When Gangnam helped propel Seoul to the top of the luxury home price growth chart on Knight Frank’s Prime Global Cities Index early last year, the district was thrust into the spotlight once more. In case you missed Gangnam’s first star turn, there is a song and video on YouTube that’s been watched like six billion times. That’s all we’ll say about that.
For those unfamiliar with Gangnam, it’s a pretty interesting collection of neighbourhoods. You’ll see K-Pop stars shopping at high-end boutiques in some places and in other parts you’ll find that some of most prominent global businesses have set up shop
The district is situated south of the Han River and is connected to central Seoul by the Hannam and Dongho Bridges. Gangnam itself was a fairly unremarkable place up until the 1970s. The opening of Coex Convention & Exhibition Center in 1979 was one of a number of efforts to bring life to Seoul’s southern districts.
The surge in Gangnam’s popularity mirrors that of K-Pop and Korean dramas over the past 30 years. The district is now seen as the place to be locally and is iconic internationally. So, what makes it so special? Let’s go Gangnam neighbourhood hopping and learn a little more about what the district has to offer.
Gangnam neighbourhood guide
Cheongdam-dong and Apgujeong
These two ritzy Gangnam neighbourhoods are known as the Beverly Hills of South Korea. Just about every luxury brand imaginable has at least one store here and these sit alongside designer boutiques. To further the comparison with Beverly Hills, there is an Apgujeong Rodeo Street in Apgujeong which is full of high-end stores just like its Southern California namesake.
Adding to the two neighbourhoods’ mystique is the fact that some of South Korea’s most famous actors, actresses and pop stars call Cheongdam-dong and Apgujeong home. It’s not unusual to see fans loitering outside restaurants and even some record company offices in these neighbourhoods in hopes of catching a glimpse of their idols.
Worth a visit: Those looking for a place to take a break in Cheongdam-dong and Apgujeong, Our Bakery Café is the spot. The eatery bakes up treats all-day and even has a schedule posted so you can order whatever is freshest. Our Bakery Café also serves up a selection of drinks that range from standard choices to wild concoctions. Our Bakery Café is located near Dosan Park and is a five-minute walk from the Apgujeong Rodeo Street metro station.
Yeoksam-dong is best known for being home to some of Seoul’s tallest buildings and biggest office blocks. Google Korea’s headquarters can be found here along with several other prominent businesses such as T’way Airlines. WeWork has also has a strong presence in Yeoksam-dong having leased space in two office buildings.
However, the neighbourhood is more than work. The impressive Choonghyun Church can be found here. With designs inspired by churches in Europe, Choonghyun Church sits in stark contrast to its surroundings. Yeoksam-dong is also home to Kukkiwon, the world taekwondo organisation.
Worth a visit: Baekeok Hanu looks like any other restaurant from the outside, but the traditional Korean BBQ served up on the inside is not to be missed. The luxury beef and luxury pork belly are amazing while the aged beef options will leave you wanting more. Meals are served with traditional Korean side-dishes as well as grilled kimchi. Baekeok Hanu is located on Teheran-ro 43-gil between the Seolleung and Yeoksam metro stations.
Sinsa-dong can be found in the northwest corner of Gangnam. This neighbourhood has a unique vibe that has made it popular with artists throughout the years. Here you will find Garosu-gil, a Gingko tree-lined street that is one of the most picturesque places in all of Seoul. The fall is a particularly nice time to visit as the foliage is vibrant yellow.
Of course, there is a lot more than trees in Sinsa-dong. The intimate Garosu-gil is dotted with cafes that are the ideal place to spend an afternoon sipping a coffee. A stroll along the street will uncover chic boutiques, vintage shops and a few artist studios in this corner of Gangnam. There are also a few museums in Sinsa-dong including one dedicated to handbags and another devoted entirely to cosmetics.
Worth a visit: Much like Sinsa-dong itself, FIFTY FIFTY is an eclectic place that’s part art gallery and part toy store. You’ll find original works from local artists along with unique goods for sale. FIFTY FIFTY is one of those places you need to see for yourself to fully understand. It’s located just off Garosu-gil and is roughly a ten-minute walk from the Sinsa metro station.