When my sister was coming to visit I quickly started doing a lot of research on where we could find great shopping. She had warned me that she was coming with only one small suitcase and that she was planning to go back with three (yes, she did succeed in doing that – in fact, returned back home with 4 ginormous bags). In my research I stumbled upon the truly great design blog Design*Sponge and its Seoul city guide for Seoul.
And this is how we ended up in Sinsa the very first time and spent a whole day visiting vintage stores, coffee places and small cool fashion shops.
I have seen parallels being drawn to Soho in New York or the Champs-Élysées in Paris, when Sinsa is mentioned online and in magazines and I have to say that it is one of my favorite areas to just wander around in when in Seoul.
Note a small confusing part. Garosu-gil in fact is named Apgujeong-ro on the maps and that Serosu-gil isn’t just one single street but in fact the streets intersecting with Garosu-gil. This took me some weeks to figure out.
In the Seoul city guide at Design*Sponge the following spots are mentioned (I have highlighted them in the map. This would have helped me in the beginning and saved a lot of time to say the least):
Café Papergarden, Hall: “a bright, airy place to grab a bite to eat. Upstairs you’ll find Hall, an equally bright store with a well-curated selection of clothing, books and homewares — think Comme des Garçons, Korean label Talk/Service and Acne Paper.”
Scoop Garden: “a leafy outdoor cafe — perfect for taking a break from shopping to enjoy a glass of wine and a sandwich.”
O’HEYA: “This home-style Japanese cafe gets fairly busy (best to make a reservation or arrive early – especially for lunch!). Their broiled salmon melts in your mouth.”
Deli Heinzburg: “Although dining here can be a bit hectic, there is something to be said about Deli Heinzburg’s sandwiches. They have a wide selection, delicious breads and are very generous with the toppings. Their pickled red cabbage and daikon are also amazing.”
Sett Sensitive Pancake Café: “This is my favorite brunch place in Seoul. The prices are very reasonable (especially for Sinsa-dong) and you can’t beat the atmosphere. It’s cozy and their pancake sets are a perfect start to any day.”
DARE: “Dare is most definitely the best vintage shop I’ve ever been to. It reminds me a bit of Toronto’s 69 Vintage, and the stock is heavy on the denim. They also have very unique homewares (think crucifixes and taxidermy). Everything in the shop is available to buy or rent.”
9owls: “9owls sells vintage goods from the 1920s to 1980s — they have an exceptional selection of handbags.”
Vivasell. “Located through a sliver of a doorway and down a dangerously steep flight of stairs, this vintage shop is worth venturing into. Like 9owls, they too a have highly covetable collection of handbags.”
Some of the places we went to:
Mug for Rabbit/Cork for Turtle: This cafe has become one of my favorites, not because of the bunny theme and not because they have strange lattes such as wasabi and ginger, but because the have built in touch screens into their coffee tables that let you play board games with your friends. Genious!
Le Alaska: We were lured in by this café’s cozy atmosphere while walking through the back alleys of Sinsa. It is the first place I have been to were you can see the bakers do there thing. The capucino and chocolate cake I ordered was however a so so.
ÅLAND. Coming out from ÅLAND looks confusingly alike exiting form Åhlens. They have a very similar way of using the letter “Å” on their paper bags which was quite fun to see. The very first Åland that we were to was actually in COEX but I have spotted them in many other locations such as Hongdae, Sinsa-dong, Apgujeong and Myeongdong (as Design*Sponge also mentions).
Spain Club. A Tapas places with quite decent food. Rather pricy and watch out to not to order to many dishes where they use olive oil. Can get a bit too much.
School Food. Here you can eat many different kinds of Topokki than the normal street Topokki found at the street stands during evenings. My favorite is the Topokki Carbonara – extremely tasty and extremely heavy! Don’t miss out on trying School Food’s Gimbap.