Hidden Gems In The Hip Hannam District In Seoul
Hannam district, or Hannam-dong, has quickly become a hot spot hangout for the locals looking for intricately well designed restaurants and cafes alongside some artistic and musical venues to inspire.
The neighborhood can be enjoyed from morning until night and should be. The district has always had airs of international inspirations what with the roads lined with embassies, but with the influx of music performance spaces along with the ever popular art museums in the area and now surrounded by chic cafes and local design and lifestyle shops, this is a classy hip place to hang out a bit different from the younger boozy streets of Itaewon just up the road and a bit more low key than the flashy Cheongdam District across the river. There are plenty of hidden spots to find in this district in central Seoul, Korea. Here are some that you should go seeking for inspiration and fun.
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From smart design inside and outside of buildings to fun neon signs and more, here is where to go to make the most of a day in the Hannam District of Seoul if you reach it via Hangangjin Subway Station. Don’t forget to look up while you walk because numerous buildings in the area really have some beautiful design techniques you’ll only notice gazing up while you walk. I’ve listed all of the addresses with the location, but if you go all the way down to the bottom of this post, there is also a map to help you on your way. Make sure you check out the map so you see just how close these spots are so you can hop hop hop from one to the other. Good adventuring!
This black intricately designed building beckons from the street without fanfare. The exterior is rather boding yet let’s passerby know NOTHING about what is held within. Exactly how Stradeum wants to keep it, this hidden gem is the “ultimate music experience place”. After paying a small fee, visitors can enter to find the perfect place for music listening pleasure. The first floor, or the Sound Gallery, provides a variety of chairs, sofas and carpets to lounge on near walls that provide headphones to choose from. The basement provides an open space for group listening or enclaves to sit in for listening. Upstairs, levels two and three provide auditoriums for intimate concerts and live shows and on the rooftop, there is a lounge cafe. The entire building is set up to make for an intimate music listening experience in any corner of the space.
Address: 251 Itaewon-ro, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul (서울시 용산구 이태원로 251)
Leeum Samsung Museum Of Art
This museum tucked away up an alley in Hannam-dong has been open since 2004 and provides traditional Korean art collections as well as international modern and contemporary art showcases as well. The museum also features a child education and culture center so it’s a stop for solo visionaries, families and wandering couples too. One of the highlights of the museum is a spiral staircase with Choi Jeong-Hwa’s Alchemy hanging from the ceiling above the fourth floor all the way down to the lobby on the first floor. The museum is comprised of three buildings and can provide hours of inspiration. This is one of the most popular museums in the area and should not be missed!
Address: 60-16 Itaewon-ro 55-gil, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul (서울시 용산구 이태원로 55길 60-16)
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday: 10:30am ~ 6:00pm
Hyundai Card’s: The Music Library + Understage
The architecture of this building screams to pedestrians to see what the heck is going on. The structure has a HUGE mural and the mural continues up to a container box ceiling. There’s a huge empty space in the center to look out over the Hannam-dong district and then the other side is Hyundai Card’s Music Library and Understage. This library contains over 10,000 records, 3,000 books and every issue of Rolling Stone magazine ever published since 1967. From controversial records to rarities and new releases, this library literally has it all. Members of the public are welcome to step inside the unique building and listen until their ears and hearts are content.
Address: 246 Itaewon-ro, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul (서울시 용산구 이태원로 246)
This museum was opened in 2015 and is extremely popular with the younger audiences due to hosting interactive programs and exhibitions. Unlike most museums where photography is discouraged, D Museum allows visitors to take photos and actually encourages people to experience the art rather than just looking at it with their eyes. Check out this post about a previous exhibition to get an idea of what they really do. D Museum also has a sister museum called Daelim Museum to the west of Gyeongbokgung Palace which I also highly recommend. If you’re in Hannam-dong though, definitely check out D Museum and it’s nearby project space that I talk about below. Be sure to check their website before you go to make sure there is an exhibition on. I’ve now seen numerous exhibitions here and they’ve all been fantastic. My daughter has loved them as well. (TICKET TIP: As of April 2019, I’ve gotten free tickets to the last two exhibitions after making a purchase at Flying Tiger that was over W30,000. I don’t really know much about this promotion, but if you’re a Flying Tiger shopper, you’ll know they often offer a free eco-bag or something else with purchase. They have numerous freebies at any one time, so the cashier told me to just ask if they have the tickets if I am interested in getting them. Ask ask ask!)
Address: 5-6 Dokseodang-ro 29-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 용산구 독서당로29길 5-6 )
Hours: Tuesday ~ Thursday & Sunday: 10:00am ~ 6:00pm; Friday & Saturday: 10:00am ~ 8:00pm
D Project Space
Just a block away from D Museum is the D Project Space. Opened in 2012, D Project Space is known for hosting experimental exhibitions by young Korean creators. The exhibitions are always highly original and it’s the perfect addition to anything you’ve just seen at D Museum. Each year, the space selects a group of young creators to support which results in diverse installations that are creative and inspiring. Don’t miss a stop in here when you’re in the area. It’s a bit hidden, but it’s worth the hunt. You just never know what you’ll find inside, but it will be creatively inspiring and there are a lot of posters and art materials for sale here as well. If you’re looking to decorate a space, make a stop here to pick up some items to use.
Address: B3, 28-2 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul (서울 용산구 한남동 28-2 B3)
Hours: Tuesdays – Sunday: 12:00pm ~ 8:00pm
Royyal Dog Mural
Royyal Dog whose real name is Changyang Shim is a Korean street artist who works all around Seoul as well as cities abroad. He often paints foreigners in Hanboks showcasing a beautiful appreciation of multiculturalism. There is one in the Hannam-dong area and is easy to find if you’re looking down the right alley. Don’t miss it!
Address: Café Laomete, 25 Daesagwan-ro 31-gil (대사관로31길 25)
Blue Square (블루스퀘어)
If you’re looking for a little inspiration that you can take home with you, stop into Blue Square’s beautiful book store called Book Park. Book Park is a bookstore, coffee shop, and art gallery on the fourth floor. There are areas to sit down and read, and a children’s zone with kid friendly chairs too. Blue Square is a culture complex built by the Interpark Group and features a musical theater that seats 1, 766 people as well as a concert hall that seats 1,373. If you’re looking for a show or musical, definitely come here and see what’s on.
Address: 294 Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 용산구 이태원로 294 (한남동))
Hours: 10:00am ~ 11:00pm
For Coffee & Conversation
This café and art gallery could really fall into the inspiration section as well, but the main space is a café, so I’m going to put it here. The exterior of the building is hard to miss as you pass by, but don’t just stop on the sidewalk. Walk on in and see the gorgeous staircase and art on exhibit on each floor. After you enter, you’ll be directed to make a donation as payment for entrance. Then you’ll take the elevator up so that you can walk down the spiral staircase stopping at each floor to see the work before you take a seat in the cafe on the first floor. A crane representing longevity was thought to be an auspicious mythical creature and metaphorically considered wise men. Symbolizing people’s wishes, they descend from the clouds at Space Shinseon. You can’t help but be drawn in. Make sure to descend the entire way and then look up for another surprise in artist Park Joon Sang’s piece.
Address: 256 Itaewon-ro Yongsan-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 용산구 이태원로 256)
This cafe a few minutes down the road from the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art provides a chic and modern respite to discuss or ponder the artistic renditions just perused. Not only is the cafe itself intricately designed and comfortable at the same time, but they also offer a 20% discount on orders to patrons that can furnish their ticket from the recently visited museum of art. Sip some wine in the dark moody interior or enjoy a latte in the well lit atrium. Perfect spot for a little conversation.
Address: 743-33 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul (서울시 용산구 이태원로 743-33)
This small roastery cafe goes full throttle into the industrial exposed cement aesthetic. Downstairs, customers place their order and can look through the glass walls into the back to see the roastery in action with a Probat and Gothot roaster emitting all kinds of smells and clouds. Upstairs, an open space with a high ceiling and large clear windows letting tons of light in to a space where chairs and tables surround an indoor green garden. It’s an awesome spot not only to drink up some java but have serious discussions on the best music artists of this decade. Head downstairs and you’ll find the MMMG lifestyle and design shop. The shops multiple floors house the brand’s timeless minimal and clean looking products. Definitely visit the cafe and then visit each floor below for inspiration for a minimal lifestyle. Anthracite has since opened more spaces throughout the city and they are each different and really show off each space that they are in. Each is totally different, so check them all out. Another one is over in the Hongdae/Hapjeong area of Seoul.
Address: 738-20 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul (서울시 용산구 이태원로 738-20)
For Food To Fill The Belly
This straight up no fuss no muss eat your burger and like it joint knows how to serve up fresh high quality meat on buns. Located down an up and coming alley in the Hannam-dong area, their restaurant is a bit hidden away, but worth the hunt to find them. You might not have to hunt too much though, because I’ve heard there is often a line out the door. We were lucky the day we went and didn’t find but a few people waiting so got in pretty quickly. While the interior of the restaurant has been given a modern industrial aesthetic with a 90s style neon sign, it isn’t overdone or too in your face cool. The burgers are not too expensive, as a lot of other spots in the area are, but has priced their straightforward dishes fairly. Downtowner’s avocado burger is the star of the menu and deservedly so. It’s mighty delicious. It had this patron and her friend dreaming of burgers the next day. Check it out, but get their early to avoid the lines.
Address: 683-63 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul (서울시 용산구 이태원로 683-63)
Jackson Blvd would best be summed up by the neon sign that hangs inside reading “people disappoint, pizza is eternal”. They serve up substantial salads with delicious dressings, regular crusted pizzas with just the right mix of toppings and deep dish pizzas too. Craft beer combined with some pretty can’t be beat prices on pies means this place should be everyone’s lunch or dinner stop if you’re looking for a slice of heaven in Hannam-dong.
Address: 26-1 Itaewon-ro 55-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul (서울시 용산구 이태원로 55길 26-1)
Know Where To Stay!
A great place to stay right down in the popular Itaewon area in the center of Seoul is the Grand Hyatt. It’s a fantastic hotel with an indoor and outdoor pool and sits on a hilltop that provides a gorgeous view of the city.
If you’d rather stay on the busy Itaewon strip which is a bit closer to the subway stations and public transportation, check out the Imperial Palace Boutique. It’s a bit quirky but elegant and chic as well. Have a great stay in Seoul!