Hongdae is one of our favorite neighborhood in Seoul, South Korea. In this post we’ve listed our take on the top 10 things to do in Hongdae. Check it out while you are in Korea.
Hongdae is known for being the student district and one of the party area in Seoul. It has a unique atmosphere in the Korean capital. Between arts and street food, bars, discos, music and original museums, the visit of this picturesque place reveals a dynamic and alternative culture. It is therefore a must-see while you visit Seoul. We wrote a full post about the best things to do in Seoul, you can read it .
First a bit of History…
Hongik University, Hongik Daehakgyo in Korean abbreviated to Hongdae, is located in the heart of Hongdae. The university not only gave its name to the area, but also participated in the construction of its identity. Open since 1946, it specializes in fine arts, design and architecture. Quite naturally, the streets which surround the university were influenced by it. Independence and creativity invaded Hongdae…
In the 1990s, the phenomenon intensified thanks to the installation of artists who mingled with students, attracted by cheaper rents than in the rest of Seoul. The population transforms the streets of Hongdae into an open-air gallery by covering the walls with street arts around the university in particular.
As galleries with a bohemian or design atmosphere developed, art markets were also organized regularly. The most famous of them, the Free Market, is held every Saturday between March and November and gives pride to student works.
Independent Music and party area
Hongdae has established itself over the years as the birthplace of independent Korean music. Played in the street, this music can also be heard in concert halls. The student population has made these structures and local bars an unconditional place to party. Karaoke clubs add to this landscape of festive places.
At all hours of the day and night, Korean street food displays its delicious treasures. Whole fried octopus, typically Korean tteokbokki, pancakes, ice cream etc. For many visitors, these specialties are already a good reason to make a visit into Hongdae.
So here are the top 10 things to see in Hongdae, one of the best neighborhood in Seoul.
1. Relax at Gyeongui Line Forest Park
The Gyeongchun Line railway, was on old Railway turned into a park crossing the city for 6.3km. The best part is in Hongdae, where the old railway is now surrounded by great cafes and restaurants. It is not uncommon to see Korean sitting in the park with a blanket enjoying a picnic, coffee and breads from the surrounding bakeries.
Local artists also perform in Gyeongchun Line Railway Park over the weekend. It is the perfect place to hangout and enjoy the vibe of what Hongdae is all about. An artistic area, young and trendy.
In autumn enjoy a romantic stroll with all the golden ginkgo trees and red maple leafs. If you have a dog, it is also a great area to walk with your dog with plenty of green spaces.
To get there, stop at Hongik University metro station, the park starts right from the exit.
2. Visit the impressive Ewha Women University
Ewha University is a beautiful campus worth a visit. The university is open since 1886 to allow women to study
The university has a good reputation and also allows international exchanges attracting students from all over the world. With no less than 73 buildings, the campus is really impressive and the architecture stunning.
in South Korea, it is possible to walk around the campus without being a student, and even going inside the building is allowed. Access is completely free.
Around the university you can explore some of the shopping streets, if you are up for some shopping.
3. Discover beautiful and unique Cafes
In Hongdae, like many other places in Seoul, there are many unique , themed and beautiful cafes.The recently opened Harry Potter café, the Yeonnam café which takes you into a world made of cartoons or many cafes with animals such as sheep, cat, dogs, racoon etc., all are great.
There is one street in particular which we like a lot to get our cuppa, it is in Seongmisan-ro. This pedestrian area is filled with great cafes, bakeries, rooftops etc. We particularly like Cafe Layered, check it out . You can walk around Seongmisan-ro in the small alleys to find hidden cafes, like the picture above.
4. Enjoy some delicious food
There are so many restaurants and street foods in Hongdae, so making a choice on where to go can sometimes be difficult. However, there is 1 area in particular which we always enjoy exploring and trying out new restaurant: Yeonnam-dong.
Yeonnam-dong is filled with many cute restaurants with a great variety of cuisines. The area is full of many alleys, making you feel like you are in a maze. Getting lost in Yeonnam-dong at night can be really romantic. There is one restaurant in particular which is very famous especially for Brunch, it’s Grain, we talked about it .
5. Check out the street performance
Listening to street music in Hongdae is one of the best things to do in Seoul!
It’s one of the few places in Seoul where a middle-aged man can get out of work in a suit, set up his mic and amp to start playing. If you want to discover what Hongdae really is, you have to take a look at the music scene.
Another best way to experience all the shows that Hongdae has to offer is to participate in the Live Club Day. It takes place on the last Friday of each month. With the purchase of a 20,000 won ticket, you get a pass to go to no less than 10 halls that organize concerts of all kinds (reggae, ska, rock, English pop …).
For street artist check out the back entry of H&M on Eoulmadang-ro and Hongik university street.
6. Admire cool street art
In South Korea, “street art” is fairly recent. In Hongdae however, you have streets full of arts. All along the street wall of Hongdae – small narrow alley (Wausan-go 22-gil) which follows the walls of Hongik University from the main entrance to Dongmak-ro 19 gil- you can find the best street arts in Seoul. This street art in Hongdae is shown in murals with brilliant designs and expressions with strong political tones.
What is most fascinating about Hongdae’s street art is that it is always changing. An original painting or a passionate slogan could disappear and be replaced at any time by something as impressive!
To get there: Take Exit 9 from Hongik University (line 2), continue straight on Yanghwa-ro and turn left onto Hongik-ro. Follow the road to the main door of Hongik University in Wausan-ro.
In addition, if you want to support local artists, we recommend that you go to the Hongdae Free Market (19-3, Wausan-ro 21-gil, Mapo-gu) active every Saturday between March and November. This local market offers handmade items ranging from the bracelet to the wallet, children’s games and self-portrait …
To get there: Get off at Hongik University station (line 2), take exit 9, go straight for 150m and cross the street. Turn left and continue for 500m towards the entrance to Hongik University. Then turn right to access the Hongik Children’s Park.
7. Go shopping !
Shopping in Korea is a must! You will find unique and super trendy items at very low price in Hongdael.
Start exploring Hongik Unversity Street. There you will find many shops, restaurants, cinema etc.
For something more unique with local brands and local artists (which we liked a lot more) head to Hongdae Street. The street is filled with many cute shops selling all sorts of items. You can also grab a bite at one the many street food stalls or restaurants.
8. Be brave, and try some amazing street food
Beside Myeongdong, Hongdae is probably one of the best place to try some amazing Korean street food.
Korean street food is a must if you stroll the streets of Hongdae. You will find everything!
The classics: Odeng 오뎅 (fish pancakes), tteokbokki (떡복이), Sundae (순대), Kimbap (김밥), Dak-kkochi 닭 꼬치 (chicken or pork kebabs).
The most greedy: Hotteok (호떡), Bbobkki 뽑기 (Korean sweets), Gyeran-Ppang 계란 빵 (bread stuffed with egg), Bungeo-Ppang 붕어빵 (Brioche in the shape of fish, filled with red bean paste).
Just enjoy, it is simply delicious.
9. Party hard
If you want to discover Hongdae “by night”, you absolutely have to check out bars, Karaoke or night clubs.
For a cold beer, here is a good address: CRAFT HANS. If you want to enjoy a more classic atmosphere: 만만한 포차 (manmanhanpocha). Bars offer a wide choice of spirits but above all will offer you Korea’s flagship alcohol: soju. You will find different kinds, peach flavor, grape flavor, grapefruit etc. The atmosphere of these bars are very unique in Korea, we always had a good time.
A proper Korean evening always goes on with karaoke, called noraebang (노래방).
In South Korea, karaoke is set up in small private rooms where you can go wild with your friends. Of course, most of the songs are in Korean and will require you to read Hangeul (the Korean alphabet). However, karaokes also offer world famous songs, from Chinese, French, Japanese, Indonesian and English.
To finish the night, check out the night clubs in Hongdae, which is well known for its amazing party until early morning. Check out NB1, NB2 or Cocoon, the most famous ones.
Hongdae is a fantstatic neighborood, very unique in Seoul, full of students, artists, local shops and great vibe overall. We would recommend to anyone visiting Seoul to check it out.