Explore Ikseon-dong, A Hidden Gem in Seoul
We first stumbled upon Ikseon-dong, tucked away between Jongno 3-ga and Anguk Station, when we visited Bukchon Hanok Village. We were in search of a spot to eat—a challenge as it was Chuseok, a national holiday when most of Seoul closes down—and discovered the labrynthine cafes and shops set in traditional Korean architecture. Unfortunately, they too were closed, but we walked down the alleys with twists and turns that lead you to more twists and turns where you’re never quite sure where you’ll end up, and I promised myself that I would return another time.
During our Hanok Stay, after a morning spent wandering through Gyeongbokgung Palace, I returned to Ikseon-dong to explore. I find Gangbuk (north of the river) to have less of an affect than Gangnam (south of the river, and where we live), which is new, modern, and more ‘touched’ by tourism, though parts of Gangbuk (Itaewon, Hongdae, Myeongdong) are as well. Ikseon-dong is where pre- and post-war Korea meet—the cafes and shops are with the times, beautifully designed and decorated and serving refreshments, products, and an atmosphere that appeal to today’s consumer. But the closed-in village, without the traffic of the big name neighborhoods, still feels historic, local, and ‘underground.’
Proust is part parfumerie, part cafe, and serves milk tea and tea and madeleine sets. My favorite part of this space was how much sunlight came in and hit certain surfaces.
You’ll recognize Madang Kkotbang (literally, ‘flower room’) by its exterior—bundles and bunches of flowers and greenery, shaded by open hanging umbrellas. Plant, a ‘cafe and bar plus open space,’ serves an assortment of food and beverages on beautiful dishes and tile coasters. There are so many perfect places to choose from, you could walk into any at random and not go wrong. I plan to stop by all during our time in Seoul!
Jongno District, where Ikseon-dong is located, is a cool one to visit in Seoul, and quickly becoming my favorite. Besides Ikseon-dong, there’s Insa-dong for antiques and artwork and Samcheong-dong for galleries, local indie boutiques, and al fresco cafes, with Bukchon Hanok Village only steps away.
Historic sites include Gwanghwamun Gate, where you can view the guard-changing ceremony, Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, and several other palaces, gates, shrines, pavilions, and museums. You can access the Cheonggyecheon, a 10.9km stream that runs through downtown Seoul, hike Bukhansan, or eat at one of the over 5000 shops at Gwangjang Market, one of the oldest and largest traditional street markets in South Korea. Definitely pick up a bindae-tteok (or two)!