Itaewon 2015-02-02T09:34:24+00:00
Walking down an Itaewon alley lined with international restaurants

Walking down alley lined with international restaurants

Itaewon is foreigner friendly international district popular for international cuisine restaurants, shops, bars, and clubs that cater to foreigners. The district is located in Yongsan-gu just south of Myeongdong and north of the Han River. The best time to visit Itaewon is during the evenings and on the weekends when locals, foreigners, and American soldiers flock here to shop, eat, and party.

Before the second World War, this area was mainly residential and occupied by Japanese colonialists. After the war, the Japanese were forced out and replaced by Americans soldiers who set up base nearby. Itaewon, meaning “large pear tree,” sprang up after the Korean War for wealthy soldiers that resided in the surrounding area.

American soldiers from the base, along with travelers from around the world, have flocked here over the years for its party atmosphere and international flavor unique to South Korea. Itaewon is the one place in Seoul where you will be surrounded not by Koreans, but mostly by foreigners.

Itaewon saw an increase in Western and Japanese tourists during and after the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul as English and Japanese are commonly spoken on the streets here. This is still true to this day except for the fact that many more languages are spoken here making Itaewon an extremely foreign friendly and diverse neighborhood.

Itaewon during the day

Itaewon during the day

Yongsan Garrison, headquarters to the U.S. Military, is located just to the west of Itaewon. Many of the restaurants, bars, and shops rely on the business of military personnel. Plans to move the base to a new and larger base in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, have begun. The move was suppose to happen in 2014 but has since been pushed back to 2019. When the base moves, military personnel clientele will also disappear which will cause local businesses to be greatly affected financially.

As U.S military personnel numbers decrease, the number of English teachers from the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia have increased. There has also been an increase in the number of migrant workers from Southeast and South Asia.

Outside Itaewon Station

Outside Itaewon Station

In the past, most residents of Seoul avoided Itaewon for its bad reputation as a rowdy and seedy district popular with international visitors and American soldiers looking to party and cause trouble. In the past decade though, the area has diversified, cleaned up, and new businesses have moved in.

Upscale restaurants and eateries have moved in replacing the once seedy area. Because of this, local residents have returned to the area to shop at mid and high range shops and eat in one of the many diverse and classy restaurants. Restaurants and stores now line the main drag and back alleys of Itaewon. Literally every single building that lines the main street is either a shop, bar, or restaurant.

Visitors will be surprised to find a large selection restaurants serving authentic international cuisines of Turkey, Pakistan, Mexico, Czech Republic, and more. The majority of these restaurants are found along the street behind the Hamilton Hotel near exit two of Itaewon Station.

Alleyway leading downhill to Itaewon Station in Seoul

Alleyway leading downhill to Itaewon Station

For those who want to experience more of the area, venture off the main street down one of the many smaller alleyways to find street vendors and a large assortments of shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs.

Those who venture out further up the hill from Itaewon Station will find their way to the once seedy area known as “Hooker Hill.” This area was once packed with brothels set up specifically for U.S. military customers. Many, but not all, of these establishments have since been closed. The area since has been transformed into the center of the Korean gay community. Itaewon is one of the only places in Seoul that homosexuality is openly tolerated.

Read more about other neighborhoods and districts in Seoul.



Sights

Leeum Samsung Museum Of Art

Leeum Samsung Museum Of Art Thumb


Leeum, Samsung Museum Of Art is a fascinating museum that focuses on traditional and modern works of art by artists from Korea and from around the world. The museum and its galleries, some of the most esteemed in all of Korea, opened in 2004

Read more about Leeum Samsung Museum Of Art

Seoul Central Mosque

Seoul Central Mosque Thumb


Seoul Central Mosque is Korea's first and Seoul's only mosque or masjid. It is located at the top of a hill above the busy neighborhood of Itaewon. Many residents visit on weekends to learn about Islam. Lectures can be heard in Korean, English, and Arabic.

Read more about Seoul Central Mosque

Eating

Bubble Tree

Bubble Tree Thumb


See what the bubble tea craze is all about

Castle Praha (Itaewon Branch)

Castle Praha (Itaewon Branch) Thumb


Bohemian bistro and brewery

Jacoby's Burger

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Jacoby's Burger is a restaurant located near Itaewon in the Haebangchon district of Yongsan-dong that serves a great customizable Wagyu beef burger. This restaurant, popular with expats, is often on the debatable list of the best burgers in Seoul.

Maple Tree House (Itaewon Branch)

Maple Tree House (Itaewon Branch) Thumb


Casual yet upscale BBQ restaurant in Itaewon

Smokey Saloon

Smokey Saloon Thumb


When you are in the mood for something different to eat in Seoul, then head over to Smokey Saloon in Itaewon for one of their many unique, large burgers. This compact restaurant offers a wide variety of American style burgers, salads, and sides such as french fries, and onion rings.

The Flying Pan Blue

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All day brunch, sandwiches, and salads using fresh ingredients

Vatos Urban Tacos (Itaewon Branch)

Vatos Urban Tacos (Itaewon Branch) Thumb


Vatos Urban Tacos is a Mexican Korean fusion restaurant in Itaewon that offers a variety of tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and kimchi carnitas fries. In the past few years, many international restaurants, such as Vatos Urban Tacos, have slowly made their way into the Seoul food scene.


Directions To Itaewon

  • Take Subway Line 6 to Itaewon Station (Exit 1-4).

Hours

  • 24 hours

Fees

  • Free