On a sticky, hot, humid Saturday afternoon, we — like many other Korean couples — took a stroll through the charmingly quaint streets of Samcheong-dong. Nestled between two palaces and the President’s house, the hilly neighborhood with it’s mix of Bukchon Hanok (Korean traditional houses), adorable cafes, mountain views, and streets lined with artist vendors quickly became a favorite of mine.
It felt more like a Korean version of a small European town or Main Street USA. or like my old SF neighborhood in Noe. For a moment I forget we were in the concrete jungle of Seoul.
How cute is this shop? Now picture an entire street lined with equally cute cafes — like the one next door that seemed to sell only milk and bread or the little waffle house just a few doors down.
We weren’t exactly hungry, but we couldn’t resist a pie shop.
We ordered a thick slice of tart lemon cream pie and a mug of fancy sounding tea. Our friends ordered a hand pie and a huge bowl of bingsu. The desserts didn’t stand a chance.
After clearing our plates we explored the neighborhood, peering into more than a few shops and making mental notes of which places we wanted to return to eat.
I could have spent the entire day here, popping in and out of cafes, little artist galleries, and boutiques selling hand-made items. Some shops were really cheap — especially considering you were buying a piece of art, others were really expensive. I saw a very tiny silver pig for sale in a shop window and when Sly asked about the price he was told it was $150. We had to ask twice because we couldn’t believe a tiny little pig figurine could be so expensive.
Mysterious alleyways led to hidden shops or cafes…
We became lost more than once. Sometimes the alley would end abruptly and lead to what seemed like a person’s house. Even though I don’t think living in a traditional style Korean house would be very practical, I loved the old architecture, the gardens, dark alleys, and cobblestone streets.
There were so many street vendors and street artists, and there was even some kind of street fair with booths of hand-made goods and live music.
I don’t know what it is about getting our portraits done at street fairs but we are kind of addicted. They are usually inexpensive and quick, and it’s always interesting to see how someone else visually perceives /draws us. We found an artist who did watercolors and loved her style. I wish we remembered to get her info!
I think the resemblance is there although Sly looks like an innocent little kid and/or scruffy lumberjack and I look very enigmatic.
Sometimes I think that artist renderings of me feel more like me than a photograph.
After having our watercolor portraits painted we stopped in front of a street muralto take a ‘real’ photo. As my sister commented when i posted this on FB, “in the US this [wall] would be used for every engagement photo shoot. ” Probably. Though in Samcheong, at least while we were there, we only saw significantly older people posing in front of it, creating strange and corny poses that involved kissing and mimicking the characters in the mural. For Sly and I — who often refer to ourselves as two old people occupying somewhat younger bodies, it seemed fitting to have a photo taken here.
SAMCHEONG // LOCATION: To the right of Gyeongbokgung and left of Changdeokgung , Anguk Station, Subway Line No.3 // DESCRIPTION: a mix of older traditional Korean style houses and architecture mixed with modern cafes, art galleries and boutiques that feels weirdly European. Lots of street vendors and street artists can be found here. If Sinsadong has more of a SoHo vibe, then Samcheong is more like a West Village. // VERDICT: I wish I knew that Samcheong was literally right next door to Gyeongbokgung when we visited the royal palace — I would have loved to spend more time here! I think you could easily spend 1-2 days in this area alone visiting the palaces, hiking through Samcheong Park to connect to the Mt Bugak Seoul Fortress Wall Hiking Trail, walking through Bukchon Hanok Village, and just exploring all the alleys, cafes and shops! // TIP: If you are looking for a unique place to stay, check out the nearby Bukchon Hanok Village — many places are available via AirBNB and are rather inexpensive compared to hotels (usually under $100). Keep in mind that this style of lodging will not be like a hotel — small rooms, typically no tvs, no parking, oftentimes shared bathrooms, and you will most likely sleep “Korean Style” on a padded mat on the floor. (It’s not *that* traditional though — you will find electricity, running water, and modern bathrooms.) Rooms usually surround a common courtyard and share a kitchen area. You can also find more luxurious (and expensive) traditional Korean style lodging as well.