SEOUL

Part II

(November 2017) 

Dongdaemun District  

A map of Dongdaemun district and the sites (by red number) I describe bellow.

A map of Dongdaemun district and the sites (by red number) I describe bellow.

Key to the Dongdaemun district map above.  The red numbers correspond to the sites I describe bellow. 

1- Gwangjang Market (Dongdaemun Market). 

2- Jongbu Market. 

3- Heunginjimun Gate (Dongdaemun). 

4- DDP. 

5- Gwanghuimun Gate. 

6- Seoul city wall, Flood Gate & Hadogam. 

7- Bangsan market. 

8- Pyounghwa (clothing) Market. 

9- Chun Tae-il bridge. 

10- (missing). 

11- Seoul Central Market. 

12- Pungmul Flea Market.

Dongdaemun is a district in central Seoul located around the Dongdaemun Design Plaza a landmark of the 21st century. 

The area is one of the oldest in Seoul and the center of commerce for over 100 years.  It took its name from Dongdaemun Gate, literally meaning “East Gate” which is one of the four main gates of Seoul (officially named “Heunginjimun Gate”). It was in Dongdaemun where new products of western civilization such as movies and street trams were first introduced in Korea.  It was also the birthplace of important sporting traditions in Korea. 

Dongdaemun Shopping Malls.

Dongdaemun Shopping Malls.

Over the past 100 years, Seoul’s citizens have been able to obtain much of what they need for living from Dongdaemun.  Dongdaemun even today has most of the markets in the city.  Dongdaemun is the real heart of Seoul.

Heunginjimun Gate (Dongdaemun)

Heunginjimun seen from Naksan park.

Heunginjimun seen from Naksan park.

Heunginjimun, literally "Gate of Rising Benevolence" or more commonly known as Dongdaemun, is one of The Eight Gates of Seoul in the Fortress Wall of Seoul, the last remaining gate of the Four Gates, and a prominent landmark in Hanyang (old Seoul).  The name "Dongdaemun" means "Great East Gate," and it was so named because it was the major eastern gate in the wall that surrounded Seoul during the Joseon Dynasty. 

  • ☞ Directions: Dongdaemun Station (Subway Line 1), Exit 6 and (Subway Line 4), Exit 7.

Men donned with satgats (traditional hats made of bamboo) riding donkeys on their way to market alongside ox carts carrying firewood, kings’ followings visiting the royal tomb, the greatest performance troops of the Joseon Dynasty, and street trams which came to service earlier than Tokyo all passed through Heunginjimun Gate.

The imposing Gate overwhelmed people with its height and size alone.

Those who walked several days to visit Seoul, passing the gate would take a pious attitude and straighten their clothes and posture.

Old picture of Heunginjimun Gate.

Old picture of Heunginjimun Gate.

Today the gate looks quite small as it is dwarfed by the huge modern buildings of the area, but its importance is reminded to all of us by beng Korea’s National Treasure No 1.

The gate is located at Jongno 6-ga in Jongno-gu. The structure was first built by King Taejo during his fifth year of reign (1398). It was renovated in 1453, and the current structure is the one rebuilt in 1869.  Heunginjimun shows architectural style of the late Joseon period.

The most unusual characteristic is its built outer wall, Ongseong.  Ongseong was constructed to compensate the weakness of the target from multiple invaders. It protects the gate and is a beautiful addition.

Heunginjimun in the night.

Heunginjimun in the night.

Jongbu Market

An anchovy auction held not by the sea but in the center of Seoul, at Dongdaemun district.

Each shop in Jungbu Market has its own speciality, be it anchovies, pollack, or young pollack.  In Jongbu Market, the only dry fish market in the country, the auction for anchovies is held every day at dawn.  Around 1000 shops are in operation today.

Junngu Market is next door to my Hotel (Acube Hotel), so every morning i used to run around the market, as it was the only lit place in the area at 6 o'clock in the morning.

☞ Directions: Euljiro 4-ga Station (Subway Line 2, 5), Exit 7,8.

Gwangjang Market (Dongdaemun Market)

One of the entrances of Gwangjang Market.

One of the entrances of Gwangjang Market.

The Gabo Reforms, which were introduced during the Joseon dynasty, eliminated the merchant monopolies that existed at the time by allowing anyone to engage in commercial activities.  The licensed merchants and shop owners in Seoul lost much of their business to competition as a result of these reforms, so King Gojong created a warehouse market called Changnaejang, which eventually developed into Namdaemun Market.  After the signing of the Eulsa Treaty in 1905, when Korea was under Japanese rule, the Japanese took control of Namdaemun Market.  In reaction to the seizure of Namdaemun Market, a group of private Korean investors, including wealthy merchants, decided to create a new market that was not under the control of the Japanese. They combined funds to create the Gwangjang Corporation on 5 July 1905, and purchased the land for the market with 100,000 Won.  They used the pre-existing Bae O Gae Market, a morning market in the area, as the foundation for their new market, which they named Dongdaemun Market.  At the time, most markets were temporary and open only occasionally, so Dongdaemun Market became the first permanent market to be open every day of the week.  The market was renamed Gwangjang Market in 1960.  

In the early years the market only sold agricultural and seafood products, but as it became one of the largest markets in Korea, it began to sell many other products. Today the market has approximately 1500–2000 vendors selling fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, bread, clothing, textiles, handicrafts, kitchenware, souvenirs, and Korean traditional medicinal items.   

Besides the product vendors, there are also many restaurants and food stalls selling traditional Korean cuisine, but the market is most famous for its bindaetteok (mung bean pancakes, which are made by grinding soaked mung beans, adding vegetables and meat and pan-frying them into a round, flat shape pan) and mayak gimbap. 

Gimbap is a Korean dish made from cooked rice and other ingredients that are rolled in gim (dried sheets of laver seaweed) and served in bite-sized slices.  It is called the “Korean sushi” by foreigners.  The dish is often part of a packed meal to be eaten at picnics and outdoor events, and can serve as a light lunch along with danmuji (yellow pickled radish) and kimchi.

Gwangjang Market (previously Dongdaemun Market) is a traditional street market in Jongno-gu. The market is one of the oldest and largest traditional markets in South Korea, with more than 5000 shops and 20,000 employees in an area of 42,000 square meters.  Approximately 65,000 people visit the market each day.


☞ Directions: Dongdaemun Station (Subway Line 1,4), Exit 8,9.

Bindaetteok food stall.

Bindaetteok food stall.

Gwanghuimun Gate

In Dongdaemun, there is not only Heunginjimun Gate, but also Gwanghuimun Gate, which is one of the Four Small Gates of Seoul.  Gwanghuimun Gate was called “Sigumun Gate” (the Gate for letting out corpses), as it was where dead body would pass on the way out of the town.  It was also called “Sugumun Gate” (water channel gate) as there was nearby a gate letting water out of the fortress town.  Although it was overshadowed by the Four Great Gates of Seoul, and often looked down upon due to its name, “Sigumun Gate”, it was the only fortress gate in Seoul which was physically connected to the fortress during Joseon Dynasty.

Gwanghuimun Gate

Gwanghuimun Gate

If one walks along the fortress wall and climbs up the fortress, one can see down and enjoy a full view of the Dongdaemun area.

 ☞ Directions: Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station (Subway Line 2), Exit 3.

Chun Tae-il bridge

Chun Tae-il statue on the bridge named after him.

Chun Tae-il statue on the bridge named after him.

The 22-year old Chun Tae-il became a symbol of the labor movement in Korea.  A tailor working in a factory himself, he tried to improve poor working conditions for laborers.  He was a here who committed suicide by burning himself to death in November 1970, claiming that workers were not machines. 

He described his young fellow female workers at the Pyounghwa Market as “the hometown in my heart”.  He left a note saying that he would return to the innocence of childhood in the Pyounghwa Market.  

He agonized over humanitarian concerns that all people should address. His heart was full of affection foe people, and he proudly stood against a massive repressive system.

People on Chun Tae-il bridge.

People on Chun Tae-il bridge.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)

The Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP- “Dream, Design, Play”) is a major urban development landmark designed by Zaha Hadid, with a distinctively neofuturistic design characterized by the "powerful, curving forms of elongated structures" (the largest 3D amorphous structure in the world). 

The DDR metal panels shine under the day light and during the night their translucent edifice transports you into the blithe OutSpace. 

DDP

DDP

The DDP was built on the site of old baseball and soccer stadiums and their adjoining flea markets and street vendors.  An underground commercial “street” with athletics clothes “commemorates” that era.

:www.ddp.or.kr

 ☞ Directions: Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station (Subway Lines 2,4,5), Exit 1.

DDP in the night.

DDP in the night.

The landmark, inaugurated in 2014, is the centerpiece of South Korea's fashion hub featuring a walkable park on its roofs, large global exhibition spaces, futuristic retail stores and restored parts of the Seoul fortress. 

It houses a fashion design information center with seminar rooms and a lecture hall.  It acts as a test-bed platform for various corporate design products as well as a place for international cultural exchange and cooperation. 

DDP

Note: Zaha Hadid (1950-2016) has achieved global recognition for her organic designs, and is known as an innovative architect who constantly pushes the limits of architecture and the concepts of city and design. In 2004, she became the first woman to win the Prizker Architecture Prize, known as the “Nobel Prize” of architecture. Some of her projects include the Architecture Foundation in London, the London Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Summer Olympics, the Sheikh Zayed Bridge and the Guggenheim Performing Arts Center in Abu Dhabi, the Business Bay Towers in Dubai, and Pierres Vives in Montpellier, France.

:http://www.zaha-hadid.com

Zaha Hadid (1950-2016)

Zaha Hadid (1950-2016)

Seoul city wall, Flood Gate & Hadogam

During the Joseon Dynasty, Seoul was a fortress city surrounded by an 18km-long castle wall.  Still, very few people consider Seoul a historic city.  Despite the phrase “fortress city”, traces of Seoul’s fortress have in fact barely found within the city. 

The Seoul City Wall was continuously damaged throughout the period of Japanese colonial rure, era of liberation, Korean War, and the poverty-stricken 1960’s and 1970’s.  People had become completely oblivious to its existence.

Heunginjimun Gate and recontrsucted part of the Seoul Wall.

Heunginjimun Gate and recontrsucted part of the Seoul Wall.

Igansumun Flood Gate.

Igansumun Flood Gate.

It was not only Seoul Wall that was unearthed from the grounds of Dongdaemun Stadium.  The site of Hadogam which belongs to Hullyeondogam (military training command), a military unit during the Joseon dynasty, was found as well.  The 390-compartment Hadogan was assumed to have had facilities such as a firelock warehouse and a gunpowder warehouse, among which some building sites, wells, a drainage system, and various artifacts.  During the period of Japanese colonial rule, Japanese removed roof tiles and mixed them with stone to make roads, next to which they laid convex and concave roofing tiles to make a ditch.  Today, these roads and ditches have been restored.

With the sound of an explosion, Dongdadeum Stadium vanished in 2008.  Right there at the site, some parts of the wall and Igansumun Flood Gate of the Wall, which once thought to be completely destroyed, were found.  The remnants of the city wall were 265 meters long while the two-compartment Igansumun Flood Gate was almost totally intact.  Igansumun Flood Gate was a water gate used for guiding the water flowing from Namsan mountain to Cheonggyecheon Stream running outside the fortress wall.  It was a trace of Joseon which was remained buried underground for over 80 years.

Note: Hadogam Leesaengjeon is an original play with a traditional martial arts performance which contains stories about Hadogam during the Joseon Dynasty.  In the past, soldiers of Hadogam received payment from the State with the highest quality linen or cotton cloth, which their family would process and sell to the market to make a living.  In the video following we learn how a soldier named Leesang managed to join Hadogam. 

Bangsan Market

Bangsan Market is a market for printing and packaging.  People make labels for clothes or shopping bags for thanksgiving gift sets and sell papers used in bakeries to be placed beneath bread.  In short, the market handles all types of presswork and sells all kinds of packaging and wrapping material (paper, wood, plastic, cloth, glass).  All short of things, that an ordinary person would not bother to know where they have come from, are all made and sold here.  Just stroll in the little roads and enjoy the huge variety of the products that you had no idea existed. 

Bangsan Market.

Bangsan Market.

Bangsan Market.

Bangsan Market.

Pyounghwa (clothing) Market

Refugees who fled to the South from the North during the Korean War built and lived in a shanty town in Cheonggyecheon 5 and 6-ga.  They earned a living by making clothes with sewing machines and selling them, also dyeing and selling military uniforms from the US army.  This is how the Pyounghwa Market began.  The aspirations of all those who lost their homes in the North and came to live in the South yearning for a peaceful unification are well reflected in the name of Pyounghwa Market (“Peace Market”).  As Pyounghwa, which began with just sewing machines, grew, other markets named Shin Pyung Hwa Fashion Town, Dongpyeonghwa Market, Nampyeongwa Market and Chungpyunghwa Market began to spring up nearby.

Pyounghwa Market.

Pyounghwa Market.

 Wandering around the little streets and shops of the Market, even when you are not interested in clothing material, there is no way you do not feel overwhelming by the quantities and the variety of things you could not even imagine exist!

Pungmul Flea Market

Get off the metro at Sindang Station (exits 1,2) and you enter Seoul Central market (Sindang-dong Jungang Market). 

It is a huge market, but there’s nothing special about it, unless you are interested into by-products of chicken and pigs!  You just consider it as your starting point towards Seoul Pungmul Market. 

Seoul Central market (Sindang-dong Jungang Market).

Seoul Central market (Sindang-dong Jungang Market).

Seoul Central market (Sindang-dong Jungang Market).

Seoul Central market (Sindang-dong Jungang Market).

The main arcade of Seoul Central market (Sindang-dong Jungang Market).

The main arcade of Seoul Central market (Sindang-dong Jungang Market).

Walk along the central alley (arcade) of the market towards the north and after you cross Majang-ro street you find yourself in Hwanghak-dong Market, a full of nostalgia market.  Here you find all kind of old machinery, home appliances, old fashioned earth ware and silverware, and in general here you rediscover the past.

I do not have a personal experience, as I haven’t noticed it while there, but it is supposed that something fishy is going on in the underground of Central Market. 

Not long ago, it was a place where grocery-shopping housewives would hesitate to visit.  Suddenly, the large underground space, which once was an air-raid shelter, began to be swarming with young artists and craftsmen.  Today, sushi restaurants, bedding shops, and Hanbok shops are located on one side of the underground shopping center, while artists’ workshops are on the other.  It is indeed a strange underground world called Sindang Creative Arcade.

Hwanghak-dong Market (Majang-ro street).
Majangro-9gil street.

Majangro-9gil street.

When you reach Dongmyo Shrine, which was closed due to construction/renovation when I was there (I followed a bunch of old men entering a small alley by the shrine thinking maybe they know a by-entrance, but, I just found myself having a piss at a very popular public toilet) turn right on nangyero-27gil road and continue for several blocks till you reach Seoul Pungmul Market (Seoul Folk Flea Market). 

There are vendors and huge crowds all the way there.

The Seoul Folk Flea Market entrance logo.

The Seoul Folk Flea Market entrance logo.

The Pungmul Flea Market.

The Pungmul Flea Market.

The Pungmul Flea Market.

The Pungmul Flea Market.

Hwanghak-dong Market (Majang-ro street).

You follow majangro-9gil street all the way over the bridge, passing by street food stalls, useless for the tourist objects and small churches.

Just after you cross the bridge you find yourself in a huge flea market.  It is endless and you soon get tired wandering around second hand clothes, tacky decorative products, but also some real antiques.

Nangyero-27gil road.

Nangyero-27gil road.

The Seoul Folk Flea Market, also known as the Pungmul Flea Market (Pungmul means “regional specialties”), is one of the largest flea markets in Korea.

It was created by a group of merchants who could not keep their booth at the Hwanghak-dong Flea Market during the massive renewal process of Cheonggyecheon. Since then, the Pungmul Flea Market has become a famous tourist destination, particularly thanks to the proximity of the Cheonggyechon river, the tourist mecca of the capital, and the fact that it shows the everyday ordinary Korean life.

The Pungmul Flea Market is one of the most important second hands markets in Seoul (885 shops spreading over 8,000 square meters).

It has managed to preserve the culture of Korean traditional markets, while attracting visitors thanks to its popular items and its unique charm representative of the Korean culture. The market showcases necessity products, souvenirs, unusual items and even a traditional gastronomy, allowing visitors to shop and eat at the same place. The Pungmul Flea Market mixes modernity with Korean traditions that reflects the lifestyle of Koreans past, offering the visitor a unique experience at a very reasonable price.

What makes the Pungmul Flea Market so special is that, besides souvenirs and ordinary products, it is possible to find rare and authentic traditional objects, which are hard to find in other places.

It is important to keep in mind that merchants are grouped by alleys according to the type of products they sell (clothing, food, souvenirs, antiques).

Yes!  Working class men in Korea love to wear military outfits!

Yes!  Working class men in Korea love to wear military outfits!

Streets & Neighborhoods 

INSADONG-gil street

This street showcases traditional Korean culture with antique art, bookstores, teahouses, and craft shops.

It is Seoul's leading "gallery street" as it has been home to various galleries.

☞ Directions: Anguk Station (Subway Line 3), Exit 6, to enter from the north end of the street, or Jongno 3-ga Station (Line 5), Exit 5, for the south end of the street.

The south entrance of Insadong street.

The south entrance of Insadong street.

INSADONG-gil street map (red dots).  1)Ssamzigil multi-cultural space.  2)Insadog 8-gil Tea Rooms.  3) Osulloc Tea House.

INSADONG-gil street map (red dots).  1)Ssamzigil multi-cultural space.  2)Insadog 8-gil Tea Rooms.  3) Osulloc Tea House.

Here in Insadong street you can find lots of souvenirs, but the prices are higher than elsewhere.

Do not stick into the main street, but explore the small alleys where beautiful little tea houses and traditional restaurants can be found.

Street food vendors add to the unique atmosphere of the area. Various exhibitions and performances are available as well. 

Insadog was the center of Art from the early Joseon Dynasty.  In the 1930's, several bookstores and antique shops got together around Insadog street.  In the 1970's the first Korean commercial modern gallery opened here.  In the 2000's, Insadog was designated as Culture Center.

Visit Ssamzigil multi-cultural space, where visitors can shop for various traditional arts and crafts. 

On the ground floor, there is a lovely shop selling prints: not any kind of traditional Korean prints, but rather western prints.  The owner is a very gentle man speaking good English.  I bought two elephant prints (😀).

www.ssamzigil.co.kr

Ssamzigil

Ssamzigil

Two rednecks in Ssamzigil.

Two rednecks in Ssamzigil.

Insadog, has lots and nice tea rooms. 

At Insadog 8-gil, there is a tea room we visited at the end of a small alley.  

It is a very quiet place with a small courtyard to sit out when the weather is nice.  The rooms inside are very nicely decorated.  Green Tea costs 7-9,000 and the cake assortment 8,000 per person.

One of the many Tea rooms in Insadog street.

Bukchon Hanok Village & Samcheong-dong

The District north of Yulgok-ro street, between Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung Palaces, is packed with over 900 hanoks, traditional Korean houses.  This area is called Bukchon Hanok Village. 


☞ Directions: Anguk Station (Subway Line 3), Exits 1, 2, 3

One of the many Tea rooms in Insadog street.
Bukchon Hanok Village
Bukchon Hanok Village & Samcheong-dong and Samcheong-ro Street (red dots).

Bukchon Hanok Village & Samcheong-dong and Samcheong-ro Street (red dots).

Bukchon Hanok Village.

Bukchon Hanok Village.

Members of the royal family and aristocrats lived here during the Joseon period. 

It retains the city's old appearance and has become a popular filming location for movies and TV dramas. 

Today lots of famous and rich people live in the area as well as members of international diplomatic missions in the country. 

Stroll in village's narrow streets and alleys and enjoy the spectacular views towards the mountains and downtown Seoul.

Bukchon Hanok Village

Bukchon Hanok Village

Contemporary restaurants, cafes and wine bars have been established in traditional houses along with galleries, designer shops, speciality shops and themed museums.

Walk the road as far as you can up to the north, and then come down on the bus No 11 (or any bus you see) which shall bring you downtown.

Samcheong-ro Street

Samcheong-ro Street

Samcheong-ro Street

Samcheong-ro Street

Samcheong-ro Street starts at the south-east corner of Gyeongbokgung Palace and continues north along the palace walls. 

The moment the street turns right (away from the walls) it is transformed into a beautiful road lined with tall ginkgo trees.  Traditional korean houses and modern buildings coexist side-by-side, creating unusual scenes.  

Samcheong-ro Street

Samcheong-ro Street

Samcheong-ro Street

Samcheong-ro Street

Garosu-gil Road

Me at Garasu-gil.

Garosu-gil is a two-lane road stretching from Sinsa-dong to Apgujeong-dong, lined with ginkgo trees.

Here you can find creative clothing and accessories made by talented young designers.

Large shops with foreign brands give shoppers the chance to take in international fashion trends.

The area is upscale and people are really dressed up.  The cars which move around are huge and expensive.  Certainly people here manage to impress you.   

There are lots of nice cafes and tearooms, and the roads around it is full of restaurants.

☞ Directions: Sinsa Station (Subway Line 3), Exits 6, 7, 8.

Me at Garasu-gil.

Garasul-gil Road and Deux Cremes tart shop (red arrow).

Garasul-gil Road and Deux Cremes tart shop (red arrow).

A sweet tip:


Just off Garosu-gil, at Dosan-daero 15-gil (there is also an entrance also on the Garosu-gil road itself), there is a three-storey dessert shop, named “Deux Cremes tart shop”.

Deux Cremes serves coffee and tea, but what makes it special is the huge variety of freshly made tarts: grape tart, fig tart, mango tart, strawberry tart, blackberry tart, mont blanc, banana tart, peach tart, just name it!  No surprise the place is always crowded.  Do not miss it.

Deux Cremes tart shop

Deux Cremes tart shop

Garosu-gil Road

Yongsan & Itaewon

Yongsan, situated on the Han (Hangang) River, was a key port city since ancient times owing to its advantageous geographic location, and thus a base for economic activity.

Yongsan Park is a huge park in the heart of the area, just south of Namsan mountain.  The area is also home to some of Seoul’s most renowned museums, reflecting the city’s deep history:  the National Museum of Korea, the National Hangeul Museum, The war Memorial of Korea and not far away from there the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art. 

Get off at Ichon Station to visit the first two, walk towards the north part of the park to visit War Museum and from there walk along Itaewon-ro road for a couple of kilometers to the Samsung Museum, or just outside the War Memorial take bus 110B to take you there.  On your way back to the city center take bus 405 from Itaewon-ro, which runs all the south peripheral road of Mount Namsan. From this road you have spectacular views of the city and the neighborhoods built on the steep cliffs of the area.   

Yongsan & Itaewon Area: 1=Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, 2=War Memorial of Korea, 3=National Museum of Korea, 4=National Hangeul Museum, 5=Itaewon Area.

Yongsan & Itaewon Area: 1=Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, 2=War Memorial of Korea, 3=National Museum of Korea, 4=National Hangeul Museum, 5=Itaewon Area.

The area east of Yongsan Park and south of Namsan Mount (Itaewon-ro Road runs through the center of the area) is where most of the diplomatic missions are.  This is Itaewon, a small world within Seoul.  The area is full of ethnic restaurants, small shops and is the place where you meet most foreigners living in Seoul.    

On of the two gates of Itaewon-ro road.

On of the two gates of Itaewon-ro road.

Green Tea half-size Kiseki castella.

Green Tea half-size Kiseki castella.

A sweet tip:

Just 3 minutes’ walk from exit 3 of Itaewon Station (on Itaewon-ro itself) there is a small branch of “Kiseki Castella” cake shop. The shop sells to take away delicious Castella cake since 1983.  They sell 3 types of Castella: original, green tea and choco for about 14,000 for a full-length cake.

Castella is a popular Japanese sponge cake made of sugar, flour, eggs, and starch syrup.  Now a specialty of Nagasaki, the cake was brought to Japan by Portuguese merchants in the 16th century.  The name is derived from Portuguese Pão de Castela, meaning "bread from Castile".

Castella cake is usually sold in long boxes, with the cake inside being approximately 27 cm long.

www.kiseki.co.kr

National Museum of Korea and the Namsan Seoul Tower in the background.

National Museum of Korea and the Namsan Seoul Tower in the background.

The National Museum of Korea is the country’s leading museum and represents the essence of Korean culture. 

The building itself is a modern spectacular structure.  Enjoy the view of Namsan Seoul Tower through a huge frame the building forms.  Admission to the museum is free of charge.

 ☞ Directions: Ichon Station (Subway Line 4), Exit 2.  

Ten-Story Pagoda from Gyeongcheonsa Temple site (left).  Mirror Pond (top right), The Stele for Buddhist Preceptor Wollang (middle right), the main building of the Museum (bottom right).

Ten-Story Pagoda from Gyeongcheonsa Temple site (left).  Mirror Pond (top right), The Stele for Buddhist Preceptor Wollang (middle right), the main building of the Museum (bottom right).

Hangeul writting.

Hangeul writting.

The Statue of Brothers.  An urban myth says that this statue depicts a real-life story of two brothers who fought in the Korean War on opposite sides and were accidentaly reunited on the battlefield, and symbolises the Koreans' wish for national peace, reconciliation and reunification.  South Korean propagada depicts the north brother weaker!

Open in 2014, the Hangeul Museum promotes and disseminates the linguistic and cultural value of Hangeul, the Korean alphabet. The Hangeul Museum is located just next to the National Museum of Korea.

Admission to the museum is free of charge.

: www.hangeul.go.kr 

☞ Directions: Ichon Station (Subway Line 4), Exit 2.

A bit of history:  King Sejong devised the Korean alphabet Hangeul in 1443, which he named Hunminjeongeum, "The correct sounds for instructing the people".  It was the fruition of King Sejong's love for the common people who had difficulties in communication because of the difference between the spoken language and writting system.

Hangeul  is the alphabet that perfectly delivers the Korean language.  Furthermore, it is highy esteemed by linguists all over the world for its creativeness and scientific value. 

War Memorial of Korea Museum

War Memorial of Korea Museum

The War Memorial of Korea is the only war museum in the country.  It exhibits the entire history of the Korean War, as well as Korean people's struggle and independence movement.  Admission to the museum is free of charge. 

☞ Directions: Samgakji Station (Subway Lines 4, 6), Exits 11, 2.

 www.warmemo.or.kr

These artwork was installed to commemorate 50 years of the armistice.

These artwork was installed to commemorate 50 years of the armistice.

Greece was one of the few nations which sent real army to fight in the Korea War.  Greece had just come out of a civil war, too.  This plate (middle left) commemorates the Greeks died in the battle.

Greece was one of the few nations which sent real army to fight in the Korea War.  Greece had just come out of a civil war, too.  This plate (middle left) commemorates the Greeks died in the battle.

The Mario Botta building for the Samsung Museum of Art.

The Mario Botta building for the Samsung Museum of Art.

The Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art was established with the art collection of Samsug Group’s founder. 

Permanent exhibits include old Korean artwork and works of renowned artists from Korea and abroad, including Andy Warhol and Nam June Paik.  This Mario Botta building is located just opposite the Grand Hyatt Seoul.

 leeum.samsungfoundation.org 

Ihwa Mural Village

Ihwa Mural Village

Ihwa Mural Village

Perched at the very top of Mt. Naksan, Ihwa Mural Village is an unlikely attraction in an unlikely setting.

Only a decade ago, the neighborhood was set for demolition to clear away what was considered an aging and unattractive slum to make way for new development. 

Ihwa Mural Village is located just above Dongdaemun Gate.

Ihwa Mural Village is located just above Dongdaemun Gate.

Ihwa Village murals.

Ihwa Village murals.

Today, it’s a lively and thriving neighborhood that welcomes artists and visitors while still preserving the charm and intimate bonds of its long-standing and tight-knit community. It’s a surprising success story, and not one without challenges, but the Mural Village illustrates the ability of art and human ties to bring new life to the city.

Ihwa Village street.

Ihwa Village street.

Ihwa murals.

Ihwa murals.

Ihwa murals.

Ihwa murals.

Ihwa Mural Village is located less than a 10-minute walk uphill from the buzzing Daehakno area. As you head up the slopes of Mt. Naksan, the noise and crowds give way to fresh air and gorgeous, expansive views of the city, but also to something unexpected: street art.

Metal sculptures stand guard over the laneways while brightly painted murals hide behind every corner. Steep staircases come alive with colorful paintings and mosaics. Ihwa-dong defies its origins as a slum to embrace life, color and art while still reflecting the needs of its long-term residents.

Multicolor Ihwa Village.

Multicolor Ihwa Village.

The narrow alleys showcase murals large and small, while sculptures dominate the road by Naksan Park.

Maps direct visitors to the largest and most famous, but new paintings are always springing up. 

Many small museums, art centers and cafés have also opened, adding to the bohemian feel. Naksan Park provides green space and yet more art, along with stunning views of Seoul and the ancient city walls. 

You will burn many colories climbing up and down Ihwa roads.

You will burn many colories climbing up and down Ihwa roads.
Ihwa surprises.

Ihwa surprises.

Ihwa stairs.

Ihwa stairs.

Residents of "moon villages," or daldongne – so called because their locations high in the hills gave the people there a better view of the night sky – were primarily working class and poor people who couldn’t afford housing in the more convenient, flat, or central parts of the city.

Ihwa-dong (Mural Village), in particular, was home to many workers in the nearby garment and textile industries in Changsin-dong and the Dongdaemun area. The neighborhood stayed much the same even as rapid economic development in the ‘80s and ‘90s brought prosperity and high-rise apartment towers to other parts of the city. Finally, the area was slated for demolition and redevelopment, which would bring an end to both the area’s mid-century buildings and to the community that lived there.

We are happy this did not happen so far.

Ihwa shops.

Ihwa shops.

The city walls at Naksan park.

The city walls at Naksan park.

 Directions: Get off at Hyehwa Station (Line 4), Exit 2. 

From there, head straight towards Marronnier Park. Turn left at the park, past the Arco Arts Center and continuing until Dongsung-gil. Make a right turn onto Dongsung-gil and then a left onto Guldari-gil. Following Guldari-gil will take you up to Naksan Park, and continues on through the heart of Ihwa-dong Mural Village before turning into Yulgok-ro 19-gil, making its famous P-turn and running back down to the southern end of Daehakno. Look for signs pointing to Naksan Park and the Mural Village.

Alternatively, visitors can start by heading up Naksanseonggwak-gil from Dongdaemun until they reach the crest of the hill, then turn west and walk down through the village.

Get lost in the streets and get some coffee in one of the numerous cafes of the area. 

There are numerous cafes and restaurants in the area, most of them with a view.

There are numerous cafes and restaurants in the area, most of them with a view.

The views from the Naksan Park.

The views from the Naksan Park.

Myeongdong and the beauty industry

Myeongdong or Myungdong ("bright cave" or "bright tunnel") is a neighborhood in central Seoul, between Toegye-ro, Eulji-ro, Samil-daero and Namdaemun-ro.  The area’s shape is almost a square which is divided into four sections by the two main roads which intersect in the middle of it.  These streets are Myeongdong-gil and Myeongdong 2-gil.  

Myeongdong (Myungdong) road plaque.

Myeongdong (Myungdong) road plaque.

Myeongdong area.  Myeongdong-gil and Myeongdong 2-gil are marked with red dots.

Myeongdong area.  Myeongdong-gil and Myeongdong 2-gil are marked with red dots.

It is mostly a commercial area, being one of Seoul's main shopping and tourism districts.  The area is known for its two historically significant sites, namely the oldest Catholic cathedral in Korea, Myeongdong Cathedral and the Myeongdong Nanta Theatre, but it is the shopping that attracts people here.  The huge building of the Chinese Embassy is in the center of the area since 1947.

 All known commercial brands are found here, both expensive and cheaper ones, but what really impresses visitors is the amount of the beauty/cosmetics shops in the area.  It is not an exaggeration to say that every two out of three shops here promise to make you younger and more beautiful. 

The beauty shops are literary one next to the other.

The beauty shops are literary one next to the other.

Korean people focus on skin care under the influence of TV programs, advertisements and tradition.

Koreans highly value even and radiant skin, and Korean women tend to vary their beauty care regimen with the season. They use different kinds of moisturizers such as cream for tightening pores (BB cream, blemish balm or beauty balm) and lotions for lightening the skin (CC cream, color correction or color control).

Outside beauty shops you see booths with lots of beauty face masks.

Outside beauty shops you see booths with lots of beauty face masks.

Myeongdong-gil road.

Myeongdong-gil road.

The beauty shops are literary one next to the other (both local brands and foreign ones) and cheerful girls and young men standing outside the shops try to persuade you that your skin looks tired, but you should not worry, as they have hundreds of miracle beauty creams to give you and hundreds of beauty masks which will make you look ten years younger.  Besides, we should not forget that beauty industry is one of the biggest industries in Korea and beauty products considered to be the best.

Korean people focus on skin care under the influence of TV programs, advertisements and tradition.

Korean people focus on skin care under the influence of TV programs, advertisements and tradition.

Koreans generally apply makeup every day because it offers sun protection, a major concern.  

A big focus of Korean skincare is skin lightening, which is why many Korean cosmetic products have brightening properties. Skin brightening is not the same as skin bleaching, also known as skin whitening, which is a reduction of melanin in the skin. Instead, skin lightening is focused on treating hyperpigmentation.

In general, when you wonder around in Seoul, the abundance of cosmetic shops makes you consider if Koreans are obsessed with cosmetics and beauty.  

South Korea is home to several large cosmetic brands, many of which export their products worldwide. They include: Laneige, Etude House, Innisfree, Sulwhasoo, Mamonde, Ĭsa Knox, The Face Shop, Nature Republic, Tonymoly, Dr Jart+, Holika Holika, Mizon, Skinfood, Missha, Banila Co., Lope, Clio, and much more!  Products include ingredients such as snail slime, morphing masks, bee venom, moisturizing starfish extract, and pig collagen.

Korean men are also interested in skincare.

Korean men are also interested in skincare.

In Korea it seems that having white hair shows at least negligence.  

People value dark hair and dyeing their hair is an everyday ritual.  There are hundreds of products to help you look young and restless!

Of course, it is not just women who dye their hair to be fashionable and to change their looks, but also men.  Very rarely you see older men who haven’t their hair dyed. 

South Korea is home to several large cosmetic brands.

South Korea is home to several large cosmetic brands.

Korean men are also interested in skincare. They also use BB or CC creams. Cosmetics manufactured specifically for men in South Korea focus not only on soothing the skin after daily shaving, but on every kind of cosmetics.

Most men dye their hair.  After they put the coloring product on their hair, they sit in the sun for better results.

Most men dye their hair.  After they put the coloring product on their hair, they sit in the sun for better results.

At my 52years I do not feel like doing anything about my gray hair and beard.  But, it was a big surprise when someone called me "Santa Claus"...or when a much older man than me offered me his seat in the metro!

Plastic surgery advertisement is everywhere in Seoul.

South Korea has the highest rate of plastic surgery per capita in the world.  It has been estimated that 25% of women in Seoul have gone under the knife, and this percentage increases dramatically for women in their twenties.

Men make up 15-20% of the market, including a former President of the country, who underwent double-eyelid surgery while in office.  

If you want to feel bad about your looks, spend some time in Seoul. An eerily high number of women there—and men, too—look like anime princesses.  

Plastic surgery advertisement is everywhere in Seoul.

Landmarks 

Namsan Park & Seoul Tower

Namsan Park is home to many popular tourist attractions, including Namsan Seoul Tower, Palgakjeong Pavilion, Namsan Outdoor Botanical Gardens (at the southernmost part of the park) and the National Theater of Korea, not to mention the leafy park itself.

The Namsan Park

The Namsan Park
Namsan Park.  1=Seoul Tower, 2=Namsangol Hanok Village.

Namsan Park.  1=Seoul Tower, 2=Namsangol Hanok Village.

Automn colors

Automn colors

The park has many well-organised walking trails.

The Namsan park and Seoul in general, wear their most beautiful faces in October/November when the leaves on the trees turn into all shades of yellow, red, brown and orange.

Seoul Tower

Seoul Tower

View from Seoul Tower

View from Seoul Tower

If you do not feel like walking up the tower, the green bus lines 02, 03 & 05 (all circle lines) take you just 200m away from the tower entrance.

Alternatively, take the cable car that starts from the namsan 3-ho tunnel toll gate. 

☞ Directions: for the cable car get off at Hoehyeon Station (Lines 4) Exit 1.

Namsan Seoul Tower was the first tower-type tourism spot in Korea and today is the most frequently visited tourist attraction in the country.

The top of the tower is at almost 480m above sea level, including Namsan Mountain (243m) and the tower’s own height (236.7m), making it one of the tallest towers in the Orient. It is comprised of Seoul Tower Plaza, recently opened to public access after 40 years, and N Seoul Tower. The tower was first established as a broadcast tower to send out TV and radio signals in 1969.

The tower has lots of restaurants, cafés, snack-bars, souvenir shops and lots for the kids to be kept occupied. On the 5th floor of the Tower there is an observation deck with a 360o view of Seoul.


Tickets to the deck cost 10,000 (adults) and 7,500 (seniors).

The tower plaza

The tower plaza

Namsangol Hanok Village

While on the Seoul tower, it is a good opportunity to visit also Namsangol Hanok Village.  Green bus no2 will take you in some minutes from the tower to the village entrance.  Entrance to the village is free of charge.

Namsangol Hanok Village

Namsangol Hanok Village

City of Seoul moved and restored five hanok houses of folklore heritage that were scattered in the city and established Namsangol-Hanok village in 1998.

 ☞ Directions: get off at Chungmuro Station (Lines 3, 4) Exits 4, 3.

Namsangol Hanok Village

Namsangol Hanok Village

Hanok village in Pil-dong on the northern foot of Namsan was a famous summer vacation spot during Joseon Dynasty with its valley and Cheonugak Pavilion.  It was also called Cheonghak-dong, the place where the gods live, because of its beautiful scenery.

Namsangol Hanok Village beauty

Namsangol Hanok Village beauty

Namsangol Hanok Village

Namsangol Hanok Village

Namsangol Hanok Village beauties in traditional dresses.

Namsangol Hanok Village beauties in traditional dresses.

Jongmyo shrine

Jongmyo is the supreme state shrine where the spirit tablets of deceased kings and queens are enshrined, and sacrificial rites are performed for them based on Confucian principal.

The shrine hall originally had one shrine hall, Jeongjeon, but today it has another shrine hall called Yeongnyeongjeon.  None of Jongmyo’s facilities are lavishly adorned, underscoring solemnity at the state shrine.

Jongmyo

Jongmyo

Jongmyo shrine.

Jongmyo shrine.

Jeongjeon

Jeongjeon

Entrance to the shrine costs 1,000 for adults and it is free for seniors.

 ☞ Directions: get off at Jongno 3-ga Station (Lines 1,3,5) Exits 7, 8, 9, 10, 11.

Jeongjeon contains 49 spirit tablets of the kings and queens with distinguished achievements including Taejo, the founder of Joseon Dynasty. 

When the king or queen died, a three-year mourning period was observed at the palace, after which the spirit tablet of the deceased was brought to Jeongjeon and enshrined there. 

The scenery of the rough, expansive stone yard and imposing magnificent roof that seems to float over it has the ultimate beauty of sublimity found in classical architecture.

Chilsadang

Chilsadang

Yeongnyeongjeon was built to enshrine four generations of King Taejo’s ancestors.

Its name literaly means “long live both ancestors and descendants of the royal family peace”.

At present Yeongnyeongjeon contains 16 chambers housing 16 kings and 18 queens.

Only Korea has preserved its royal shrine and continues to perform royal ancestral rites known as Jongmyo Jerye and Jongmyo Jeryeak.

Jongmyo Jerye was the state's largest and most important ritual conducted by the king himself. 

Jeongjeon

Jeongjeon

Just west of the Jeonjeon and bellow the stone yard is Chilsadang.  

Chilsadang is where the spirit tablets to seven gods of heaven are enshrined.  It was a place pf prayer, where the gods were asked to ensure that all the affairs of the royal family and all the people would be carried out without difficulties. 

Yeongnyeongjeon

Yeongnyeongjeon

Cheonggyecheon

Cheonggyecheon is an 8 km creek flowing west to east through downtown Seoul, and then meeting Jungnangcheon, which connects to the Han River and empties into the Yellow Sea. In 1958, started  Cheonggyecheon to be covered with concrete to be used as road. In 1976, an elevated highway was built over it.   

Cheonggyecheon stream during the Seoul Lantern Festival.

Cheonggyecheon stream during the Seoul Lantern Festival.
Cheonggyecheon Stream.

Cheonggyecheon Stream.

In July 2003, initiated a project to remove the elevated highway and restore the stream.

It was a major undertaking since the highway had to be removed and years of neglect  had left the stream nearly dry. 

120,000 tons of water were to be pumped in daily from the Han River, its tributaries, and groundwater from subway stations.  Still, restoration of Cheonggyecheon was deemed important as it fit in with the movement to re-introduce nature to the city and to promote a more eco-friendly urban design.

Other goals of the project were to restore the history and culture of the region, which had been lost for 30 years, and to revitalize Seoul's economy. The stream was opened to the public in September 2005 and was lauded as a major success in urban renewal and beautification. 

Today, Cheonggyecheon is a real oasis in Seoul.  The stream is located considerably lower than the city itself, as the banks are very high.  Thus, when you are “inside” you feel isolated from the noise and the city blast. 

There are walking trails on both banks which run along the full length of the stream.  There are recreation areas for performances, vegetation and trees, passages over the water and big fish in the water.  Lots of stairs and ramps lead you from the street level down to the trails.    

Street Food

Seoul is the foodie’s paradise.  There are lots of restaurants in every street and the choices and varieties many.  But, what fascinates you more about Seoul’s food scene is the street food.

There are bulky, tented vendor carts everywhere, literary everywhere.  Unlikely street food in other Asian cities like Bangkok, street food in Seoul is on the snack side, not the full plate dinner type.  Of course, you also find that kind of food in the markets, where they cater for you all day long.  So, one can wonder around, doing his shopping and nibble one snack after the other.  One thing is true: you cannot stop and you want to try everything.  Some of the food is traditional, some is fashionable, some is the day’s special. 

Street food vendors are everywhere in Seoul.

Street food vendors are everywhere in Seoul.

Tteokbokki & Odeng street poster.

Tteokbokki & Odeng street poster.

Gimbap (김밥) - Gimbap is a Korean dish made from cooked rice and other ingredients that are rolled in gim (dried sheets of laver seaweed) and served in bite-sized slices.  It is called the “Korean sushi” by foreigners, but has no fish in it.  The dish is often part of a packed meal to be eaten at picnics and outdoor events, and can serve as a light lunch along with danmuji (yellow pickled radish) and kimchi.  In the street, it is ready made and usually wrapped with plastic to be kept fresh.

Tteokbokki (떡볶이 – spicy rice cakes). Tteok-bokki is a popular Korean food made from small-sized, long, white, cylinder-shaped rice cakes called tteokmyeon.  Tteok-bokki can be seasoned with spicy gochujang (chili paste) called Gochujang tteok-bokki.

 Odeng (오뎅 – fish cakes) – fish cakes are the cheapest street foods you’ll find. They’re skewered on a stick and left in a delicious broth, which happens to be free with any order (not just odeng) and can cures bad hang overs. Put on some soy sauce to enjoy.  To tell you the truth, I really do not understand why this is so popular:  it has a very fishy taste and an awful texture; but the broth is nice and unexpectedly not fishy at all!

Odeng, Tteokbokki & grilled sausages.

Odeng, Tteokbokki & grilled sausages.

Enjoying Odeng.

Enjoying Odeng.

Fried Snacks (튀김 – twigim) – These fried foods are dipped in a batter to allow for a flakey shell. Ingredients range from dumplings, eggs, peppers, sweet potatoes, and more.  This is the equivalent to Japanese tempura.

Mungbean Pancakes (빈대떡 – bindaetteok) – bindaetteok is made by grinding soaked mung beans, adding vegetables and meat and pan-frying them into a round, flat shape pan.  Certainly, the tastier of all street food for me!

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