THE BEST ’BURBS
Korea’s capital is a huge metropolis that can be broken into a series of suburbs, each with its own personality. Split by the Han River, most historic areas and older neighbourhoods sit to the north – the glitzy, modern suburbs to the south. Though it’s intimidating at first, it’s a relatively simple city to venture around. The underground system is cheap and well signed in English, and it services a huge swathe of the city. Taxis are more expensive, but similarly reliable ( sans English), and many of the neighbourhoods are easy to navigate on foot.
Thanks to the large US Army base nearby, and a growing number of expats who call it home, Itaewon (1) , is Seoul’s most culturally diverse suburb – a place where you can just as easily grab a burger as some Korean BBQ. Most travellers come here for the bar scene, which eschews K-pop in favour of a more Western style.
Seoul’s CBD (2 and 3) has more going for it than office blocks and train stations. Pedestrianised streets in Myeongdong’s centre are home not just to some of the city’s best clothing stores, but upmarket restaurants and a popular night market in which you can get just about anything, as long as it can be served on a stick.
With a large university nearby, Hongdae (4) is a favourite for Seoul’s young and young at heart – an area that truly comes alive at night, when thousands of bars throw open their doors and party to the wee hours. In the next-door smaller Yeonnam-dong district, you’ll find a hipster-friendly village filled with cafes and micro-breweries.
Fashion, fashion, fashion. That’s all Dongdaemun is good for, and it does it extremely well. This central district features several huge shopping malls, as well as wholesalers and department stores. Best pack a credit card.
Yes, the area made famous by that song from a man called PSY – Gangnam is Seoul’s trendy, wealthy district, a place of glass skyscrapers, penthouse apartments and neon billboards advertising exclusive restaurants and nightclubs. Gangnam’s style is fancy and futuristic, so be prepared to dress up.