I have plotted out a foodie walking tour of downtown Seoul that features dumpling stops. The walking tour takes you through some of the key sites in downtown Seoul and some of the best foodie spots.
Start at the Yellow push pin – Shinsegae Department Store
1. Start at Shinsegae Department Store Basement. The basement has a gourmet food market that has lots of free samples, regional food demonstrations and a really good food court. Spend some time in the food market, try the samples and check out whatever regional food is being promoted. The dumpling stall in the food court sells steamed and pan fried dumplings – try the pan fried kimchee-pork dumplings.
Head to Din Tai Fung – Shinsegae is at the corner of Sogongo road and Namdaemun road, the best way to get cross Sogongo road is to head down into the underground shopping arcade, the entrance of which is in front of Shinsegae. Come back up from the arcade on the other side of Sogongo road and head onto Namdaemun road. Din Tai Fung is in a court yard off Namdaemun road, about half a block north of the intersection with Sogongo road.
2. Din Tai Fung – I haven’t actually eaten at Din Tai Fung, they don’t have a single vegetarian item on the menu and my traveling companion is vegan. But the restaurant has an excellent reputation and the dumpling menu looks awesome.
Head to Myeongdong Gyoza – keep going north on Namdaemun road and take a right at Myeongdong Gil, which is a pedestrian street. Myeongdong is a fashion shopping neighborhood and is packed with small boutiques and a famous cathedral that was an important center of pro-democracy demonstrations in the 1970 and 80s. The neighborhood is a lot of fun to walk around, so spend some time here. I don’t know the name of the street that Myeongdong Gyoza is on, but the street is the 3rd right as you walk along Myeongdong Gil.
3. Myeongdong Gyoza – is a famous dumpling spot that has been around for decades, it serves steamed pork mandoo and three noodle dishes. The dumplings here are amazing, some of my all-time favorites, see my review here.
Head to the Lotte Department Store – double back on Myeongdong Gil and head back to Namdaemun road. When you hit Namdaemun road go down into the underground arcade that is underneath Namdaemun road and follow the signs to the Lotte. This whole area around Myeongdong has a fascinating underground shopping arcade, it is a good place to get CD/DVDs, gifts and custom made suits and shirts. The entrances to the arcade look like subway entrances.
4. Lotte Department Store – like the Shinsegae, the Lotte basement has a gourmet food store and food court. There are lots of free samples in the food store, particularly at the huge kimchee counter which is a must try. Another must see spot is the Jerky stall in the prepared food section of the basement, they sell an amazing jerky bacon. The dumpling stall has really good pan fried pork and kimchee dumplings, see my review here.
Head to Insadong – Insadong is another great walking/shopping/art/eating neighborhood about ten minutes walk from the Lotte. The best way through the huge intersection of Namdaemun road and Euliji road is to cut through the Eujili subway station. Enter the station from the basement of the Lotte, head north-east through the station and look for exit 3, which will put you back on Namdaemun road. Head north on Namdaemun road for one block and then you will hit the bridge that crosses the Cheonggyecheon river. Take the stairs down to the walk-way along the bank of the river and head east for about two blocks. At the first overpass bridge you reach, take the stairs up to street level and head north again on Samil-daero road. After you cross Jong-ro road, Insadong street will be on your left.
Insadong – this is a great neighborhood to check out, full of galleries, bars, restaurants, tea houses and boutiques. There are lots of little alleyways off the main pedestrian street, some of the most interesting stores and restaurants are down these alleys.
5. Buchon Dumplings – Located on a back alley, Buchon is a tiny spot that seats about 12, it is so small that the dumpling fryer area is actually in-front of the store, in the alley. Buchon sells excellent fried and steamed pork and chive dumplings, see my review here.
Finding Bukchon is a little tricky. As you walk along Insadong street look for a pharmacy on your right (marked with a blue marker on the map), facing the pharmacy look for an alleyway to the left of the pharmacy, Buchon is down this alley. Also at the end of the alley there is a restaurant that sells amazing grilled mackerel. I don’t know the name of this restaurant, it is below street level, very casual and you can see into the kitchen from the alleyway – look for tubs of live mackerel in the kitchen.
Night time/evening variations:
There are several additional eating spots along this walking trail that open up at night.
The blue highlighted street just south of Jong-ro comes alive at night and is basically all bars and restaurants.
The blue push pin is at a court yard that turns into an open air beer garden/street food court at night. There are all sorts of foods served here that go great with beer drinking (food known as anju), including dumplings, blood sausage, grilled fish, and pig trotters.
The green push pin is at a parking lot that at night fills up with Pojangmacha – small tented, wheeled stalls that roll out at night and sell beer, soju and street food. Each cart sells maybe one or two food items and you can sort of graze from stall-o-stall. Pojangmacha are heavy drinking spots and you’ll see office workers getting seriously drunk at these stalls.
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