Seoul’s Hipster Hangouts: Hapjeong

Although Hongdae will no doubt remain the go-to student neighborhood for funk and fun, a number of youngsters are beginning to disperse to Hapjeong and nearby Sangsu, bohemian locales on the outskirts of the rowdy neighborhood that caters to Seoul’s alternative crowd.

Here, polished twenty- and thirty-somethings seemingly straight off the cover of Kinfolk sip espresso on tiny terraces while puffing on vaporizers and sketching on napkins.

Stylish musicians crowd low-lit bars, guitars in tow, ready to perform acoustic sets for small but loyal audiences. Shop owners greet passersby, and supersized headphones are the most fashionable accessory of the season.

See what the buzz is all about by following along with Seoul Searching to check out the area.

Bodybuilders and Big Bang 

Mecentopolis, where you will begin your walk, is one of the few commercial complexes that exist in Hapjeong. For now, at least. If you’ve already done Myeong-dong or Sinsa-dong, skip it, as it’s made up of mostly major brands like Uniqlo and GAP that can easily be accessed in other parts of the city. Though, for ladies looking to have a girls’ night out, this could be the place to start it.

On the second floor is the Lotte Card Art Center, where the live male revue Mister Show is performed during certain times of the year.

Produced and choreographed by American-born musical director Kolleen Park, Mister Show combines muscles and music for an unforgettable evening for women of all ages (19 and up, that is).

The show is act-after-act of entertaining strip tease and the performances, which are themed around concepts that cater to women’s fantasies (think samurais and soldiers), won’t soon be forgotten. Even more memorable are the performers, a strapping group of former bodybuilders, personal trainers and athletes who interact with the eager-for-more audience. Reserve tickets at Interpark before the show or at the box office in the theater.

Before hitting the more hipster parts of Hapjeong, fans of Big Bang and 2NE1 might want to swing by YG Entertainment. Although the interior of the company is off limits to the public, Hallyu-lovers flock here in hopes of catching a glimpse of their favorite stars.

Happenings in Hapjeong 

If you’re missing your pets at home, swing back around to Bau House Cafe, where you can play with some of the cutest pups in the country. The cafe is home to about 20 resident pooches to play with and visitors are given a copy of their pictures, names, ages and breeds. The cafe also functions as a dog hotel, so there are always a few extra pups to keep you company while sipping on your coffee.

Photo: Three Chopsticks

Although it took a while for the craft beer trend to take hold in Seoul, it has caught on and spread in full force. One of the first places in this area to serve it is Bali Superstore, a pub that brings Bali’s beach vibes and a bit of surfing culture to Hapjeong’s Cafe Street.

The pale ale and porter are from no other than the Itaewon-based Magpie Brewing Company, while others like the super-strong Kuta IPA are also brewed domestically and pair well with the restaurant’s satay skewers. Colorful and rustic decor imported from the art community of Ubud, Indonesia, complete the atmosphere.

If you’re lucky, you might catch a show at Yogiga Expression Gallery. This self-described venue for creative expression routinely hosts concerts and exhibits that feature the latest works of local and expat musicians and artists in Seoul.

Photo: Yogiga Expression Gallery

Of particular interest is the CrazyMultiply collective, which often holds shows here. A typical event might include a photography exhibit, experimental art performances and a line-up of mini concerts in a single day, a perfect way to experience the latest in the Seoul art scene in one place.

Photo: Korea Times

For music all year round, stop by Rolling Hall, one of the largest and oldest music halls in the area.

Its stage has brought fans together with Korea’s best (and more mainstream) indie acts for the past couple decades, including MY Q, Hyukoh and Crying Nut, along with international artists such as How to Dress Well and Grimes. Hundreds can fit into this standing room only venue, and shows are usually sold out, so be sure to check the schedule and ticket availability before your trip.

Looking to pick up excellent eyewear? Gentle Monster is the place to do it. In just a few years, the Korean brand has taken off in popularity (thanks to some great product placement on K-dramas) and now has locations throughout the world. Stop by the Hapjeong location to check out the latest trends which range from conservative to experimental.

Now it’s time to head over to Sangsu. Stay tuned for the next neighborhood guide, coming soon!

Get There: Take the Seoul subway to Hapjeong Station (Lines 2 & 6, Exit 10)

Map (Includes Hapjeong and Sangsu attractions):