Discovering Seoul's bohemian soul

Updated: 2013-11-17 07:14

By Julie Alvin (The New York Times)

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Discovering Seoul's bohemian soul

Mudaeruk is an all-hours hangout for Seoul's creative class. Photos provided to China Daily

Most Western visitors to Seoul head right for the Gangnam neighborhood, whose glossy shops and well-heeled clientele were immortalized in the monster pop hit Gangnam Style.

But the city's arty crowd is flocking to Hapjeong, which until recently was merely an unexciting residential extension of Hongdae, the bustling commercial district surrounding the renowned arts school Hongik University.

A marker of this area's ascent was last fall's opening of Mecenatpolis, a complex that includes luxury apartments, office buildings, an arts center and a shopping mall. But the neighborhood's charm lies in its narrow streets full of cafes, global restaurants, underground music spaces and galleries.

Discovering Seoul's bohemian soul

Bukchon Son Mandu sells Korean mandu dumplings, typically stuffed with minced meat, tofu, garlic and ginger.

Paul & Lina cafe: Seoul is experiencing a boom in coffee house culture, with an ever-growing number of destinations for hand-drip cups and single-origin beans. On what's called Cafe Street, this coffee shop and cafe offers hand drips, espresso-based drinks, Dutch-style cold drips and snacks like waffles and red bean sherbet. The owners also run a made-to-order furniture line, and most of the furnishings here are made by the co-owner Paul Kim himself.

413-18 Hapjeong-dong, Mapo-gu, 2F. 82-2-336-0934.

Bukchon Son Mandu: Hapjeong's main cultural artery is known as Cafe Street, thanks to its abundance of stylish coffee shops and international restaurants. This place peddles Korean mandu dumplings typically stuffed with minced meat, tofu, garlic and ginger. The owners collaborated with The Jack, a pop artist, to create a space lined with toys and original artwork.

414-16 Hapjeong-dong, Mapo-gu. 82-2-335-4414.

The Factory: Though the Seoul nightlife scene once centered on swigging soju, the Korean rice liquor, a growing love of whiskey has spurred a crop of craft cocktail bars devoted to the spirit. This spot focuses on single-malt Scotch and offers more than 100 whiskies, plus plates for pairing with the artfully presented libations.

402-13 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, B1. 82-2-337-3133.

Mudaeruk: In an old industrial building on a quiet street, this funky multilevel complex now acts as an all-hours hangout for Seoul's creative class. The space, which opened last September, is home to a cafe and bar, art studios, a rooftop garden and performance spaces for local indie bands.

357-7 Hapjeong-dong, Mapo-gu. 82-2-332-8333.

The New York Times

(China Daily 11/17/2013 page16)