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.
Where to eat in Hongdae
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 S$2.20.
With that being said, make sure you have loose cash on yourself as most of these stores only accept cash!
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 S$2.50.
Address: 128 Eoulmadang-ro, Mapo-gu
For amazing Korean BBQ in Hongdae, consider choigozip. The owners of the restaurant speak fluent English, so you won’t have to worry about feeling lost when you order.
Meat-lovers will enjoy the generous portions of juicy and well-marinated beef and pork. Overall service is also said to be good.
Address: 25 World Cup buk-ro 2-gil, Mapo-gu
For a restaurant that you can head to at late night, consider Idejo Pyodagi. It opens for 24 hours on Tuesdays, and on other days, from 6am to 11pm.
Guests are seated on the floor, so you know you’re here for an authentic Korean dining experience.
Try its gamjatang, a Korean pork an vegetables soup, which locals love to eat to get over a hangover or to warm up on a cold day.
Address: 196 Donggyo-ro, Donggyo-dong, Mapo-gu
Myth Jokbal Hongdae
For amazing jokbal (pig’s trotters cooked with soy sauce and spices), visit Myth Jokbal, which is known for its generous portions.
There are a few jokbal flavours to choose from, but the garlic flavour is the most popular.
This opens at noon every day (except Saturday; it opens at 2pm) and closes at 4am, making it a great supper spot for locals.
Address: 123-1 Eoulmadang-ro, Mapo-gu
A cafe that’s dedicated to Chanibear, which is described as a “colourful, flat teddy bear”.
Chanibear Station serves beverages and baked goods, and the one thing on the menu that everyone gets is the super adorable muffins with Chanibear perched on top of it.
Address: 227-6 Yeonnam-dong, Level 2, Mapo-gu,
Where to shop in Hongdae
Style Nanda Flagship Store
Style Nanda’s flag ship store in Hongdae 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.
Address: 23 Wausan-ro 29da-gil, Mapo-gu
Trendy street wear retailers is one of the reasons why the young and hip crowd frequent Hongdae.
Many vintage street fashion stores have started sprouting up in this district, so you keep an eye out for them when you’re in Hongdae.
Of them, one of the most popular has to be Vintage Santa, where veteran K-pop singer G.O.D’s Park JoonHyung, is a customer. You’ll be able to find vintage designers’ labels such as Ralph Lauren, Burberry, and Supreme.
Address: 19 Hongik-ro, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu
You may have noticed Sigonggan in your friends’ social media feeds because it’s impossible not to be impressed the moment you step into it.
The spacious store is known for its ceiling-to-floor shelves filled with accessories. They have the most number of earrings, but you’ll also be able to find everything from necklaces and rings to hair pins and other hair accessories.
There’s also a small collection of clothes for those who want to update their wardrobe.
You’re likely to spend lots of time browsing through everything in this irresistible store, so make time for it in your itinerary!
Address: 93 Wausan-ro, Mapo-gu
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 ARMY, the shop is also updated with the latest products and collaboration with BT21 characters at level 2.
Tax refunds are available here too.
Address: 3F, 168-3, Donggyo-dong, Mapo-gu
Kakao Friends 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.
The three-storey store also has a Kakao Friends-themed cafe , making it a must-visit for all fans.
Address: 162 Yanghwa-ro, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu
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.
Address: 19-3 Wausan-ro 21-gil, Mapo-gu
What to do in Hongdae
Design and craft your own ring
Bring your partner or best friend to Hongdae Rings Village, where you’ll get to design and craft your own rings – it’ll be extra meaningful!
You’ll get to learn the entire process of ring-making from professionals, from learning about the raw materials to embellishing it with your preferred jewels.
If you thought this looked familiar, it’s because you’ve seen it in popular Korean TV shows such as We Got Married and Amazing Korea.
You can book the class at a discounted price of S$53.45 (instead of S$76.35) on Klook.
Party with locals
Want to enjoy Seoul’s nightlife the way the locals do?
Join a pub crawl led by local guides in a small group of five to 15 people, covering two popular night spots in Seoul: Hongdae and Itaewon (you can pick either one).
You’ll get to visit at least four bars and clubs while meeting new friends through dance and drinks – it’s definitely one of the best ways to party in Seoul.
There are two pub crawls you can join. One is available at S$23.99 on Klook. Another one is available at S$30.45 and is said to include special drinks, discount privilege, and VIP access, and you can also book it through Klook.
Pet a meerkat
Korea is well known for their dog, cat, raccoon and even sheep cafes but right in Hongdae, there is MeerKat Friends, a meerkat cafe!
It may come as a surprise for many since not even the locals know much about this unique cafe.
Besides meerkats, you’ll also get to interact with other animals such as raccoons and foxes.
According to Google reviews, the animals are well-cared for and guests below 14 aren’t allowed to visit, as a way to make sure the animals are protected from mishandling.
Entry costs KRW 14,000 (approximately S$15) but take note that this is more of a petting zoo concept so don’t expect it to serve decent food or drinks.
Address: 364-3 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu
Sing at a 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 in Seoul and there’s an outlet in Hongdae you can visit.
Rooms are spacious and clean, and they’re equipped with high quality karaoke systems so you can definitely sing to your heart’s content.
Address: 367-39 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu
Visit the 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.
Address: 20 Hongikro-3gil, Basement 2 Seogyo Plaza, Mapogu
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!