The Arty Neighbourhood of Buam-dong (부암동) in the Centre of Seoul

I love to cafe-hop, especially if they have something unique to offer. So after reading about Buam-dong (부암동) in Jongno-gu (종로) of Seoul, I told myself this is a must-go destination in Seoul, because it is described as the arty neighbourhood in the centre of Seoul, just like Samcheong-dong (삼청동), but without the crowd. So it was just nice that despite slipping Deoksugung Palace into my itinerary at the last minute, I could still visit Buam-dong since they are both in the same Jongno district.

After a leisurely stroll to enjoy the spring scenery along the stone-wall street around the palace, I found myself at Koreana Hotel, & a tourist information counter was just beside it, opposite Cheonggye Plaza. Just to confirm my route for the day ahead, I went in to enquire about the sites I wished to visit that day. The friendly officer was shocked to hear my long to-do list for the day, & although she doubted that I could complete them all successfully within the day, she still provided me with useful walking directions to get around in Jongno-gu. I shall not reveal my full day itinerary now, but leave you to read my posts one by one to find out for yourself. 😛

To get to Buam-dong by public transport, take the subway to Gwanghwamun Station (Line 5, 광화문역) exit 3. Walk straight for about 100m to the bus stop ahead (KT Gwanghwamun Building / KT 광화문지사), & take any 1 of the 3 buses #1020, #7022 or #7212 here to the arty neighbourhood. From this bus stop, you’ll be able to see the Statue of Admiral Yi Sun-Sin (이순신장군동상) in the middle of the road. Alight at the 6th bus stop – Buam-dong Community Centre, Mugyewon (부암동 주민센터, 무계원) to venture into this enchanting hilly village filled with pretty cafes, art galleries, historical ruins etc.

I didn’t read online reviews on the best cafes to visit in the neighbourhood, instead I decided to just roam around & check out any cafe that I could feel a “connection” with. Who knows, I may discover a hidden gem along the way, that was what I thought. 😉 Pictures speak better than words, so see my photos below of the quaint village on the hill. 🙂

Buam-dong 1

Plenty of little alleys to turn into for pretty tranquil sights & little surprises

Charming cafes along the main road

Charming cafes along the main road

From the Buam-dong community centre bus stop (middle pic), take your time to explore the neighbourhood located between the Inwangsan & Bugaksan mountains

From the Buam-dong community centre bus stop (middle pic), take your time to explore the neighbourhood located between the Inwangsan & Bugaksan mountains

After some “shortlisting” of cafes, I finally decided on checking out Anyway 1MM Cafe (어쨌거나.1MM 카페) located in 1 of the quiet alleys away from the main road. It is not just a cafe, but also a life studio aka furniture workshop. I love its tasteful wooden interiors & the products displayed in the shop. There was no other customer when I entered the cafe, great to relax in a quiet setting & enjoy my cafe-time. 🙂

Ordered a Giant Milkshake (centre pic) that was pretty to look at, & nice to drink

Ordered a Giant Milkshake (centre pic) that was pretty to look at, & nice to drink

The only staff in the cafe was a sweet lady who didn’t rush me into ordering. She also answered all my questions patiently. Maybe she’s the boss, I’m not sure hehe. Anyway, I didn’t expect my Giant Milkshake (KRW7,500/ S$9) to be so huge until it was served. Nonetheless I still finished the whole sinful glass because it was so good, with rich vanilla milkshake topped with cookies & cream + whipped cream! 😛 Lovely find for the afternoon, despite it not being on the top list of cafes being raved about in Buam-dong. 🙂

After such a rich filling glass of milkshake, I felt recharged & began my walk down the hill along Changuimun-ro (창의문로), past the Changuimun Gate to explore parts of the historic Seoul Fortress Wall. Thanks to the tourist information counter officer, who had mentioned to me that I would be able to see some parts of the fortress wall just by walking down the hill to my next destination – the Tongin Market (통인시장). I didn’t climb up the defensive wall that was built to protect Seoul from invaders in the Joseon Dynasty though, as I had enough of this in Suwon, haha. But it was a nice 30-min hike down the hill before I found Tongin Market – set up during the Korean War for the Japanese.

More sightings of beautiful spring flowers along the hike down the hill

More sightings of beautiful spring flowers along the hike down the hill

An entrance to the Seoul Fortress Wall trail, where the statue of

An entrance to the Seoul Fortress Wall trail, where the statue of Superintendent General Choi Gyu-Sik can be found

Along the way, I passed by several schools, embassies & historical buildings before I finally found the entrance of Tongin Market. This walk took longer than I thought, which meant I only managed to get to the Dosirak (도시락) market around 3.45 pm, & the Dosirak Cafe only opens till 4.00 pm! 😦 In case you are wondering what is a Dosirak, it’s actually a lunchbox with compartments for different kinds of food. The Japanese will call this a Bento, but well, this is Korea, so it’s a Dosirak. 😉

Tongin Market was established in 1941 during the Korean War as a marketplace for Japanese residents. After the Korean War ended, the Korean vendors replaced the Japanese stalls, but business wasn’t great, until the village community centre decided to set up a Dosirak Cafe here. So now, visitors can find 75 stores, mostly selling food that you can purchase with the traditional coins exchanged at the cafe.

Tongin Market & its food stores

Tongin Market & its food stores

Sad that I couldn’t arrive in time to have fun buying food to pack into the Dosirak from the stores. For KRW5,000 (S$6), you’ll get an empty Dosirak / lunchbox with ten traditional coins (each cost KRW500). Use the coins to buy the food you like to pack into the Dosirak & enjoy your meal at the Dosirak Cafe on level 2 of the market. Even near closing time when I arrived, the cafe was still packed with so many customers! Sigh… next time I shall visit earlier when it opens at 11.00 am! If you are interested to visit this traditional market’s Dosirak Cafe, do note that it is closed every Monday, as well as the 3rd Sunday of the month.

I really enjoyed the afternoon in the charming hilly neighbourhood of Buam-dong & the hike down to Tongin Market. It was a refreshing change from the ever-crowded downtown Seoul & I would certainly be back again next time!

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