Traveller Stories [Louise’s Story] Seoul Neighbourhood Guide: Dongdaemun & Myeongdong

[Louise’s Story] Seoul Neighbourhood Guide: Dongdaemun & Myeongdong

[Scroll down to read the Danish version // Rul ned for at læse indlægget på dansk]

Introducing a small miniseries about neighbourhoods in Seoul!

When planning trips to Seoul, quite a few of my friends have asked me where to stay and what to do. I always tell them that it depends on what they want to see because there are so many different places to go. Gangnam is fancy, Sinchon is student friendly, Hongdae has nightlife etc. This mini series is meant to be a bunch of short introductions of neighbourhoods that I believe will be worth visiting. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll be dividing focus areas into their nearby subway stations.

In this first post I want to tell you about Myeongdong (명동역, subway line 4 ) and Dongdaemun History & Culture Park (동대문역사문화공원역, subway line 2/4/5).

Let’s start with Dongdaemun History & Culture Park! At this station you will find the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, also called the DDP (subway exit 1), which is an incredible, curvy architectural structure and home to conventions, art exhibitions, trade shows, design markets, and, most recently, Seoul Fashion Week!

DDP bustling with visitors during Seoul Fashion Week

On a normal day you will find tourists here but not at all in masses compared to other places. Surrounded by huge malls and busy streets, the DDP is a great place to take a breather with its many green areas and exhibitions where you can really let your thoughts and imagination flow. In the midst of this futuristic building, you will also find remains from the last Korean Dynasty and the Japanese Empire, making this a perfect example of “old meets new.” Also don’t forget the outside LED rose garden, which is hugely popular to tourists and locals alike! There are also little food stands in case you want to grab a quick snack.

Outside the DDP, along the street, you’ll find small markets every Saturday. When I was there this past weekend, I saw one section selling mostly clothes and one section with a sign saying “얼굴 있는 농부 시장,” which loosely translates to a local farmers’ market where you get to meet the farmers in person. Little signs highlighted how everything was made using only natural ingredients and the sellers were more than happy to me let take pictures and have little taste samples. A young guy at a stand selling jams let me taste chocolate jam, pineapple jam, Earl Grey jam (popular with girls), and black sesame seed jam (popular with guys), while telling how it was made. For example, one whole blended pineapple was used for just one jar of jam.

This is the clothing market – but notice how the stand on the left is also selling snacks

And here you see the farmers’ market. This man was so proud when I asked to take a picture for this post!

The area features many BIG malls with hundreds of stores selling clothes, fabrics, food, electronics, etc. in a wide price range. I can recommend checking out the Doota Mall right across the road from the DDP even if just for window shopping. Stop by the food court for a break and continue your adventures in this shopping mecca.

Like I mentioned above, I was in the Dongdaemun area during fashion week. It was only my third time visiting the DPP since I was unaware of the market and since art exhibitions usually are outside my interest areas. However, during the fashion week, the DDP turned into my favorite place to be! It was simply bustling with life. Celebrities, pro- and amateur photographers alike, models and aspiring models, designers, and those with interest in fashion were all gathered here. For a week, the DDP was one of the hottest places to be in Seoul. I’d like to get more into this event in another post about festivals and events here in Seoul so I’ll spare you the details for now. I will say this though: if you happen to be in Seoul in March or October, do yourself the favor and drop by just one day to experience this.

Now let’s move on to Myeongdong, which is just two stations away from Dongdaemun History & Culture Park.

Myeongdong is one of the top shopping destinations in Seoul

If you want to go shopping, Myeongdong shopping street (exit 6) is the first place that comes to mind. Unlike Dongdaemun, there are MANY people here almost any time of the day so if you want to avoid the masses as much as possible, I’d suggest you go early, preferably before 3pm. Other than people, the streets of Myeongdong are filled with beauty stores, clothing stores, street food stands, restaurants, and people handing out flyers about everything ranging from restaurants to animals cafés to massage parlors. There are a lot of cat and dog cafés in this area, if that interests you.

Myeongdong has everything and that everything seems to always be on sale, especially in the beauty stores. Three out of four places will give you a free face mask or something similar for just stepping into the store in hopes you’ll find something you’ll like – but be warned, the sellers are much more pushy in Myeongdong stores than anywhere else I’ve gone here. Keep this in mind and you’ll be fine. If you’re looking for more western style clothing, Myeongdong offers stores such as H&M, FOREVER21, and ZARA as well.

Now let’s talk about food! The street food stands open in the afternoon around 4.30-5pm when the streets start to get more busy. You can find so many interesting foods to try here and I’ve never felt like I had to think twice before trusting the quality of the food. You can have chicken skewers, tornado potatoes, waffles, smoothies, fried squid, egg breads – you name it! While my Korean friends have told me that the price level here in general is a bit higher compared to places like Namdaemun market, I’ve found Myeongdong’s street food to have one of the largest ranges in variety. It’s definitely worth the money!

Fried snacks galore, including the famous ‘tornado potato’

Myeongdong is a great place to sample Korean street food

Bungeo-ppang, one of Korea’s most beloved winter street foods – a fish-shaped pastry stuffed with various fillings, the most common of which is red bean paste

After a day of shopping, why not finish by taking a trip up to the N Seoul Tower (N서울타워), commonly referred to as the Namsan Tower, that overlooks Seoul?

You can either walk your way to the top of the mountain that the tower is located or ride the cable car. (If you decide to walk, don’t worry. It’s just a steep road and some stairs. You won’t have to bring out your hiking gear). It’s an absolutely beautiful view from up there but make sure the check the weather beforehand. You wouldn’t want cloudy weather to ruin the experience, which happened to me friends and I the first time we went there.

The view from N Seoul Tower – still looking great, even on a slightly cloudy day!

One thing I regret not doing when my best friend and I visited Myeongdong a few weeks ago was to bring her to watch a Nanta performance. Nanta is unlike anything I have ever seen and I found it hysterically funny! It’s an almost non-verbal performance involving drumming, knife play (don’t worry, it’s appropriate for all ages), dancing, and slapstick comedy. I HIGHLY recommend going. Sit as close to the stage as possible if you want the chance to become part of the show or enjoy it from a distance in the back. Sitting in the back, I was highly satisfied as well. You can buy tickets at the location or directly from Nanta’s website.

My last recommendation for this area is a cocktail bar that I went to recently. Who would have ever thought of building a ball pit pool on the 5th floor of a building and then filling it with giant teddy bears? The owner of Urban Space did! Not only is the pool super cool, the drinks are beautiful and creative, the walls are covered in pink, and there are areas set up specifically for the purpose of taking cute Instagram-worthy pictures. Gather your friends, dress up nice, and drop by this place!

Urban Space – one of Seoul’s most Instagrammable cafes

Jeg introducerer hermed en miniserie omkring forskellige nabolag I Seoul!

En del af mine venner har, i forbindelse med planlægning af ture til Seoul, spurgt ind til hvor de skulle bo og hvad de kunne lave de forskellige steder her. Jeg siger altid at det kommer an på hvad de har lyst til at se eftersom der er så mange forskellige steder at være. For eksempel er Gangnam fint, Sinchon er en ”studieby” og Hongdae har natteliv osv. osv.

Denne miniserie er ment som en masse små introduktioner til nabolag som jeg mener vil være et besøg værd. For at holde det så overskueligt som muligt vil jeg dele nabolagene ind alt efter hvilken metrostation ligger tættest på.

I dette første indlæg i miniserien vil jeg fortælle om Myeongdong (명동역, metrolinje 4) og Dongdaemun History & Culture Park (동대문역사문화공원, metrolinje 2/4/5).

Lad os starte med Dongdaemun History & Culture Park!
På denne station finder du Dongdaemun Design Plaza, også kaldet DDP (metroudgang 1), som er et stykke storslået, kurvet arkitektur og hjemsted for konventioner, kunstudstillinger, messer, design markeder og for nyligt også modeugen i Seoul!

I løbet af en normal dag kan man finde turister her men slet ikke i samme omfang som andre steder. Omringet af enorme storcentre og travle gader er DDP, med sine mange grønne områder og udstillinger hvor man kan lade fantasien flyve frit, et skønt sted at tage en pause. I midten af denne futuristiske bygning kan du også finde rester fra Koreas sidste dynasti og den japanske besættelsestid, hvilket gør det til et perfekt eksempel på ”nyt møder gammelt.” Og glem ikke deres udendørs LED rose have, der er super populær hos både turister og lokale. Der er også madboder til hvis man bliver lækkersulten.

Langs gaden uden for DDP er der marked hver lørdag. Da jeg var forbi i sidste weekend så jeg en tøjafdeling og en anden afdeling med et skilt hvorpå der stod ”얼굴 있는 농부 시장,” hvilket løst kan oversættes til at være et lokalt landmandsmarked hvor du møder sælgerne personligt. Små skilte i boderne henviste til hvordan alt var lavet med naturlige ingredienser og sælgerne var mere end glade for at lade mig tage billeder og få små smagsprøver. En ung fyr i en marmelade bod lod mig smage chokolademarmelade, ananasmarmelade, Earl Grey marmelade (populær blandt piger), og sort sesamfrømarmelade (populær blandt fyre) imens han fortalte mig hvordan det var blevet lavet. Der bruges for eksempel en hel blendet ananas til at lave ét glas ananasmarmelade.

Området har mange kæmpestore centre med hundredvis af butikker, der sælger tøj, stof, mad, elektronik mm. i mange prisklasser. Jeg kan anbefale at tage et smut forbi Doota Mall lige på den anden side af vejen overfor DDP, selv hvis det kun er for at vindueskigge. Tag en pause i madområdet (det er en hel etage fyldt med mad) før I fortsætter jeres eventyr i dette shopping mekka.

Som nævnt ovenfor var jeg i Dongdaemun området i løbet af modeugen. Det var kun min tredje gang i DDP eftersom jeg hverken kendte til markedet eller normalt er interesseret i kunstudstillinger. I løbet af modeugen blev DDP dog mit yndlingssted! Der var så meget liv. Kendte (i koreansk sammenhæng også kaldet ‘idoler’), professionelle- og amatørfotografer, modeller og modelaspiranter, designere og modeinteresserede var alle samlet her. I løbet af den uge var DDP et af de mest populære steder i Seoul. Jeg vil fortælle mere om eventet i et andet blogindlæg dedikeret til festivaler og events her så jeg vil spare jer for detaljerne for nu. Jeg vil dog sige dette: hvis du befinder dig i Seoul i marts eller oktober så gør dig selv den tjeneste at smutte forbi her en af dagene for at opleve det.

Lad os nu flytte fokus til Myeongdong, som ligger blot to stationer væk fra Dongdaemun History & Culture Park.

Hvis man har lyst til at shoppe er Myeongdong shopping street (udgang 6) det første sted at tage hen. Modsat Dongdaemun er der MANGE folk her på næsten alle tidspunkter af døgnet. Hvis du vil undgå kaosset så meget som muligt vil jeg foreslå at tage af sted så tidligt som muligt, gerne før kl. 15. Udover mennesker er Myeongdongs gader fyldt med make-up butikker, tøjbutikker, madboder, restauranter og folk, der deler reklamer ud for alt fra restauranter til dyre caféer til massagesteder. De har rigtig mange katte- og hundecaféer i området hvis det skulle have interesse.

Myeongdong har alt og alting ser ud til altid at være på tilbud, specielt i make-up forretningerne. Tre ud af fire steder vil give dig en gratis ansigtsmaske eller lignende for blot at sætte fod i butikken, i håb om at du falder for noget derinde – men pas på, butiksmedarbejderne er noget mere aggressive i Myeongdong end andre steder jeg har været. Hav det i mente og så skal det nok gå. Hvis du leder efter mere vestligt tøj har Myeongdong også butikker som H&M, FOREVER21 og ZARA.

Og lad os så bevæge os over til at snakke om mad! Madboderne åbner om eftermiddagen omkring 16.30-17 når der rigtig begynder at blive travlt i gaderne. Du kan finde masser af interessant mad at smage her og har jeg aldrig følt mig nødsaget til at genoverveje om jeg skulle stole på maden. Du kan købe kyllingespyd, kartoffel tornadoer, vafler, smoothies, stegt blæksprutte, æggebrød og meget mere! Selvom mine koreanske venner har fortalt mig at prisniveauet her generelt er lidt højere end andre steder, som f.eks. Namdaemun marked, er jeg kommet frem til at udvalget her er et af de bedste når det kommer til variation. Det er helt klar pengene værd!

Hvorfor ikke afslutte en dag fyldt med shopping ved at tage en tur op til N Seoul Tower (N서울타워), populært kaldet Namsan tårnet, hvorfra man kan se Seoul?

Du kan enten gå op ad bjerget hvor tårnet ligger eller tage en tur i svævebanen. (Frygt ej hvis du ender med at vælge at gå, det er bare en stejl bakke. Du behøver ikke at medbringe klatreudstyr). Der er en helt igennem utrolig udsigt deroppefra men husk at tjekke vejret inden du tager derop. Det ville være synd hvis turen blev ødelagt på grund af skyet vejr, hvilket skete for mine venner og jeg første gang vi tog derop.

En ting jeg fortryder ikke at have gjort da min bedste veninde og jeg besøgte Myeongdong for nogle uger siden, var at tage hende med ind og se en Nanta optræden. Nanta er som intet andet jeg før har set og det er hysterisk morsomt! Det er en næsten ikke-verbal optræden, der involverer trommespil, leg med knive (bare rolig, det er børnevenligt), dans og falde på halen komik. Jeg vil KRAFTIGT anbefale at tage ind og se det. Sid så tæt som muligt på scenen hvis du vil have chancen for at blive en del af showet eller nyd det på afstand. Jeg var godt tilfreds med at se det fra de bagerste rækker også. Du kan købe billetter på stedet/direkte fra Nantas hjemmeside.

Min sidste anbefaling i dette område er en bar jeg tog til for nyligt. Hvem ville nogensinde finde på at bygge en kuglepool på 4. Sal og derefter fylde den med gigantiske bamser? Det kunne ejeren af Urban Space! Ikke blot er kuglepoolen super sjov, deres drinks er flotte og kreative, væggene er dækket af lyserød og der er lavet specifikke områder til at man kan tage søde Instagram billeder. Saml dine venner, klæd jer pænt på og tag et smut forbi det her sted!

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