When I tell people I live in Seoul, most of them look at me with vague confusion. ‘Is that in Japan or China?’ they usually ask. Then I tell them I live in Gangnam, and suddenly they remember South Korea’s favourite song! Yes, the one with the dance… But it’s so much more than a gimmicky song!
ISN’T GANGNAM IT A SONG?
Yes, it is, but Gangnam is one of the most popular areas to visit in Seoul, and for good reason. Gangnam literally translates as ‘south of the river.’ Compared to the rest of Seoul, it’s pretty modern and new (although most of present-day Seoul is incredibly new compared to most European cities.) The area was developed during the Seoul 1988 Olympics. It is now the centre for entertainment, music, glitz and expensive apartments. The song is a gentle mocking of this new flashy Seoulite living in Gangnam.
WHAT IS THERE TO DO?
The main draw of Gangnam is shopping and eating. Most Korean brands are in attendance here, especially Korean beauty brands, such as Innisfree, Nature’s Republic, Banilla, and The Face Shop. The clothes shopping isn’t amazing, but make sure you explore the train station if you are after budget buys. Here you will find small stalls and boutiques selling fast, Korean fashion.
One of the best reasons to visit Gangnam is to EAT. The majority of restaurants are on either side of the main street. As a rule of thumb, most European restaurants are behind Exit 11 and Korean food is mostly found behind Exit 10. Obviously, there is some cross-over, but this is generally how it is organised.
Every kind of food is represented here! There are curry houses, sushi, Mexican, American Grill/BBQ, Korean BBQ, dak galbi, and Irish pubs. My favourite are: Austin’s for great American food, Billy Angel for cake, Shake Shack, Café Mama’s for paninis, and The Flying Pan for brunch.
If books are your thing, make sure you walk all the way down the main street. You will then see a large building with KYOBO on the top. This is the main branch of one of Korea’s biggest bookstores. Here you will find a large collection of English books, magazines, electrical items, and handmade items being sold by individual sellers. It’s a pretty impressive space to just have a wander around.
Gangnam is also famous for its super clubs. These are so expensive I’ve never been! I’ve generally heard good things though, just be prepared to spend! The most famous is Octagon.
If you find yourself in Seoul, make sure you take the trip down to Gangnam. Lots of people miss it out because it is south, but it’s totally worth seeing the modern face of Seoul.
HOW TO GET THERE?
Gangnam is located on Line 2. You can also take Line 9 to Sinnonhyeon, which is at the other end. Use Exit 10 or 11 to access the main street.