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May 23, 2016

Seoul’s Hipster Hangouts, Part 1: Hapjeong

Although Hongdae will no doubt remain the go-to student neighborhood for funk and fun, a number of youngsters are beginning to disperse to Hapjeong and nearby Sangsu, bohemian locales on the outskirts of the rowdy neighborhood that caters to Seoul’s alternative crowd.

Here, polished twenty- and thirty-somethings seemingly straight off the cover of Kinfolk sip espresso on tiny terraces while puffing on vaporizers and sketching on napkins.

Stylish musicians crowd low-lit bars, guitars in tow, ready to perform acoustic sets for small but loyal audiences. Shop owners greet passersby, and supersized headphones are the most fashionable accessory of the season.

See what the buzz is all about by following along with Seoul Searching to check out the area.

Bodybuilders and Big Bang 

Mecentopolis, where you will begin your walk, is one of the few commercial complexes that exist in Hapjeong. For now, at least. If you’ve already done Myeong-dong or Sinsa-dong, skip it, as it’s made up of mostly major brands like Uniqlo and GAP that can easily be accessed in other parts of the city. Though, for ladies looking to have a girls’ night out, this could be the place to start it.

On the second floor is the Lotte Card Art Center, where the live male revue Mister Show is performed during certain times of the year.

Produced and choreographed by American-born musical director Kolleen Park, Mister Show combines muscles and music for an unforgettable evening for women of all ages (19 and up, that is).

The show is act-after-act of entertaining strip tease and the performances, which are themed around concepts that cater to women's fantasies (think samurais and soldiers), won't soon be forgotten. Even more memorable are the performers, a strapping group of former bodybuilders, personal trainers and athletes who interact with the eager-for-more audience. Reserve tickets at Interpark before the show or at the box office in the theater.

Before hitting the more hipster parts of Hapjeong, fans of Big Bang and 2NE1 might want to swing by YG Entertainment. Although the interior of the company is off limits to the public, Hallyu-lovers flock here in hopes of catching a glimpse of their favorite stars.

Happenings in Hapjeong 

If you’re missing your pets at home, swing back around to Bau House Cafe, where you can play with some of the cutest pups in the country. The cafe is home to about 20 resident pooches to play with and visitors are given a copy of their pictures, names, ages and breeds. The cafe also functions as a dog hotel, so there are always a few extra pups to keep you company while sipping on your coffee.

Photo: Three Chopsticks
Although it took a while for the craft beer trend to take hold in Seoul, it has caught on and spread in full force. One of the first places in this area to serve it is Bali Superstore, a pub that brings Bali’s beach vibes and a bit of surfing culture to Hapjeong’s Cafe Street.

The pale ale and porter are from no other than the Itaewon-based Magpie Brewing Company, while others like the super-strong Kuta IPA are also brewed domestically and pair well with the restaurant’s satay skewers. Colorful and rustic decor imported from the art community of Ubud, Indonesia, complete the atmosphere.

If you’re lucky, you might catch a show at Yogiga Expression Gallery. This self-described venue for creative expression routinely hosts concerts and exhibits that feature the latest works of local and expat musicians and artists in Seoul.

Photo: Yogiga Expression Gallery
Of particular interest is the CrazyMultiply collective, which often holds shows here. A typical event might include a photography exhibit, experimental art performances and a line-up of mini concerts in a single day, a perfect way to experience the latest in the Seoul art scene in one place.

Photo: Korea Times
For music all year round, stop by Rolling Hall, one of the largest and oldest music halls in the area.

Its stage has brought fans together with Korea’s best (and more mainstream) indie acts for the past couple decades, including MY Q, Hyukoh and Crying Nut, along with international artists such as How to Dress Well and Grimes. Hundreds can fit into this standing room only venue, and shows are usually sold out, so be sure to check the schedule and ticket availability before your trip.

Looking to pick up excellent eyewear? Gentle Monster is the place to do it. In just a few years, the Korean brand has taken off in popularity (thanks to some great product placement on K-dramas) and now has locations throughout the world. Stop by the Hapjeong location to check out the latest trends which range from conservative to experimental.

Now it's time to head over to Sangsu. Stay tuned for the next neighborhood guide, coming soon!

Get There: Take the Seoul subway to Hapjeong Station (Lines 2 & 6, Exit 10)

Map (Includes Hapjeong and Sangsu attractions):

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May 18, 2016

Seoul Walks: Sweets & Shopping in Sinsa, Part 3

This is part two of a three-part Seoul Walks series. In this segment, I'll introduce to you Sinsa-dong's best dessert cafes, nightlife spots and a Korean-style spa fit for a princess. For the previous post, click here.

Dessert Alley 

No visit to Sinsa is complete without a visit to one of the area’s many dessert cafes, and Narosu-gil abounds with the neighborhood’s best.

The display cases at the counter of Dore Dore are hypnotizing and lure customers like moths to a flame. Stocked with mile-high layered cakes of every color and flavor, it's impossible not to order a slice.

Most patrons go straight for the rainbow varieties, of which there are two kinds: Precious, made of rainbow-colored cake layers separated with fresh cream, and Feel Good!, a similar concept that uses thick slabs of Philadelphia cream cheese. Other options include red velvet, chocolate, lemon and carrot. The industrial but airy atmosphere also makes Dore Dore a nice place to unwind as the sun sets.

Nearby Pumpkin Terrier is yet another famous Sinsa-dong cake house, famous for its layer cakes and terrier motif. And while the cakes are memorable (especially the Nutella Banana Cake), their rather unexpected signature item, banana pudding, is what draws in the crowds.

Custard, cream, Korea’s version of vanilla wafers and fresh banana slices take diners back to the days of childhood. Their coffee is just as tasty and is brewed with the fragrant and full-bodied Butter Fat Trio Blend of Seoul-based Anthracite Coffee Roasters.

For healthier treats you can eat on the go (which no doubt allows for more time for shopping), continue walking down the road.

Left: Pumpkin Terrier; Right: Mercy Juice

Detox juices, which are becoming increasingly trendy, can be ordered at Mercy Juice. Greek yogurt, another favorite snack of the health conscious, can be ordered by the cup or bottle, in frozen or smoothie form at Yollo. Add-on options include granola, agave syrup and mint.

Sambazon Boto Açaí has only one item on their menu: the açaí bowl. Generous portions of pureed açaí berry are topped with nutritional ingredients such goji berries, chia seeds, cacao nibs and a variety of fresh fruit; the bowls are as healthy as they are tasty and refreshing.

Dinner and a Movie

If you’re into independent films, then don’t pass up the chance to catch a flick at Indie+. The theater features a number of both domestic and international art films that you won’t likely see in the bigger theaters. Be sure to inquire at the ticket box about the language of the film, as only particular movies contain English subtitles.

Don’t fill up on popcorn, though, if you plan to pig out at Muneo Chicken, one of the biggest neighborhood hotspots for dinner. Although the popular eatery serves up a good selection of fried treats, their most popular dish is the platter which shares the name of the restaurant: a large portion of fried octopus (served whole) and chicken, accompanied by a salad and potato wedges.

The unusual chewy-crispy texture combination and tasty flavors of the dish pair well with Muneo Chicken’s signature frozen beer, a refreshing adult beverage topped with a frosty swirl of foam. The dining experience is only enhanced by the pocha (street food tent) atmosphere, where diners of all ages can be found chowing down on this unusual but ingenious dish.

Photo: Korean Tourism Organization
When you’re completely stuffed, head to Spa Lei to soothe your aching shopping arms. Unlike most jjimjilbang (public bath houses) in Korea, Spa Lei is for girls only (sorry, guys!) and goes out of its way to accommodate its female guests.

The rock sauna, which is essentially a bed of heated stones that contour to the curves of the body, is particularly relaxing, and the massaging jets of the hot tubs will have you never wanting to leave this place. But, there’s so much more to see in Seoul, so soak it up, enjoy and get ready for some more exploring!

To Get There: Take the Seoul subway to Sinsa Station (Line 3, Exit 8).

Guide Map (Includes locations in entire Seoul Walks: Sweets & Shopping in Sinsa)

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

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May 16, 2016

Ultimate Guide to Seoul's Best Neighborhoods

Who needs a guidebook when Seoul Searching gives you the most comprehensive, up-to-date guide to Seoul's neighborhoods on the Internet?!

Whether you're looking for the perfect neighborhood to stay in during your trip, or simply want to explore a new part of town, you can find what you are looking for here.

I'll continue to update this list as new content is published. Stay tuned!

Apgujeong & Cheongdam-dong 

Apgujeong boasts a number of specialty shops that offer unique, one-of-a-kind items at rather affordable prices. The vibe of the area is a youthful one and storefronts and cafes are decorated with colorful, funky designs and signage, a nice contrast from Gangnam's other neighborhoods. 

The Galleria Shopping Mall should not be missed and those with a sweet tooth should try the area’s premiere dessert cafe. Further down in Cheongdam-dong, Seoul’s go-to for luxury items, is the Horim Art Center, which boasts a number of galleries that include more than 10,000 Korean ceramics, paintings and metal art pieces. 

There are also a number of beauty salons that are frequented by the country's most celebrated celebrities but also cater to foreigners, as their employees speak a range of languages. 

Best For: Shopaholics, Hallyu Fans, Fashionistas 

Don’t Miss: Dessertree, Galleria, Apgujeong Rodeo Street, Cheongdamdong Fashion Street, Hallyu entertainment companies Horim Art Center, CGV Cheongdam City, Doosan Park, Pierrot Strike, Le Chambre


Nestled between Inwang and Bugak mountains, Buam-dong is a peaceful residential neighborhood located in the center of Seoul, shielded by nature from the neon and concrete that drench the remainder of the metropolis. 

Buam-dong is most cherished for its small but detail-oriented galleries, mom-and-pop eateries and high-end coffee shops. It is also home to a famous filming location of the famous K-drama Coffee Prince. 

The gem of the area is Baeksa Valley, which dates back to the Joseon Dynasty. With easy trails and plenty of places to rest, Baeksashil is the perfect spot for a private picnic or a family outing. 

Best For: Nature Lovers, Hallyu Fans, Art Aficionados 

Don’t Miss: Seoul Fortress Wall, Club Espresso, Sanmootonge, Baeksa Valley, Jaha Sonmandu, Seoul Museum 

Related Links: Afternoons in Buamdong

Bukchon Hanok Village 

Adjacent to Samcheong-dong lie Gaehoedong and Wonseodong, residential neighborhoods of twisting alleys dotted with hanoks, once homes to the capital's nobility and most influential families. 

This area is particularly popular for its impressive views, beautiful homes and traditional workshops, which are owned and operated by the descendants of former dynastic artisans. Visitors can tour these workshops and experience the traditional arts of the country, which are becoming endangered with each passing year. 

Best For: Art Afficiandos, History Buffs, Couples 

Don’t Miss: Changdeokgung Palace, The Barn Cafe and Home Bakery, Bukchon Cultural Center, Gahoe Museum, Geumbagyeon Han Sangsoo Embroidery Workshop, Simsimheon private home, Cha Masineun Tteul tea house, Coffee Bangatgan caricature cafe, Jeongdok Public Library, Seoul Education Museum 

City Center 

The city center of Seoul is concentrated in a business district, but provides enough culture to make it a must-visit stop on your travel itinerary. 

Best For: History Buffs, Culture Vultures, Foodies, First-Time Tourists 

Don’t Miss: Gwanghwamun, Cheonggyechon, Hangul Museum, Kyobo Book Store, City Hall, Burger B, School Food, Deoksugung, JoyKolon

Related Links: Coming soon!


Shopping fanatics can easily spend a full afternoon (or night, considering most of this district’s shopping venues stay open well into the early morning hours) exploring the wares of local designers in multi-story shopping complexes and markets. 

The recently built Dongdaemun Design Plaza is an architectural feat whose futuristic appearance is a stark contrast to the neighboring Dongdaemun Gate, constructed during dynastic times. 

There are a number of markets serving up tasty Korean street fare in addition to a variety of Indian and Russian restaurants. 

Best For: Shopaholics, Budget Travelers, History Buffs, Foodies 

Don’t Miss: Everest, Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Cheonggyechon, Migliore, Hello APM, Doota Mall, Mukja Golmok food street, JW Marriot Dongdaemun Square The Lounge 

Related Links: Ethnic Enclaves of Seoul


Although Seoul is abundant with must-see destinations and attractions, few of them provide an authentic glimpse into Korean culture as well as the city’s traditional streets. Cramped alleys, gasoline-stained streets and the unmistakable sounds of metal-on-metal give this district an industrial feel and little has changed here since the 1970s. 

Best For: History Buffs, Foodies, Culture Vultures 

Don’t Miss: Cheonggyechon, Chuncheon Makguksu, Gwangjang Market, Market Streets 

Ewha & Sinchon 

These two neighboring areas are home to some of Seoul’s most prestigious universities and, as such, are popular with students and younger generations. 

These areas are great places to find inexpensive clothing and accessories and to taste all the latest in the country’s food trends. Street performers, live music and crowds of fashionistas make it one of the more vibrant areas of the city. 

Best For: Shopaholics, Budget Travelers, Party Animals 

Don’t Miss: Ewha Woman’s University, Tea Angpang, Ewha clothing alley, Hello aPm, Princess Diary, Izakaya Musa, Pop Container 

Gangnam Station 

Made popular by Psy’s famous horse dance, Gangnam Station is as popular as ever for its shopping facilities, nightlife, restaurants and, of course, beautiful people. Towering skyscrapers, boasting unique facades and architectural styles give the neighborhood a city vibe that is evident at all hours of the day. 

Best For: Night Owls, Party Animals, Shopaholics 

Don’t Miss: Kyobo Book Store, Butterfinger Pancakes, Oktoberfest, Rainbow Hookah Bar, Gangnam Underground Shopping Center, Whanchan Chicken, The Hive Building 

Gyeongnidan & Haebangchon 

Very recently, Gyeongnidan and Haebangchon have become the trendiest neighborhoods in all of Seoul. The past few years have seen the neighborhoods transform into residential areas of foreigners, but still maintain a Korean feel. 

Trendy restaurants, bars, cafes and boutiques have since sprung up all over the place, and surprises can be found in just about every alley. 

Best For: Trendsetters, Hipsters, Foodies, Couples, Party Animals 

Don’t Miss: Our Commune, Baker’s Table, The Booth, Haebangchon Art Valley, Casablanca, Southside Parlor, Coreanos, Robot Kimbap, Radio Eyes

Related Links: Coming soon!

Han River 

The Han River is one of the best places to soak up the city’s impressive skyline while at the same time soaking up nature. On any given day, locals can be found in the parks that dot the river shooting hoops, riding bikes and picnicking under sun shades. 

In the evenings, a musical fountain show is held at Banpo Bridge, which is especially beautiful when experienced via one of the river’s many evening cruises. In warmer months, free concerts are held and movies are shown on stages around the river. The 63 Building, which offers impressive views, a wax museum and aquarium, is also a popular destination. 

Best For: Outdoorsmen, Couples, Families 

Don’t Miss: Some Sevit, Han River bridge cafes, Banpo Bridge, Han River Cruise, Yeouido Park, 63 Building, Noryangjin Fish Market 


Once a neglected hilltop community just a stone’s throw from the Han River in central Seoul, Hannam-dong has recently developed into a neighborhood of culture and creativity, thanks to a new wave of young artists and creative thinkers. 

It is also the latest hangout for all of Seoul’s top stars; therefore, celebrity spotting is a favorite activity of those visiting the neighborhood. 

Best For: Trendsetters, Shopaholics, Foodies 

Don’t Miss: Champ Coffee, Madame de 20th Century Salon, Entropy Coffee, Soul Ink, Pancake Original Story, Paris Croissant, Valut +82, Decleor, Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, Takeout Drawing 

Related Links: Coming soon!

Hapjeong & Sangsu 

Like Yeonnam-dong, the areas of Hapjeong and Sangsu have developed into popular hangouts of artists and musicians and has become a hotspot for those seeking underground culture. These streets offer quirky cafes, live music halls and plenty of shopping and entertainment. 

Best For: Trendsetters, Hipsters, Music Lovers, Hallyu Fans 

Don’t Miss: YG Entertainment, Mecentopolis, Rolling Hall, Yogiga, BauHaus, Standing Coffee, Sangsu Cafe Street

Related Links: Coming soon!

Heyri Art Village

Less than an hour's drive north of Seoul sits an enchanting community of artists. Envisioned and created by a well-known book publisher, Heyri Art Village is now home to over 370 artists. 

Not only does its proximity to Seoul make it a great day trip option, but its unique ambiance and ability to converge the old with the new in a natural environment make it a memorable destination. The fact that it is a popular filming location for dramas and movies also makes it popular with Hallyu fans. 

Best For: Hallyu Fans, Families, Art Aficionados 

Don’t Miss: Farmer's Table, Artists' residences, Gallery White Block, Chocolate Design Gallery, Toy Museum, Elvis Museum, The Step, Museum of Modern History of Korea


Hongdae is a vibrant neighborhood known for being the creative hub of the country. Boasting a number of design shops, art galleries, indie music bars and fashion studios, the district is the perfect place to soak up the city's youth culture and up-and-coming trends. 

Visitors will enjoy checking out unique (and sometimes bizarre) themed coffee shops and restaurants, snapping photos of the colorful street art and chowing down on gimmicky street snacks like nitrogen ice cream. After the sun sets, Hongdae really comes alive as thousands flock to the area's bars, dance clubs and noraebangs (private karaoke rooms) for round after round of Seoul’s wild nightlife. 

Best For: Music Lovers, Trendsetters, Night Owls, Party Animals, The Alternative Crowd 

Don’t Miss: Sangsangmadang Art Complex, Thanks Nature Café, Mimine, Busker Square, Luxury Su Noraebang, Tarot Card Row, Hongdae Trick Eye Museum 


Hyehwa remains off the radar to most tourists and is even overlooked by locals. Nevertheless, it thrives as Seoul's theater district and brims with diverse, inexpensive eateries, eye-catching cafes and green spaces to boot. 

One that has garnered recent attention is its Iwha Art Village, a dilapidated residential district that has been given a facelift through the instalment of sculptures and the addition of murals. 

Furthermore, the presence of a number of jazz bars and artisanal cocktail bars make Hyehwa a great destination for a night out on the town. 

Best For: Couples, Hallyu Fans, Music Lovers, Art Aficionados 

Don’t Miss: Iwha Art Village, Jazz Story, Mix & Malt, b2project cafe, Naksan Park, Hello Kitty Cafe, Filipino Market, 10x10, Hakrim Dabang 


Insadong is a charming area of the city which consists of ceramic stores, art galleries, various restaurants and souvenir stores. Special performances and traditional music can be enjoyed by all each weekend, when the streets are closed off to vehicles. 

Although Insadong may be considered a touristy neighborhood, there are plenty of back alleys which boast off-the-radar galleries, outdoor dining tents, craft shops and hidden tea houses. 

Best For: Shopaholics, History Buffs, Culture Vultures, Foodies, Couples 

Don’t Miss: Gukje Embroidery, O'Sulloc, Ssamzigil, Gana Art Gallery, Moon Bird Thinks Only of the Moon, Sanchon, Bukchon Mandu, Blue Star, Insadong Sujebi, Miss Lee Café 

Related Links: Coming soon!


Over the years, Itaewon—once a popular hangout for American army soldiers—has developed into a cultural mecca popular with both foreigners and locals alike. It is a favorite district in Seoul to sample international cuisine, shop for everything from funky accessories to antiques and to experience the city’s vibrant nightlife. 

Best For: Night Owls, Foodies, Party Animals 

Don’t Miss: Bastille, Prost, Guilty Pleasure, B1, Antique Street, Linus’ Bama Style Barbeque, What the Book, MowMow, Glam, The Bungalow, High Street Market, Seoul Mosque, Salam Bakery, Ways of Seeing, War Museum of Korea, Itaewon Global Village Center, Two Bros 

Related Links: Coming soon!


Although not centrally located, Jamsil is still very much worth a visit. Consisting of a number of green spaces, including the expansive Olympic Park and Seokchon Lake, it is a great area for visitors to get a breath of fresh air. 

Additionally, kids (and kids at heart) will love spending a day at Lotte World Adventure & Magic Island, an indoor and outdoor theme park that boasts roller coasters, parades and children’s rides. No visit to Jamsil is complete without a visit to Jamsil Stadium, the city’s most popular spot to watch Korea’s favorite pastime…baseball. 

Best For: Outdoorsmen, Sports Fans, Families 

Don’t Miss: Jamsil Underground Shopping Mall, Lotte Department Store, Charlotte Theater, Olympic Park, Jamsil Stadium, Lotte World Adventure & Magic Island 

Related Links: Coming soon!


Although Myeongdong is one of the more crowded districts of the city, it is still a favorite of tourists for shopping the country’s best brands, in addition to international ones. After shopping for Asia’s hottest trends, there’s plenty to do, eat and experience. 

For instance, visitors can admire the beautiful architecture of the local cathedral and City Hall buildings or women can shop for Korea’s best beauty products on Cosmeroad. 

Best For: Hallyu Fans, Shopaholics, Foodies 

Don’t Miss: Seoul Global Culture and Tourism Center, Cosmeroad, Myeongdong Catholic Cathedral, Myeongdong Underground Shopping Center, Lotte Department Store, Avenue L Theater, Lotte Young Plaza, Myeongdong NOON Square, O’Sulloc Tea House, Yooksam Naengmyeon, Skinspa, Seoul City Hall 

Related Links: Coming soon!

Nami Island 

Located just a 40 minutes' bus ride from Seoul, Nami Island is the ideal place to get away from the city for a day.

An oasis of culture and tranquillity, the small island has something for everyone, from art galleries to water sports activities to regular outdoor concerts and performances. 

Best For: Couples, Families, Outdoorsmen, Hallyu Fans 

Don’t Miss: Unchi Garden, Sky Bike, Bike Center, Herb World, UNICEF Hall, The Song Museum, Raison Gallery, Recycling Workshop, Outdoor Music Stage, Pyunghwarang Restaurant, The Cafe Amuse 

Namsan Area 

Located in the heart of Seoul, Namsan Mountain is home to a number of upscale restaurants, boutiques, design shops and the well known Seoul Tower, which overlooks the entirety of the city. The tower can be accessed by bus, cable car (as noted on many popular K-dramas) or by hiking one of the mountain’s trails. 

Namsan-gol Hanok Village is at the foot of the mountain and offers visitors a glimpse into what Korea was like during dynastic times through an aesthetic display of traditional homes and daily performances. 

Best For: Hallyu Fans, Nature Lovers, History Buffs 

Don’t Miss: THE PLACE Dining, THE BEST BURGER IN SEOUL, N'Seoul Tower, Namsan Park, Seoul Animation Museum, Namsangol Hanok Village, Korea House


Located on the eastern border of Gyeongbok Palace, Samcheongdong is a quaint neighborhood of boutiques, cafes and restaurants housed in hanoks, traditional Korean homes. 

Visitors can enjoy an afternoon wandering the districts streets and exploring the shops which offer an eclectic mix of modern and Korean-inspired wares. Additionally, it boasts a number of small galleries. 

Best For: Art Aficionados, Culture Vultures, History Buffs, Couples, Hallyu Fans 

Don’t Miss: Samcheongdong-gil, Bukmakgol, Samcheongdong Sujebi, Yeon Traveler's Hangout, Cafe Yung, La Cle Jazz Bar, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Tea Therapy

Related Links:


Bordering the western wall of Gyeongbok Palace, Seochondong is an oft-overlooked neighborhood and is still relatively unknown, even to locals. 1970s-era buildings and markets are contrasted by modern design spaces, art galleries and stationery shops. 

This is one of the best places in Seoul to get a feeling for what the neighborhood was like during the mid to late 20th century. 

Best For: Couples, Foodies, History Buffs, Art Aficionados 

Don’t Miss: Gyeongbokgung, Tosokchon, Goyangyi Moonbanggu, Tongin Market, Doshirak Cafe, Armdri, Wonjo Halmeoni Tteokbokki, Hyoja Bakery, Barcelona, Flower & Cafe, Dae-o Bookstore Cafe, Aux Petits Verres, Tongui-dong Hanok Village 

Related Links: Coming soon!


Few places in Seoul combine elements of nature, history, culture and religion as well as the neighborhood of Seodaemun. 

Situated in northern Seoul, Inwang Mountain is made up of some impressive trails, many of which follow along the Seoul Fortress Wall. Also scattered throughout the mountain are Buddhist temples and shamanist shrines where exorcism rites and healing services are still held today. The shamans' spiritual chants create an eerie mood, as do the giant rock formations that resemble skulls and goblins. 

Other highlights of the neighborhood include the historical Independence Park and the Prison History Hall. Once a jail for Korean independence activists during the Japanese colonial rule, it's now a history museum and a monument that celebrates Korea's fight for independence. 

Best For: History Buffs, Outdoorsmen, Culture Vultures 

Don’t Miss: Inwangsan, Seodaemun Prison History Hall, Independence Park 

Related Links: Sunshine and Shamanism

Seolleung, Bongeunsa & COEX 

Seolleung is a place where visitors can follow in the footsteps of royalty and historical figures of the Joseon Dynasty by exploring the impressive tombs of former kings. 

Nearby, the temple of Bongeunsa offers a glimpse into the lives of Buddhist monks and boasts beautiful structures and statues. Just down the road, visitors can explore COEX mall and convention center and all of its facilities, which include an aquarium, a movie theater and a casino. 

Best For: Culture Vultures, Shopaholics, Hallyu Fans 

Don’t Miss: Seolleung Tombs, Jeongneung Tombs, Bongeunsa Temple, COEX, Seven Luck Casino, Aquarium, Megabox

Related Links: Coming soon!

Seorae Maeul (French Village) 

After the establishment of a French school in the 1980s, Seorae Village has become home to around 600 French people, roughly 40 percent of Korea’s total French population. Here, there are exquisite French cafes, French and Italian restaurants, wine bars, cheese shops, bakeries, and quaint boutiques. 

French flags (along with Korean ones) line the streets, giving one the feeling he or she has traveled across the world to Europe. After exploring the streets, visitors can relax in Monmartre Park, which has nice views of the district. 

Best For: Couples, Foodies, Families 

Don’t Miss: Express Bus Terminal underground shopping center, Cheese N, Lycee Francais de Seoul, Montmartre Park, Paris Croissant, Hotel Douce, Maison de Paris, Seorae Global Village Center, Napkin Please 

Related Links: Coming soon!

Seoul Grand Park 

Covering a vast area, Seoul Grand Park consists of themed facilities for education, nature, and amusement. The park is known for its scenic beauty, which changes with each season. It’s a particularly great destination for families, as it boasts an amusement park and a rather large zoo. 

Best For: Families, Outdoorsmen, Nature Lovers 

Don’t Miss: Seoul Grand Park Zoo, Rose Garden, Nature Camping Site, Botanical Garden, National Museum of Contemporary Art, SeoulLand Amusement Park


Sinsa-dong is a quaint neighborhood that has become increasingly popular over the past couple years. Perhaps the best known street in the area is Garosu-gil, which is often brimming with models, celebrities, amateur photographers and fashion bloggers. 

Fashion lovers will adore the neighborhood’s vintage shops, handbag museum and accessory stalls that take over every block. 

When shopping becomes too tiring, visitors can pamper themselves with some of the massages and beauty treatments in the city or relax at one of the many saunas. Restaurants serve up just about every kind of cuisine imaginable and many of them are owned and operated by Korea’s top stars. 

Best For: Trendsetters, Foodies, Shopaholics, Hallyu Fans 

Don’t Miss: Garosu-gil, Spicy Color, 9 Owls, Simone Handbag Museum, Coffee Chu, Cafe Oui, Bloom & Goute Cafe, Spa Lei, Pier 17, Dore Dore 


Yeonnam-dong is the quieter, albeit cooler cousin of Hongdae. Situated not far from Seoul’s biggest nightlife district, Yeonnam-dong is an up-and-coming community of artists. 

Traditionally a Chinese-Korean area, it has begun to gentrify and despite the old world feel that the neighborhood exudes, it is indeed a hot spot of raved-about restaurants, quaint cafes and tiny galleries. It is special in that these small businesses are mixed in among residential buildings and it feels worlds apart from the bustling metropolis of Seoul. 

Best For: Art Afficionados, Couples, Hipsters, Foodies 

Don’t Miss: Yunnam Salon, Wangchang Sanghoe, Be New, Ipum Bunsik, Pinokio Bookstore, Lie Lie Lie, Cafe Libre, Place Mak

Related Links: Coming soon!

Which neighborhoods did I miss? Leave them in the comments below and I'll be sure to share them with you in the future!

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

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May 11, 2016

Seoul Walks: Sweets & Shopping in Sinsa, Part 2

This is part two of a three-part Seoul Walks series. In this segment, I'll guide you along Serosu-gil and Garosu-gil and introduce to you Sinsa-dong's best international eats and cultural galleries. For the previous post, click here.

An International Feast 

Just as famous as Sinsa's boutiques are its atmospheric restaurants and there are plenty of options for the hungry shopper.

Bordering Serosu-gil offers enough dining options to cater to even the pickiest of palates. Here, the restaurants are a bit pricier than those in other parts in Seoul, but many offer lunch specials on weekdays.

If you're in the mood for Italian, Pizza Di Napoli does a great lunch set that includes focaccia, salad, soup, an entree, and coffee or tea. Their olive oil pasta, which brims with clams, is quite tasty, but the servers claim their pizzas are the most popular among diners.

For authentic New Orleans cuisine, head to Pier 17, which also has affordable lunch deals. Their specialties include gumbo, jambalaya and boiled seafood, as well as some very creative cocktails. Try the Shark Attack, a blue margarita topped with a plastic shark that oozes strawberry daiquiri “blood” when squeezed.

If you’re in need of a coffee break, or a quiet place to do some reading, settle into a comfy seat at Cafe Oui, a tucked-away afternoon hangout. This multi-story cafe oozes feminine charm: pastel stuffed animals, dainty desserts and adorable teddy bear cappuccino foam art. If the ethereal decor doesn’t keep your attention, then the handsome servers in bow-ties most definitely will.

Beauty Haul 

Makeup junkies will be happy to know that Garosu-gil is brimming with beauty shops that cater to just about every budget. And although it’s easy to spend all day shop-hopping, sampling hair oils, lip masks and BB cream, the product that put Korean cosmetics on the map, Olive Young and Lohb’s are undoubtedly Sinsa’s best one-stop shops for all your beauty needs.

The latter is the bigger of the two, but both offer an endless array of domestic and international brands of toiletries, cosmetics and even specialty snacks. There are also entire sections dedicated to male grooming, so men can enjoy the experience just as much as women.

Wearable Art 

The Simone Handbag Museum is housed in unique building with a glass facade and a roof constructed to resemble purse handles. Inside, guests can browse an impressive collection of handbags from some of the most luxurious brands in the world; one floor is dedicated to contemporary styles of the West while the other features historical handbags dating back to as early as the 1500s.

Mannequins are placed strategically throughout the museum to illustrate how handbags were worn throughout history as well as how the lifestyles of the eras influenced handbag design. The bags are beautiful to look at but even more interesting are the stories that each tells, explained thoroughly in the museum brochure.

The building also boasts special exhibits, a cafe complete with adorable handbag decor and a workshop where Korean artisans can be watched cutting, stripping and sewing the latest designs. Fashion enthusiasts can also create their own handbags with the gorgeous high-quality materials for sale in the Material Bazaar.

Near by is Galley Yeh. Founded in 1978, and re-launched in 2005 in its current space that has become a landmark in Sinsa, the gallery has established a solid track record of popular exhibits featuring both traditional and modern works of art by Korean and international artists, including Arman, Jesus Raphael Soto, Lynn Chadwick, Niki de Saint-phalle, Frank Stella, Alberto Giacometti, Nam Jun-paik and Alex Katz.

In the next part of this series, you'll explore Sinsa's most delicious and eye-appealing dessert cafes, as well as some cool nightlife spots.

Click here to go to part three!

To Get There: Take the Seoul subway to Sinsa Station (Line 3, Exit 8).

Guide Map (Includes locations in entire Seoul Walks: Sweets & Shopping in Sinsa)

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

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May 4, 2016

Expat Spotlight: Caroline Bryan, Lingerie Designer and Founder of Luna Lia

Over the past couple years, Seoul has emerged as Asia’s new fashion showcase, with the world’s top luxury firms seeking to cash in on the regional trend-setting popularity of South Korean pop culture.

But in a fashion-conscious city that has gained a reputation for its noteworthy street style and world-class fashion exports, there’s one area where the industry still falls short: lingerie.

“Korean lingerie designs tend to be either very plain or overly frilly,” noted Caroline Bryan, US expat and lingerie designer. “Also, pretty bras don't go over a C cup. Everything else looks like something your grandma would wear. It's sad.”

This led the Alabama native to start Luna Lia, a luxury lingerie line that boasts designs that are at once feminine and bohemian, with unique details that mainstream designs lack.

“Many of the designs are sheer or very airy, so I'd say Luna Lia is for ladies who are more adventurous than most but also like to embrace their feminine side.”

Caroline’s line has garnered a great deal of attention, with the Anastasia and Lotus bralettes being some of the most popular. It’s easy to see why. The intricate designs create a subtle sexiness that embody femininity—perfect for more intimate moments, but also suitable for creating a unique summer look when worn under a tank top.

While Luna Lia is Caroline’s first attempt at lingerie, she has been surrounded by design and art her entire life.

“When I was a kid, my mom would make a lot of my clothes. If you could see the intricate details of the things she created, you'd be blown away,” noted Caroline. “She taught me how to sew and we used to make clothes for my Barbies together.”

Inspired by her mother, Caroline opted to study fashion design in Nashville, Tennessee. After graduating, she landed a job at a company designing “all those tacky t-shirts with angel wings, crosses and skulls that you would see the cast of Jersey Shore wearing.”

She quickly grew weary of spending her days behind a computer screen, packed her bags and headed to Korea to teach English. Five years later, she recognized the abounding opportunities in Seoul and decided to get back into the fashion industry.

“I'm not sure if there is a better place than Seoul for what I'm doing,” Caroline said. “Dongdaemun is a fashion mecca where you can find just about any fabric or trim, and then walk across the street to a factory and have your designs made. You can even have small-batch designs made, unlike other places that require minimum orders sometimes in the thousands.”

This is a big advantage for emerging designers, who often do not have the resources to place such big orders. Caroline also claims that the expat community in Seoul has been incredibly supportive of her work and her brand.

“It encourages me to work harder and try to come up with more beautiful designs that ladies would enjoy and feel sexy and confident wearing,” she says.

Caroline plans to soon launch a new collection of bolder prints and colors, as well as more matching bra and panty sets and a swimwear capsule collection. But don’t expect any couple lingerie—a popular look in Korea in which lovers wear matching underwear.

“I think it's super cheesy, but I guess different strokes for different folks!” Caroline said with a laugh.

Be sure to check out all of Caroline’s designs on the Luna Lia website and Instagram feed.

Words by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Photos courtesy of Caroline Bryan. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized. 

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