[Seoul Saunter] Something old, something new, something exotic, something cool

By Yoon Min-sik

Antique furniture street in Itaewon offers unique shopping experience ranging from antiques to trinkets of various origins

  • Published : Jun 26, 2017 - 15:01
  • Updated : Jun 26, 2017 - 15:01
Seoul is a vibrant megalopolis with modern high-rises crowding the city’s major arteries. Nestled among the gleaming buildings are maze-like alleys that appear to have escaped the passage of time. The Korea Herald explores the many nooks and crannies of Seoul, proclaimed the capital of Joseon in 1392, that reveal a multifaceted city. -- Ed.

Step into the Itaewon-dong, Seoul, and you will find culture: a melting pot of different people, eateries, shops and bars roll out before the eyes of a bewildered visitor.

Take a five-minute stroll down the street -- passing the No.3 exit of Itaewon station -- and you will come across the “Antique Furniture Street” of Itaewon, full of intriguing prospects for home furnishing.

The street is far from your Ikeas and Pottery Barns.

Rather, it is packed with small shops that suggests that maybe, a little old-fashion can go a long way in your home decor. It is the ultimate flea market, retaining the faded humble charm of a bazaar, but with class and without, well, fleas.

One may stumble across such class in “Flora,” a shop with a nostalgic scent crammed with 18th and 19th century-style furniture. From the china cabinet to chairs, the porcelain dolls and strollers to paintings, nothing appears to be factory-made.

The shop calls out to visitors looking to own something that they can feel is unique.

Antique furniture are displayed in a shop at Antique Furniture Street in Itaewon-dong, Seoul, Friday. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Antiques are displayed outside a shop at Antique Furniture Street in Itaewon-dong, Seoul, Friday. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

The history of the antique street dates back to the 1960s, when the Korea-based US soldiers would hold yard sales of the furniture they used before returning home.

Such history is hinted in the presence of Prince Antique, which has stood the test of time before the street gradually developed into a market that would include antique furniture from not only Asia, but other places around the world as well.

The shop deals with products from various European countries, from practical and popular furniture from Britain, to aged artistic furniture from Italy. Among them is an antique piano with a candlestick holder attached to it, that may predate the invention of an electric bulb.

If you are looking for smaller items from the bygone era, you might want to step into “Vintage & More.” The stocked items range from coffee cups and dishes to old-fashioned desk lamps, most of which are from Europe.

The goods are supplied directly by the owner’s brother in the US, making the price tag comparatively more affordable than most shops on the street.

If music is your thing, you may want to pay a visit to “Shim’s Antique.” It has its share of other antiques like 1950s film canisters and typewriters, but also has old instruments, amplifiers and a working juke box.

Realizing the potential of the classic shops, Yongsan-gu office spent seven months renovating the pavement around the furniture street last year. This included expanding the sidewalk, and installing additional benches and street lights.

A saunter across Itaewon can take a lot out of you, which is when you might want to pay a visit to APT cafe & bar in the middle of the street. The building looks dark and even gloomy, but the jazz tunes, vintage-style interior is near-perfect for letting off some steam after a long day.

There are plenty of other eateries around, too, such as “Mai Mien” Thai noodles bar or Linus’ Bama Style Barbecue near the main street.

As most of the shops are closed on weekends, a visit during the weekdays is recommended.

By Yoon Min-sik