Seoul is an ever-changing city and offers a multitude of attractions for the traveler and the local alike. When I returned to Seoul this year, I was delighted to find an adorable new neighborhood that had sprouted out seemingly from nowhere – the trendy hotspot Ikseondong.
Found on the north side of Jongno-3 Station (I recommend taking exit 4 if you’re coming by subway), Ikseondong transformed from an average Seoul neighborhood into a whimsical warren of shops and restaurants in the space of a few short years. On a friend’s recommendation, I decided to check out what the excitement was all about.
Narrow walkways line the maze-like streets of Ikseondong, which is composed primarily of traditional houses that have been converted into specialty coffee shops, dessert houses, boutiques, and small restaurants. Many of the stores have kept as many original elements as possible – like elegant wood doors and open inner courtyards – and others have blended them with modern design.
On the spring evening of my visit, the whole area was flush with people, with the majority being young couples or groups of college students. At first we simply wandered the paths to look at the wide variety of wares and snacks on offer, but hunger quickly took over and we started to debate dinner options.
We settled on a Western-inspired restaurant where we enjoyed pasta and steak (and I regrettably did not note down the name!) amidst beautiful folding screens, live plants, and dark wood floors. After lingering over the food and ambience we headed back into the streets to continue our explorations.
At one point we accidentally left the main area and ended up on some winding side streets lined with more traditional Korean restaurants – small places with outdoor tables and many scents wafting into the air. We decided to go back to the shops, but I noted this down as a possible place to return in the future.
Though not actively looking for any particular items, we did end up doing some shopping as many of the stores have handmade products or carefully curated inventories. Primarily they carry clothing and accessories, and my friend found some lovely earrings that she eagerly purchased. A Korean friend of mine also recommended a store called Teterot Salon that sells hanbok made in contemporary styles. I didn’t have a chance to visit this time around, but if you take a peek at the incredible photos on their Instagram (@teterotsalon) you may be inspired to go!
Another highlight of Ikseondong is the numerous murals, creative window displays, and even some interactive art that can be found there. I lingered over several spots in an attempt to get a good picture and asked my friend to pose with some colorful umbrellas that we spotted.
Before we left we tried to track down some ice cream as we had noticed a couple of people with interesting purple-colored ice cream in cones. Sadly, when we did locate the seller they were all sold out, but I settled on some yummy warm hotteok (filled pancake) instead.
I fully enjoyed my time in the charming Ikseondong, and my sole regret was that I only got to visit once during my trip. Ikseondong can be enjoyed day or night, and I had hoped to come back another evening to see its nightlife side. Instead, I’ve put it on my to-do list for a future trip!
Categories: KOREA-CANADA BLOG 2018