Hongdae, the Young Face of Seoul

Night clubs, cozy cafes, great shops and eccentricity: welcome to Hongdae, the hip and vibrant university district of the South Korean capital

  • Hongdae, the Young Face of Seoul
  • Hongdae, the Young Face of Seoul
  • Hongdae, the Young Face of Seoul
  • Hongdae, the Young Face of Seoul
  • Hongdae, the Young Face of Seoul
  • Hongdae, the Young Face of Seoul
  • Hongdae, the Young Face of Seoul

The name, Hongdae, is derived from the prestigious private university Hongik Daehakgyo, currently home to over 20,000 students, which has been at the heart of the neighborhood since 1946.
And it is thanks to the current and former students, many of whom have specialized in fine arts and later opened their own studio or workshop in the area, that Hongdae has become perhaps the most lively, eccentric and pleasurable Seoul neighbothood, loved by locals, tourists and expats alike, the ideal place to kick back and relax after visiting the many historic and cultural beauties of the city.
So what is so special about Hongdae? First and foremost, its vibrant nightlife: the bars, the cafes and the clubs where you can dance and listen to music all night long - especially on the second and last Friday of each month, when the Club Day ritual allows you to get into all the clubs paying for a single entrance ticket (and an affordable one as well, since this is a university district).
Then there are the shops lining the pedestrian streets of the neighborhood - from small independent boutiques to emerging designer stores, offering plenty of opportunities to those who like to hunt for unique objects, unusual souvenirs and unique gifts. Not to mention the exciting street food scene, the beautiful graffiti, and the young local crowd of young people sporting bizarre and elaborate outfits and the craziest haircuts.
The fil rouge is undoubtedly the creativity that has always pervaded Hongdae and that makes it so unique as well as an authentic must-see. To help you discover it, we selected some of our favorite places in the area.
Hongdae Playground
This simple children playground, with walls covered in colorful graffiti and little more, opposite the university building, has become the heart of the neighborhood’s life, and definitely the right place to start from if you are willing to experience the spirit and the pleasant and relaxed atmosphere of Hongdae. Young musicians gather here to improvise gigs, especially on weekends, stalls sell street food, gadgets and second-hand clothes, and people sit or stroll leisurely.
Aa Design Museum (& Café)
A hybrid space entirely devoted to design - part museum, part design furniture showroom, and part café. Spread across many floors with different styles and functions, it's a place where everyone can get familiar with the history of design between past and present times, before relaxing in the café among more beautiful pieces. Behind the amazing project of aA Design museum is the idea of offering vistors and customers the chance to find design furniture they will hardly be able to see anywhere else in South Korea. The collections are constantly updated with new pieces from some of the most outstanding names of the international design scene
Trickeye Museum
Hard to resist the kitschy madness of this most unusual interactive ‘museum’ featuring three-dimensional trompe l'oeil reproduction of world-famous paintings. Of course, you can interact with the works, touch them and take thousands of crazy selfies.
Hongdae Free Market
Every Saturday during the summer months, the Hongdae creative and artistic community gathers at this remarkable flea market in the Playground, where art objects and original creations are sold as well, including some interesting contemporary reinterpretations of traditional Korean crafts.
Design square
On the fifth floor of the unmistakable Sangsangmadang glass and concrete building, where students can attend movies, concerts and exhibitions, is an amazing crafts and design shop selling handmade objects and accessories.
Eat & Drink
Thanks Nature Cafe
This amazing themed cafe around the corner from the university is all dedicated to nature. References include plenty of greenery, portraits of animals hanging on the walls, animal figurines, stuffed animals and... a couple of actual sheeps happily grazing in the outside patio and occasionally bleating.
Street Food
The pedestrian streets of the neighborhood are lined with stalls selling all different and constantly changing kinds of street food - a real must for those who want to experience traditional Korean food and sample the most absurd food trends. There is truly everything, from the classics Tteokbokki (chewy rice dumplings dipped in plenty of moderately spicy red sauce) to chicken skewers covered in tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.
Why go to a Vietnamese restaurant in Seoul? Because at Anh’s, provided that you have enough patience to deal with the perennial queue, you can sample authentic Vietnamese home cuisine; only a few dishes, prepared according to family recipes.
The Beastro
From Vietnamese cuisine to modern American gastronomy? Why not! As the name itself suggests, this beloved neighborhood restaurant that serves fine US cuisine made based on hearty and not exactly low-calorie ingredients. The weekend brunch is usually very packed.
The Vault
Action movie-themed escape rooms, a restaurant and a nice list of cocktails: what else could you ask for? This is the definitive Hongdae night destination.
A nightclub specializing in hip hop sounds that has literally conquered the neighborhood and the entire city - so that is crowded not only on weekends, but every night of the week.
Photo credits
Cover photo
: Travis Estell under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license
The market: Emily Shin under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license
Graffiti: Dawn Lim under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license

Author : The Slowear Journal


Korea  | Seoul  | Hongdae  | university  | nightlife  | shopping  | street food  |

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