|The exterior of Deep Coffee, in the up-and-coming Yeonnam-dong neighborhood in Seoul|
(Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)
Just a few minutes away from the vibrant and crowded neighborhood of Hongdae, known for its art scene and nightlife, is the often overlooked area of Yeonnam-dong. Although it has certainly not reached the status of a must-see hot spot, its growing number of boutique shops and galleries is turning it into Seoul’s next up-and-coming neighborhood.
There is still something to be said for being able to go to a quiet coffee shop with your friends without having to worry about whether a table will be available or not.
Despite being able to find a McDonalds or a Starbucks on practically every street in Seoul, one of the things that you will not find an abundance of in Yeonnam is big-name chain stores.
“One the biggest things that sets Yeonnam-dong apart from Hongdae is the atmosphere,” said Kim Jin-yong, a local musical actor and owner of Deep Coffee in Yeonnam. It lays claim to being the world’s first cafe to offer a 1 liter cup of coffee.
“This neighborhood is a lot quieter and a lot less crowded, and I personally find this key factor to be one of its strong points,” Kim went on to explain.
“Instead of these massive chain stores and coffee shops, in Yeonnam-dong you find a lot more boutique shops and small businesses. This gives the area a lot more personality and character, and in these quaint shops you tend to find more comfort and better quality in customer service.”
Many online bloggers and trendsetting enthusiasts have started to take notice and point out the small charms of the area. Although at first glance, Yeonnam-dong may just look like any other old, run-down neighborhood, given a closer look, the subtleties begin to pop out.
Walking down the many maze-like streets and cutting through the back alleys, one can spot a number of distinct eateries as the area boasts a growing number of international residents and large universities. A simple wander and visitors come across laid-back cocktail spots, a tapas bar, a quaint French bistro and a number of establishments serving up brunch, pizzas and Western-style sandwiches and salads.
One potential drawback of the area is that unlike many heavily frequented areas in Seoul such as Gangnam, Myeongdong, Hongdae or Sinchon, where many shops and attractions are clustered in easily accessible locations, many of Yeonnam’s boutique shops are scattered about the entire area. Walking a ways to get to the next desired destination may be inevitable.
“The area is very different from Seoul’s other trendy weekend gathering places,” said Lee, a frequenter of the neighborhood who declined to give his first name.
“While it may not have a youthful vibe like other popular areas, I think that works really well for those who are looking to get away from all that.”
By Julie Jackson (firstname.lastname@example.org)