Photo: ‘Common Ground’ Mall
Seoul has a great number of downtown areas across the city. In particular, university streets or the so-called ‘towns’ designed near schools are full of liveliness and energy, much thanks to the vast number of young crowd. One good example is the area surrounding Konkuk University Station (Seoul Subway Line 2, 7) located in the east of Seoul, where it has long been serving as a center for commercial activities.
However, the district serves just more than that. Also often referred as Kondae, it provides a chance to see for oneself the fast-changing trends of Korea in all sectors, including fashion, beauty, dining, and more. Hop on a trip to Kondae, the rising hot place among youngsters today!
Common Ground, an eye-catching and large blue building, is the world’s biggest and Korea’s first pop-up container shopping mall. The place is garnering so much attention that the number of visitors exceeded a million in just 100 days since its opening, and has become the new landmark of the Kondae area. Unique and trendy small brands, new designers’ shops, and editorial shops pack the mall, adding to the enthusiasm of the lively youngsters.
On the central square (also known as Market Ground), the weekend market is held with different themes. In addition, it is the venue of diverse events such as exhibitions and performances, thereby playing its role as a cultural space.
If you are hungry while looking around the myriad of shops there, you can go to the Market Terrace, which is just a few steps up to the third floor. The terrace interestingly features a collection of famous restaurants from various parts of the city, such as Hongdae, Gyeongnidan-gil Road, and Sinsadong Garosu-gil Road. If you are up for a lighter meal, you can enjoy some snacks at one of the food trucks found on the Market Ground, where exotic gastronomic performance can also seen!
Star City Mall is a multi-shopping complex that houses a department store, superstore, movie theater, large-scale bookstore, along with a wide array of fashion boutiques and restaurants. In particular, there are many well-known franchise restaurants in the complex, so you can find a satisfying dining experience wherever you choose to go. The back street of Common Ground leads to Rodeo Street, which is flanked by various brands of fashion and sports shops, as well as, restaurants. It is an exceedingly fun experience to scour through alleys after alleys of roadside shops and tasty restaurants.
Kondae Taste Street is filled with restaurants serving a diverse assortment of foods that are popular in Korea. Dining choices range from all-time favorite Korean dishes, such as samgyeopsal (grilled pork belly) and galbi (grilled beef ribs), to exotic Western cuisines. You can also find trendy dessert cafés that have recently gained huge popularity. Many of the restaurants and bars stay open till late night, so the street remains illuminated until dawn.
Now it’s time for a look around the heartwarming traditional markets hidden in the golmok (golmok means small streets in Korean), instead of the high-end shopping malls. Located about 10 minutes’ walking distance from Konkuk University Station are Norunsan Golmok Market and Yeongdonggyo Golmok Market, where you can purchase food as well as variety of inexpensive household items.
Savory snacks sold at reasonable prices lure travelers to try them and before you know, you will find yourself feeling full as you try one snack after another. Visitors are advised to bring cash as cards are not always accepted here.
About a 15-minute walk or a one station ride on the subway from Konkuk University Station will take you to Ttukseom Hangang Park, an ideal place to take in the gorgeous view of the Hangang River. The park serves as a resting place for the citizens of Seoul. On weekdays or weeknights, many visitors flock to the park to enjoy a leisure picnic. Bicycle rentals are available year round and the park opens an outdoor swimming pool in the summer and an ice skating rink in the winter.
The exquisitely unique structure that stands out even from a distance is a cultural complex called Jabeolle or J-Bug. It has become the symbol of Ttukseom Hangang Park and visitors can enjoy a panoramic view of the Hangang River, which is both a getaway spot and a residential site for Seoulites. The cultural complex also offers a variety of culture and art events free of charge.
Children’s Grand Park is where you can experience a wide stretch of nature in the downtown. Visitors will be amazed to find out what they can enjoy, free of charge. The park has a well-kept botanical garden and zoo, along with its picturesque scenery. The botanical garden features some 290 species of greenhouse plants and over 70 species of wild flowers, while the zoo is home to more than 4,100 animals of 95 different species, including elephants, tigers, and meerkats. The rides within the park are available at additional costs. Seoul Children’s Museum is also a must-visit attraction for visitors with children as it offers a range of hands-on activities and fun educational programs.
* This column was last updated in September 2015, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details from the official websites before visiting.
<Last updated on September 10, 2015>