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8 Things to do at Insadong

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8 Things to do at Insadong

Located between the Five Grand Palaces of Korea, Insadong is a must-visit neighborhood during your vacation in Seoul. Historically the main street was inhabited by the arts and traditional culture. In the past decade, commercial businesses have trickled in, driving up rent prices. Skin care shops are turning Insadong into Skin-sadong! A handful of long-standing souvenir shops remain. Here are the top activities to partake in as you stroll down Insadong Street:

1. SOUVENIR SHOPPING

On the main street and in alleyways are shops selling specialized goods, including pottery, hanbok (traditional Korean clothing), and hanji (traditional handmade paper). Souvenir shops carry an assortment of standard Korean utensils, calligraphy materials, figurines, as well as tacky touristy goods.

Crates of assorted ceramics found at Insadong.

Crates of assorted ceramics found at Insadong.

Utensils of the Korean people: metal chopsticks and spoons.

Utensils of the Korean people: metal chopsticks and spoons.

Pick up sets of kitchenware for your family and friends back home! Just remember to take off the price tag :)

Pick up sets of kitchenware for your family and friends back home! Just remember to take off the price tag :)

2. EAT KOREAN FEASTS (HAN JEONG SHIK)

Rule of thumb: come to Insadong Street with an empty stomach. Restaurants such as Hanul Poong-Kyung offer dishes such as ginseng chicken with black rice, mung-bean jelly with beef and vegetables, soybean paste stew, abalone, natural pine mushrooms, various types of kimchi and more!

Korean feast at Hanul Poong-Kyoung.

Korean feast at Hanul Poong-Kyoung.

Natural Pine Mushroom at Hanul Poong-Kyung.

Natural Pine Mushroom at Hanul Poong-Kyung.

3. VISIT ART GALLERIES

With rotating exhibitions, soak in the paintings and sculptures while you can. Get lucky and you just might meet the artist themselves! They may be tending the floor where their work is being displayed.

Ceramic piece by Jeon Changhyun.

Ceramic piece by Jeon Changhyun.

Gana Art Space at Insadong.

Gana Art Space at Insadong.

4. EXPLORE THE TWISTING ALLEYS

Sure, it can be plenty of fun walking on Insadong's main street, but wait until you venture into the hidden alleys. From traditional tea houses to affordable Korean food to makeolli drinking, you'll want to come back again and again to try every hidden gem. These alleys may get busy during lunch hours, but makes for a meditative stroll when the calm sets back in. Observe. Chefs lay out their ingredients to dry under the sun while cats take a nap like it's a lazy Sunday afternoon.

A typical alley at Insadong is filled with food, food and more food.

A typical alley at Insadong is filled with food, food and more food.

Halved eggplants tanning. Visit on a dry day and you'll find restaurants laying out their ingredients under the sun.

Halved eggplants tanning. Visit on a dry day and you'll find restaurants laying out their ingredients under the sun.

Kitty sighting in an alley. Baby Meow drinking its mama's milk.

Kitty sighting in an alley. Baby Meow drinking its mama's milk.

5. GO ON A HANBOK PHOTOSHOOT

Grab your friends and get traditional! Ladies, dress up like a queen, princess or gisaeng (old-school entertainers). Gentlemen, be a king or warrior for the day. Even get your makeup and hair done at select hanbok studios.

Professor Oh (me), Yoonah and Judy dressed in hanbok at  Goguan Studio .

Professor Oh (me), Yoonah and Judy dressed in hanbok at Goguan Studio.

I share my hanbok photoshoot experience with you in KWOW episode 130.

6. EAT STREET FOOD

As long it's not raining, street food vendors come out to serve their specialties. From spicy rice cakes to saxophone-shaped ice cream cones, you'll leave the street with a full tummy. Watch their cooking and try to mimic the steps in your own kitchen!

Man grilling skewers of octopus on a winter day at Insadong.

Man grilling skewers of octopus on a winter day at Insadong.

Lady in hanbok making Korean crackers during autumn.

Lady in hanbok making Korean crackers during autumn.

7. HANG OUT AT SSAMZIGIL

A spiraling four-story building of arts, crafts, shopping and food, Ssamzigil will fulfill your appetite for all things cute and colorful. Head to the basement for workshops where you can paint on pottery and purchase handmade goods. The top floor hosts a cafe and an area where you stick lovey-dovey messages on walls.

Crafts and handmade goods found at the basement of Ssamzigil.

Crafts and handmade goods found at the basement of Ssamzigil.

Rooftop of Ssamzigil. Write messages on circles and fasten them on the walls. A fun activity for you and your love!

Rooftop of Ssamzigil. Write messages on circles and fasten them on the walls. A fun activity for you and your love!

8. RELAX AT A CAFE

A rainy day in Insadong? Street food vendors might've taken a day off, but some cafes will give you a discount for the wet weather! Most spots provide dependable Wifi as the majority of cafes in Seoul do.

Jars of tea inside the famously long-titled cafe called "Moon Bird Does Thinks of Only the Moon."

Jars of tea inside the famously long-titled cafe called "Moon Bird Does Thinks of Only the Moon."

Handful of cafes in Insadong allow customers to write on their walls.

Handful of cafes in Insadong allow customers to write on their walls.

Traditional Korean desserts enjoyed at "Moon Bird Does Thinks of Only the Moon" cafe.

Traditional Korean desserts enjoyed at "Moon Bird Does Thinks of Only the Moon" cafe.

The older traditional cafes are hidden in alleys as the commercial cafes dominate Insadong Street.

The older traditional cafes are hidden in alleys as the commercial cafes dominate Insadong Street.

Watch the KWOW episode on Insadong if you haven't already (below)!


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Nengmyun Street in Korea

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Nengmyun Street in Korea

Where does one eat the tastiest nengmyun (cold Korean noodles)? Taekwon Do and his cousin Yoonah go on a culinary marathon to find out. They try three types of nengmyun dishes back-to-back. Delicious cold noodle shops are scattered throughout Seoul, however Nengmyun Street is densely packed with them! Watch the KWOW episode for full restaurant reviews:


THE FEATURED RESTAURANTS:

Round 1: Ojang-dong Heungnamjip (오장동흥남집)
Address: 101-7 Gwanghui-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 중구 오장동 101-7)
Phone: 02-2266-0735 / 02-2272-7117
Hours: 11am-9:30pm, closed 2nd & 4th Wednesday every month

naengmyeon shop
naengmyeon cold noodles
korean cold noodles
nengmyeon restaurant
naengmyeon restaurant seoul

Round 2: Ojang-dong Hamheung Naengmyeon (오장동 함흥냉면)
Address: 90-10 Gwanghui-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 중구 오장동 90-10)
Phone: 02-2267-9500 / 02-2268-8500
Hours: 11am-9pm, closed 1st and 3rd Tuesdays every month

ojangdong
nengmyun menu
raw fish naengmyeon
hoe naengmyeon

Round 3: Ojang-dong Sinchang Myun-ok (오장동 신창면옥)
Address: 90-8 Gwanghui-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul (서울 중구 오장동 90-8)
Phone: 02-2273-4889
Hours: 10:30am-10pm, closed 1st and 3rd Mondays every month

ojangdong cold noodle street
bibim naengmyeon
bibim nengmyun
korean chopsticks


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Homo Hill: Korea's Gay District

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Homo Hill: Korea's Gay District

Curious of the alleys tucked away from Itaewon's main drag, Granny Kim and her sidekick Granny Bae explore the famous Homo Hill. Celebrities, locals and foreigners alike party it up at this short yet vibrant street. The grannies dance with a group of hotties and end up at a drag show! You don't want to miss this episode:

Featured hotspots:

  1. My Thai
    Phone: (02) 794-8090
    Hours: 11am-2am
    Address: 123-20 Itaewon-dong
    Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
    (in Korean: 서울 용산구 이태원동 123-20)
     
  2. MYX
    Phone: (02) 792-7888
    Hours: 6pm-3am on weekdays, 6pm-5am on weekends
    Address: 47 Usadan-ro
    Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
    (in Korean: 서울 용산구 우사단로 47)
     
  3. Always Homme
    Phone: (02) 798-0578
    Cover fee: None
    Hours: 7pm-2am on weekdays, 7pm-5am on weekends
    Address: On the right side of Queen. Refer to #5.
     
  4. Soho
    Cover fee: None
    Address: Across from Always Homme.
     
  5. Queen
    Phone: (10) 2559-4401
    Happy hour: 8-11pm
    Cover fee: None
    Address: 136 Itaewon-dong
    Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
    (in Korean: 서울 용산구 이태원동 136)
    Facebook
     
  6. Trance
    Hours: Open after 11pm
    Cover fee: 10,000 won + 1 drink
    Address: On the left side of Queen. Refer to #5.
    FYI: Drag shows after 2am.
     
  7. Eat Me
    Address: Located across from Queen. Refer to #5.
    FYI: Take intermission from drinking and savor chicken wings.
     
  8. The Bungalow
    Phone: (02) 793-2344
    Address: 112-3 Itaewon-dong
    Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
    (in Korean: 서울 용산구 이태원동 112-3)
    Facebook

The businesses from numbers 3-7 are on Homo Hill. Because it is a short street, you won't take too long to find them. Directions to Homo Hill:

  • Exit 3 at Itaewon Station (Seoul Subway Line 6).
  • Walk straight for 100 meters and turn right at the first intersections onto Usandan-ro.
  • Turn at second left. You'll see the gay-friendly bars and clubs are lined up next to one another.

Enjoy your night out at Itaewon! Cheers :)



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