While you’re in Seoul, make sure to check out Hongdae, the neighborhood around (and short for) the art-oriented Hongik University. With no shortage of cafés, clubs and spontaneous street music, Hongdae has become a magnet for expats, exchange students and locals alike. Here, Vietnamese American exchange student Mai Nguyen fills us in on some of her must-go’s in Hongdae.
ISSUE: Summer 2012
STORY: Mai Nguyen
1) Street performances abound in Hongdae. 2) Pop star Se7en’s restaurant Yeolbong. 3) Your latte, complete with cinnamon sprinkle art, at the Hello Kitty Cafe.
- Fill up: One of my favorite restaurants in Hongdae would have to be Yeolbong. Beware though — you have to be able to handle some spicy hotness before trying the food here. Owned by Korean pop singer Se7en, it’s a small and cozy place, specializing in steamed chicken (jjim-dak). Served over glass noodles, the chicken is stewed for hours with potatoes, carrots and onions, so the flavor is really soaked into the dish. It’ll leave you satisfied with a slight tingly burning feeling on your lips. Yeolbong.com.
- Sweet spot: What better way to balance something spicy than with something sweet? There’s no place more appropriate than the Hello Kitty Café. From top to bottom, it’s all pink, all cute and, of course, all Hello Kitty. Don’t be surprised to see girls cooing at how adorable everything is, down to every drink and confection offered. Hellokittycafe.co.kr.
- Club hopping: The best way to club hop in Hongdae is to get the 15,000 won (about $12) pass that gives you access to the three YG Entertainment hip-hop clubs, NB1, NB2 and Harlem. YG artists and other celebrities frequent these clubs, so if you’re lucky, you might find yourself partying it up with a star. What’s great about the clubbing culture here is that there are particular moves for every song that everybody seems to know. These moves are usually simple enough to pick up just by watching, so before you know it, you’ll be dancing in unison with the rest of the clubgoers.