This isn’t Gangnam style: 3 rising Seoul neighborhoods

Seoul CNN  — 

Finding the next trendiest districts in town is a never-ending mission.

Yesterday’s happening hoods are soon gentrified and saturated with corporate opportunists, pushing scenesters elsewhere.

It’s the same in Seoul.

Here are three areas of the South Korean capital currently surfing a tide of online hashtags.


Zagmachi is a cafe and exhibition space housed in a former printing factory.

Acknowledged as a hot spot by local media and circling real estate investors, Seongsu – the area around the Seoul Forest, Ttukseom and Seongsu subway stations – encompasses a knot of fashionable restaurants and stores as well as a cluster of art spaces and cafes.

For years, the area near Seongsu station was a warehouse zone with auto repair shops and shoe-making workshops.

Attracted by the cheap rent, more interesting cafes and studios have begun creeping into spacious renovated factories.

It’s perhaps one reason Seongsu invites frequent comparisons to Brooklyn.

But the more residential areas near Seoul Forest have a different flavor altogether.

They’ve become a gathering place for social ventures and nonprofits. There are community spaces and socially conscious businesses.

Cow & Dog bills itself as a co-working space.

It hosts talks, networking events and flea markets for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial-minded folk. The first floor is open to all as a cafe.

Ddukddeok is a bunsik restaurant selling inexpensive, flour-based snack food near Seoul Forest.

Its signature dish, from which it takes its name, is a version of street food classic ddeokbokki – rice cakes slathered in a sweet and spicy sauce – available for the street food price of 3,500 won ($3).

Closer to Seongsu Station, there’s Zagmachi, an acutely photogenic cafe and exhibition space housed in a former printing factory.

Down the street is the Daelim Warehouse, a Seongsu landmark and event venue that’s also contributed to the rise of the neighborhood.

Seongsu has long been known for its quality handmade shoes, and the government-run From SS is one of many shops along the Seongsu’s handmade shoe street.

Cow & Dog, 20, Wangsimni-ro 2-gil, Seongdong-gu, Seoul

Ddukddeok, 22-1, Seoulsup 6-gil, Seongdong-gu, Seoul; +82 70 7795 7209

Zagmachi, 88, Seongsui-ro, Seongdong-gu, Seoul; +82 70 4409 7700

From SS, 100, Achasan-ro, Seongdong-gu, Seoul; +82 70 4418 6283

Usadan-ro 10-gil

Usadan-ro 10-gil is jam-packed with cute new openings and charming old establishments.

The tiniest neighborhood of the trio, Usadan-ro 10-gil is the name of a back road in the Itaewon area of central Seoul.

Usadan-ro may look unassumingly quaint, but it’s densely packed with zany boutiques and studios.

Magazine offices and vintage clothes boutiques blend in seamlessly with old-time grocery stores and hair salons.

The best way to explore the neighborhood is to begin at the Seoul Central Mosque and amble down the road.

Community-run flea market Itaewon Gyedanjang, open the last Saturday of the month, deals mostly in handcrafted and local wares.

Go Zip specializes in teas and fermented drinks.

The teas are grown on an organic farm in Cheongsong-gun, in the southeastern side of South Korea and the drinks are fermented for three years in traditional Korean earthenware pottery on a farm in the northeast region.

The result is a menu of drinks that taste much better than they sound.

The Maesil Ade (KRW4,000/$3.30) is a fizzy, fermented Chinese plum drink with the fermented syrup served a syringe so you can control the concentration of the drink.

The same owner also runs a fruit-themed dessert shop on the same street.

Eid serves simple but tasty home-style Korean food (bibimbap, sauteed rice, bulgogi) with halal ingredients.

If you keep going, you’ll eventually pass the showrooms, studios and shops of local designers.

Hanahzo is a studio that creates pastel-colored soaps.

WORKS sells the work of multiple local designers and also functions as a studio.

Go Zip, 40, Usadan-ro 10-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul; +82 70 4235 4235

Hanahzo, 135, Usadan-ro 10-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul; +82 2 3785 0120

WORKS, 77, Usadan-ro 10-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul; +82 70 7559 0570


Seochon Garage: Good place for South Korea souvenir scavanging.

Seochon is a broad term meaning “west village,” referring to the neighborhood west of Gyeongbok Palace, the most prominent ancient palace in Seoul.

It’s often compared neighboring Bukchon, a wealthy and historic “village” north of the palace that was once home to nobility and has been pulling in tourists for years.

Seochon, not quite a tourist zone yet, is where the translators and palace administrators lived.

Here, new openings share the street with longtime residences, contributing to the area’s placid charm.

A good, quiet place to begin is the House of Yi Sang, a memorial named after the early 20th century avant garde poet and writer that once lived there.

The glass-walled, renovated hanok traditional house has a small library of books by and about Yi.

There’s also a nifty memorial room that screens videos about him.

The Story of Lotus is a restaurant and lunchbox service that specializes in lotus leaves stuffed with 10 different types of fragrant rice.

There’s an emphasis on organic and locally grown.

The restaurant is run by Cho Young-ju, a food editor and the head of a local culture marketing firm that’s been rooted in Seochon for over a decade.

Seochon Garage is a shop founded by creative design group Z_Lab and alternative travel agency TH&D.

The selection of goods consists of thoughtful souvenirs collected from all over Korea and items from local designers.

Ogin Arcade, around in one form or another since 1988, is a small brightly lit space filled with classic arcade games like Street Fighter and Tetris.

Seol Jae-woo, the publisher of neighborhood lifestyle magazine Seochon Life, took over after the original proprietor stepped down.

A photo of the grandmotherly proprietor and neighborhood matriarch is now on display at the Arcade.

House of Yi Sang, 18, Jahamun-ro 7-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul; +82 70 8837 8374

Story of Lotus Food Cafe, 53-30, Pirundae-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul; +82 3446 7369

Seochon Garage, 24, Jahamun-ro 9-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul; +82 2 732 0106 or +82 2 732 9101

Ogin Arcade, 28, Ogin-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Violet Kim is a freelance writer based in Seoul. Find her online @pomography.