Eat Your Kimchi’s Top 5 Places in Seoul, Korea July 28th, 2014
Earlier this month, we met up with Simon and Martina Stawski of Eat Your Kimchi and hitched a ride in the Eat Your Kimchi Soul for an interview. But this time, we had a chance to ride around the city again to visit some of Eat Your Kimchi’s top 5 favorite places in Seoul while acquiring some useful travel tips. Having lived in Korea for the past 6 years, Simon and Martina have become seasoned experts on where to go and what to do in the city of Seoul. They picked their top 5 favorite spots and let us come along for the drive in the Eat Your Kimchi Soul. Follow along for our exclusive Eat Your Kimchi tour of Seoul!
1. Bukchon Hanok Village
We started our day at Bukchon Hanok Village. This is a quaint “village” neighborhood located in northern Seoul that is full of traditional “hanok,” which are traditional Korean houses.
Kia: So why do you guys particularly like this area?
Martina: When you get to the top of the hill in the village, you see this amazing view of modern Seoul mixed with old Seoul. It is so incredible. And there’s this one perfect point, if you kind of like explore enough, where you can see all the skyrise buildings and towers in the distance. It’s just awesome. And you can’t really see a lot of traditional Seoul inside the city like this, because you usually have to travel out of town.
Kia: Any tips for first-timers?
Martina: Wear comfortable shoes! If you’re coming on a sunny day I recommend bringing lots of water and a sunbrella! Make sure to have lots of room on your camera because you’re going to be taking a lot of gorgeous photos. And don’t be afraid to explore the shops because you might think that oh, people will only speak Korean and I can’t go in… But I’ve discovered some of my favorite food spots just by being willing to explore! And these days, the area has gotten super visitor-friendly—there are people walking around in red shirts and red hats who will give you directions and maps in various languages that will help you navigate around!
2. Ihwa Mural Village
Next up, we traveled to Ihwa Mural Village, a quaint neighborhood known for its picturesque and fun wall murals. Ihwa Mural Village is a cultural district located in Ihwa-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, where approximately 60 artists painted walls and installed artworks during the Naksan Project in 2006, part of efforts to restore and revitalize the local neighborhood.
Kia: What are your favorite spots in Ihwa Mural Village?
Martina: I’m a big fan of the koi fish mural on the side of the stairs. I know a lot of people probably go there for the angel wings on the wall, which has been in a lot of famous Korean dramas and movies, but I really like the actual 3-D nature of the staircase. You can do a lot of fun things there.
Simon: There are a lot of small shops that sell these cool ice cream sandwiches made up of puffed rice cakes, which are common traditional Korean snacks! I would definitely try one out when you’re in the area.
Our third stop on Eat Your Kimchi’s Top 5 Places in Seoul is an area that seems to be an unlikely tourist destination, but is one of Seoul’s must-see spots: Namdaemun. Located in Jung-gu, Namdaemun is officially known as Sungnyemun and is one of the Eight Gates that made up the Fortress Wall of Seoul, which surrounded the city during the Joseon Dynasty period. In modern day Seoul, Namdaemun is a historic relic that stands in the middle of busy streets, near Seoul Station and the historic 24-hour Namdaemun market.
Kia: What is so distinctive about this particular area?
Simon: The streets are very busy, and the area is so cluttered and jammed. There are so many things crammed into one spot. But then, this area opens up and you see this big beautiful piece of Korean tradition mixed in with the hustle and bustle of Korean modernity at the same time. I really like that contrast.
Martina: When you visit some countries and you’re trying to go to a touristy location, sometimes you have to drive at least two to three hours outside of the city to see it. For example, when we were in Beijing, it took us three hours just to the Great Wall of China. But here it’s like, you can be a part of the city—you can do something modern, something funky like go to a noraebang (karaoke/singing room) and eat some Korean food and then you can just turn the corner to see something that’s traditionally Korean.
And one of Eat Your Kimchi’s favorite spots—also the location of the Eat Your Kimchi studios—is Hongdae. Hongdae is short for ‘Hongik Daehaykgyo,’ or Hongik University, one of the top art universities in Korea—naturally, it is also known as one of the most vibrant and free-spirited parts of Seoul.
Kia: What is the vibe like in Hongdae?
Simon: It’s one of the artsiest areas of Korea with a very independent and creative spirit, and a lot of that probably has to do with the arts university. There’s graffiti everywhere, hip hop labels and some indie music labels… There’s a thriving spirit here that you don’t really see elsewhere in Seoul.
Martina: If you go out on any given day, you’re going to see people busking on the street. People playing the guitar, someone break dancing, or a random hip hop battle—you can see what the Korean youth are up to. And everyone here has a really open spirit as well, so you can have crazy-colored hair and piercings and tattoos and no one will look at you funny.
Kia: So rumor has it, something new is opening up in Hongdae?
Martina: We like the area so much that we’re opening up a coffee shop! We really wanted to have a place that’s like an offline location for a lot of our audience that come visit Korea. We don’t have a place to meet them because the Eat Your Kimchi studio is for work—so we thought, where could we go to meet people outside of the comment section on YouTube? The coffee shop is going to be like a meeting hub, where our fans can have really good coffee and food. We’re designing the menu ourselves entirely from scratch.
Simon: It’s actually a Korean home that we’re totally restructuring from top to bottom. We’ve got a garden, too. We want to be there at least once a week, because we’ll be shooting our live chat videos at the coffee shop. We have a tentative open date set for August 2nd.
5. Dongjak Bridge
Last but not least, we stopped by one of Simon and Martina’s favorite areas in the city, Dongjak Bridge. Overlooking the Han River, the Dongjak Bridge is one of 27 bridges that cross the Han River in the Seoul area.
Kia: So we know that Seoul has a ton of beautiful bridges running through the city—but why Dongjak Bridge?
Martina: We cross this river to get to work every morning, but we also have a very special memory on this bridge. Eat Your Kimchi did a parody of the music video for Psy’s ‘Gentleman’ and filmed in that exact spot on this bridge where his video was filmed. It was a really fun experience, and actually one of the first times we had such a huge production process. It has a gorgeous view—the sunset, the water rippling, and all the buildings starting to get that glittery look right around evening time.
Simon: This is one of the prettiest memories that I’ve had of Seoul altogether. There’s green on the left, and buildings on the right and the sunset right in the middle over the water. The skyline as well is just overall perfectly framed. And I love the culture that has formed around the water. There are so many areas in the parks along the river for families to have picnics and bike trails that let you ride as close to the water as possible. The city is really well-planned around the water.
Well, that was fun! Thanks for the tour, Simon and Martina! Next time you visit Korea, make sure to check out their top 5 spots in Seoul—Eat Your Kimchi and Kia are positive that you will have an awesome time. For more photos from our Seoul tour with Eat Your Kimchi, check out the Kia Motors Worldwide Instagram.