This article is meant to provide an overview of Seoul for those of you who are not really familiar with Seoul. Also, if you're looking for information to do your homework such as the population and the size of Seoul, you won't find any in this. Instead, what you can expect is brief description of Seoul's key areas that, if you're visiting Seoul, you should definitely not miss.
This is one of the oldest and the most developed part of Seoul. The old Chosun dynasty's palaces still remain here. In the downtown, you will find not only a busy business district where 'suits' walk busily to move this country's economy along but also a vibrant shopping district and a plenty of places to enjoy Korean and other international cuisines.
Mye0ng-dong is where you will find a large area of shopping and eating haven hidden behind older skyscrapers that propelled South Korea forward during 70's and 80's. It is also a street for the young crowd, especially on weekends when the suits are off the street. So, what's good here? Well, your best bet is shopping for cloth and tasting some well-known Korean restaurants that are 50 years old and more.
Insa-dong is where you meet the traditional Korea. Its streets are filled with places that sell and exhibit traditional Korean art and craft. It is also famous for having many art galleries. Your best bet in Insa-dong is tasting the traditional Korean food and tea while picking up small souvenirs for your friends and family back home.
Samcheong-dong is where you will find an eclectic collection of restaurants and cafes representing the traditional Korean and the Western cuisine. It is somewhat difficult to get to Samcheong-dong as the nearest subway station will still leave you a 10-minute walk. Samcheong-dong is home to small art galleries as well as neat little restaurants.
Hongdae is considered a symbol of Korea's youthfulness. It is located near 4 well-known universities and is home to youthful indulgence -- rocking, dancing, drink and partying. Friday nights are 'club day' and you can easily spot line-ups after line-ups of young people trying to get into their favorite clubs. Friday nights in Hongdae don't end until the sun set.
Eating in Hongdae is also one of the can't-miss experiences. Every restaurant in Hongdae has evolved to cater to the youthful taste buds and their light pockets. i.e. You will find the tastiest and the cheapest places in Soeul to satisfy your taste bud and fill your stomach.
Sinchon is located between two of the best universities in Korea -- Yonsei University and Ehwa Woman's University. If you think that means the neighborhood would be populated with book stores and libraries, you're dead wrong.
Sinchon is filled with little shops that cater to female students who are extremely into accessorizing as well as dressing themselves well. The items are sometimes original, sometimes fake but most of the times cheap and pretty.
Sinchon is also where alcohol finds its way into Korean student bodies. You can't walk a hundred yards without passing by 30 bars, izayakas, hofs or pochas (they're all places where alcohol consumption is their major business).
Garosugil, which means a tree-lined street, is where the young and the trendy gather for fine dining and espresso sipping. The tree-lined street is also lined with shops and fine restaurants that are more European than almost any other places in Seoul. On a sunny weekend day, the street gets filled with well-dressed young ladies that gather for the international cuisine and their dose of expensive caffeine.
Cheongdam-dong is also known as the Beverly Hills of Seoul. As the name suggests it is a shopping district where if you have the means you can wrap yourself in the life of luxury with brands like Chanel, Gucci, D&G, Prada, Armani and more available within a slow walk from each other. Cheongdam-dong also caters to some of the finest dining experiences you will have in all of Korea. As it caters to the younger (20~40ish) affluent segment of Seoul's high class, you won't always find restaurants with stiff upper lips insisting on tradition. Rather, you will find fine fusion restaurants that infuse various styles of the West and the East, the Old and the Young. Beware, however, as the prices will be high. Luxury doesn't come cheap!
Itaewon formed way back when the only foreigner presence in Seoul was that of the US army stationed near Itaewon. Itaewon formed due to its close proximity to the base to entertain and serve the US military personnel stationed in Seoul. However, a lot has changed since. Yes, Itaewon is still frequented by the US military personnel but it now is going through a renaissance of a sort as the international district of Korea.
In Itaewon, you will find the best (or the most authentic) international cuisine in all of Seoul. The range of food you can find is wide -- from Middle Eastern to Belgian. It is also home to many expat bars where you will find the pub next door atmosphere and the nachos and buffalo wings just the way they make 'em back home.
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