Mullae-dong: Street art

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This weekend Seoul Secrets took a trip to the art infused industrial neighbourhood of Mullae-dong. A unique neighbourhood that has a heart of steel fabrication with an injection of artistic flair and yet a strange harmonious existence. This transformation from being just an industrial district to an artists refuge began around 2005. This was when artists began setting up studios in the empty spaces between the foundries. Most of these artists were looking for new studios to hone their skills, as rent prices increased in Hongdae, left many artists looking for a new home. This was when the migration across the river to Yeongdeungpo-gu began, and the start of this unique relationship.

To get here take the Subway to Mullae on Line 2 (green line) and exit 7. Head left out of the exit and continue working till you are greeted by an iron giraffe, this signals you’re on the right path. Behind the giraffe is what looks like a former information booth and a sign the directs you to go left. For everywhere featured in today’s post check the map above for its location.

The first thing you will notice it’s still very much a fully working neighbourhood, even on the weekend the air was filled with metal work fumes, the sound of metal clanking and sparks flying. From here there is a warren of side streets and workshops, with cafes and studios all together ready to be explored!

Depending when you come here will surely change the atmosphere. On the bright warm day we were here, it was as if even the steel works were part of the art. You’ll find unique geometric formations and workshops full of machinery. The workers continue toiling away and are kind of oblivious to your presence, which makes you feel more a spectator of this remarkable neighbourhood.

 

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The first featured place is ‘Jo’ jewellery, across the main road near to the intersection up the alley on the right hand side. A jewellery store that specialises in handmade silver and gemstone pieces. Designed and crafted here in her studio 조새미  has been here for just over one year, after moving from Yeonhui-dong. With eight years experience she produces singular pieces, in all types of styles for any occasion.

To see more of her work check out: http://blog.naver.com/cucurono

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After wandering the streets you’ll need somewhere to wet your whistle, and rest your feet. look no further than ‘Cafe About’, located just off the main road back towards the subway exit, look for this art work as a guide:

Cafe About offers a great range of coffees and other beverages, as well as pleasant a range of panini sets in an artsy environment. The decor has artwork from Che Jin Suk , consisting of mixed media canvas’s with a changing light effect. Che Jin Suk is a lecturer at Beakseok University in media and visual art.

To see more of Che Jin Suk’s work check out:

http://chejinsuk.wix.com/chejinsuk

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If you’re after something a little stronger than coffee then look no further than 차차, a beer and wine bistro that also sells coffee during the day, can be found on the same main road as the the subway and just around the corner from Cafe About. A great spot to people watch and let the world pass you by.

Go check it out! have fun!

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Ikseondong

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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:

 

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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!

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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.

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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!

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Wangsimni Area

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This weekend Seoul Secrets took a trip to the Wangsimni area north east of the Han river, home to Hanyang University but also more well known for its huge subway station/mall. Amongst Koreans it’s famous as the home of Gopchang-gui, a Korean dish that consists of marinated pigs intestine, this area has the largest number restaurants serving this delicacy.

Seen by most as just a place to transfer to a multitude of subway lines, Wangsimni is often unheard of or rarely mentioned by seoulites who have no business in this area of Seoul. Wangsimni has alot more to offer than just another subway station, thanks to alot of government regeneration this area has seen a refreshing clean up and been brought in to the 21st century.

To get here follow the instructions below:

With the new Marvel movie on the horizon there is no better time to check out the newest Marvel store in Seoul which has opened at the Park Avenue Enter 6 shopping mall! This shopping mall is fairly new and often quite empty but does boast some good restaurants one of which being Mercado Brazilian steak house, which relocated here from Apgujeong.

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To get to this mall take exit 6 of the subway line and turn right, in the distance you will see a large tower like apartment building…that’s where you’re heading!

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As you get closer to the building go through the tunnel, up the ramp and take a left at the flower garden area, keep walking and you will see the entrance to the mall.

The jewel in the crown of this shopping complex is by far the Marvel store, a must see for any die hard comic book fan!

After you finished marvelling at Marvel exit the mall the same way you entered it, within a 5 minute walk of here is access to the cheonggyecheon stream 청계천, this section being part of the oldest section of the stream, it’s a great area to hang out, exercise or take your dog for a walk. To get here follow pictures below from left to right:

Once you head back towards the hustle and bustle of Wangsimni, your stomach will be grumbling so worth grabbing some food next, there’s no better place than Uncles teokbokki. To get here head back towards Wangsimni station the following the green wall of the train station on your left, keep walking till you see a coffee shop on your right called ‘Coffee Bay’ take a right and follow the road to the end, you’ll find Uncles on the left hand corner.

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Uncles serves a range of delicious topped teokbokki, a chain restaurant with location located all around Seoul, this fairly small place offers private wooden stalls for you to enjoy your food peaceful with friends, family or a loved one.

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After you have finished your food, you’re going to need somewhere to take a load off your feet and some great coffee, the place for that in this area has to be Cafe Civet. This cafe offers a peaceful and pleasant environment to sip on a range of coffee or tea based drinks indoors or out. They ground their own coffee beans here, and produce authentic great tasting coffee. To get here head back to Exit 6, but keep walking up the hill one more block and take a right, walk one more block and its on the right hand corner

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Finally you can’t come to Wangsimni and not mention the Enter 6 shopping mall that engulfs the subway terminal. Offering a huge range of shopping outlets in a quite surreal mock European style décor it truly is a unique experience. Even if you’re not much of a shopper its worth checking out for the experience alone!

Seoul Secrets

Dongguk University area

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Thanks to a suggestion on our Facebook page, Seoul Secrets visited the Dongguk University area this weekend. Located at the foot of Namsan and accessible on subway Line 3 Exit 6, Dongguk University is Korea’s most famous Buddhist-affiliated university. This picturesque campus with an abundance of cherry blossom trees is great for a weekend stroll to enjoy the spring weather and take in this unique area, as well as the university we’ll be checking out Jangchungdan Park and one of Seoul’s oldest bakeries Taegukdang.

Once you arrive at Dongguk University station take Exit 6, and as you leave the escalator you will be greeted by the Hyewha Gate which is currently lined with cherry blossoms trees in full bloom. Follow this path to the top and through a gateway (there is also a site map here of the campus grounds) continue the gradually climb through the university buildings and you will be come across the Jeonggakwon Temple.

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This is the most significant Buddhist building on the campus, it currently serves now as the sermon hall for the University. But it’s original name was Sungjeongjeon Hall of Gyeonhui Palace, built between 1617 and 1620 as a royal audience chamber for Geongdeok Palace.

As you continue up to the top of the hill you will see the main plaza and three stone grey buildings, in front of this large stately building you will find a grey-green statue of Buddha who is facing a family of three elephants mid-stride with a beautiful array of colourful lanterns overhead.

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After you have finished taking in what the University has to offer you could join to the Namsan mountain trial from here or head back down to the park below.

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A fairly modern park, yet it’s another remarkably serene and peaceful area in a bustling city. Wander through the trees beside a man-made stream that runs along the eastern side of the park, at it’s source you will find a beautiful cascading waterfall and not far from it Dadaneteul Tea House resides.

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This quaint traditionally built tea house offers a wide range of teas made using flowers, leaves and herbs to offer a unique menu. As well as drinks they offer a food menu that again specialises in using plant life from the ‘Lotus Leaf special menu’ to a Flower special menu’ all of which are well presented and look delicious. For the menu check out the pictures below:

 

 

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If you’re full of eating healthy or have a sweet tooth then look no further than one of the oldest bakeries still in existence in Seoul, Taegukdang Bakery is located just outside of Exit 2 and is impossible to miss! With it’s large grey exterior it doesn’t strike you as a bakery, nor peaking through the large glass windows and seeing the glamorous hanging chandeliers and wood cladding. But as soon as you step in side you can smell and see the sights of what you would expect from a bakery of this grandeur.

Offering all the trappings you’d expect from a bakery in Korea, one of the most popular things on the menu is Monaka ice cream, with two types available, an original style or one with a layer of rice cake for 2000won and 2500won treat yourself!

Go check it out now while the cherry blossoms are still here! Enjoy!

Seoul Secrets would also like to say a huge thank you to Yvonne! For this great Suggestion on our Facebook page!

If anyone has more great locations to suggest, don’t be shy and submit via Seoulsecrets.net or our FB page!

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Noryangjin Neighbourhood

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This weekend Seoul Secrets took a trip to the Noryangjin neighbourhood, which we’ll also refer to as NRG for short. Noryangjin’s biggest claim to fame is it’s traditional fish market, and of course no trip here would be complete without checking it out! But there is more to this area than just the fish market, so Seoul Secrets felt it was time to put NRG in the spotlight!

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As it’s Spring in Seoul, everyone is searching and talking about the cherry blossoms blooming..and NRG is a surprisingly unglamorous yet great spot to see this seasonal wonder! So now is the time to check it out! As well as its streets lined with cherry blossom trees there is also some great restaurants, cafes and an awesome ‘Seoul Secret skyline night view spot’.

To get to NRG take Subway Line 1 and Exit 1 (there is only 1 Exit for this station). All of featured spots are shown on the map above. First lets check out the famous fish market:

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After taking Exit 1 look to your left, you will see a staircase that leads to a crossing over the train tracks. Follow this path and head towards the 3 big buildings in the distance, once you have crossed the tracks you will reach a rooftop car park, walk diagonally across the car park and descend the stairs into the market below.

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Opening in 1927 Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market is one of Korea’s largest seafood markets offering hundreds of types of fish and seafood. A truly memorizing experience visiting this bustling place, from the sounds, the lights the smell a true sensory overload! This cornerstone of Seoul’s fish marketing industry as well as tourism has come under an identity crisis of late, as the wave of modernization continues to wash throughout Seoul the powers that be see it time for this crumbling building to give way to a more modern development, a whooping 520 billion won construction located adjacent to this market. The vendors are not leaving without a fight so check this place out before it maybe lost to the archives.

To eat here simply purchase the seafood of your choice and make your way to the second floor, hand them your bag of seafood and they will cook it up for you along with delicious side dishes.

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Once you’re finished at the fish market head back towards the station, cross the main road and walk to the left, keep walking till you reach Olive Young store on the right hand corner, this is the beginning of NRG cherry blossom street.

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As you walk up the hill you will come across this great restaurant on your right hand side, enjoy anything from samgyetang, pajeon and makgeolli and most famously the oysters! A charming and authentic restaurant in the heart of the neighbourhood. We’ll let the pictures do the talking:

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Continue up the hill and follow the road to the right, cross at the intersection keeping the white picket fence to your left, keep walking till there is a break in the fence, follow the path and walk across the car park, at this point you will see Moko Coffee in the distance.

Moko Coffee is quaint coffee shop, nestled in a mostly residential area. This small yet bright coffee shop shines through the darkness, inviting you in. Serving great coffee at reasonable prices, with a welcoming outside space. Not the largest of coffee shops so would suggest getting a take away for the journey to the night spot.

 

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After you’ve grabbed your take away coffee head back to the main intersection at the top of the hill, cross the road and follow this road as it meanders through the neighbourhood, keep walking with small park area to your left, keep ascending with a large brick wall on your right.

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As the hill seems to begin peaking take the path to the right, follow the path round to the right, as you keep walking you will see signs for the ‘Scenic attractions of Seoul’. Follow the signs past an outdoor gym area and and you will be greeted by the wooden swing chair above.

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Here you can take in this beautiful view of Seoul, highly recommend coming here at night with a beer or even a bottle of wine! Enjoy!

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Inwangsan Hike

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This weekend Seoul Secrets dusted off its hiking boots in search of a brisk spring hike without leaving Seoul. For a great a view of the city skyline at sunset look no further than Inwangsan Mountain located just north of Gyeongbokgung Palace, this highly sacred ‘Benevolent King’ Mountain is the Shamanic centre of Seoul. This area is also the home to some spots of historical value worth checking out!

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To get to this area take the Subway Line 3 (orange line) to Dongnimmun and take Exit 2, as soon as you leave Exit 2 walk 1-2 minutes and you will see the sign pointing to the left showing you the route up the mountain. But before beginning the ascend its worth checking out some of the other sites near this station. After scouting around the area there didn’t seem to be any clear stand out cafes or restaurants so would highly suggest bringing a picnic or a packed lunch for this one!

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The first place you’ll see as you cross the main road from Exit 2 will be Seodaemun prison, built by the Japanese near the end of the Joseon Dynasty. It was were Japanese soldiers would torture and then execute Korean followers of the Independence Movement.

Open pretty much all year round to visitors apart from a few holiday periods, you can enter any time between 9.30 -6.00 for 3000 won.

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The next quite adequate place to check out is the Independence Gate, located just a stroll away from the prison via the park area. This gate was built to replace Yeongeunmun Gate which was a symbol of diplomatic relations between Korea and Qing Dynasty. The Independence Gate was built following the First Sino-Japanese War to inspire a spirit of independence away from Korea’s previous status as a Chinese tributary state.

This gate is surrounded by a nice little park area, that is surprisingly peaceful for central Seoul and an ideal spot for picnic before or after your hike.

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After checking out the Seodaemun Independence Park head back towards Exir 2 and begin the ascend up the mountain, to start with you will pass through quite a built up residential area of apartment blocks. Once you past the blocks you will see the archway of a temple ahead of you.

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As you keep ascending you will come across Seonbawi Rock and Inwangsa Temple. This unique rock formation has been a shamanic worship site since before recorded history. A peaceful site with an aroma of burning incense that signals the starting point for the actually mountain hike.

Follow the steps to the right of the rock formation and continue your meandering ascend. There are many paths leading off in different directions so just keep walking with the large stone wall to your right. Your aim will be to find some black wooden stairs which allows you to join the stone walking path.

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Finally after about 40 minutes of hiking you should reach the summit of the mountain, we highly recommend taking this hike just before sunset to fully experience the sun setting over this awesome city and the illuminations of Seoul’s many lights coming to life. There is only one thing left to do once you reach the top… and that’s to crack open a much deserved beer with friends and enjoy the view!

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Kondae (Konkuk University area)

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This weekend Seoul Secrets ventured to the Kondae area residing in the East of Seoul. A vibrant and energetic neighbourhood surrounding the Konkuk University, it is more famously known amongst students for it’s night life and party culture. To get here take the subway to Konkuk University on Line 2 and take Exit 6. All areas featured today are marked on the map above.

During the day its a fairly normal university neighbourhood but by night it becomes a whole different animal all together. Seen by many as an area growing in popularity amongst foreigners it is still yet to reach the masses the same way sister university areas such as Hongdae or Sinchon have.

Seoul Secrets decided to check out the area for restaurants, cafes and shopping during the day, but will be bringing you a low down of the infamous night life very soon! Watch this space!

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One of the newest and biggest attractions of this area is the shopping mall called ‘Common Ground’, with its unique structure of blue shipping containers cleverly arranged and stacked to create a great shopping experience and hang out area.

To get here walk straight out of Exit 6 and keep going for 5 mins and you can’t miss it on your left hand side.

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Common Ground consists of three floors, the first and second boasting a wide range of fashion, lifestyle and accessories stores. Taking the stairs up to the third floor will reveal a terrace market which has a range of cafes and restaurants, which are great for chilling out and enjoying the sunshine with friends, family or a loved one. One highlight being ‘Standing Sushi” brought to you by the same guys of the acclaimed ‘Standing Coffee’.

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Once you’ve had enough of shopping check out some of the neighbourhood by heading back towards Exit 6 of the subway, before you reach the exit you will pass a red bricked road lined with an array of stores on your ride hand side. Take a stroll down that road to find the next Secret Spot!

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Apart from being the home to many students this area is also the home for a large Chinese community. Therefore this area has a street lined with Chinese lamb restaurants, some of which being the best lamb skewers in Seoul. One being Maehwa’s skewer restaurant, often filled with people so a reservation would be recommended.

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Once you’ve had your fill of delicious lamb make your way back towards the station on the red brick road…once you’re nearing the main road take a right at the GS25 and walk for 20 more seconds and right again, you will see Cafe Ho2.

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This place is a ‘really hole in the wall’ as it has such an unassuming entrance, but once inside you’ll be greeted by friendly staff. Offering a range of cream cakes and an array of hot and cold drinks. This place gives you a great, clean and bright environment upstairs for studying, catching up with friends, dates or just reading a good book alone.

Have fun in Kondae and we will be bringing you the night life guide soon!

Seochon Village and Tongin Market

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This weekend Seoul Secrets took advantage of the slightly warmer weather by taking a trip to Seochon village and Tongin Market. To get there you need to take Subway Line 3 to Gyeongbokgung Station, taking Exit 2 and follow the road straight till you reach Woori Bank, where you’ll need to follow the road to the left. Follow the instructions in the picture below to find the ‘Secrets’ featured:

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Seochon Village is a neighbourhood of Seoul, that is filled with charming and quaint alleyways of hanok houses, intimate cafes and unique independent shops. Seochon means western village in Korean and is named such as it is the neighbourhood to the west of Gyeongbokgung Palace. Originally home to middle class citizens who specialized in professions like interpreters and doctors, Seochon has a less clustered ambience compared to the more famous Bukchon, whilst boasting  more sizeable hanok houses.

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The first place you will stumble across when following the directions above is this quaint handicraft store. With a welcoming vibe and a wide range of hand crafted goods, you can browse at ease.

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As you continue to meander up the street you will shortly be met by ‘Astarte&Relax’ on your left hand side. This small dessert cafe has an entrance at the front and back, once you step inside you will be greeted by a glass cabinet of sweet and delicious treats! Either order a take out or sit upstairs ( but don’t be surprised if there’s no seats vacant, as its a very popular place). To find out more on their wonderful desserts check out their instagram: astarte_relax.

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Another great shop that shouldn’t be missed if you’re in the neighbourhood is ‘Coming Jane’. This well presented space sells a wide range of silver jewellery from rings, bracelets and necklaces in every style possible.

Just a few other places to check out along the way:

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Tongin Market

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Once you get hungry from all the walking around look no further than Tongin Market, this marketplace dates back to 1941 and nowadays offers a unique dining experience! Seoul has many markets of all shapes and sizes, but what is unique here is its “Dosirak Cafe”. “Dosirak” meaning lunch box in Korean. Follow the guide below to enjoy this experience to the full:

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Step 1 :

Locate a person selling black trays (usually at one of a few entrances to the market)

Step 2 :

Exchange your cash for coins (for 5000 won you can get 10 coins)

Step 3 :

Enter the market and look for the stalls with a sign which says they accept only coins not cash and fill your tray with delicious Korean food  (these stalls are easy to locate as they’re often surrounded by people and a queue)

 

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In the middle of the market there is a colour coded map that shows all the stalls from food, groceries, fruit and veg to souvenirs and toys. Once your trays is full make way to the 2nd floor and 3rd floor where there is a restaurant area that offers soup,rice and kimchi to go with your lunch box. They also sell the usual drinks upstairs as well as a drink worth trying Sikhye, a Korean traditional drink made of rice.

Got no plans for today?….Check out this ‘Secret’ spot! You won’t regret it!