Exploring Korea: Activities, food, fun in trendy Seoul hangout Hongdae
Exploring Korea: Activities, food, fun in trendy Seoul hangout Hongdae
Hongdae is one of the hottest neighborhoods in Korea to enjoy the latest trends and exciting entertainment. The neighborhood is at the heart of local youth culture and is a favorite for young Koreans and tourists.
There’s an endless array of things to try, and each time you visit this area, you’ll discover new and fun places to go. Hongdae is a great place for shopping, hanging out with friends or a fun date.
Hongdae is packed with things to do, so choosing among them might be difficult. Here are five top activities to help get you started!
TOP 5 ACTIVITIES TO ENJOY IN TRENDY AREA
How to get to Hongdae
Line 2, Hongik University Station, Exit 8-9 (Note: Hongdae is an abbreviation of Hongik University in Korean and it usually refers to the neighborhood near Hongik University.)
1. Explore the best eateries
Hongdae is one of the great spots to dine out. The streets are filled with diverse eateries featuring not only Korean delicacies, but also other international cuisines. You’ll be drooling over the many street food options and restaurants. Make sure to come to Hongdae with an empty stomach to enjoy the delicious treats to your heart’s content!
• Pizza Never Sleeps
This pizza joint is famous for its slices topped with pepperoni, fried potatoes and refreshing draft beer. Try a half-and-half pizza so you don’t have to choose just one topping!
Address: 4th floor, 73, Yanghwa-ro 6-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Hours: Noon – midnight
• Gangnam Pork Sanghoe
One of the best unlimited pork BBQ restaurants in Hongdae. With 21,900 won ($17), you’ll taste various pork barbecue cuts as well as unlimited cold noodles, fried chicken with a special sauce, soft drinks, and incredibly fresh vegetables on the side.
Address: 28 Hongik-ro 5an-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Hours: 11:30 a.m – Midnight
2. Visit Instagrammable cafés
Hongdae is a paradise for Instagram lovers who enjoy touring beautiful picture-perfect cafés. There are many different cafés in the neighborhood including animal cafés (See side bar), themed cafés, and others with amazing interiors serving artistic desserts and drinks. Don’t miss capturing some amazing pics of your coffee and treats at a few of Hongdae’s beautiful cafés!
• Coconut Box
This café will transport you to Bali in the heart of Seoul. Enjoy drinks and desserts in a bungalow while you check out the art and NFT displays on the walls.
Address: Seogyo Plaza, 20, Hongik-ro 3-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Fees: 20,000 won ($15) per person
• 943 King’s Cross
Harry Potter fans will love this café, which is themed around the book and movie series. Whether you’re a Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Slytherin or Gryffindor, you’ll love the themed interiors, drinks and desserts here.
Address: 24, Yanghwa-ro 16-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Hours: 11:30 a.m – 9:30 p.m.
3. Shopping unique, local-ish items
Hunt for some cute accessories, stylish clothing and other items in Hongdae. You’ll also find that many popular Korean cosmetics brands have branches here. K-beauty cosmetics are also great gifts, so shop for you and others in Hongdae!
4. Find your inner child
Korean teens grow up enjoying various entertainment facilities, including singing rooms, PC cafés, board game cafés, arcades, and comic book cafés with their friends after school. Hongdae is home to many of these types of businesses. Feel like a kid again and enjoy a board game or an escape room while you’re visiting. Many of these entertainment spots have English-speaking staff, so gather your friends and have a blast!
• Real Escape Room Challenge
Address: 4th floor, 21, Wausan-ro 27-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Hours: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
5. Enjoy nightlife & bar hopping
Hongdae is undoubtedly one of the best nightlife spots in Seoul alongside Gangnam and Itaewon. Among these spots, Hongdae offers a more free and comfortable vibe, catering to people of all ages, including those new to nightlife. Check out some of the fun themed bars and clubs or bar-hop to find your favorite spot.
This trendy cocktail bar has creative drinks, a variety of snacks and adorable interior decorations.
Address: 6-11, Wausan-ro19-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Hours: 5 p.m. – 2 a.m.
• Joseon Sidae (Joseon Dynasty)
Travel back to the Joseon Dynasty and enjoy traditional drinks, great Korean food and fun photo zones for cool pics with your friends.
Address: B1, 44, Hongik-ro 3-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Hours: 5:30 p.m. – 4 a.m.
HANG OUT WITH FURRY FRIENDS AT ANIMAL CAFÉS!
Enjoying cafés is a big part of Korean culture, and the country is home to a wide variety of unique cafés. Animal cafés stand out as a top tourist attraction among them. The blend of delectable desserts and cute animals continues to attract both locals and tourists, particularly in major cities like Seoul.
These cafés originally started with cat or dog themes, but now they have evolved to include even wild animals like meerkats and raccoons. The popularity of such cafes can be attributed to the relatively lax animal welfare laws in many Asian countries. With that in mind, it’s crucial to acknowledge the harsh reality that some establishments have been reported for serious animal abuse.
To ensure a positive and responsible experience, having a proper guide can be helpful to find cafés providing a safe and healthy environment for both the animals and visitors. In the Hongdae area of Seoul, you can explore a cluster of animal cafés conveniently located within a close distance. Visiting those cafés can give you fun and special experience of seeing adorable animals in the city. Check them out!
1. Thanks Nature Café
This lovely café not only serves amazing Korean desserts but also offers a unique opportunity to spend time with adorable lambs! Each year, the café owner visits Daegwallyeong Sheep Farm and carefully selects two lambs from the herd struggling to get their mother’s milk due to their small or weak physique. These chosen lambs are then raised as the stars of Thanks Nature Café. With dedicated and attentive care, the lambs grow up healthy and lively. As they mature, they are returned to Daegwallyeong, and new baby lambs take their place as the new stars.
Most animal cafés tend to focus on the interaction with animals, so they often have limited beverage and dessert menus. Also, the presence of roaming wild animals can sometimes lead to an unclean and odorous environment. However, Thanks Nature Café guarantees a leisurely time by separating the spaces for the lambs and the café area. Moreover, their desserts are exceptionally delicious, as are their waffles and Korean shaved. Another advantage is that there is no separate admission fee required unlike other animal cafés.
Enjoy a tasty dessert and hang out with fluffy, chubby lambs in Hongdae!
Address: B121 Seogyo Prugio Shopping Mall, 10 Hongik-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Hours: 12 p.m. – 9 p.m.
2. Day of Butler
This cat café was born out of a heartfelt desire to care for injured and abandoned street cats. Day of Butler has opened several branches across Seoul, including Hongdae and care for around 130 cats.
Each cat here receives good care and training so most of the cats are very healthy and friendly. They enjoy playing with visitors while sitting on their laps. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to pet and be surrounded by a bunch of charming cats. Also, as the café has a spacious and clean environment, it’s a great spot to enjoy a refreshing drink. And, to become popular with the residents, the café sells cat food for 3,000 won.
The café even has an adoption program for visitors who fall in love with any of the cats there. The requirements to apply include visiting the café at least three times to get to know the cat you’re interested in adopting.
Visting the café costs 10,000 won, drinks are a separate purchase. However, cat lovers see this fee as a donation and willingly contribute.
Please note that children aged 13 and below can only enter if accompanied by a guardian.
Address: 2F Taekyung Building, 19-8 Wausan-ro 21-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Hours: Noon– 10 p.m.
Entrance fee: 10,000 won
3. Winter’s Village
This is one of Hongdae’s hottest cafés, so expect to wait about 30 minutes to enter on weekends to hang out with some beautiful dogs. Winter’s Village is famous for being home to 12 lively Samoyeds, a Malamute and Pomeranian.
If you’re looking for a café to relax at a comfortable seat with fancy desserts and beverages, this might not be for you. However, if you want to cuddle, feed and hang out with these large fluffy dogs, then head on over!
Please be aware that since the Samoyeds shed a lot, people wearing dark-colored clothes or those with allergies should be cautious. Admission is available for ages 10 and above, and children aged 13 and below can enter if accompanied by a guardian.
Address: 19-5, Wausan-ro 17-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Hours: 1 p.m. – 9 p.m. (Tuesday off)
Entrance fee: 12,000 won
4. Table A
Table A is an indoor zoo animal café with the most diverse array of animals in Hongdae. It holds the official verification as an indoor zoo from Seoul City. While other animal cafés that aren’t recognized as zoos aren’t obligated to follow animal welfare regulations, this official verification ensures that Table A operates with a commitment to animal well-being and staff members are trained caretakers.
The indoor zoo houses a variety of animals, including raccoons, meerkats, Fennec Foxes, and more in the five-story building. Visitors can interact with exotic animals like chinchillas and snakes under the instructions of the caretakers during specific program hours. Some animals like raccoons and cats are freely roaming around, but to catch the attention of these mischievous creatures, you might need to purchase some snacks. As there is a lot to see and enjoy, Table A assures a delightful time for visitors of all ages!
Table A also offers a separate café area to enjoy beverages and desserts. Those who purchase an entrance ticket can get a 20% discount on all beverages.
Children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by a guardian during their visit.
Address: 146 Wausan-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Hours: Noon – 10 p.m.
Entrance fee: 15,000 won (Booking through Naver offers a 15% discount)
SNACK AWAY THE DAY
Unlike street food in some tourist areas, Hongdae keeps most goodies at reasonable prices as local culture is cherished in this area. Each snack usually costs around 3,000 to 4,000 won so make sure to sample several different options to fully experience the diverse delights!
Street Food Alley
Head to Hongdae’s Street Food Alley where you’ll find candied fruit skewers, waffles, cakes, donuts, ice cream and more. FYI, some famous shops may have long lines, but don’t hesitate to line up as your turn will come quickly and is worth the wait.
Address: Hongik-ro 3-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Popular snacks on social media!
32cm Ice Cream
Enjoy the challenge of finishing this long soft ice cream for 3,000 won. It’s served with one or two flavors in a single ice cream cone and the options include chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, mango, yogurt, and green tea. Be mindful of holding it carefully to prevent it from falling to the ground!
Marshmallow Ice Cream
Inspired by roasting marshmallows over an open fire, this sweet treat doesn’t require a campfire. Choose from the available ice cream flavors and watch as the vendor uses a blow torch to roast the outer marshmallow right before your eyes. The toasted marshmallow exterior pairs well with the creamy, ice-cold ice cream inside.
Candied Fruit (Tanghulu)
Candied fruit is a stick of fresh strawberries or grapes, coated with hardened sugar syrup. Every bite offers a great balance of sweetness and tartness.
10-won Cheese Bread
Originally a regional specialty of Gyengju, a historical city, this pastry has made its way to the streets of Hongdae. Resembling the 10 won coin in appearance, it features an image of a stone pagoda from the ancient Silla Kingdom in Gyoengju. This bread is filled with rich, thick mozzarella cheese, giving a great combination of sweetness, softness, and chewiness all together.
Speakin’ Korean: Snacking tour
Hello: Annyeong-haseyo (안녕하세요)
Thanks: Gamsa-hamnida (감사합니다)
Snack: Gansik (간식)
Let’s try this: Igeo meogeo-boja (이거 먹어보자) *Informal
What’s inside?: Ane mwo-ga deureo-isseoyo? (안에 뭐가 들어있어요?)
Can I have this one?: Igeo hana juseyo (이거 하나 주세요)
How much is it?: Igeo eolmayeyo? (이거 얼마예요?)
What is the other flavor?: Dareun maseun mwo-yeyo? (다른 맛은 뭐예요?)
It’s delicious!: Masisseoyo! (맛있어요!)
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