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A Muslim-Friendly Guide To Hongdae, Seoul’s Hippest Neighbourhood


Winnie Chong •  May 17, 2019


Many of us have heard (or have experienced!) the hustle and bustle of the lively city that is Seoul, South Korea. And those who are familiar with the city will have definitely heard of Hongdae. This popular neighbourhood in Seoul is known for being one of the trendiest areas in the city and a wonderful place to explore. So if you've yet to venture out to Hongdae (or are looking to re-visit), we've come up with the ultimate Muslim-friendly guide to help you out ? Credit: giphyFun fact: The term “Hongdae” is derived from “Hongik University”, which is located in the area. This university houses one of the nation’s top art colleges and is also located near to two other popular universities, Yonsei University and Ewha Womans University. This is why the neighbourhood emanates a youthful ambience with an emphasis on the freedom of self-expression!
Credit: @im4ginary_fri3nd on InstagramGetting There Hop on the Seoul subway (Line 2 & AREX) and alight at Hongik University Station. At the station, take Exit 9 which is the closest to most attractions in Hongdae. Best Time to Visit Basically, the city never sleeps, so any time of the year is a good time to visit Hongdae! However, if you’d like to include shopping while in Hongdae it’s best to schedule your visit during the weekends where you can find great deals at the many flea markets in the neighbourhood.
Credit: @beeenhts on InstagramWhat to DoShop Shopaholics unite! Hongdae is well-known as a popular shopping district in Seoul, and for good reason. With its reputation as a quirky and youthful neighbourhood, expect to find artsy clothing and unique accessories in abundance. We sure hope you have extra luggage space for your trip home to store your Hongdae loot!
1. Hongdae Free Market
If you’re looking to buy unique souvenirs for your friends and family back home, look no further. The Hongdae Free Market is the place to go for locally made items and crafts. This open space market features countless homemade items that you will surely want to bring home with you!
Credit: @mondaycook on Instagram You will also be entertained by the many live performances by dancers and musicians at the Free Market, where you get to interact with them face-to-face too! Address: 19-3 Wausan-ro 21-gil, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea Opening Hours: Every Saturday, 1.00 – 6.00pm (Note: The market is closed from December – February)
2. Hongdae Shopping Street
Credit: @loose_appeal on Instagram Fashionistas, you will love Hongdae. The go-to for indie fashion, Hongdae is home to unique clothing styles thanks to the culture of freedom of self-expression in the neighbourhood. Feel free to put your creativity to test by mixing and matching clothing to create your own style! You’ll be inspired to express yourself and be a trendsetter.
Credit: @cheesieness on Instagram For the beauty guru, the shopping street is also home to many popular skincare and beauty products brands! If you're into Korean products, you'll be glad to lug home beauty products from Innisfree, The Face Shop and Etude House, among many others.
Credit: @thefaceshop.official on Instagram P.S. Here's a guide to the Korean beauty essentials you need to include in your shopping spree! Address: 365-8 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday, 10.00am – 11.00pm; open 24 hours on Sunday
3. Kakao Friends Flagship Store
Credit: @sy_jh25 on Instagram A short walk away from the Hongdae Shopping Street is the famous Kakao Friends Flagship Store. If you are a regular user of KakaoTalk (a free mobile instant messaging application) or just fans of their iconic characters, you're sure to have fun exploring the store and will be spoilt for choice for cute items there!
Credit: @anggie_rachmat on Instagram While you're there, why not bring home with you one (or more!) of the cute and cuddly plush toys from the flagship store? We know you can't resist it!
Credit: @shanini_dar on InstagramAddress: 162 Yanghwa-ro, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday, 10.30am – 10.00pm
4. Artbox (We understand Hongdae's Artbox outlet has closed down ☹️)
Whether we're still students or are already working, one thing is for sure - we could always use stationery! Especially when they're as cute and adorable as the ones at Artbox in Hongdae!
Credit: @wholovesvanilla on InstagramTake the chance to cute stationery that can double as practical souvenirs for your loved ones! Whether you're looking for tiny notebooks, bullet journal accessories, or adorable stickers, the store has it all (and more!).
Credit: @artbox_kr_official on InstagramAddress: 31 Wausan-ro 21-gil, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South KoreaOpening Hours: Monday – Sunday, 12.00 – 9.00pmWebsite | InstagramExplore Quirky Cafes Another unique facet of Hongdae is the fact that it's home to many quirky and whimsical cafes that you have to check out! Disclaimer: Please note that the cafes listed below are not halal-certified. We recommend them as places to have a coffee or tea while checking out their wonderful aesthetics, but we note that the food may not be Muslim-friendly.  Do check with the waitstaff if you are uncertain and we recommend to dine at your own discretion.
1. King's Cross 9 3/4
If you are a Potterhead, this cafe is for you. It is a Harry Potter-themed cafe in the heart of Hongdae, with a storefront so alluring you'd want to enter!
Credit: @varyfipark on Instagram Get your cameras clicking to the many backdrops and props at the cafe (and pretend you're in Hogwarts ?). One prominent highlight of the cafe is the stacks of wand boxes on the wall at the entrance. Another prominent backdrop? The disappearing trolley through the brick wall between platforms 9 and 10 (hence the 9 3/4) of the King's Cross Station!
Credit: @jiwoning_kkk on Instagram While the food at the cafe may not be Muslim-friendly, you can visit for its coffee and grab those photo opportunities there. You'll most probably think you're a wizard! Address: 417, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea Opening Hours: Monday – Thursday, 11.30am – 10.00pm; Saturday – Sunday, 9.30am – 10.00pm
2. Bunny Cafe
While some of us may have been to a cat cafe, but have you ever visited a rabbit cafe? At the cutely-named Bunny Cafe in Hongdae, expect to cuddle these adorable little balls of fur!
Credit: @bunnycafe on Instagram Indulge in ultimate cuteness at the cafe as you spend your time playing with the very adorable rabbits. Your heart will surely melt with love for them! The cafe charges a fee depending on the duration of your visit - 6,000 won for half an hour or 9,000 won for 1 hour. You can also buy food to feed the bunnies!
Credit: Bunny Cafe on FacebookAddress: 347-3, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday, 1.00 – 9.00pm Contact: +82 2 333 1660 FacebookInstagram
3. Stylenanda Pink Pool Cafe
When Styelnanda, the popular South Korean clothing and makeup brand first opened up its flagship store (the Pink Hotel) in Myeongdeong, it quickly took the scene by storm, becoming a trendy Instagrammable spot thanks to its quirky and pretty interior. The Pink Hotel comprised of several floors selling Stylenanda products, and also had a rooftop cafe called the Pink Pool Cafe that quickly became popular in its own right. Given its popularity, Stylenanda opened up a bigger and grander second Pink Pool Cafe in Hongdae which has easily become a must-visit destination in the neighbourhood!
Credit: @praew.pp on Instagram The cafe is located on the fourth floor of Stylenanda's Hongdae store. Once you'll enter, you'll be blown away by the pretty-in-pink interior design of the cafe that just calls to be photographed. Don't forget to grab the opportunity to take that new profile picture for your social media accounts! ?
Credit: @aidewisari on Instagram The cafe even comes with an indoor pool (that you most certainly cannot swim in!) for you to up your selfie game!
Credit: @pinkpoolcafe on Instagram After visiting the cafe you can resume your shopping for clothes or shoes afterwards on the lower floors of the building. How convenient! Address: 23 Wausan-ro 29 da-gil, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday, 11.00am – 11.00pm Contact: +82 2 333 9215 What To See With a lively neighbourhood like Hongdae, expect to be greeted with a fun vibe when you’re there. Let us guide you through the must-visit attractions in Hongdae!
1. Hongik Mural Street
When in Hongdae, do pay a visit to the Hongik Mural Street. It is a small alley situated right next to the famous Hongik University. Watch in awe as you stroll past vivid and colourful murals painted on the walls of the alley.
Credit: Vinayak Hegde on Flickr From graffiti to artistic paintings, it is no wonder Hongik Mural Street is also known as “Picasso Street” by locals and tourists alike!
Credit: Bobsters House on FlickrAddress: 360-28 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea Opening Hours: 24 hours
2. Nanta Theatre
Ever heard of the NANTA Show? It is a must-watch live comedy that is synonymous to South Korea. The very talented artistes on stage will introduce the audience to the country’s rich culinary heritage – while singing and dancing!
Credit: @krystallovlife on Instagram As the show is non-verbal, you do not need to worry about the possible language barrier when watching the show. The 90-minute award-winning NANTA Show will leave you in awe with Korean folk music being produced using pots, pans and other kitchen tools. Address: B2, 29, Yanghwa-ro 16-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea Opening Hours: Check for updated showtimes on the website. Contact: +82 2 739 8288 P.S. Here’s a list of underrated performances that you cannot miss in Korea!
3. Trick Eye Museum
Get your cameras clicking as you pose along wall art with optical illusions so true that you may very well just trick everyone who sees your photos!
Credit: @miperlitabonita on Instagram This interactive museum will blow your mind away with its many illusions, from you shrinking down to the size of a cup or standing upside down without any superpowers. You can also ride a unicorn, surf on sharks and be a mermaid!
Credit: @joyce_anglh on InstagramAddress: 11 Hongik-ro 3-gil, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday, 9.00am – 9.00pm (last admission at 8.00pm) Contact: +82 2 322 8177 Website
4. Street performances
Credit: Refracting Light Photography on Flickr As you explore Hongdae, especially at night time, you're bound to come across street performances. Performance and showmanship is alive and strong in the neighbourhood, with performers taking to the streets almost daily.
Credit: @nichole_tantan on Instagram From dance covers of your favourite Kpop bands to buskers melting hearts with beautiful songs, you can expect great shows which definitely add to the atmosphere of Hongdae. Most of the main performances tend to happen near exits 8 and 9 of the Hongik University Station on line 2 (green line), so keep your eyes peeled and enjoy the performance! Where to Stay To totally immerse in the quirky youth culture in Hongdae, you can choose to stay in the neighbourhood during your trip to Seoul. No matter your budget, there are many accommodation options for a great stay in Hongdae!
1. Luxury: L7 Hongdae
L7 Hongdae is a sleek 4-star hotel newly-built in 2018. With an excellent location easily accessible in Hongdae, the hotel is also very near to the subway should you want to get around Seoul.
Credit: @y.z.h.220 on Instagram L7 Hongdae is also surrounded by lots of boutique shops, cafes and restaurants, making it really convenient for you as everything you need is at your doorstep! Address: 141 Yanghwa-ro, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea Contact: +82 2 2289 100 Rate per night: From RM490 for 2 pax on AgodaWebsite | Instagram
2. Mid-range: Orbit Café & Guesthouse
Love everything cute and pink? You’d be delighted to stay at the Orbit Café & Guesthouse. This white doll-like house with pink highlights features Instagrammable spots at every corner, perfect for your OOTD shots!
Credit: @97_tanico on Instagram The aesthetics of the guesthouse in addition to the clean and comfortable stay is definitely the best bang for your buck! Address: 220-6 Donggyo-ro, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea Contact: +82 2 6405 3440 Rate per night: From RM350 for 2 pax on AgodaInstagram P.S. Need more photos for your Instagram feed? Here’s a list of gorgeous spots for your photographs in Seoul!
3. Budget: Hongdae Guesthouse
Situated at the heart of Hongdae, this humble guesthouse is easily accessible as it is located right beside Exit 1 of the Hongik University Station.
Credit: @hongdae_guesthouse on Instagram With an ensuite bathroom in every room and wooden flooring with temperature control, you will enjoy a comfortable stay albeit the small budget! Address: 159-6 Donggyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea Contact: +82 2 336 0003 Rate per night: From RM150 for 2 pax Website | Instagram P.S. Need more accommodation recommendations for your trip to South Korea? We’ve got you covered here! What to Eat While Hongdae may not have as many halal options as other neighbourhoods in Seoul like Itaewon, for example, worry not. There are several halal and Muslim-friendly places in Hongdae where you can refuel at while exploring! P.S. For more halal food options in Seoul, read this.
1. Chunja Daegutang
Credit: Fate Zs on Facebook Chunja Daegutang is a humble eatery in Hongdae that specializes in cod fish soup. Using a generous portion of cod fish as its signature ingredient, the restaurant makes mouth-watering dishes like daegu-ppoljjim (steamed cod cheeks) and deagu-jeongol (cod hotpot).
Credit: @nur_farhana on Instagram Remember to also give their specialty rolled omelette a try too! Address: 375-5 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea Opening Hours: Monday – Friday, 11.30am – 2.30pm & 5.00pm – 10.00pm Contact: +82 2 334 5787 Halal status: Seafood restaurant (rated Muslim-friendly by the Korea Tourism Organisation). Please note that alcohol is served at the establishment. We advise readers to dine at your own discretion.
2. Amma Restaurant
Serving authentic Indian food, Amma Restaurant is a favourite with great reviews. From cheese naan to pratha and a variety of lamb dishes, there is bound to be something that satiates your taste buds!
Credit: SoulFandaAddress: 10 Yanghwa-ro 16-gil, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday, 11.00am – 11.00pm Contact: +82 2 332 8302 Status: Halal and vegetarian options served (rated Muslim-friendly by the Korea Tourism Organisation). Please note that alcohol is served at the establishment. We advise readers to dine at your own discretion.
3. Yeti
If you’re craving for meat, Yeti is the place to go. This Indian restaurant in Hongdae sources for their meat from halal butchers, so you can order dishes such as chicken tikka in addition to popular favourites like palak paneer and prawn chilli.
Credit: @yeti_indian_food on Instagram They also have vegetarian options for you to choose from – you’ll be spoilt for choice at Yeti! Address: 10 Wausan-ro 18-gil, Seogyo-dong, Mapu-go, Seoul, South Korea Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday, 11.00am – 2.00am Contact: +82 2 325 0745 Status: Halal and vegetarian options served (rated Muslim-friendly by the Korea Tourism Organisation). Please note that alcohol is served at the establishment. We advise readers to dine at your own discretion. Facebook | Instagram
4. Ilsik Donkyung
A short walking distance from the Hongik University Station is Ilsik Dongkyung. The Muslim-friendly restaurant serves Japanese food, perfect for your random Japanese food cravings while in Hongdae! Indulge in fresh and delicious seafood in addition to favourites like porridge, sushi and stew.
Credit: Korea Tourism OrganizationAddress: 6 World Cup buk-ro 1-gil, Seogyo-dong, Mapu-go, Seoul, South Korea Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday, 11.00am – 10.30pm Contact: +82 2 338 0785 Status: Seafood restaurant (rated Muslim-friendly by the Korea Tourism Organisation). Please note that alcohol is served at the establishment. We advise readers to dine at your own discretion.
5. Potala
You may be in Korea, but why not give Tibetan food a try? Potala Restaurant serves Indian and Tibetan cuisine in Hongdae, from butter chicken curry to chicken briyani. Do try the sha bhakle (friend bread with meat and vegetable filling), an authentic Tibetan dish.
Credit: PotalaAddress: 13 World Cup buk-ro 4-gil, Seogyo-dong, Mapu-go, Seoul, South Korea Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday, 11.00am – 10.00pm Contact: +82 2 928 8847 Status: Halal option served (rated Muslim-friendly by the Korea Tourism Organisation). Please note that alcohol is served at the establishment. We advise readers to dine at your own discretion. With this trusty guide to Hongdae, we hope you’ll pay this unique neighbourhood a visit during your next trip to Seoul. From top attractions to delicious food and great shopping deals, Hongdae definitely has it all!