in 1999, the Jongno Tower isn't the newest building on this list, but it is certainly one of the most recognizable. Towering 433 feet over downtown Seoul, the structure resembles a hovering UFO more so than what it actually is: a 33-story office building. Situated on its top floor is Top Cloud, an upscale restaurant and bar that offers diners a spectacular 360-degree view of the city in addition to live musical performances.

Get There: Jonggak Station, Exit 3


Words by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be republished unless authorized.
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January 24, 2018

The Best Restaurants and Bars in Gangneung

The PyeongChang 2018 Olympics are officially upon us!

While the Games are no doubt going to be action packed, offering plenty of excitement for both locals and the 150,000 athletes, reporters and die-hard sports fans that are expected to travel to Korea for the event, there's also plenty to do and see outside of the main venues.

Most of the action will be going down in Gangneung, a small city on the east coast of South Korea. While beautiful, the destination is a bit off the tourist trail, at least for international guests, so English information about the city is lacking, to say the least.

Fortunately enough, a number of in-the-know expats in the Peeps in Gangneung Facebook group have helped me put together a list of all the best restaurants, cafes and bars in the area so you will know exactly where to eat, drink and party during your visit. Without further ado, here's the list. (Scroll to the bottom of the page for a map of the restaurants and bars in relation to the Olympic venues.)

La Cocina by Lee Seong Young (라꼬시나 by 이성용

Transport yourself to the Mediterranean at La Cocina, an adorable eatery that serves up fantastic Spanish cuisine. What makes La Cocina a favorite among locals is its tapas menu, which is made up of Spanish classics such as Spanish octopus, Spanish tortilla, Spanish croquettes and the mouthwatering Jamon iberico, as well as prawns, mushroom salad and stewed mussels.

Wash down your tapas with your choice of Spanish beer, wine, sangria or cava… or maybe a few glasses of each! If the weather permits, enjoy your meal outside under the beautiful canopy that really comes to life in the evenings when it is illuminated by lanterns that hang from above.

Type of Food: Spanish
Address: 228-13 Nanseolheon-ro, Chodang-dong, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do, South Korea
Phone: +82-33-652-1006
Hours: Daily 11:45am-3pm; 6-10pm
Website: Click Here

Marunouchi Ramen (마루노우치 라멘)

With only a few tables, Marunouchi Ramen can only accommodate a few couples or small groups. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in delicious Japanese goodness.

Unlike many establishments that serve up instant noodles, Marunouchi prepares fresh noodles with incredible flavor and just the right consistency. Ramen lovers can select from five varieties: tonkotsu, miso, shio, shoyu and tan tan miso (around 7,000 won each). If you’re feeling particularly famished, order a side of tori kara age, or Japanese fried chicken, which is tender and juicy and pairs perfectly with an ice-cold beer.

Type of Food: Japanese
Address: 1825-3, Gyo 1(il)-dong, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do, South Korea
Phone: +82-33-645-0527
Hours: Monday to Saturday 11am-2pm, 5-9:30pm; Closed Sundays

Golondrina Cervezas y Cia (골론드리나)

Peruvian restaurateur Giovani Rotondo brings a taste of Latin America to Gangneung at Golondrina Cervezas y Cia.

Currently serving tacos, nachos, guacamole and a selection of local craft beers, Rotondo will also soon be offering a selection of tapas and Peruvian cuisine. The restaurant occasionally hosts parties such as DJ nights, so keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates.

Type of Food: Mexican, South American, Craft Beer
Address: Haseulla-ro 206beon-gil, Gyo-dong, Gangneung, Gangwon-do, South Korea
Phone: +82-33-641-9138
Hours: Tuesday – Thursday 6-11pm; Friday – Saturday 6-12pm; Sunday 6-11pm; Mondays – Closed
Website: Click Here

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Budnamu Brewery (버드나무 브루어리) 

Located within walking distance from the Gangneung Intercity Bus Terminal, Budnamu Brewery seeks to infuse traditional styles of beer with local Korean ingredients, as exemplified by its pine extract saison and Changpo (aka Sweet Flag) Rauchbeir.

Its industrial interior and young, trendy vibe make it easy to spend an entire night here, sampling local brews and chowing down on pub grub such as fish and chips, pizza, and wings. Expect to pay around 7-8,000 won per beer and 20,000 won for an entrée.

Type of Food: Local Craft Beer, Pub Grub
Address: 1961, Hongje-dong, 93-8 Hongje-dong, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do, South Korea
Phone: +82 33-920-9380
Hours: Daily, 12pm-12am
Website: Click Here

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Jeopalgye Kotgumeong (저팔계콧구멍) 

Touted to be one of the best Korean-style BBQ joints in Gangneung, Jeopalgye Kotgumeong is THE place to go to gorge on melt-in-your-mouth pork belly. Do as the locals do and place a piece of grilled meat into a lettuce leaf with a few leeks and down it all in one go. The flavor combinations are out of this world, and are only enhanced by a swig of soju, the local fire water.

Type of Food: Korean BBQ
Address: 107 Seongnam-dong, Gangneung, Gangwon-do, South Korea
Phone: +82-33-646-1923
Hours: Daily 5-10:30pm

Pino (피노) 

Looking for a nice date spot to take your SO? Consider Pino, one of Gangneung’s most well known Italian restaurants. Here, diners can enjoy a relaxed atmosphere in a spacious, modern setting that exudes class.

The menu is vast, featuring around 20 varieties of pasta dishes, as well as a selection of pizzas, steak, salads and risotto – not to mention reasonably priced wine. While the dishes are created to satisfy local palates (expect your pizza to be served alongside pickles), Pino is still the closest you’ll get to real Italian fare on the east coast. Most entrees are priced around the 15,000 won mark, but there are lunch sets and dinner course menus to chose from as well.

Type of Food: Italian, Fusion
Address: 42-1, Palsong-gil, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do, South Korea
Phone: +82-33-652-3300
Hours: Daily 10am-10pm

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Geumhak Kalguksu (금학칼국수) 

Tucked into an obscure alley in downtown Gangneung is Geumhak Kalguksu. There’s only one dish served at this hole-in-the-wall joint and that dish is jang kalguksu, a tantalizing soup of thick, rough-cut buckwheat noodles and a spicy broth topped with seaweed flakes and sesame seeds.

Diners are seated in small rooms that are separated with rickety sliding wooden doors and are covered with scribblings left by diners that have come and gone over the years. Dine at this Gangneung gem and you’ll feel as if you’ve traveled back in time. It doesn’t get more authentically old school Korean than this.

Type of Food: Korean
Address: 14-1 Geumhak-dong, Gangneung, Gangwon-do, South Korea 
Phone: +82-33-646-0175
Hours: Daily 9am-9pm

홍익돈까스 (Hongik Port Cutlet) 

If the cold winter temperatures have you craving comfort food, make your way to Hongik Pork Cutlet. Here, you can devour fried pork cutlets that are as big as your head – and for less than 10,000 won! But don't be fooled by their size - they’re tasty, too. If you’re still not full after chowing down on one of these babies, the cream pasta or udon will certainly fill you up. Welcome to carb heaven!

Type of Food: Korean/Japanese; Fusion
Address: 713-15, Gyo-dong, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do, South Korea
Phone: +82-33-646-3330
Hours: Daily 11:30am-9:30pm (Break time: 2:30-4:30pm)

Uncle Bob 

Regulars describe Uncle Bob as “just like home,” the perfect spot to enjoy a good cup of coffee over a long, leisurely breakfast. Dishes such as breakfast bagels, hot dogs, homemade yogurt and muffins are served all day. Those looking to wind down after a day at the Games can also enjoy a glass of wine or beer on the outdoor patio in the evenings.

Type of Food: Brunch, Coffee
Address: 81-5 Nanseolheon-ro, Ponam 2(i)-dong, Gangneung-si, South Korea
Phone: +82 33-652-2700
Hours: Daily 10am - 10pm
Website: Click Here

Surf Table (서프테이블) 

A Korean take on Western-style brunch, Surf Table offers items such as eggs benedict, omelets, salads and sandwiches, all of which are in the 10-20,000 won range. They also have a big drink selection of coffee, teas, fruit juice, smoothies and beer. The bright, spacious interior makes it a nice place to waste away a morning.

Type of Food: Brunch
Address: 88-1 Jungang-dong, Gangneung, Gangwon-do, South Korea
Phone: +82-33-646-3642
Hours: Monday to Saturday 10am-9pm; Sunday 12-9pm
Website: Click Here

Banana Bay (바나나베이) 

Situated near Gyeongpo Lake, the newly opened Banana Bay is already attracting the attention of local foodies with its wide selection of Thai classics including spring rolls, Tom Yum Goong soup, papaya salad and pad thai. Save some room for dessert, as they serve up a great sticky rice with mango! Prices average around 15,000 per entrée.

Type of Food: Thai
Address: 2nd Floor, 388, Haean-ro, Chodang-dong, Gangneung, Gangwon-do, South Korea
Phone: +82-33-651-3963
Website: Click Here

Nongchon Sundubu (농촌순두부) 

In addition to seafood, Gangneung is well known for its sundubu (soft tofu), which is made from locally grown soybeans and seawater, and is often prepared and eaten within the same day. Perhaps one of the best places to try the local specialty is Nongchon Sundubu.

Here, diners can enjoy soft, melt-in-your-mouth tofu dishes that pair perfectly with a wide array of banchan, or side dishes. Service is friendly and an English menu is available.

Type of Food: Korean
Address: 126-1 Gangmun-dong, Gangneung, Gangwon-do, South Korea
Phone: +82-33-651-4009
Hours: Daily 6:30am-8:30pm; Closed Wednesdays

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Bikini Burger (비키니버거) 

Bikini Burger, located on Anmok Beach, is said to have the best burgers in Gangneung – if not Korea. The pint-sized restaurant only has a few options to choose from (Bikini Burger, Bacon BBQ Burger, and Cheeseburger) but each hand-crafted patty is cooked perfectly so that it is both juicy and flavorful. Charging around 10-12,000 won for a set (burger, fries and a drink), Bikini Burger is a great spot for an affordable and tasty dinner.

Type of Food: Burgers
Address: 2668 Gyeonggang-ro, Geomamgyeongseo-dong, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do, South Korea
Phone: +82-33-651-0208
Hours: Daily 1-9pm
Website: Click Here

Jungang Market (중앙시장) 

If you really want to get a taste for Korean culture, Joongang Market is the place to be. Joongang is the oldest traditional market on the Gangwon-do coast, but recent transformations have made it especially popular among younger generations.

Here, you can get your Korean street food fix, as vendors offer a wide variety of snacks such as tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), mandu (dumplings), dakgangjeong (sweet and spicy fried chicken) and jeon (savory pancakes). For dessert, don’t pass up the chance to try one of the many twists on hotteok (pancake stuffed with brown sugar and honey) at Nolal Hotteok & Dumpling. The classic seed hotteok is a must-try, but if you’re feeling adventurous, opt for the cream cheese or mozzarella versions.

The rustic atmosphere adds to the experience, which is one that should not be missed.

Type of Food: Korean, Fusion
Address: 50 Seongnam-dong, Gangneung, Gangwon-do, South Korea 
Phone: +82-33-648-2285
Hours: Daily 8:30am-9pm
Website: Click Here

Man Na Dotori (만나도토리 임자탕) 

Dotori-muk, or acorn jelly, is a popular Korean dish which is a jelly-like food made from acorn starch. Man Na Dotori serves up various takes on this dish as well as other Korean classics such as mandu guk (dumpling soup) and jeon (savory pancakes). The restaurant is completely vegan – which is a rare case in Gangneung – and has an English menu, along with friendly servers.

Type of Food: Korean, Vegetarian, Vegan
Address: 1906-3 Gyo 1(il)-dong, Gangneung, Gangwon-do, South Korea 
Phone: +82-33-641-8747
Hours: Daily 10:30am-9pm, Closed Sundays

Café Paul and Mary (카페폴앤메리) 

Paul and Mary is a cozy cafe that overlooks Gangneung's Gyungpo Beach and serves up decent burgers. Choose from options such as Bacon Mozzarella Burger, Hawaiian Burger, and Chili Mozzarella Burger, among others, and don’t forget the fries! Expect to pay around 10,000 won for a full meal.

Type of Food: Burgers
Address: 33 Changhae-ro 350beon-gil, Gangmun-dong, Gangneung, Gangwon-do, South Korea
Phone: +82-33-653-2354
Hours: 10am-9:30pm

Baking Farmer (빵짓는 농부) 

As Gangneung’s first vegan bakery, Baking Farmer aims to serve healthy baked goods using whole-wheat flour, natural yeast and other nutritious ingredients such as grains, vegetables and fruit. The bakery not only refrains from using additives or artificial flavors, it also avoids the use of dairy products.

Favorite items include the organic natural yeast heungguk whole wheat bread loaf and the organic natural yeast whole wheat bread loaf. They can be purchased by the loaf (10,000 won) or by the slice.

Type of Food: Bread, Baked Goods, Vegan
Address: 470-15 Naegok-dong, Gangneung, Gangwon-do, South Korea
Phone: +82-33-646-2668
Hours: Monday-Wednesday 9am-8pm; Thursday 9am-7pm; Friday-Saturday 9am-8pm; Sunday closed
Website: Click Here

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Bossa Nova (보사노바)

Located on Gangneung’s famous Coffee Street near Anmok Beach, Café Bossa Nova is a coffee-lover’s dream. Situated across four floors and a rooftop terrace, the gorgeous coffee house offers incredible ocean views of the East Sea (aka Sea of Japan). But the views aren’t the only reason to visit. Café Bossa Nova serves a selection of tasty coffee beverages (around 5,000 won each) using only the highest quality coffee beans. The drinks pair excellently with a freshly-baked croissant (2,500 won) or an indulgent pain au chocolat (2,500 won).

Phone: +82-33-653-0038
Hours: Daily 9am-midnight

Terarosa (Imdang Branch) (테라로사 (임당점)) 

Established in the Imdang-dong neighborhood in downtown Gangneung in 2003, Terarosa boasts a wide selection of coffee from various regions of the world. Offering a warm, cozy ambiance, the franchise – which is known all around the Korean peninsula for its excellent coffee – also serves different types of bread and desserts.

Type of Food: Coffee, Cafe
Address: 9, Munhwaui-gil, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do, South Korea
Hours: Daily, 9am to 10pm
Website: Click Here

Bbang Dabang (빵다방) 

South Koreans are crazy for cream buns – and for good reason! Sweet, soft and smooth, they are a great afternoon pick-me-up, especially when paired with a cup of coffee. Perhaps one of the best places to sample these delectable desserts is Bbang Dabang.

The café uses 100% fresh cream without any additives and bakes their buns daily. Among their signature cream buns include their strawberry bun (3,000 won), which is made from strawberry cream and real strawberry fruit, as well as their green tea bun (3,000 won), which consists of bittersweet green tea cream layered with sweetened red beans.

Type of Food: Dessert, Coffee
Address: 1148-8 Ponam 1(il)-dong, Gangneung, Gangwon-do, South Korea
Phone: +82-33-642-8807
Hours: Daily 12:00-9:00pm, Closed Monday
Website: Click Here

Warehouse (웨어하우스) 

If you’re looking for a spot to party the night away, look no further than Warehouse in downtown Gangneung. In addition to being known for friendly service and decent drinks, Warehouse boasts dart boards, pool tables, poker tables, Nintendo Wii and beer pong tables to keep people entertained until the early hours of the morning. The bar also is reputed to have a great sound system and DJs spin on Friday and Saturday nights, making it the place to head to if you’ve got your dancing shoes on. Attire is casual, and, according to the bar’s Facebook page, visitors are more than welcome to bring their own food.

Address: 9-1 Seongnae-dong Gangneung, Gangwon-do South Korea
Phone: +82-10-6793-8279
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 8pm-4am; Friday-Saturday 8pm-5am
Website: Click Here


Words by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized. 
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