Many know Hongdae as the place you have to visit in Seoul because it is the ‘it’ place but did you also know how the name came about?
Hongdae is the shortened version of Hongik University which is pronounced as ‘Hongik Dae Hak Kyo’ in Korean. Locals combined ‘Hong’ and ‘Dae’ as an easier way to refer to this district, and now, the hot place goes by the name “Hongdae”.
With not just one university but several universities located in this area, it is no wonder that Hongdae became one of the bustling places that is favoured especially by youngsters.
From shopping, themed cafes, indie fashion stores to even busking sessions, you can spend an entire day just at Hongdae. Here is a check-list of 20 things you can do in Hongdae that locals would recommend.
1. Street food
Street food is a must-try in Hongdae and most of these stalls can be found easily along the exits of Hongik University station.
These street vendors mostly serve spicy rice cake, fried fritters, blood sausages (soondae), egg bun (gyeran bbang) that prices at around KRW2,000 onwards that is equivalent to about SGD2.40.
With that being said, make sure you have loose cash on yourself as most of these stores only accept cash!
2. Churro 101
The amazing thing about Korea is that they always come up with a variety of flavours of food to suit everyone.
With a slogan that says they’re “better than a boyfriend”, the churros from Churro 101 comes in 12 different flavours for you to choose from!
It is highly raved by many locals and it’s common to see both locals and tourists alike queuing outside the shop to get a taste of the hype. Their basic churros prices at KRW2,300 which is about SGD2.80.
3. Dotori & Daramji
Cafes and desserts are a huge thing in Korea and once word about a good dessert cafe is spread across social media or among food-lovers, a place is bound to get huge.
Dotori & Daramji is one of the cafes that has gone “viral” and became very popular. They’re known for serving macarons that are too beautiful to eat and are available in different unique flavours.
One reason why it is raved by many locals is because of its affordability! Its macarons are each priced from KRW2,500 onwards, which is equivalent to about SGD3.
4. Drawing And Book Cafe – DoHwaSeoGa
With a strong cafe culture, it’s unsurprising that Korea has several themed cafes, and some of them can be found in Hongdae. The latest one that has gotten the attention of local cafe-hoppers is DoHwaSeoGa, a drawing and book cafe located in Hongdae.
Simply order a drink and pay for the admission fees (KRW3,500, ~SGD4.20) which include the drawing canvas and water paint brushes for you to sketch and colour on. If you wish to use some of their other drawing tools, they also offer color pencils, crayons, and markers, with extra charges.
Besides being able to draw while you’re there, the cafe is also loved for its spaciousness and minimalist aesthetic.
5. Style Nanda Flag Ship Store
Style Nanda has recently opened their newly refurbished flag ship store in Hongdae, and this is certainly a spot that all fashion and makeup-lovers need to check out.
The first floor is where you can find products from their makeup line, 3CE, and on the second floor, you’ll find their latest fashion apparel.
6. Chuu Flagship Store
After you’ve visited Style Nanda, head opposite for the flaship store of fashion brand Chuu. If you’re looking for their popular “-5kg” jeans, they’re available at the basement. But don’t forget to check out the first and second levels, where they stock other trendy apparel.
On the highest level, they have an entire floor dedicated to their mascot – a duck. You can purchase accessories and take photos at their photo zones too!
7. Vintage Fashion Shops
Trendy street wear retailers is one of the reasons why the young and hip crowd frequent Hongdae. In recent years, many vintage street fashion stores started opening in this district, so keep an eye out for them if you’re into the style.
One of the more popular vintage shops is called ‘Vintage Santa’, where veteran K-pop singer G.O.D’s Park JoonHyung, is a customer.
8. Accessories shop – Shi Gong Gan
You may have noticed ‘Shi Gong Gan’ in your friends’ social media feeds because it’s impossible not to be impressed the moment you step into it. The spacious store carries a wide variety of accessories so nobody can resist spending some time in.
Don’t be taken aback by their wall of accessories!
From earrings, necklace, hairpins to rings, you can spend a long time choosing from the amount of style that the shop offers.
9. LINE Flagship Store
If you’re a fan of the cute characters from messaging app LINE, a place you should definitely visit is LINE flagship store that is located near the busy district of Hongdae. Items ranges from LINE characters plushies, cushions to even daily tools such as toothbrushes, phone chargers and so on!
For BTS’s fans, the shop is also updated with the latest products and collaboration with BT21 characters.
10. Kakao Talk Flagship store
Did you know that LINE’s strongest rival is Kakao Talk? Kakao Talk is the most commonly used messenger among Koreans and just like LINE, they have their own adorable characters that are very popular too.
If you’re a fan of Apeach and Ryan, check out the Kakao Talk flagship store, which is also located in Hongdae.
11. Hongdae Free Market
If you’re heading to Hongdae on a Saturday, remember to stroll down the street along Hongik Culture Park, where creative and young artists set up stalls to sell their handmade artworks. This happens between 1pm and 6pm.
Many indie brands and knick-knack lovers enjoy heading down to the free market as they get to explore and discover new talents.
12. Living Creative Shop KEY
If you’re looking for artistic souvenirs, besides the weekly Saturday free market that we mentioned, here’s another place to be.
Offering handmade items and quirky gifts, the store provides shoppers with a wide range of artisanal knick-knacks to choose from.
13. Gacha shop – Otaku
Do you have coins that you want to get rid of from your wallet? This gacha shop in Hongdae might be the perfect place for you to use them to get some trinkets or adorable figurines.
Filled with a wide range of adorable anime characters, figures and mini plushies, it is definitely a place for you to wile your time away and try your hand at some of these capsule machines.
14. Su Luxury Noraebang
Karaoke, or better known as noraebang, in Korea is a commonly visited entertainment joint by locals of all ages. Don’t worry if you can’t sing Korean songs – songs from all over the world and in different languages are usually available.
Su Luxury Noraebang is one of the most popular noraebang out there because they provide free flow snacks and drinks and are known for their good service. There’s a Su Luxury Noraebang in Hongdae, so you can certainly consider visiting it to end your day in this district.
15. Trick Eye Museum
Augmented reality (AR) and 3D illusions are well-loved by visitors who are looking to take quirky and hilarious photos for their Instagram feeds.
At Trick Eye Museum, you can have an even better experience by making use of a mobile application to make paintings come to life!
For more information on the entrance fee, you can check out their official website here.
16. Watch buskers perform
Buskers are a common sight on the main streets of Hongdae, especially during weekends. The busking culture is very strong in the district, and it’s common to see a crowd gathering around the busker, singing or even dancing along to the songs. Join in the fun!
And you’d never know if you’re looking at the next famous K-pop star. There have been many occasions of buskers in Hongdae eventually getting scouted by entertainment agencies and they debut as an artist!
17. Korean Drinking Place – Damotori
If you enjoy drinking and listening to K-pop, this is the perfect combination for you. Located in the hearts of Hongdae, Damotori is the place for you to try out some local Korean alcohol and enjoy the latest trends of K-pop.
This place is largely visited by undergrads from the universities nearby, as it is affordable and has a fun ambience.
18. Neon Sign Making – Cheong Nyeon Gong Bang
Besides shopping, eating and taking photos in beautiful cafes located in Hongdae, you can visit this shop that provides hands on activities such as making a neon sign board.
The staff will offer a step-by-step guide to help you come up with any design that you want and to create a neon sign yourself! According to some local bloggers, this is a perfect activity for couples and even for family-bonding.
19. Kung Festival
You might have heard of ‘The Nanta’, an engaging, long-running performance that is popular in Korea. If you like performances like this, consider going for ‘Kung Festival’, a non-verbal musical that features great dance repertoires. Ranging from B-Boy to hip-hop dances, audiences get to witness the amazing dance performances that the cast puts up right before of their eyes.
‘Kung Festival’ is also promoted by the Korea Tourism Organisation and you should check out their official website for more details.
20. Meerkat Cafe
Korea is well known for their dog, cat, raccoon and even sheep cafes but right in Hongdae, there is also a meerkat cafe!
It may come as a surprise for many since not even the locals know much about this unique cafe. But if you ask us, we’ll say never say no to going up close and personal with cute animals!