My friend has been telling me about Hongdae for a while. It’s one of Seoul’s college areas, located right by Hongik University, and she’s told me all about how you can find many eateries and budget-friendly shops (aimed at broke college students). Lively nightlife, too. While I’m just now getting around to blogging about it, I actually first visited Hongdae back in January. It was freezing that day. So cold, I had to stop inside several stores to thaw off before continuing to walk around. It was a very brief jaunt.
Hongdae is supposed to be a pedestrian friendly area, but… you still have to watch out for cars and motorcycles or you’ll end up squashed on the road. During that first trip, I came across everything from cafes and bars, to body piercing shops, nightclubs, food stands, cat cafes, nail salons, clothes shops, even a Trick Eye Museum. There’s also a CGV movie theater right when you exit the Hongik University Station. Plenty of name-brand stores like H&M and New Balance, too.
This past week, I returned to Hongdae with my friend to grab some lunch and on a mission to buy “cute crap,” as she calls it. You know, all those ridiculously cute things you find in almost every store here in Korea. You don’t need them, but they’re just so cute, how can you resist? Sometimes they’re even useful.
We had lunch at Gusto Taco, which apparently is run by an expat American couple. Mmmm mmm. SO good. That’s all you need to know. If you like Mexican food, go there. Seriously delicious tacos, and the taquitos they serve with a cheese sauce were a-mazing. (I liked this place better than Vatos Urban Tacos in Itaewon.) Good portions, too. Oh, and they serve your tacos on taco stands — come on! Winning.
If you’re looking for cute stuff like we were, then check out the KT&G Sangsang Madang building. You can’t miss it. It’s funky lookin’. The building houses a theater, performance hall, design shops, galleries, studios, and cafes. We explored the shop on the main floor. Cute but also random items like sliced-meat sticky notes.
Another place to check out is Butter, (B:)tter?) an Ikea-like store located inside the Hongik University Station. Wide assortment of “cute crap” and kitchen/home goods. Pretty fun, actually.
Now, as if cat pillows weren’t enough, I present to you perhaps the mother of all cuteness: the Hello Kitty Cafe. I wasn’t expecting this place. It’s tucked away on one of the myriad side streets in Hongdae. My friend says there are two Hello Kitty Cafes in Hongdae, but this is the bigger one. Um, yeah it’s big! Walk through the gate, up the steps, and you find what looks like the entrance to an amusement park. As you can imagine, lots of Hello Kitty merchandise (including a Jeju Island product line), and the cafe itself. Very very cute, especially if you have kids.
Unfortunately, we didn’t indulge in any Hello Kitty cakes. We were craving some shaved/snow ice cream from Sulbing Korean Dessert Cafe. My friend wanted me to try it and I’m not one to refuse when it comes to dessert! It’s typically served with the black bean paste on it, that’s what they’re known for, but… I’m not a big fan of the paste, so we ordered one without it. Yes, one. They are big, served in a big bowl. Plenty for two people. And wow. Delicious! The ice cream just crumbles. It’s so fine, almost powdery. When you reach the bottom of the bowl, it’s kind of milky. Just very tasty overall. Would definitely have it again.
By the time we made our way back to the subway station around 4:30pm, the crowds were already growing. My friend told me it gets very busy at night, and that everyone uses exit 9 of Hongik University Station as a meeting point. But, all in all, a big area to walk around, enjoy some good food, and do some shopping. The few clothing stores we visited were pretty cheap. Like, $10/$20 for a shirt. Again, aimed at college students. If you’re into clubbin’, Hongdae is known for its many nightclubs, too.
You can check out the rest of my photos from Hongdae here.