Last Fall a friend of mine was visiting Seoul and I thought it’d be nice to treat her to traditional Korean tea experience. We met up at a nearby subway station and wandered through a series of small alleys and shops before coming upon the tea house and…plot twist—it wasn’t open.
While we were initially bummed, it didn’t take long for us to notice our surroundings. Lining each side of the cobblestone road from where we came were quaint hanok—traditional Korean shops.
These stores were selling handmade jewelry and art while cafes with wide open windows showcased their chefs whipping up the likes of fresh cheesecakes and souffle pancakes with the bright scent of freshly-made citrus teas filling the air.
This is Ikseon-dong Street.
Here, the pathways are narrow and everyone must bump elbows or do a sidestep in order to pass each other, but you’ll be too busy peeking into shop windows to care.
Each shop brings its own personality. Some continue with the traditional hanok theme, giving off a homely and comfortable feel. The tea houses often do this and make for a perfect spot to sit down with a book and let time fade away.
Other shops have more modern interiors with French and western themes, offering a chic experience that sets the space apart from other hanok villages.
Despite the compact nature of Ikseon-dong Street, there’s a carefree attitude held by everyone inside. Many bring their cute pets too which only adds to the magic.
Being in Jungo-gu, Seoul’s arts district, it’s no wonder that Ikseon-dong Street is packed with a variety of independent artists, unique style, and insta-worthy scenery at every turn with bright flower decor and colorful umbrellas lining the skies above.
My accidental discovery of Ikseon-dong Hanok Street demonstrates one of my favorite things about Seoul—that with Korea’s distinct history and culture, at each turn is something entirely new to explore. Each area presents a unique charm.
Even after revisiting Ikseon-dong a few times now, I feel like I’ve only experienced a portion of all it has to offer. If you’re ever without a plan of action while in Seoul, try just getting on the subway, walk, explore, and see where it takes you. Seoul will pleasantly surprise you.
Address: (서울특별시 종로구 익선동) Ikseon-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Station: Jongno 3(ga) exit 4