Highlights To The West Of Gyeongbokgung Palace
If I’m headed down to the center of the city and will be meeting tourists or friends, they inevitably want to head to the areas east of Gyeongbokgung Palace. Bukchon Hanok Village has some great tea houses in traditional homes after all and Gwangjang Market is ALWAYS serving up amazing eats. I’ve only really gone to the neighborhoods west of Gyeongbokgung a few times… until recently. Seems west of the palace there are less tourists, more locals and places that still might just bee off the beaten path. This is just a start to what you might want to look for over in the area… because I’ll definitely be back to look for more.
As always, remember there is a map at the end of this post with all of the places listed here so you can get out, gallivant and enjoy Seoul as much as I do!
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Daelim Museum (대림미술관)
Sitting just west of the palace and easily found from Gyeongbokgung Subway Station, exit 3, is Daelim Museum. Having just visited the exhibit “Plastic Fantastic” over at Daelim’s D Museum in Hannam-dong, I had to hit up “Paper, Present” which seemed to have just as much hype surrounding it. This exhibit highlights “the moments of paper transforming into a sensual medium through the delicate sensibilities of international artists.” This exhibit was really stunning. The first floor begins with paper that has been folded into waving patterns by Richard Sweeney. This leads into Tahitj Pehrson’s piece titled Pareidolia. The size of the paper that has been delicately cut into an amazing pattern that the light shines through to produce shadows is so cool. We could have stood around here for awhile. This is followed by Casa Gifu II by atelier oi. The hanging pieces of paper seem delicate as they float all around. The room was quiet and inviting and left me feeling like even I was suspended in the chill air.
Continue upstairs and the most popular room houses Wanda Barcelona’s “Les Invations for Christian Dior”. It’s gorgeous and will have you feeling as though you’ve stumbled into a colorful paper jungle with just enough room for you to walk through without touching anything. The paper and shiny bangles are hung everywhere in this final room and will have you looking up, down and all around taking in just the time it took to do this. What a gorgeous idea that I wish I could have in my home if I didn’t have a toddler that would immediately try to pull it down.
Cafe & Concept Store (미술관옆집)
When you’re headed from the subway station to Daelim Museum, you’ll likely walk right by this house gutted and turned cafe. The exterior is surrounded by a large black wall which looks somewhat like a construction wall, but it is actually just a wall. Head inside for a rather large cafe with two floors. Downstairs it isn’t as obvious that this was once a home, but head upstairs and you can easily tell as the bedrooms have been turned into sitting rooms. I didn’t take any more pictures than the one of our scone and lemon pound cake as I was absorbed in conversation with my friend from TravelStained. But trust me, it’s an ideal cafe stop if you’re headed to the cafe.
Some months back I had gone out to Solgaheon. Who can resist a place where you can soak your feet AND drink some traditional tea in a traditional Hanok house? Not this girl! The staff was kind and considerate, especially considering I brought a wriggly 2 year old along with me who couldn’t decide if she wanted to soak her feet or not. This is a great cafe to seek out if you’re looking for something a little traditional yet relaxing and it’s just across the street from Tongin Market. Even if they are busy, the cafe itself is nice and cozy and a perfect spot with a big window onto the courtyard to wait. Some of the baths are indoor and some outdoor so no matter the season this is a great experience. Check out my full post on my Solgaheon experience, here.
Tongin Market (통인시장)
I’ve only been to Tongin Market twice, but I’ve loved it both times. It’s one of those places that you have the experience and you think, I only need to have that experience once. But, that’s just totally not true. I went back for my second time… finally, and it was really even better than my first when I wasn’t quite sure what to get. The great thing about Tongin Market is that you get coins which are worth W500 and you can get small helpings of numerous food items from any vendor there. This is such a great option if you’re not quite sure if you’ll like something. If you have visitors and you want to give them a good taste of a lot of different things without ordering the heaping bowlfuls that so many things come in, this is really the best way to go. Downstairs in the traditional market, you get all that you see in that those black trays above. Head upstairs and you can get a bowl of rice and some soup too and your meal will be big and filling. Trust me. To get more info on how the coins work and what to do in Tongin Market, check out this post I wrote the first time I went there.
Where To Stay
This area would also make a great place to stay if you’re having guests travel through or want to have a little staycation downtown. Check out Fantastic Unit Seochon for a great spunky spot. Picture velvet seating, a rooftop that has been painted pink complete with a flamingo blown up too. The rooms are comfortable and the guest house is easy to get to which is great for anyone looking to stay downtown in a more residential neighborhood.
If you’d rather have something a bit more traditional but absolutely stunning, check out the Ihwa Hanok Stay. This is an entire Hanok House that is available for rental and features five bedrooms, four bathrooms and all of the amenities you’d want yet still in a traditional home. This spot is suitable for 12 guests and is really so well suited for any traveler that might not be quite sure about sleeping on the floor of a Hanok just yet, but wants to have the experience.
Seoul Coffee Store (서울커피상회)
This cozy cafe keeps things pretty dark and mysterious. Mismatched tables and chairs are around every corner and windows and lamps are draped with fabric. It’s the perfect little getaway for whispered conversations over delicious coffee drinks with sides of strawberries and cakes. Check out the cafe on Instagram to see what they’re making and then head in to have your own delightfully sullen experience. This cafe is just outside and around the corner from Tongin Market so from the main road, it’d be easiest to walk through the market and then round the bend once out.
Nishimura Ramen (니시무라라멘)
In our cold hunt for food, we passed by a few places before landing on Nishimura Ramen. Shelley, of TravelStained, and I agreed we can always go for ramen. We stopped in and found a small but interesting little ramen shop with three kinds of ramen on the menu and they were all called “creamy” ramen. We weren’t quite sure what that would entail, but we ordered two bowls as well as shrimp stuffed dumplings to split. The dumplings came out first and they were really good. We decided we’d chosen a good spot once they were placed on the bar in front of us with their little shrimp tails protruding. Next the ramen came out and definitely looked creamy. After delving in though, we decided a better descriptive term would have been frothy as just the top was frothed up, while the rest of the liquid wasn’t creamy at all. That suited us just fine as “creamy” ramen could have been all kinds of wrong. This little hole in the wall was just around the corner from Seoul Coffee Store and not too far from the main street so it made getting back to the subway station easy as well.
Beezza is one more food option in the area if you’re looking for something a bit more western in style. I headed into this Beezza a few years ago after hiking up and around the Seoul Fortress Wall path that goes behind the President’s house, The Blue House. At the time, I didn’t realize there were others, namely another one right in my backyard in Yeonnam-dong. Beezza serves up some great pizza options from the savory to the sweet with some craft beer too and really could suit most palettes. It’s a worthy stop for anyone looking for something to bite into while around the traditional neighborhood.