A Little Bit of Europe in Seoul?
If Itaewon is the little America of Seoul, than Samcheong Dong must be the little Europe of Seoul. Nevertheless, I think both of those comparisons are ill-suited for either area. While Itaewon possesses some semblance of America in a few stores or eateries, it hardly reminds me of America and more like a city on a foreign planet in some sci-fi western hybrid. (I’m thinking Outlaw Star, Cowboy Bebop, Total Recall of Firefly). While Samcheong Dong is not really like any country in Europe, it’s easy to see why the average resident may forget they are in Seoul. Gone are the flashy neon signs, communist-cement style apartments, food stands, grocery stores with pushy announcers, and Korean style kimbap or soup restaurants. Instead, a Seoulite finds himself surrounded by a picturesque scene of winding roads, humble mountains, red-brick store fronts, boutiques, neighborhood coffee shops, upscale restaurants, art galleries, shoes and chocolate. It might not be Europe, but I wouldn’t blame Dorothy if she looked at Toto and said, “Toto, we’re not in Seoul anymore.”
Most reviews of the area inform visitors to depart from the Anguk station for a special walk to Samcheong Dong. I disagree. I advise first time visitors to take line 5 to the Jogno 3(sam) station and walk out of exit five. This is a much more memorable walk. You do not need to even turn after exiting, exit five will direct you to walk right underneath the largest music store in the world(Nakwon Arcade). Continue to walk until you reach Insadong. How will you know you are in Insadong? First, it’s a crazy-busy street. Secondly, your straight walk will dead end. Take a right at Insadong. At the end of Insadong, you will cross a major intersection. You’ll see a large wall with murals on it. Just cross the street and make sure this wall is on your left. Keep walking in the same direction and you’ll begin to notice Seoul transform into something a little more quaint and romantic. This road gets windy(twists) but stay the course. Follow it until it ends and you will be rewarded with discovering some unique stores and snapping a few extra pictures before your arrival in Samcheong Dong. Here are a few pictures from the walk.
You also have the option to explore Hanok Village. Simply turn right and start walking uphill before you reach the main road of Samcheong Dong. If you do this, you will inevitably find Hanok village. I could tell you the name of the street to turn on, but that would defeat the purpose. Whenever you get lost in this area, it’s a good thing. Hanok Village is filled with traditional Korean houses that date back to the Joseon Dynasty. Many of the alleys, courtyards, and houses are over 600 years old. This is a great place to experience authentic Korean History and take some wonderful pictures. Within this area, you can find tea houses and restaurants designed to provide you with a Joseon experience. Remember to keep an eye open for courtyards and alleys. Some houses have historically restored courtyards that are truly unique to Korea.
Once you descend back upon Samcheong Dong. There is a beautiful neighborhood to explore. There are unique cafes, boutiques, clothing stores, and stores that sell designer chocolates. Make sure to check out all of the alleys as you will find some gems tucked away in some not so obvious places. Check the bottom of this post for additional reviews on restaurants, art galleries, and stores. I highly recommend Yeon Traveler’s Hangout if you need a break or a drink.
If you walk to the end of Samcheon Dong you will find Bugaksan Mountain which is the most popular mountain in Seoul for hiking and was #4 on Time’s Magazine’s 10 Things to do in Seoul list. Additionally, if you find the building with a RV on the roof, turn and walk past this building. Within 2-3 minutes, you will find the president’s mansion and if you follow this path you will find the Blue House and the back entrance for Gyeongbok Palace(#1 on Time’s list). Finally, keep an eye out for unique architecture and art. The minute you stop looking for details you will miss something interesting to see. I’ve visited this area several times within the last two yeas and every time I see something new.
Jamie Liew’s Blog– She’s cute and she’s written maybe the best blog besides mine on Samcheon.
Korean Food Blog– Two excellent restaurant reviews for the area.
Excellent Video on Samcheong by Matt!
Great Pictures and blog of the Owl Art Museum
List of Museums in Samcheong Dong