In the Hood: Ehwa Women’s University

There’s nothing I love more than spending a lazy Sunday afternoon exploring the neighborhoods of Seoul. It seems that no matter how many times I visit an area, I’m always finding something new, whether it be a park, a boutique, or a street food vendor. So, in hopes of sharing my discoveries with other curious Seoulites and to encourage similar exploration of Seoul’s districts, I’ve decided to start blogging about my finds by neighborhood. First up: Edae (“E” for Ehwa, “dae” is the shortened form of the Korean word for university).

Ehwa Womans University is a historical school that dates back to the early 1900s. Its known for its prestigious alumnae, of which include Korea’s first female doctor, the first female Korean lawyer, the first female justice on the Constitutional Court, and Korea’s first female prime minister. Its campus is just as impressive as its reputation, to say the least. Old(ish) buildings are set on beautifully manicured lawns and there are plenty of resting places scattered throughout the campus. It’s worth taking a walk around the school’s grounds on a nice day, especially in the spring, when the flowers and magnolia trees are in full bloom.

The university campus is a nice spot to wander when in the neighborhood.

Like most university neighborhoods in Seoul, Edae caters to students and people in their twenties. Considering Ehwa is a women’s university, it’s no surprise that most of the businesses revolve around shopping, sweets, and shoes. Because of this, Ehwa is one of my favorite places to hang out, especially when I’m in the mood for some ‘me’ time.

Most of the clientele of businesses in the Edae area are female.

When visiting Edae, I spend most of my time in the alleys that stretch off the main streets of the area. It’s along these alleys that some of the best shopping deals in the city can be found. Shops are clustered together, essentially creating a small shopping paradise. Lines of mannequins dressed in the latest Korean fashions beckon passerby into the small stores. Many of these shops offer the same clothes in the same colors at the same prices, but every once in a while, there’s something unique to be found. The quality ranges from shop to shop, with prices beginning at 5,000 won ($4.50) for tops and 10,000 ($8) for purses. Tom’s Project is a mid-range store in the main shopping alley behind Hello apM and is my favorite boutique to find the best quality at the best price. Their hand-made tops and dresses are arranged by color and are worth checking out.

Korean girls love their shoes and can somehow pull off heels like this.

Vendors sell many styles but they don’t often carry sizes larger than 250 (USA size 8), which sucks for big footed western girls like myself.

In addition to clothing and shoes, there are tons of kitschy shops with quirky storefronts selling everything from character stationary to Japanese figurines. Cute earrings, cheap sunglasses, and fun phone accessories are also on sale in huge quantities.

San-chome is an adorable shop that sells many Japanese products and novelties.

Storefronts of businesses around Ehwa women’s university are quite unique.

A fun looking hair salon sits in the heart of Edae.

There are a lot of great places to eat, as well, and the fare is a good mix of Korean and international cuisine. From burger joints to soup shops, there’s something for everyone. The western food isn’t as authentic as what can be found in the multicultural neighborhood of Itaewon, but it still tastes good at a fraction of the cost. I usually go for the chicken burrito bowl at Habanero Mexican Diner or the pad thai a few doors down at Noodle Box. Little restaurants like these are in the same alleys as the stores, which provide a respite after a few hours of shopping.

Koreans usually follow up lunch with a chat and coffee at a cafe, which there is no shortage of in the area. Although my beloved Charlie Brown cafe is no longer in the neighborhood, there are plenty of other options. I generally make an attempt to try a new place on each visit, but I do have my favorites. One of them is Migo (map), located on the same street as the university, just a few blocks toward Shinchon Station. The cafe is comfortable and spacious, with many study rooms available for students, and offers a huge selection of coffee, teas, and smoothies. Migo is also a bakery, selling everything from monkey bread to pretzels to their own “Ehwa Balls.” For beverages on the go, there are many free standing coffee and juice vendors that are convenient and quick, especially for those shoppers eager to see all of the stores.

It wouldn’t be a neighborhood for women without chocolate and I discovered the perfect place to indulge on my latest visit to the area. Chocolateria San Churro (map) is a cafe that specializes in Spanish chocolate and churros. Featuring a monk on their logo, they claim that their homemade chocolate is “heaven sent.” I ordered my churros to be sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and served with dark chocolate dipping sauce. After the first bite, I was pretty much singing Hallelujah. I’ll be back in the fall to try their drinking chocolate.

Chocolateria San Churro is the perfect place to get dessert after a day of shopping.

Churros come with your choice of dark chocolate, milk chocolate, or white chocolate dipping sauce.

Finally, there’s a pleasant little green space that sits in front of Hello apM that’s perfect for relaxing and people watching. I’ve even seen a few concerts by street performers and busking musicians. It’s a cool spot to chill out before heading home… or to the bars of Shinchon, just a ten minutes’ walk from the park.

Although it’s small, the Edae park can be a good place to catch some free entertainment.

It’s safe to say that Edae is favored by women, but it’s a great neighborhood for guys, too. Whether one is looking to add to his or her wardrobe or to simply satisfy a sweet tooth, there are countless options to do so, and at prices that won’t break the bank.

Get there: Take the subway to Ehwa Womans University (Line 2, Exit 2 or 3.)