There are a few areas in Seoul that have always stood out to me. While areas such as Gangnam, Myeongdong and Hongdae are very popular and commonly discussed, they are far from my favourite areas in the city.
After running Seoulinspired for years, I have recently finally begun to write about some of my favourite areas. Despite being lesser-known, they all have their own unique character and appeal.
I most recently covered Sungshin Women’s University area. This area is one of my favourites for entertainment and shopping, and it’s a destination that is more often than not overlooked by visitors to the city.
Today I want to introduce another area of the city that is often overlooked. That is Ikseon-dong. Although Ikseon-dong isn’t exactly unknown, it is often overshadowed by other traditional areas such as Bukchon and Insadong.
After not visiting for a few years, I finally got the chance to visit again this week. As soon as I entered the village I wondered to myself – why has it been so long since I last visited? Ikseon-dong is one of the most unique areas in Seoul and it is very pretty to boot!
In this post I want to cover what makes Ikseon-dong special. I also want to encourage more people to visit, as I do believe that Ikseon-dong is one of the most unique and special places in Seoul.
However, this post will not cover everything that you can do in the area. Despite being quite small, the traditional (hanok) village features tens of different cafes and restaurants. It also has tons of little stores and even multiple arcades. Since I have visited them all myself, this article will act more as a general overview.
What Is Ikseon-Dong?
Ikseon-dong is a traditional Korean village located in Seoul. These villages are usually referred to as hanok villages as they contain lots of traditional Korean ‘hanok’ housing. If you are looking to explore the traditional side of seoul, hanok villages are one of the best ways to do so.
There are four other major hanok villages in Seoul alone, however, Ikseon-dong differentiates itself by also being one of the most hip and trendy neighbourhoods in the city. This is what makes it so appealing – not only is it a traditional village located right in the center of the capital, but it’s also an extremely trendy area.
Ikseon-Dong is most famous for clothes shopping, cafes and restaurants. You will find some of the nicest cafes and restaurants in Seoul in this neighbourhood, and you will also find many Korean designer brands based here.
One of the biggest appeals of the neighbourhood is just exploring it. The streets are small, and all of the buildings are in the traditional Korean style. Exploring the streets feels like stepping back in time because it is such a contrast to the otherwise very modern city.
The village of Ikseon-dong is quite small. It takes up an area that is about the size of a city block, and as such it doesn’t take too long to explore. However, it is worth leaving some time to make the most of the stores, foods, drinks and entertainment in the city.
Location & Directions
Ikseon-dong is located in one of the most culture-rich areas of Seoul. You can find the village located in between the Jongmyo shrine and Gyeongbokgung Palace. The best station to reach Ikseon-dong from is Jongno 3-Ga.
Jongno 3-Ga is located on the intersection between the purple and orange line (lines 3 and 5). You can find the village located a very short walk from Exit 6 of Jongno 3-Ga. Simply exit the station and proceed straight until you find the first big street to the right. Ikseon-dong starts one block down this street.
You can also access the village from Anguk Station. However, this will take slightly longer as there is a 10 minute walk to reach the village from the station.
The area itself isn’t that large. As you can see on the map above, the village is contained within one (albeit rather large) block. There are 5-6 main streets within the village and these can all be explored within a couple of hours. Of course, this may take longer if you want to visit all of the stores.
Best Time to Visit
Ikseon-dong can become very busy during peak times. Although not particularly well known by tourists, the area is very popular with Seoul locals. It is for this reason that it is important to plan when you want to visit.
This is especially important because Ikseon-dong has very small streets. At peak times you will find the area to be very crowded, and the small streets can make it feel even more crowded than larger areas such as Hongdae.
The majority of the attractions and stores will be open from 10am until around 9pm, however some will be open later. Generally the crowds will peak in the late afternoon (4-6pm) and this is something that you will notice all around Seoul.
Cafes and restaurants in the area will be full at peak hours. Despite being quite large and designed to hold many people, there will often even be queues to enter the more popular restaurants and cafes. If I am honest, the large crowds can often ruin the experience of the otherwise fantastic cafes in the area.
For this reason, I would highly recommend visiting in the morning or on a weekday if possible. If you can visit before 1pm, you will find that the area is generally a lot less crowded than it is in the evening. The same goes for weekdays. Perhaps predictably, the best time to visit is a weekday in the morning if possible.
While I do think that Ikseon-dong is worth visiting even when busy, if you are like me you will enjoy it much more when it is less busy. Not only is it less stressful and easier to enjoy the cafes in the village, but it will also give you much better photo opportunities!
Ikseon-dong’s main attractions can be summed up with a few categories. If you’ve read this far through the post, then you can probably already guess what I am about to say!
The first category of attractions in Ikseon-dong is cafes. There are a lot of different cafes and they range in offerings and atmosphere. However, a few things are similar amongst them all. Firstly, you will find them all quite ‘premium-priced’ and secondly, they are all very nice.
The second category is food. There are a lot of restaurants in Ikseon-dong and many are famous enough that you will find them with very long lines at peak hours. You can find everything from Italian food to traditional Korean food here. However, as with the cafes, you will find that the restaurants here are largely very expensive.
Thirdly you have bars. There are a few different bars located in the traditional streets of Ikseon-dong and they represent a lot of the brewing culture in South Korea and Seoul. I recognised many craft beer brands in the streets of Ikseon-dong that I first encountered at the Korean Beer Festival last year.
Finally, entertainment. Ikseon-dong has a few different forms of entertainment including (surprisingly) a very famous shooting range. On top of this, you can find a few different arcades including a retro arcade. The entertainment options in Ikseon-dong are surprisingly diverse considering the traditional nature of the area.
As I’ve already mentioned, you can expect almost everything in Ikseon-dong to be expensive. It is a very unique area, and you won’t find anything else like it in Seoul. However, this unique appeal does come at a cost. Therefore, make sure that you are prepared to either just explore the streets or to spend a bit.
This trend is similar among the cafes, restaurants, and other attractions in the area. The souvenirs and clothes in the area also tend to be a bit more pricey but at the same time all tend to be more special.
However, perhaps the biggest attraction is the atmosphere. Not only does Ikseon-dong feel very different from anywhere else that I have ever visited, but it makes for some stunning photos because of this.
You will notice a few photos of Ikseon-dong that are very common across the internet. Specifically, the photo of the corner store with the plants and umbrellas (seen in the pictures above). This photo location occurs in hundreds of photos and it is by far one of the most famous locations in the area.
But this is far from the only area in the neighbourhood that has photo opportunities! The whole area has a variety of different shots, and each of them is a little different from the last. Many of the businesses in the area also understand this, and there is not only hanbok rental but also vintage clothing rental in Ikseon-dong.
Photo opportunities and interesting nooks and crannies to explore cover the whole area and it is for this reason that I believe that simply exploring the area is the best attraction. When I visit with friends or family we normally explore for around an hour before stopping at a cafe and maybe getting a bit to eat.
Rent retro clothing in Ikseondong for the best photos!
Ibis Hotel (in the background) is very close to Ikseon-dong!
Due to being close to many different tourist attractions there are a ton of different accommodation options around Ikseon-dong. You can find all kinds of accommodation from very cheap to luxury. The best bit, though, is that some of the accommodation options are located a mere one-minute walk from Ikseon-dong.
The first accommodation option is one that is very highly ranked. At the time of writing, it has over a 9-star rating out of 10. Although I have never stayed at the hotel myself, I have seen it many times and it is located just across the street from Ikseon-dong. This is the Moxy by Marriott Seoul Insadong.
The hotel has clean rooms of many different sizes and also provides facilities such as a bar, garden area and a gym. However, as mentioned earlier, what makes this hotel so great is the location. Want to visit Ikseon-dong? Just exit the hotel and cross the street… You are now in Ikseon-dong! The hotel is also located right outside the Jongno 3-Ga subway station.
Some other hotels that are located very close and offer similar experiences are Hotel Grim Jongno, Hotel Biz Jongno Insadong and Makers Hotel. All of these are located within minutes of Ikseon-dong and Grim, Makers and Moxy are all located right next to each other.
If you are looking for a cheaper accommodation option, there are also some hostels located close by. One of these is Hostel Tommy, and Hostel Korea 11th Changdeokgung is also located quite close by. Both of these options are significantly cheaper but are located a few minutes further away and come with the downsides (and benefits) of hostels.
A final accommodation option that might be worth looking into is goshiwons. These are usually used by students as housing, but many of them also offer short term stays for travellers. If you want to learn more about this cheap accommodation option, please refer to this guide to goshiwons in Seoul.
Is Ikseon-Dong a ‘Must Visit’?
If you’re looking for the short answer, yes! Ikseon-Dong is a neighbourhood in Seoul that everyone should visit. In fact, I would go even further and say that it is one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Seoul! Whether or not you like the more traditional side of Seoul, Ikseon-Dong has a truly unique feel that separates it from the rest of the capital.
Ikseon-Dong isn’t exactly an overlooked area, but it is often overlooked due to Insadong and Bukchon Hanok Village also being located nearby. Many visitors will visit these areas first and then write-off Ikseon-Dong as they only want to visit one hanok village.
Regardless of whether you have already visited (or will visit) Bukchon, I still highly recommend Ikseon-dong. They are very close and Ikseon-dong can easily be completed within a couple of hours. On top of this, Ikseon-dong Hanok Village is very different from Bukchon Hanok Village and the areas are only the same by name.
However, if you are going to visit Ikseon-Dong there are a few things worth keeping in mind. Firstly, the area is very expensive. Everything in the area from the cafes to the boutiques are high-end and it’s not a cheap area to spend an afternoon. Secondly, the area can be very busy at peak times and this feeling is compounded by the fact that the streets are very small and narrow.
Where Is Ikseon-Dong?
Ikseon-Dong is located just outside Jongno 3-Ga (Sam-Ga) Station. It is also located just a short walk from Anguk Station.
How Can I Get to Ikseon-Dong?
Ikseon-Dong is most easily reached from Jongno 3-Ga Station. Exit the station via Exit 6 and walk straight. You will pass two right turns, take a right at the second. Straight ahead you should see the traditional housing!
What Attractions Does Ikseon-Dong Offer?
Ikseon-Dong is most famous for its cafes and restaurants. There are many of each, and they all offer unique appeals. There are also some arcades, craft beer bars, clothing stores, and more in the area.
How Long Does Ikseon-Dong Take to Explore?
If you just want to walk around the area then it can be finished in under two hours. However, if you want to enjoy some cafes or restaurants in the area then you can easily spend a morning or afternoon in the area.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Ikseon-Dong?
If you are looking to avoid crowds try to visit in the morning. If you visit too early, some places will be closed. For this reason, it’s best to aim to visit around 11 am. Late afternoon and evening are the peak times, so try to avoid these if possible.
Is Ikseon-Dong Expensive?
Compared to other areas in Seoul, yes. Ikseon-dong is one of the most expensive areas in the city to spend a morning or afternoon.
What Are the Best Cafes in Ikseon-Dong?
The most popular cafe in Ikseon-dong is Madang Flower Cafe. However, there are also many other cafes such as Seoul Coffee 1945, Uncle Video Town and Dongbaek Bakery.
Where Can I Eat in Ikseon-Dong?
There is a large variety of restaurants in Ikseon-Dong, especially for such a small area! Some great restaurants to check out are Italy Chonggak, Yankees Burger and Le Blanseu.
What Is a Hanok Village?
Hanok Villages are areas in Korea that have traditional Korean housing. These areas usually also feature many other traditional attractions such as tea houses and traditional cuisine.