When you hear mention of Seoul, things that first come to mind might be K-pop, Gangnam, Korean Palaces, and traditional Hanbok. While these things are popular for a reason, there is so much more that Seoul has to offer beyond the typical tourist attractions. If you have recently moved to Seoul, or are vacationing here and are interested in discovering more local areas of the city, take a look at this guide to learn more about some of Seoul’s most loved insider neighborhoods!
Jongno-gu is most known for Gyeongbokgung Palace and the Infamous Insadong Street, But wander a bit further into the small surrounding alleys and you will find a whole other side of Jongno that is frequented by locals who work in the area.
If you are a foodie and have an interest in Korean traditional markets, then you may have heard the name Tongin before thanks to the popular Tongin Market in the area! Jongno-gu is home to many creatives, and the stores in the area reflect that spirit. In Tongin-dong you can find many specialty cafes, independent clothing labels, bakeries, and lifestyle shops. In the surrounding areas, some of Seoul’s most renowned graphic design studios have their offices located, which means there is a certain artistic quality feeling associated with the area that can not be found elsewhere. Tongin is the perfect area to spend an afternoon checking out an exhibition at one of the local galleries, browsing through bookstores, or cafe-hopping around the many artisan cafes scattered through the small streets.
Don't Miss: Mirabelle, P.S. Baker, Scooper Gelato, Daelim Museum, mk2 Cafe, The Book Society, Normalcycle Coffee, and Seochondogam.
Neighbouring the previous neighbourhood Jongno-gu is Jung-gu. Home to Cheonggyecheon (the river that runs through the northern part of Seoul), office buildings galore, old school Korean outdoor eateries, and many small printing factories. Here you can find many insider hot-spots frequented by Seoul’s alternative youth.
Euljiro 3-ga is most well known for being the area to visit to fulfill all your printing and photo development needs. There are many small factories here that print in mass amounts, as well as smaller indie print shops that specialize in techniques such as risograph printing. What many non-locals do not know, however, is after the print shops close and the office workers in the area leave their desks for the day, Eujiro 3-ga turns into a hipster's evening paradise! Referred to among locals as “hipjiro”, there are many small bars and cafes that exist above ground level, often with nothing more than a simple sign designating the entrance. Finding your location might be a bit of a mission, but I assure you that the result will not disappoint!
Don't Miss: Gamgook, The Edge, Strada Roasters, Deep Mot, Ahncholsoon, George Seoul, Mass We Made, and Five Thirty Seven.
There exists a wide variety of neighbourhoods and businesses in Yongsan-gu that range from local hangouts, to traditional restaurants, to foreigner run shops, to popular clubs and finally to trendy Instagram cafes. This is Yongsan-gu in a nutshell! To ensure you don’t only think of Itaewon and HBC when you hear that word Yongsan, keep reading to learn about their equally popular neighbour Hannam-dong.
If you travel just East of party central Itaewon, you will find a quieter area called Hannam. On weekends you will see neatly dressed couples strolling hand in hand, flowing in and out of cafes, hip restaurants, wine bars, and music stores. Hannam has become popular among the younger generation as a daytime hangout thanks to the many upscale clothing shops and cafes that are scattered among the pedestrian-friendly roads. Come on a Saturday or Sunday to get the most out of the lively energy that fills this neighbourhood!
Don't Miss: Huffee, Post Poetics, Vinyl & Plastic, Warped, Anthracite, Salty Bob, Wet Coffee, and Leeum Samsung Museum.
The main draw of Mapo-gu for most people is Hongdae, a popular place for students and tourists to witness some of Seoul’s most upbeat nightlife. Over the years, the surrounding areas have also gained popularity and built their own reputations in Mapo separate from Hongdae. Hapjeong, Yeonnam, and Mangwon are just a few of the neighbourhoods outside of Hongdae that should be explored!
Slowly becoming known by more people outside of the arts community, Mangwon-dong is one of Mapo-gu’s best-kept secrets. It's a hot spot for foodies, cafe lovers, and the original residents of Hongdae. Mangwon is still highly underrated in the Mapo district and has a bit of a slower vibe compared to some of the other surrounding areas. This is not a bad thing however, you can find many authentic Korean restaurants here as well as Mangwon Market – one of Seoul’s most popular and biggest food markets! Mangwon is also conveniently located next to the Han River, a great spot to ride your bike or sit and eat the fried chicken you just purchased from Mangwon Market!
Don't Miss: Capet Cafe, Mangwon Market, Salt House Deli, Dangdo Gelato, Orabang, Vision Stroll Cafe, and Sukdal.
The most well-known area on this list is quite possibly Gangnam! Plastic surgery, K-Pop, PSY, and ritzy shops are practically synonymous with the word Gangnam. It is also known among Seoulites as the area where many of Seoul’s wealthiest live. This however does not mean you can't have fun here without spending a ton of money!
Sinsa is a great place for a daytime hangout or a night time drink. Although Sinsa is a well-known area among those who live in Seoul, you must be able to seek out the right places in order to have the same insider experience as locals who frequent the area. Most people who come to Sinsa come for the shopping since many Korean brands have brick and mortar shops in this area and some foreign brands can be found here as well! Come early on a weekday if you can to avoid some of the crowds that tend to form around dinner time and on the weekends. If dinner time is more your style however, try one of the restaurants in the area and hit up a cafe after since they tend to be open late in Seoul.
Don't Miss: Mikkeller Bar, Gray Gristmill, Dr. Jart, Cafe Kitsune, Ondal House, Chick Peace, and Tamburins.
Seoul is an incredibly dynamic and rapidly changing city, it’s impossible to know every hot spot and insider approved hangout. This list is by no means comprehensive, so be sure to venture out even further into Seoul to discover more of the city’s best-kept secrets!