Hongdae might be one of the most popular areas in Seoul, especially amongst the youngsters. Because no trip to South Korea’s capital would be complete without a stroll in this area, I have put together the top 17 things to do in Hongdae.
Home to some of Seoul’s most prestigious universities, perfectly linked to the airport, and packed with quirky cafes and countless shops, Hongdae is the place to go to for a day of fun.
Since we lived relatively close, I loved going out and simply strolling around this area. There is something for everyone, and you could not get bored in Hongdae!
You don’t have to be traveling with teenagers in order to enjoy this area. Moreover, because of its location easily reached from the airport and only 2 subway stops away from the city center, Hongdae is also one of the best areas to stay in Seoul.
Thus, without further ado, here are my top 17 favorite things to do on a day in Hongdae.
Read also: Where to stay in Hongdae, best hotels
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Top 17 things to do in Hongdae, Seoul
How to get to Hongdae and an overview
If you are traveling from Incheon airport, the easiest and fastest way to get to Hongdae is by taking the Airport Railroad. You will find it marked with blue on the subway app
The line is direct from Incheon Airport (or Gimpo Airport) to Hongik University Station (respectively Hongdae area).
Inside the subway station, you will find luggage storage. Depending on where you want to get to, take different exits – I will try to specify the correct exit for each of the activities on the list.
Hongdae area can be split into more “regions” each with its appeal and attractions.
The area around Hongik Station is packed with bars, restaurants, and shops, and is where you will want to go for the K-Pop street show.
Across the street, around subway exit 3, you will enter the Yeonnam-dong area. Come here for fancier restaurants and cafes, photo booths, and overall a posher area.
A bit further away, yet within walking distance, lies hidden the Yenhui area. The hippest of the 3, this is popular with locals and not so much with tourists. However, this was one of my favorite areas to get lost in.
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Top things to do
Shop for K-beauty cosmetics
An area packed with students and tourists here is one of the main places to come to for cosmetics. Any Korean beauty brand you can think of, you will find it here.
The good news is that most shops in this area always have special offers on display. You can try some of your favorite products without having to walk too much.
Olive Young, Innisfree, Banila, Chicor, Aritaum, all, and much more will be within walking distance. Come prepared to shop ’till you drop and have some extra space in your luggage.
Participate in a K-Pop street show
On my first visit to Seoul as a tourist, I walked from one end to the other of the main street in Hongdae and stopped in awe to watch all the various street performances.
Even though I am not a huge K-Pop fan, it is hard not to be distracted by the crowds watching these young people perform. South Korea has a strong K-Pop culture and you will hear the most popular songs of the moment wherever you go.
There is no wonder most young people dream of becoming the next big thing in music.
Where to go: take Exit 8 and walk on the first street on the right
Visit Kakao Friends Hongik Univ. Branch
Even if you are not a Kakao Friends fan, a visit to this shop will offer some cuteness overload. This is also a popular Instagram spot because of the huge toys on display.
Shop here for some souvenirs or simply feel like a child looking around.
Where is it: in front of exit 8, next to Starbucks.
Go for a beauty treatment
It’s one thing to buy cosmetics and another to experience authentic Korean beauty treatment.
South Korea is the country with the largest number of cosmetic procedures done every year, and you will be amazed by the number of beauty clinics you will see around.
While most clinics specialize in fillers and surgeries, there are those where you can go for a facial or laser treatment. In my opinion, if you don’t want to splurge on a luxury treatment at Sulwhasoo or SPA 1899, a clinic in Hongdae is the best and most affordable option.
I used to go to Shine Beam and really enjoyed the treatments they do there. Unlike in many places, the people in the Hongdae branch speak English and I never felt lost for words.
Because facials are a normal thing in South Korea, in places like Shine Beam, you will enjoy your treatment in a room with many beds. However, laser treatments are performed in a separate room, where you will have your privacy.
Prices don’t even compare to those in many countries, thus I encourage you not to skip this experience.
Where it is: exit 1, in the building with Hana Bank.
Stroll on the Gyeongui Line Book Street
An old railway has been transformed into a beautiful pedestrian park in the middle of residential buildings. One of my favorite places to go for a stroll, apart from the many bookstores, in this area you will find beautiful flowers and cool cafes and restaurants.
Some of the buildings along the trail have murals or have been painted in vibrant colors. Especially during the sunny weather, one should not miss a walk from one end to the other of the Gyeongui Line Book Street.
Have coffee at one of the many cool cafes
Everywhere you turn, but especially as you cross the street towards Yeonnam-dong or Yenhui, you will find countless cafes. Some of them have made it to my best cafes and coffee in Seoul, and some are simply unique in their own way.
The above cove is located along the Gyeongui Line Book Street and supports the neighborhood’s cats. They have a box for donations and you will see cats hanging around for food or rest.
In Yeonnam-dong you will find plenty of Instagram-worthy cafes or even specialty coffee places. With such a huge variety of places to choose from, I couldn’t possibly tell you where to go. Allow yourself to get lost and step inside the cafe that catches your eye.
Shop for K-Fashion
If you are into pastel dresses, short skirts, and unique shirts, the small shops around Hongdae should be on your list.
K-fashion, like K-beauty, has taken the world by storm and you should at least try on a few items.
Things might be a bit challenging with dresses or skirts that come in only one universal size, but it is worth checking them out. You might find some hidden gems.
Try Korean street food
Or Korean barbeque. You will find plenty of restaurants around Hongdae, most offering delicious food at an affordable price. This is the area popular with students after all.
Chicken and beer, pork belly bbq, soups, seafood, and much more – choose your favorite and enjoy a fun evening out. Everything with soju, of course.
Visit a cat cafe
I absolutely love this about Asia! While with other larger animals I would argue it is hard to keep them in a closed space, most cats are lazy and enjoy sitting around, having food and comfort.
Moreover, people in South Korea have a passion for cats and you will see that everywhere: t-shirts, statues, bags, you name it.
Right next to exit 3 you will find the Yeonnamdong Cat Cafe and I think you should give it a try. Only if you are a cat person.
Taste one of the best pho in town
I know we have spoken about Korean food, and pho is not a local dish. However, this Vietnamese soup is popular in Seoul and it is one of our all-time favorites.
After searching for the best pho in Seoul for quite a while, we have found 2 restaurants worth trying in Hongdae. Both are set in Yeonnam-dong and are within walking distance of one another.
Moreover, one is a popular Instagram location.
Pho Ga Le is 5 minutes away from subway line 2 exit 3, on the Gyeongui Line Forest Trail Park. While they don’t have a huge menu and the place is pretty small, their pho is delicious.
Ban Mi Peueong is the second option set only a few minutes away.
With a unique design that took us back to Hoi An, this is a place popular for its Ban Mi (Vietnamese sandwich). That being said, their pho is delicious and comes in a huge portion.
Go to the 3D Cafe
Since you are in the area, a few blocks away from the Vietnamese restaurants you will find the popular Cafe Yeonnam-dong 239-20 3D Cafe (Geurim Cafe).
You might want to get there early as soon as they open, or come prepared to wait in line for some time. Even though their menu wasn’t impressive, the interior and even the mugs and cutlery are created so that they offer an optical illusion.
It is worth knowing that you cannot simply walk in and take a picture, they only allow photos after you have ordered.
Take fun pictures in one of the photo booths
In this area in particular, everywhere you turn you will see a photo booth. They come with props and different settings, making them a fun way to spend 15-20 minutes fooling around with your travel partner.
You will have a fun memory to take home and put on your refrigerator.
See a fortune teller/tarot
To my surprise, tarot and fortune tellers are a huge thing in South Korea. And they are not only popular with the older generation, you will find plenty of popular ones around Hongdae as well.
Even though many might not speak English, you could at least ask and have a fun memory. Some have pictures up on their walls of celebrities visiting them, making them even more appealing to youngsters who want to learn about their luck in love.
Go back to childhood at one of the play zones
It is really fun how grown-ups don’t shy away from feeling like children and playing when they feel like it.
Around Hongdae, you will see plenty of play zones where you can spend minutes or hours having fun.
K-pop Photoshoot with K-Beauty Makeup and Hair Styling
Korean women are internationally known for their beauty and looks, and who wouldn’t want to feel like a Korean princess for a day?
A make-up artist will transform your looks based on the latest Korean beauty standards, someone will do your hair, and you will have a few hours with a professional photographer.
End your day with a pub crawl
One thing is sure: Koreans do know how to party! And you will find countless pubs and karaoke places around Hongdae. Because here is where students go out!
Where to stay in Hongdae
Luxury hotels in Hongdae
L7 Hongdae by LOTTE – A 4* hotel, steps away from the subway station, set on the main boulevard. The hotel has a stunning rooftop restaurant and bar from where you can admire the city, but also a rooftop swimming pool for the hot days of summer.
Mercure Ambassador Seoul Hongdae – right across the street from L7 Hotel, this international chain hotel won’t disappoint. It is perfectly located, and rooms offer stunning city views and currency exchange for guests.
Mid-range hotels in Hongdae
Amanti Hotel Seoul – only a bit further away from the melting hot pot, this hotel will offer a relaxing stay in Hongdae. Guests can access the rooftop pool and the fitness center without any additional fee.
Budget accommodation in Hongdae
Cocoa Guesthouse – tucked away relatively closer to Sangsu Station, this guesthouse offers accommodation in simple traditional rooms. You will be close to cafes, restaurants, and the streets with public performances.
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