This week Seoul Secrets took a trip to Ikseondong, Seoul’s oldest hanok neighbourhood slap bang in the centre of Seoul. Hidden and almost forgotten, this neighbourhood is finding its vibe once again. The best preserved and least renovated neighbourhood of these Korean style homes, its a maze of tiles and pavement intertwined with new cafes, bars and cultural spaces.
Built in the early 1930’s as one of the first large scale hanok developments, aiming to accommodate those on a financial budget lead to the construction of these small yet humble dwellings. Maybe not as vast or as impressive in grandeur as say Bukchon’s or Seochon’s hanoks, these ones are still just as charming. After becoming dwarfed by huge high rising building developments during Seoul’s post war recovery, Ikseondong is a reminder of times gone by and offers a window into Seoul’s past with a twist. Thanks to low rental costs a wave of artsy cafes and stores have emerged, giving this old neighbourhood a fresh new feel.
To get here take Exit 4 of Jongno sam ga subway station, cross the road and follow the images below:
The first thing you notice when you arrive here is that it is still very much a lived in neighbourhood that hasn’t just given way to the new wave of commerce. At Seoul Secrets we usually give a structured and guided route of the areas we check out, but the fun thing about this place is exploring down the back alleys and side streets. As you stumble down narrow alleyways you will see huddles of hanoks that have an authentic character, and unintended charm. Mixing this with a sprinkling of artistic flair, that has been added of late makes for an area they shouldn’t be missed…don’t forget your camera!
The neighbourhood seems to be split with the western side home to more crafts and vintage style stores, and eastern side more korean barbecue places and residential homes. The weekend Seoul Secrets visited just so happened to be the same time as a small crafts stall market. Selling all kinds of handmade delights ranging from baked goods, soaps and incense to even tarot card readings. After speaking with a few of the stall owners it seems these markets happen from time to time but couldn’t find out exactly how often or if it’s a consistent thing.
This neighbourhood boasts many cafes and restaurant, too many to all feature on this blog post. So we decided to leave the experimenting up to you and just picked one to feature, one of many delightful places worth checking out. It’s all worth noting that many of the restaurants close between 3-5pm, and there will be queues forming outside some of them from 4.30pm.
This is truly a diamond in the rough, just off the many alleyway you took from Exit 4. As you walk up the alleyway and begin to see commercial type hanoks, you will see a metal yellow lightening bolt looking sign. Follow this bright yellow sign down a small and narrow path you’ll be greeted by this inviting courtyard area. Ikdongdabang looks like something out of Narnia with its lush green plants and delicately renovated hanok. This cafe offers a range of teas and coffees, but their specialities are their strawberry and cream scones accompanied with a strawberry latte. A delightful place to sit, relax and get lost in your thoughts.
Go! Explore! Get lost!…take pictures along the way! Enjoy!