Seoul-Ful Journey: 3 Must-Visit Districts for Every K-Pop Fan
It may be known as “the land of the morning calm”, but Seoul, the vibrant capital of South Korea, also pulsates with the rhythm of the global phenomenon best known as K-pop.
Maybe you're a hardcore BTS ARMY (BTS fan) or you're looking forward to attending an exciting K-pop concert taking place in Seoul.
Or maybe your kids have been swept up by the infectious Korean wave and are raving about making the ultimate K-pop pilgrimage. Either way, you’ve now perhaps found yourself, airplane ticket booked, ready to embark from Singapore to Seoul on the most exciting journey through the heart of K-pop.
In this article, we’ll take you on a tour of the top three must-visit places in Seoul, where you’ll be able to delve into the beating heart of Korean pop culture. K-pop fan or not, we promise there is something for everyone in the family in this Seoul-ful special.
1. Gangnam, Seoul: The Pulse of K-pop
Gangnam has been a leading place of Korean trends even before Psy made horse-riding-dancing look, um, “cool” (the jury is still out on this one). Sure, Gangnam is the epitome of trendy and upscale Seoul, with its chic boutiques and luxury brands, but it’s also known for its deep roots in the K-pop universe.
"Gangnam Style" has become immortalised in a large way in Gangnam, Seoul
Where It All Begins: K-pop Entertainment Companies
The Gangnam district is home to some of the main Korean entertainment companies, including:
● SM Entertainment (Super Junior, EXO, Girls’ Generation, SHINee, Red Velvet),
● JYP Entertainment (Twice, ITZY, 2PM, Stray Kids, Day6, NiziU, Wonder Girls), and
● YG Entertainment (BLACKPINK, 2NE1, BigBang, WINNER).
This place is pretty much the birthplace of some of the biggest K-pop groups. As a fan, you won’t be able to enter these buildings to hunt down your idols, but it’s still worth making a trip down because of other things to do in Gangnam, so read on.
Get Beary Star Struck: Gangnam K-Star Road
There are quite a number of “K-Star Road”s in South Korea, and BTS ARMY might be more familiar with the Gwangju K-pop Star Street, thanks to the huge sculpture of the word ‘HOPE’ in support of BTS’s j-hope, whom himself hails from Gwangju. Interestingly, though, the Gangnam K-Star Road came first, and it’s also a lot more accessible in Seoul than travelling all the way further south to Gwangju.
Besides K-pop related shops, cafes and art installations, the Gangnam K-Star Road features popular Seoul attractions the GangnamDols, life-sized bear figurines that represent various K-pop groups. Besides making for great pictures, you of course also have the option of purchasing miniature bears to take home with you - just look out for the GangnamDol Haus.
Eat Where They Ate: Yoojung Sikdang
Yoojung Sikdang is a very homely, down-to-earth eatery just steps away from the old Big Hit Entertainment Studio where everything BTS all began. The boys visited this eatery regularly in their pre-debut days, and their favourite dishes are on the menu for you to enjoy.
The Black Pork and Stone Pot, also known as “Bangtan Bibimbap” after BTS’s original name, is practically the definition of “Seoul food” (get it?) and an absolute must-try. The eatery’s ajumma “Aunty” has said that they always used to sit in the same spot, so visit early and you can “chope” the same seat your favourite idol sat at!
2. Hongdae, Seoul: Where Indie Spirit Meets K-Pop Passion
In the heart of youthful exuberance, Hongdae thrives as the breeding ground for budding artists and spirited performers. This artsy, bohemian neighbourhood is the perfect blend of alternative culture and K-pop frenzy. If dance is your thing, Hongdae is where to go in Seoul.
Buskers & Street Performances
Home to Hongik National University, Seoul’s top arts university, Hongdae serves as a natural beacon that attracts artists from all over the country. The best time to walk through Hongdae Street would be on the weekends, when you can see Seoul’s youth out busking on the streets, doing what they love to do - make music, dance, and just create art. It’s high energy, it’s fun, young and exuberant, and it’s highly infectious.
Tip: Just one subway stop away from Hongdae, busking in Sinchon grew in popularity when Hongdae busking was closed down during Covid-19, so you can check it out as well while you’re in the area!
Youthful exuberance and K-pop artistry reign at Hongdae's busking spots
Dance The Night Away
What’s a trip to Hongdae without checking out its nightlife? There are many hip hop clubs in Hongdae, including one of Hongdae’s longest-running indie clubs, Club FF, also known for its rock, ska, punk and sometimes heavy metal lineups, and the club with the strange moniker, Strange Fruit, a totally unassuming dive bar best known for its indie performances and cheap whisky shots.
However, for a K-pop fan, NB2 (Noise Basement) is probably the one that you might want to check out, especially since it’s owned and operated by YG Entertainment company. Being in the very location of BigBang afterparties, dancing under the NB2 lights will certainly wash a K-wave over you.
Note: There is a minimum age of 19, so maybe save this for a trip without the kids!
Get Moving with a One-Day K-pop Dance Class
If you really want to walk, or rather, dance, in the shoes of your favourite K-pop artists, then there is no better way than to learn some K-pop dance moves yourself with Real K-pop Dance Studio in Hongdae. Specially designed for travellers to Seoul, no prior dance experience is required, and the 90-minute dance class is even conducted in English.
Sure, you can join K-pop dance classes in Singapore, but can it really compare with the experience of learning the real thing from professional K-pop backup dancers right in the heart of happening Hongdae? Upon completion of the dance class, you’ll “graduate” with a certificate, as well as photos and a video of your complete choreography for memories. It’s perfect for families too since kids are also welcome to participate.
3. Myeongdong, Seoul: Retail Paradise for K-pop Fans
K-pop Retail Therapy
The Myeongdong district is simply Seoul’s shopping mecca and an absolute pit-stop on your Seoul itinerary for all K-pop shopaholics!
Make sure to leave extra space in your luggage for all your Myeongdong shopping!
Whether you’re strolling the Myeongdong Shopping Street on street level, or hitting the popular Underground Myeongdong Shopping Centre, this place is simply a treasure trove of K-pop albums, fashion, souvenirs, and official merch. Look out especially for small, hole-in-the-wall shops that may surprise you with a secret collection of K-pop inspired items that you can’t find anywhere else. Many travellers have also said they’ve been able to find older albums here that are no longer in distribution.
And when the sun goes down, it’s time to take a stroll through the nearby Myeongdong Night Market, which will extend your shopping in Seoul until it’s time to head to bed.
If you’re a fan of Korean skincare , or simply want to support the products used and endorsed by your favourite K-pop artists with their perfect glass-like skin, then Myeongdong is the place to explore, with its abundance of beauty and skincare shops. While you may be able to find Korean skincare shops in Singapore, some of these Korean skincare brands are also known to have launched products and collections that are exclusive to the Korean market.
While you’re looking out for these, it would also be a great time to look out for other popular Korean skincare brands and/or Korean beauty products that aren’t currently sold in Singapore.
Seoul Travel Tip #1: Subway Travel
It’s easy to get around to the different districts with Seoul’s subway system, which runs from 5.30am all the way to midnight.
We recommend purchasing the multiple journey pass called T-Money if you’re making a couple of trips.
Not only do T-Money card holders enjoy a discounted fare per trip , you also don’t have to bother with returning the single-trip card each time you reach your destination in order to get your 500 won deposit back.
Beyond just subway and buses, you can also use your T-Money card in taxis, convenience stores, supermarkets, vending machines, and some F&B chains.
Additional tips when it comes to the T-Money pass:
● One important thing you have to take note of is to purchase your T-Money pass at any convenience store before heading to the subway station, as you can only purchase single-journey passes there. You can recharge your T-Money pass at the subway stations but only with cash.
● You get a transfer discount when you transfer from one bus to another within 30 minutes (1 hour after 9:00 pm), so be sure to tap out when you leave the bus.
● While the T-Money card doesn’t expire, credit balances will expire. You can refund your balance or use your card at the Seoul airport to buy last minute souvenirs and snacks!
Seoul Travel Tip #2: Travel Insurance
Don’t forget to get your travel insurance before heading on your Seoul-ful journey! Besides coverage for medical expenses, or in the event you lose your personal belongings, travel documents or money, travel insurance also covers delayed flights and delayed baggage, and even personal liability. Travel insurance with DirectAsia is affordable , easy to purchase on mobile, and quick when it comes to claims. Make sure you’re covered today!