Words by Jinsoo Margaret Kim and shots by Vaughan Wallis
Tired of Gangnam and Hongdae? Then keep reading.While many may still be in the dark about Kondae and its hidden-yet-contagious nightlife, the newly-hip area is filled with mouthwatering restaurants, cheap clothing shops, expansive parks, and even department stores. At night, Kondae comes alive with its offbeat bars and vibrant populace.Located between Children’s Grand Park and Ttuksseom Resort, Kondae literally has everything. Its atmosphere is the perfect mix of popular night spots Gangnam and Hongdae: it maintains the energy and crazy youthful atmosphere of the both places, but without the fancy fluff and superficiality of city-centered Gangnam, and cheap clubs of Hongdae. Instead, it fuses the embrace-the-night attitude and busy daytime sheen of Seoul’s top hangouts with a local tinge and homey feel.
Why not follow the flow of foot traffic to Kondae’s hottest spots?
A Foodie Destination Ever wonder where in Seoul you can find one of those trendy “blind” restaurants where you dine in the dark? Or are you more the type to go for something adventurous, like Korea’s only food stop with barbecued pig’s feet? Either way, Kondae is where you want to be. The alleyways of this college town are filled with diverse delights for your belly.
One must-see stop is Boochoo Gopchang (임성용의 부추곱창), known for its atmosphere and its specialties: hanwoo beef and intestines. Cuts are topped generously with leeks to add a crispy, addictively spicy onion scent to the succulent Gangwon-region beef.
For those in the mood for unique fusion Japanese fare, Amasen (아마센 is a cozy restaurant famous for its Japanese budae-jjigae. A deep beefy ramen broth for the ultimate flavor and right amount of heat, served with addictively chewy homemade udon noodles? Yes please. And if it’s a cooldown you need, Amasen also offers ice udon: a nutty soup topped with shaved ice, which fuses the seedy, icy-sweet and tangy flavors into something sublime.
For Western fare, Bosco and Festa Mare are two restaurants that every Kondae-er knows. But Festa Mare’s bread bowl “pane” pastas have a leg up on the competition simply for their most famous offer: on every third Tuesday of the month, every dish on the menu is W100. Yes, W100!
Kondae’s other famous food destination is a long road of shops specializing in Chinese lamb skewers. Reservations are a must here, especially at Maewha Banjeom (매화반점) where customers pack the place all throughout the day.
Not Sorry for Party Rocking When the sun goes down and the streets light up, the real Kondae suddenly appears out of the dark. Forget about ubiquitous franchise stops like Ho Bar and Salt & Pepper, and instead follow the herd to local favorites such as Siawase (시아와세), a Japanese izakaya famous for two things: a thick menu of top-shelf alcohol and the even thicker house-style okonomiyaki. Savor this Japanese pancake among the soft bustle of regular customers to encourage your happy drinking mood.
If you’re looking for more of a cozy pub, check out Sanoollim (산울림), where in just a single night you will get to know the owners well enough to make song requests while sipping drinks.
For a blast from the past, head to Bamgwa–Eumaksayi (밤과 음악사이), or Space Between Night and Music. This standing bar and its titular atmosphere is one of the most nostalgic trips around. The owners favor Korean hits from the 80’s and 90’s and bar snacks consist of childhood junk food.
A City of Stars If all that hot-weather walking has tired you out and you’d like to cool off, fear not, as the gargantuan Star City is located right next to Konkuk University. While the attached Lotte Department Store is nice for eye-shopping, the main Star City complex is more appropriate for a good time. Imagine an above-ground Coex – you’ll find movie theaters, restaurants, shops, and even an E-Mart all within an air-conditioned space. For those seeking a chill night, a pair of movie tickets might be the best choice after an adventurous meal in the neighborhood.
Who Doesn’t Love Animals? While you couldn’t really claim it as a “find,” another of Kondae’s great aspects is its close proximity to Children’s Grand Park. Within a few blocks of Kondae Station are long green-covered roads, a zoo, a modest amusement park, and even a pony-riding studio. The true beauty of Children’s Grand Park is not in the wealth of activities available at a small price, but in the childlike energy you will feel as you walk along its paths. The zoo is a must; hours will zoom by as you ooh and ahh over the animals, and you’ll feel yourself regressing back to childhood with no adult responsibilities or worries.
The Local’s Han River On the opposite side of Konkuk University lies Ttukseom Resort, the perfect place to lay out on the grass along the Han River or picnic on a beautiful summer day with your friends. Most Seoulites know Yeouido’s popular Han River Park, but Ttukseom offers a riverbank experience free of the crowds that might get in the way of your frolicking.
Along with a large rock-climbing wall, Ttukseom also has one of the only city-owned “gogup” racing bike rental facilities in Seoul. Bring just W6,000 to get your hands on a sleek Benetton bicycle for an hour – if you’re fast, you can make it all the way to Seoul Forest and back with time to spare.
To get to Kondae, get off at Exit 4 of Konkuk University Station on Line 2 and Line 7; for Star City, take exit 3. Ttukseom Resort and Children’s Grand Park are each located at adjacent stations.
Recommended Restaurants and Bars
•SanOolLim산울림200 m past the entrance of “Eating Alley” by Kondae Station Exit 2.