This is the second of a two-part post on some of Seoul’s distinct neighbourhoods I visited on my trip there. Last time, we looked at big and beautiful commercial districts; now let’s have a wander in some more intimate locations. One of the things that immediately struck me when exploring the city was the sheer number of cafes and galleries everywhere, but especially in these small and quiet enclaves. I really like how old traditional houses have been re-purposed into shops and restaurants, instead of being bulldozed to make way for impersonal shopping malls (ahem… Hong Kong).
The Insa-dong area is probably the most touristy of the neighbourhoods I visited. The main street, Insadong-gil, is lined with shops selling typical souvenirs as well as traditional Korean handicrafts and antiques. The Unhyeongung Palace is located nearby where you can check out exhibitions on Korean culture, as well as admire traditional architecture.
All along Insadong-gil you’ll also find a maze of side streets with traditional tea houses and restaurants. This is the place to try to old-school Korean food, and there are snack stands everywhere. There are also many old houses converted to galleries and tea shops, away from the hustle and bustle of the main street.
The Samcheong-dong Culture Street, as it is officially known, is an interesting area with a mix of traditional Korean houses and modern buildings. It is absolutely crammed with small museums, art galleries, cafes, and retail shops. With it’s modern wine bars and restaurants, this is a very trendy area, and contrasts nicely with the adjacent Bukchon village neighbourhood. With so much to see, you could easily spend an entire day here; and best of all, it’s not too crowded, either.