The area’s tiny shops, restaurants and bars are seemingly always open, making it a favorite haunt of Seoul’s college women, attracting throngs of youngsters every day of the week. The University Quarter, as this area is sometimes called thanks to its proximity to Yonsei University and Ewha Womans University, is a great place to experience shopping and nightlife, especially if on a budget, as prices cater to students.
So, round up the gals and get ready to enjoy Seoul’s shopping, snacks and nightlife on a budget! Let’s start out at the Ehwa Womans University area, also referred to as “Edae.”
Dress Up & Tea Time
No women’s university neighborhood would be complete without a bit of dress up, which is why Princess Diary is a great place to begin your tour of Edae.
Proving that playing pretend is not just for little girls, this “dress cafe” offers women the opportunity to rent a garment from the cafe’s collection of over 100 clothing items, which range from traditional hanboks to elaborate wedding gowns, with plenty accessories to match.
|Image: Tom Sollitt|
Shamelessly girlish in its decor, visitors can engage in their own fantasy photoshoot against a backdrop of a plush sofa, piano or swing covered in flowers. It should be noted, however, that grooms are not included in the rental price.
Continue your femininity-fueled afternoon with a spot of tea at Tianhua, one of the few cafes in Korea that does a proper high tea (and even more surprisingly, is one of the only cafes that doesn’t serve a single coffee beverage). Tea connoisseur Hideki Kudo and his wife opened the place after discovering a mutual love for the beverage, and continue to blend most of their teas on-site.
The shop offers literally hundreds of teas (try the Snow of Kilimanjaro), many of which the couple have collected on their travels, which are thoroughly described in the comprehensive menu. At tea time, you can order a tray of snacks which includes biscuits, mini scones and pastries that are made fresh daily. Unsurprisingly, Tianhua attracts mostly female patrons who squeal over the cafe’s rose-shaped ice and antique decor.
Ehwa Womans University is a historical school that dates back to the early 1900s. It’s known for its prestigious alumnae, including 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. Buildings seemingly straight out of the Ivy League are set on beautifully manicured lawns that are exceptionally gorgeous in the spring, when the magnolia trees are in full bloom.
Yet, the campus also has a more modern side.
From afar, it’s difficult to distinguish just what Ewha Womans University’s ECC actually is. This is because the ingenious complex designed by French architect Dominique Perrault (who also designed the National Library of France in Paris) is mostly underground; despite this, the entire interior of the building is spacious and full of light.
Merging architecture with landscape, Perrault created a functional yet tranquil space to study. Or to enjoy one of the many facilities the building has to offer, including an indie cinema, a gym, cafes and boutiques, all of which are open to the public.
Among these facilities, Arthouse Momo is perhaps the most interesting. The theater has hosted a series of concerts featuring musicians whose songs appeared on movie soundtracks, Arabic-language film screenings and the EBS International Documentary Film Festival, which featured works from all over the world. Check the showtimes and see a movie, if your schedule allows.
Boots and Bags for Every Budget
Although the general vicinity lies in the shadows of lofty shopping malls similar to those in Dongdaemun, the best way to find the latest fashions at the most inexpensive prices is by shop hopping through the commercially dense alleys of Ewha Womans University’s Fashion Street.
This distinctive district features a compact cluster of stalls selling hundreds of shoes, clothes and accessories in styles that appeal to both female teens and twentysomethings. Here, there really is something for everyone, and with shirts starting at ₩5,000 and shoes at ₩10,000 a pair, you can easily load up on gifts for all of your friends back at home.
Spend an hour or two exploring these shopping streets, but do know that most of the small shops only accept cash. Also, most do not open until noon, so plan your visit accordingly.
Finally, there’s a pleasant little green space that sits in front of Hello apM that’s perfect for relaxing and people watching. It’s popular with students eager to show off their skateboarding skills and is the go-to spot for busking musicians hoping to earn a few bucks.
There’s no time to rest those shopping arms… it’s time to move on to Sinchon for some sweets, eats and a fun night out. Stay tuned for A Girl’s Guide to Seoul’s University Quarter, Part 2: Sinchon.
Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching unless otherwise noted. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.