If you ever visit Seoul, the Myeong-Dong area is a must-see for foodies and anyone who likes skincare products. The streets are lined with shops, and at night (around 6 p.m.) the food stalls open up and it turns into a gastronomic dream. There are so many things to do, places to stay, and shows to see you could easily spend a month in this area alone and still have plenty to discover.
Where to stay
We stayed at Hotel Creto, close to the well-known Sejong Hotel (named after the Korean king who created the Korean alphabet). Shout-out to the friendly staff, who helped us get a lost phone back–and even charged it and cleaned it while it was waiting for us at the front desk!
More than one person has told me about the street food in Korea, so of course I had to check it out.
Once offices get out, colorful, interesting food can be found on the streets of Seoul. Myeong-dong and Insadong, are excellent streets for street food and shopping.
Go for dinner, enjoy the lights (Seoul is a city to see once it gets dark), and let your taste buds wander.
My favorites: Tteok-galbi meatballs, pomegranate juice, and the cheese butter baked scallops.
Warning: The snails made my niece sick. I spit them out after I took a bite.
The Myeong-Dong area has plenty of awesome restaurants to choose from. Three of my favorites were a dumpling and noodle shop, a Korean barbecue restaurant, and a local hangout with awesome kimbap (pickled radish, carrots, meat, and cucumber rolled in rice and seaweed).
Myeongdong Kyoja was established in 1966 and is still going strong until now. It’s known for knife-cut hand-made noodles, and delicious broth. I was a huge fan of their dumplings (akin to a meatier xiao long bao) and noodles. The soup was savory, flavorful, filling, and perfect in the cold weather.
We were drawn to Ouga because of three large ceramic pots outside that sparked our curiosity.
Ouga is a Korean barbecue restaurant that has delicious pork and beef dishes. I love the vegetables in Korea. Wrapping the meat in different types of leaves made a huge difference in the flavor–bigger than I expected. My favorite was the kale + beef short ribs.
Korean Style Pancake
Right in front of our hotel was a local hangout spot. I know this because as we were looking at the menu a Korean man came out for a smoke and told us it’s delicious in there.
I couldn’t get the English name, but it was just to the right of the street in front of Creto. It also had red tarp that advertised “Korean Style Pancake.”
They had amazing kimbap, bibimbap and Korean pancakes. Basically everything we ordered there was a hit, right down to the kimchi side dishes.
The norm for restaurants in Korea is one menu per table, not per person. It isn’t a tipping culture (although I’ve noticed people are grateful if you do tip, especially if they can tell you’re foreign), and if you don’t see utensils anywhere check the sides of your tables for hidden drawers. It’s also customary to have one order per person, ie. they don’t like it if three people share two orders.
Nanta is a non-verbal cooking-themed comedy show that’s right in the Myeong-dong area. We got our tickets, did a bit of shopping/eating, and then hung out in the theater cafe before the show.
I recommend seeing the show. It’s hilarious, the actors of the night were awesome, and they’re good with audience participation.
Last but not least, if you’re into animals or want to try something interesting, grab a cup of coffee at the cat cafe. I didn’t know what to expect at first, but the cafe was overflowing with cats (usually hanging out in boxes) and they were unusually calm. My favorite thing to do was hold their paws while they napped. The coffee wasn’t bad either.
My favorite one was a little cross-eyed, but that just made me like him/her more.
A 20 minute walk away from Myeong-dong is InsaDong, a street that has cool street food, old fashioned houses-turned-restaurants, and cute boutiques to shop at. I also found a gallery to explore. Don’t forget to explore all the side streets you can turn off into, since that’s where we found some awesome tiny cacti.
Insadong is where to go if you want Korean-made products. I found things a little more affordable than Myeong-dong, plus it’s close to the SaChoom Theater, where you can catch some cool shows.