Just a short walk from my first apartment in Seoul is the popular neighborhood of Sinchon (신촌). The name means “new village,” and yet it’s actually one of Seoul’s older areas.
But if you ask most people what comes to mind when they hear Sinchon, they’ll invariably say young people. Located around three prominent universities – Yonsei, Sogang and Ewha Womans [sic] University, and within walking distance to two more, the busy Sinchon Rotary area is a playground for youth.
Sinchon is comprised of several distinct areas, each possessing its own charm. During the day, the sidewalks are crowded with young people walking to or from class, lunch or maybe en route to one of the ubiquitous coffee shops.
The chief thoroughfare is called the “Sinchon Walking Street,” an attractive road lined with young cherry trees that cuts diagonally from outside the train station to a very busy crosswalk in front of the Hyundai Department Store’s new U-Plex Mall.
Immediately west of the crosswalk is a grid of narrow alleyways. As night falls, couples and groups will loiter in and around Sinchon’s many inexpensive barbeque pork restaurants, bars and noraebang singing rooms. Gaudy neon signs vie for the fleeting attention spans of potential customers.
If you’re looking for specific recommendations, I’ll pass along one of my favorites. Keep in mind that I’m a few years older than your typical Sinchon reveler, but located near the Changcheon Church on a road running parallel to the train tracks is a cute beef barbecue house.
Sodojeok’s (소도적) simple and attractive interior pays more attention to detail than most Sinchon restaurants. And the menu keeps its simple with just two choices – Set 1 or Set 2. Both offer a delicious medley of three beef cuts, served alongside a spicy salad.
When you’re done, just next door is another highlight. Thinking Inside the Box is run by the same people who brought the popular B1 bars in Sinchon and Hongdae. The airy, quirky and stylish interior is a step-up from Sinchon’s typical dive bar, offering a wine list and well-presented appetizers.
As I mentioned, Sinchon is surrounded by schools, and the best known among them is Yonsei University (연세대학교). Founded in 1885 by American Presbyterian missionaries, the prestigious school’s campus includes an attractive quad of ivy-clad, Collegiate-Gothic buildings as well as the top-ranked Severance Hospital.
Each year, a sports festival with arch-rival Korea University covers Sinchon’s streets in Yonsei Blue.
Oh, and one more thing:
Be careful you don’t confuse Sinchon with the similar-sounding neighborhood of Sincheon (신천).
They may sound alike and are both located on subway line number two, but they’re on completely opposite sides of the city.
So whether you’re going via subway, bus or taxi, remember that you’re looking for the northwestern neighborhood near Hongdae that’s popular among students.
About Matt Kelley
Matt Kelly is native of the US Pacific Northwest and is half-Korean by ethnicity. He lived in Korea for five years and has written hundreds of travel guides for Wallpaper, TimeOut, the Boston Globe and Seoul Magazine and was a host for several different variety shows on Korean radio and television.