Words by Conor O’Reilly, shots by Ben Haynes
Yeongtong-dong is an impressive sight. Mostly a residential area with high-rise apartment complexes, at first you could be forgiven for thinking there’s not really much to see. However, in the centre of the relative calm and cohesion of this apartment conurbation is something quite different.
Less than twenty years old, this district on the outskirts of Suwon is dominated by many tall buildings packed densely together in the centre of this small dong (동, neighborhood). Recognisable by 24-hour flashing neon, the area is one of the top night spots in Suwon. Here a mix of university students, upwardly mobile Koreans and expats all converge to socialise seven nights a week. The diversity of local residents and visitors has encouraged the opening of a wide variety of venues where you can relax and let your hair down.
The very centre of Yeongtong is unmistakable: tall buildings, loud music blaring into the street, and flashing lights. There is a plethora of tuna restaurants, noraebang, hofs, izakaya, and the usual list of franchised restaurants and coffee shops seemingly found everywhere, and all are packed within easy stumbling distance of each other.
But it’s on the outskirts where Yeongtong offers its best fare. Behind the main drag of brightly lit, late-night businesses sits Half Moon Park (반달공원), a placid local park that stands in sharp contrast to the streets nearby. Cut through here to the far side and discover quiet coffee shops such as Hello Stranger where they roast fresh coffee daily, or Two Spoons of Sugar (설탕2스푼), serving an excellent selection of freshly made juices. Both are modern, cosy, and tastefully designed.
Around the corner from both of these is Avec Des Frites, a small eatery specialising in, well, frites, or crispy French fries cut freshly from potatoes and served with your choice of a wide selection of sauces (although you can never go wrong with ketchup). Take your time to relax in this funky graffiti-walled spot that is popular with the many students who frequent it. For added relaxation, enjoy a cold European beer avec des frites.
On the far side of Half Moon Park is a new café/wine bar named Grotto. Recently opened with an extensive and affordable wine list, this place is fast becoming popular with both Koreans and expats as it offers a welcome alternative to the established bar and noraebang scene. If a full bottle is beyond you, glasses of house wine are generous, and the sangria, while a little watery at times, is also liberally served.
Walking back towards the main drag, you’ll pass by a nondescript grey concrete building which is just before KFC. Enter this building and take the elevator to the fifth floor to find The Queen’s Head, a microbrewery making German-styled beers and a wood-fired pizza oven. While the beer is good, the surroundings are especially refreshing. With high ceilings, big wood tables and ornate partitions, The Queen’s Head has a unique traditional feel to it, as well as smoking and non-smoking sections.
Yeongtong is adding new and finer food and drink locations on a weekly basis, so be sure to keep exploring to find more worthwhile places to visit.
More Venue Info
Hello Stranger blog.naver.com/h_stranger 031-273-8808
Two Spoons of Sugar 031-273-2923
Avec Des Frites blog.naver.com/semipga 010-6542-6523 (limited English)
Grotto 010-8702-6772 (English spoken)
The Queen’s Head 031-203-2669 (limited English)
Getting There Buses servicing Yeongtong include the M5107 from Seoul Station and the 5500 from Gangnam. By rail, disembark at Suwon Station and transfer to the 10, 10-5, or 37, which will bring you to the HomePlus at the entrance to the plaza.