Of course we had to check out Itaewon while we were spending our weekend in Seoul. Yes, yes, we know that Itaewon is a major tourist section of the city catering directly to foreigners. We do respect this section of the city for that purpose and know that it is not a true representation of Korea. However it was close to our hotel and we wanted to go see what it was really all about.
Itaewon’s shopping area is 1.4 km in length, it stretches from the U.S. 8th Army Base eastwards towards Hannam-dong and has over 1,000 different little stores. The area is known for its night life scene with many bars and nightclubs to choose from. We noticed there are many street vendors selling shirts, jackets, and caps, scarfs, food, etc. trying to capture the late night buyer’s fancy.
While in Itaewon we checked out a few Irish pubs, grabbed a bite to eat, and strolled along the main street as well as some tucked away alleys, checked out various street vendors and little shops. We snapped a few pictures of the places that we were near or checked out and though we would share with all of you.
First stop Buddha’s Belly for dinner. It was Friday night and we were starving! We started out trying to find a restaurant called the Maple Leaf restaurant that was said to serve traditional Korean food (we are sure more Americanized) but after walking around and around for 20 minutes we figured it must have went out of business. Our bellies finally did the talking and screamed feed me when we were standing out in front of a place called Buddha’s Belly. Buddha’s Belly is located just above Ushmania restaurant (2nd floor) 673 Itaewon 2 Dong, Seoul, Korea; it’s located in the Hamilton Hotel Alley. In this area you can also find Indian, Italian, Korean, American, French, Greek and other nice ethnic foods.
The menu is Thai and the chef is actually from Thailand. We still noted a bit of Korean flair in the dishes we ordered but were really impressed with the overall meal.
We didn’t capture any pictures to share as the atmosphere consists of a smaller private sized dimly lit room. The décor had a sexy-sleek appeal to it. The entrees are rather reasonably priced and cost on average 12,000-18,000 won. The service was really speedy and we enjoyed that because we were both starving!
We started off with some chicken skewers that had a peanut dipping sauce. We both ordered dishes of Pad-See-Ew and a glass of wine. Each dish at Buddha’s Belly Thai restaurant is accompanied by pots of wet and dry hot chilies and Thai fish sauce so you can season your food to taste.
Overall we both agreed that we would go back to this place if we had to.
After dinner we went grabbed a coffee at Paris Baguette (The Korean comparison to Starbucks – well if Starbucks served up tons of delicious baked goods) due to the fact that Buddha’s Belly doesn’t serve coffee on the menu. We then continued to Stoll the alley’s and found ourselves in front of the Wolfhound Irish Pub.
The Wolfhound Irish Pub is located in another small alley down from the Gecko’s Terrace. Sorry bloggers we don’t have the address to provide on this one. We will continue to research for a more direct location. We were able to capture a few pictures of the place for others reference.
We enjoyed the Irish Pub atmosphere. It didn’t feel like we were still in South Korea while inside. The crowd consisted of military, teachers, and tourist in the area. The bar has two levels and features a selection of draft beer as well as mixed drinks and foods.
We enjoyed ourselves, had some drinks and decided to continue checking out what else Itaewon had to offer.
We found ourselves at Baby Guinness and Sam Ryan’s Sports Bar and a hot dog vendor (mmmmm…that tasted more like Kielbasa) before we decided to call it a night.
The next day we headed to Gyeongbok Palace. The palace was one of the first places that Larry got to check out when he first moved to Korea. He was really eager to share the experience with me so we thought with the beautiful weather this weekend we should take a tour and snap some pictures along the way. The address to go see the Palace for yourself is Seoul-si Jongno-gu Sejong-ro 1-1.
The term “Gyeongbokgung” means palace greatly blessed by Heaven. We took an English speaking tour lead by a Korean college student. We captured the beginning intro of the tour for you to try to hear some of the facts she provided us with.
The palace was actually constructed in 1395, but was destroyed in the 1500’s during the Japanese invasion. However in the late 1800’s into the 1900’s the palace was completely restored. We couldn’t even imagine living here as a King and Queen the grounds are absolutely massive! Consisting of more than 300 buildings, 6000 rooms, and more than 4 million square feet and sits in one of the busiest sections of Seoul.
When we arrived to Gyeongbok Palace we entered in the gate (Kwangha-mun) protecting the palace from Seoul. We were able to get a picture with the guards that stand there.
Another interesting fact that we learned was that Sejong the Great was the fourth king of the Joseon Dynasty, and ruled from 1418 – 1450 during this time he created the 28 letter system of the Korean Hangul alphabet. Today however the Korean alphabet consists of 24 letters.
Overall we had an amazing time with a very good tour of the palace.
After walking the palace we decided to needed to hail a cab and head to N Seoul Tower. N Seoul Tower is also known as Namsan Tower because it’s located on Namsan Mountain at Seoul-si Yongsan-gu Yongsandong 2-ga San 1-3. Private automobiles have been stopped from entering the mountain since the year 2005 so that they could more easily preserve the area. You really have three ways to get up to the tower and each does involve some form of walking. One, take a cab or bus but note that you can only go up so far with the cab or bus and then you will get dropped off and have to walk up a pretty steep paved road. Two, take the cable car up from the bottom of the mountain. Please note you will have to climb steps up from the cable car drop off point to get to the tower. Whatever you decide we think it’s worth it while you are visiting or living in Seoul.
N Seoul Tower stands 237 meters high, standing atop 243-meter Mt Namsan. It was remodeled in 2005, and has a rotating Western-style restaurant on top that we plan to possibly check out at night next time we visit.
Below is what each floor consists of:
– Olive Young (supermarket / convenience store)
– Coffee Shop
– Eatery with indoor and outdoor seating
– Food Court
– Gift Shop
– Ticket Counter
– Viewing Platform
– Restaurant (relatively inexpensive with great view)
– Elevator Entrance
– Tous Les Jour (bakery)
– Ticket Counter
– Exhibition Area
(360m altitude, reached by express elevator)
1/F : Hancook Restaurant
2/F : Sky Cafe
3/F : Observatory platform
4/F : Observatory platform
5/F : N Grill by Vips (revolving restaurant)
Tickets to get inside of Seoul tower observatory for two adults cost us 14,000 won.
We snapped pictures of the locks and tiles at N Seoul Tower. The locks are “Locks of love” and can be found on the fence outside of the tower. They symbolize lovers’ promise that they will never separate. The message tiles of love inside are something you could purchase to write a little love note on and then it is displayed on a wall within the tower.
The last day we were there we checked out Myeongdong still located within seoul for some shopping.
Myungdong is a selection of shops, like Zara, UniQlo, Forever21, ABC Mart but also features all sorts of street vendors selling shoes, scarfs, jewelry, food, etc.
We enjoyed some green tea ice cream and found a vendor who sells King’s Beard Candy. We were able to quick capture the vendor making the candy and bought some to try after we had heard great things about it. Final consensus….we LOVED it!
We can only describe King’s beard candy as a small fuzzy white sweet treat with a chewy inside and a crispy outer layer that just melts in your mouth. It’s so fun to watch the vendor create 16.000 honey strings in two minutes! They act as they are doing it too counting in English as well as Korean. Next time we see this vendor we will try to capture better video because it is really entertaining!
The last night we were there we decided to go back to Itaewon and check out Zelen’s for dinner. Zelen’s is a Bulgarian restaurant owned and operated by Bulgarians. The location yet another strange place – the same alley we were in when at Buddha’s Belly. It’s the alley right behind the Hamilton Hotel. The address is the second floor, 116-14 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan District.
Talk about amazing food! We had no idea this place was going to be this fantastic! Get ready…you know we are going to rave about it in our blog now. In the land of red pepper paste and kimchi it’s nice to experience something different once and awhile.
Once you take the steps up to Zelen’s from the alley you open the door into the second floor restaurant where you quickly see a garden-esque room that is candlelit and features an open kitchen where you can see the chefs preparing the delish dishes.
The menu is quite extensive and it’s great because the meals are detailed and named in both English and Korean. We had a chance to grab the owner Mikhal Ashminov and ask him what he recommended. We were so pleased that we had done so because he turned our decisions to the stuffed peppers that were amazing.
We ordered stuffed mushrooms and the stuffed peppers for appetizers to our meals. (You can view all of our meal and pictures of the restaurant within this blog)
Larry’s main course was pork tenderloin stuffed with smoked Gouda, green onions, bacon and tangy pickles. The dish was plenty big and we think next time we will order this dish and another and split it up to try something new.
Sarah’s main course was the vegetarian moussaka. The dish was oven-baked layers of vegetables and cheese topped with homemade yogurt. The dish really reminded us of almost a shepherd’s pie but meatless. The dish was served alongside a small rustic salad, for 14,000 won.
We were so pleased with both of our dishes that we both agreed that we will be taking friends back there for dinner.
After we ate dinner at Zelen’s we headed to the Cheonggyecheon River Walk . We learned that this river walk is fairly new to the city. It was constructed in 2005 where previously it was just concrete roadways running through the center of Seoul. The address for the river walk is, 31, Taepyeongno 1-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul
One word for this place…calming! Once you are on the river walk path you slowly forget that you are located in the center of a huge bustling city. The walk features small waterfalls, various colors of lighting, stepping stones to cross from one side of the walk to the other, and amply amounts of greenery. We loved that we got to check this place out at night because the last time Larry visited he said it was during the day and people were everywhere!
We met three young Korean adults that were trying to snap a picture together but were not achieving the shot they wanted. We took notice of this and asked if they wanted us to get a shot of them so that they could all be in the picture together. They graciously accepted and kept thanking us! We asked if they would mind returning the favor so that we could also have a shot of the two of us. Of course they replied they were glad to do so. (Feel free to check out our various pictures of experiencing the Cheonggyecheon River Walk).
Once we got back home we looked through all the pictures we snapped and kept talking about how much fun we had on our weekend adventures.
If anyone else has suggestions on places to see or eat at please feel free to share with us!