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Sampling Samcheong-dong’s Charms in Seoul

Recent Posts, Posted by Matt in ALL DESTINATIONS,Art & Culture,Best of DK,Food & Drink,Seoul,Video, 25 Comments

Sampling Samcheong-dong’s Charms in Seoul


One of the most popular neighborhoods among Seoulites for the past few years is undoubtedly Samcheong-dong (삼청동). The neighborhood’s unique mix of traditional hanok-style buildings, modern art galleries, comfy cafés and excellent restaurants collaborate to make it a huge draw.

In my opinion, the best way to reach Samcheong-dong is via an attractive, narrow road that starts not far from Anguk Station. The popular walkway is flanked by stonewalls, benches and tiny groves of trees, with Bugaksan mountain (북악산) in the distance. After walking a few hundred meters, the street opens up a bit, and Samcheong-dong‘s charming storefronts begin.

Gapsan Myeonok (갑산면옥)

Gapsan Myeonok restaurant in Samcheong-dong SeoulAmong them, one of my favorites for a delicious dinner is Gapsan Myeonok. Four generations of this family have prepared North Korean-style naengmyeon (냉면) and grilled Korean beef. Naengmyeon is typically made from thin buckwheat noodles, served cold in a simple broth, with sliced carrot, cucumber, pickled radish and dollops of hot sauce, mustard and/or vinegar, depending on your preference. The dish is usually topped with half a boiled egg, added to help your stomach digest the buckwheat, My friend and I ordered the hwae bibim naengmyeon (회비빔밥냉면), a spicier alternative served with uncooked fish, and it was excellent! The restaurant is also famous for its Korean hanoo beef, so my friend ordered some marinated bulgogi (불고기), which was cooked at our table in a sweet marinade with mushrooms, onions, bell peppers and carrots.

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11:30-22:30, Closed HolidaysAverage per person: ₩6,000-10,00002-739-7002
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Seoul Jongno-gu Samcheong-dong 64Anguk Station (#328) on Line 3, Exit 1 
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Hakgojae Gallery (학고재)

Hakgojae Gallery in Samcheong-dong SeoulHaving filled our stomachs, our next stop was the Hakgojae Gallery. Located on the street that runs along Gyeongbokgung palace‘s eastern wall, the gallery is technically in Sogyeok-dong, but the street’s many fine galleries fit seamlessly with next door Samcheong-dong. Hakgojae Gallery‘s philosophy of “Create things new by mastering things ancient” is reflected in its building – a mix of traditional hanok and modern architecture. Its also apparent in their current collections, colorless colors by six artists from around the world, and a special exhibit, titled, “Return Home After 500 Years: Joseon-era Paintings Return from Japan.” As the title suggests, the 30 rare paintings were in Japan for a century or more before being re-purchased by Korean art collectors. Prominent in the collection are several delightful tiger paintings, very appropriate in this year of the tiger.

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10:00-19:00 (Tue-Sat), 10:00-18:00 (Sun), Nov-Feb: 10:00-18:00 (Tue-Sat), Closed MondaysFree Admission02-720-1524
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Seoul Jongno-gu Sogyeok-dong 70Anguk Station (#328) on Line 3, Exit 1 website
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Book Café Naeseojae (북카페 내서재)

Book Cafe Naeseonjae in Samcheong-dong SeoulMany people refer to Samcheong-dong as a café district, thanks to its many cute coffee houses. So, following the exhibit, despite being still full from lunch, my friend and I decided to grab some coffee. Among my favorite Samcheong-dong cafés is Book Café Naeseojae. The small business welcomes customers with a bright yellow sign, with an interior resembling a funky library. Of course, the most prominent interior feature is the wall-to-wall bookshelf filled with titles that customers are welcome to peruse. The chandeliers, quiet music and a simple menu of fine drinks, chocolate muffins and cheesecake made for the perfect culmination of our afternoon in one of Seoul’s most charming neighborhoods. No need for concern, because we’ll definitely be back sometime soon.

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11:00-23:00, Closed HolidaysIce Coffee: ₩7,000, Kiwi Juice: ₩7,500, Cheesecake: ₩4,00002-720-1524
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Seoul Jongno-gu Palpan-dong 27-6Anguk Station (#328) on Line 3, Exit 1 
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There you have it, three perfect venues for you to sample Samcheong-dong‘s charms in Seoul!.
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25 Comments

31 March 2010 15:41

Adeline

Nice! I went there a few days ago too! The place is really nice, and the cafes really have a good ambience! I had their famous Suljebi! =)

April 02 2010 07:10 am

Matt

Hi Adeline,
Thanks for your note. Where did you get the famous sujebi? ~Matt

4 April 2010 09:53

Michael

Hey Matt,

This is one of my favorite neighborhoods as well in Seoul next to the cafe/gallery area near Hapjeong and Sangsu stations. I also enjoy the traditional alleyways and market places found in pockets throughout the city, including parts of Deungchon-dong (south of Deungchon station) and other “older” neighborhoods.

Are there any other charming areas like Samcheong-dong in Seoul in your opinion — where bulldozers and their demon spawn — artificial skyscrapers that have terminated large swaths of Korean culture & heritage — still thrive and pedestrian-friendly alleyways and shops prevail?

April 17 2010 22:54 pm

Matt

Hi Michael,

Sorry for my late response. I had planned to check out Seongbuk-dong and Pyeongchang-dong - two neighborhoods that I think meet some of the criteria you are looking for, but alas, it still hasn't happened yet, and I wanted to reply to your note. I'm unfamiliar with Deungchon-dong, so thanks for the tip.

A recent post on Buam-dong might interest you. It's hardly as chic as Samcheong-dong, but possesses a lot of the same charms, with less pretension. Plus, it's up in the mountains, which will be especially nice once the summer temps set in. It's a bit hard to find, but Seorae Village in Banpo is also a nice pocket. Let me know if you find any others! Best, Matt

27 April 2010 19:11

Hoon

hey its hoon. i think you should do one about kangnam. maybe karosugil in shinsadong or rodeo street in apgujeong? there is also a very delicious meatsticks place in rodeo street! you don’t have to blog about it but you should definitely try it. :) i have the number for the place 010-7155-6718. the place is called “Arch.”

May 03 2010 20:26 pm

Matt

Thanks for the tip, Hoon. I really need to do an Apgu or anywhere in Gangnam post soon!
Hope you're doing well.
Best, Matt

8 August 2010 03:23

regina

hi matt! it will be my 5th time (if the flight load will permit) in korea and i was able to watch a segment in arirang about this resto you featured where i could eat (!) the best chicken in seoul..i can’t seem to find it here..help! i want to bring my friends there.. thanks for your time in reading this :)

August 08 2010 09:13 am

Matt

Hi Regina,
Thanks for your note! I'm sorry you caught me on that embarrassing TV spot.^^ But anyway, in terms of my favorite fried chicken in Seoul (both because of the chicken and the accompanying potatoes, but also because of the great neighborhood and feel of the restaurant) is Cheers! in Buam-dong... Unfortunately, it's a bit of a trek in northern Seoul, but I guess that distance is what's kept the neighborhood from becoming overrun like Samcheong-dong or other more centrally located areas. Anyhow, here's a link to this blog's post on Buam-dong... but there's a better map on a walking tour I created for the Seoul Tourism Organization's website here. Good luck and happy eating!

Best, Matt

12 August 2010 02:42

regina

hi again matt!

thank you so much for answering my questions! hope to come back real soon..you made me laugh with that comment of yours about me seeing you in arirang :) you’re very effective, believe me! when i saw you eating the chicken..you make me want to catch the next flight to seoul! :)

take care!

12 September 2010 20:45

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16 February 2011 06:30

Ivy

Hey Matt,
I am impressed with your website!
I am a Korean-American and live in Chicago with my American hubby. We are visiting Korea in September and need to start our itinerary in Seoul and other areas in South Korea.
I love your post about Samcheong-dong and would love to ask for your suggestions about other areas that has lots of charms in Seoul.

We will be visiting Insadong and Sincheon….of course, but we are looking forward to checking out off the beaten path areas.

If you could share what you know, we would appreciate it.

Thank you very much in advance.

Ivy

February 26 2011 14:09 pm

Matt

Hi Ivy,
Thanks for your note! Wow... already planning your autumn visit? Nice work :)
Hmmm... charming Seoul neighborhoods. You're definitely wise to check out Samcheong-dong and Insa-dong. As I'm sure you know, Sinchon (신촌) is not to be confused with SinchEon (신천). The latter is a big residential neighborhood in SE Seoul while the former is a fun and youthful area in NW Seoul.

Anyhow, my favorite out-of-the way place is the funky Buam-dong with it's amazing coffee shops, fried chicken and potatoes and interesting art galleries. If you're up for it, combine a hike along the fortress wall with your Buam-dong visit?

Another nice area is Seongbuk-dong, which is another northern Seoul neighborhood, this time to the east of the major palaces. More galleries and Samcheonggak, a great space built by the former dictators to entertain foreign visitors. Lots of music events and good restaurants. In fact, you could start your fortress hike from there and end up in Buam-dong :)

Anyhow, I could go on and on... if you have more specific suggestions, please send them my way!

Best, Matt

14 March 2011 12:08

style fare

Hi Matt – thanks so much for your great site! I really appreciate your point of view and clear directions. I’ll let you know if I try any of your recommended stops during my stay in Seoul.

Take care in the meantime and feel free to swing by my site when you have a chance! :)

6 November 2011 03:17

Alexis Jung Cho-Dupuy

Dear Matt,
I’m Korean-American now living in France.
I’ve really enjoyed your blog. I can tell you have a big love for South Korea.
Just want to say ‘Thank you for what you do”~
:-)
Alexis…

December 22 2011 02:09 am

Matt

Hi Alexis,
That's sweet of you to write. Thanks!

Best,
Matt

3 December 2011 10:52

Mei

I really enjoyed Samcheong-dong and almost thought I was on the wrong track there as it’s quite a walk.

Here’s my blog entry: http://life-bite.blogspot.com/2011/12/charming-samcheong-dong-in-seoul-korea.html

Hope you can share more pics!

Thanks! =)

December 22 2011 02:22 am

Matt

Hi Mei,

Thanks so much for sharing your travel adventures with me^^

Best, Matt

6 February 2012 12:14

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12 September 2013 13:26

June

Hi Matt,
I’m planning my second trip to Korea in Oct and as my first trip, I’m always search the net for info. Somehow I always come back to your blog and I really enjoyed reading them, as well as the beautiful pictures. Thank you for the wonderful job. I just wanted to share my appreciation with you. I will visit SamCheong-dong this time round. Hopefully it is child friendly as I’m lugging 2 young girls with me :)

October 01 2013 06:20 am

Matt

Hi June,
Thank you so much for the kind words. Samcheong-dong is really great, tho I'm sad to say that shoddy preservation laws (or lack of enforcement) is chipping away at its unique character. Anyhow, it's still worth a trip and I think your girls will really like the hotteok donuts you can get there (among other places). Have fun!
Best, Matt

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