Best Things to Do in Hongdae, Seoul

When figuring out what to do in Seoul on your South Korea trip, don’t skip out on all the cool & wacky things to do in Hongdae. The quirky neighbourhood of Hongdae is set in the western district of Mapo-gu. The best tourist attractions in Hongdae flourish with creativity & youthful vibrance.

Hongdae gets its name from the fusion of the first two Korean syllables of nearby Hongik University (Hongik Daehakgyo). Exploring Hongdae’s top attractions, you’ll discover a vibe unique for Seoul. The area puts quirky cafés, yummy restaurants, and happenin’ clubs at the forefront. It also teems with edgy fashion boutiques, thrift shopping, and eye-popping street art.

Not sure where to go in Hongdae? Get your Hongdae itinerary in sync with this guide to the best places to visit in Hongdae, Seoul.

What to do in Hongdae

Feel the buzz on Hongik University Street

Need your first idea for what to do in Hongdae, Seoul? Set your sights on the main drag of Hongik University Street. Often called Hongdae Walking Street, this vibrant street is where much of the area’s action resonates.

Along the stretch, you’ll find an assortment of cool cafés, restaurants, and bars. There’s even an outdoor stage where indie bands crank out tunes for onlookers.

Shopping Street

Hongik University Street not only tops the list for what to see in Hongdae, it’s one of best places to shop in Seoul. Whereas Myeongdong is the go-to for cosmetics shopping, Hongdae Walking Street is all about the latest styles. Here, you’ll watch as young people fill their wardrobes with hip fashions at decent prices.

Whatever you do, don’t miss the spectacle of parading here on the weekend. On Friday nights, the neighbourhood surges to its craziest.

Getting there: Take line 2 of the Seoul metro to Hongik University Station. Use Exit 9 and turn left. Hongik Walking Street (Eoulmadang-ro) is two blocks away.

Get silly at the Trick Eye Museum Seoul

It’s no shocker that the weird & whacky Trick Eye Museum Seoul chose the Hongdae area as its home.

Whether you’re young or old, expect to have a ton of fun at this unique & innovative modern museum. It’s become one of the best places to visit in Hongdae for all ages.

As its name implies, the Trick Eye Museum Seoul uses parallax effects and other visual trickery to draw you into odd art as the subject. You’ll ride mythical sea creatures and join historical scenes. You might even shrink down to the size of a coffee cup—among a multitude of other outrageous situations!

Trick Eye Museum Seoul

Although these types of displays are popping up all over the world, this museum is unique. It combines the two-dimensional wall murals with high-tech augmented-reality via their own Trickeye Camera app.

You ticket also includes admission to the Ice Museum. This cool (literally!) museum features a handful of ice sculptures, an ice hotel room, and an ice slide for the kids.

  • Address: 20 Hongik-ro 3-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
  • Opening Hours: 9:00am to 9:00pm (last admission 8:00pm)
  • Entrance: ₩15,000 (adults), ₩12,000 (children & students)

Getting there: From Exit 9 of Hongik University Station (Line 2), turn left and walk straight down Yanghwa-ro. Turn left at Hongik-ro. Walking two blocks up, turn right at Hongik-ro 3-gil. The Seoul Trick Eye Museum will be on your right, 1.5 blocks ahead.

Laugh ’til you cry at Hongdae NANTA Theatre

To enjoy a unique & entertaining performance while visiting Seoul, head for the Hongdae NANTA Theatre.

Even if you’re not normally a fan of the dramatic arts, this satire Korean cooking show is huge fun for all ages. It’s one of the must-see tourist attractions in Hongdae.

The performance at the NANTA Theatre is, like the famous Blue Man Group, completely non-verbal. It draws in the audience with the dramatic expressions of its talented actors & actresses. No doubt this show is one of the top things to see in Hongdae. It’ll have you in stitches from beginning to end!

If you grab one of the front seats, don’t be surprised if you get chosen to join in on the act.

  • Address: 29, Yanghwa-ro 16-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
  • Show Times: 8pm (Mon-Fri), 2pm & 5pm (Sat-Sun, Holidays)
  • Entrance: VIP seats: ₩60,000 (VIP), ₩50,000 (S seats), ₩40,000 (A seats)

Getting there: From the Hongik University metro station, take Exit 9 and walk west on Yanghwa-ro. Turn left two blocks ahead on Yanghwa-ro 16-gil. You’ll find the NANTA Theatre two blocks up on the corner of Yanghwa-ro 16-gil and Hongik-ro 5an-gil.

Witness the Seoul street art scene on Hongdae Mural Street

The spirit of the area shows its true colours along Hongdae Mural Street, also called Picasso’s Street. This narrow alleyway (Wausan-go 22-gil) follows the walls of Hongik University. It extends from the main gate to Dongmak-ro 19 gil.

The street features some of the best street art in Seoul. You’ll see everything here from brightly painted cartoon murals to politically-charged expressions.

Street Art

What’s most fascinating about Hongdae Mural Street—and the neighbourhood, in general—is that it’s always in flux. A fantastic painting or passionate slogan might disappear at a moment’s notice. It may be replaced by equally awe-inspiring, or dreadfully boring, art—at any time!

Getting there: Take Line 2 to the Hongik University subway station. From Exit 9, walk straight down Yanghwa-ro, turning left at Hongik-ro. Follow the road to the university’s main gate at Wausan-ro. You’ll see the start of the street art alley to the right side of the outer side of the gate.

Support local artists at Hongdae Free Market

Looking for one of the most interesting cultural experiences in Seoul? Pencil in a visit to the Hongdae Free Market. The market takes place on Saturday afternoons between March and November.

Visiting the Free Market, you’ll see the city’s most artistic and creative folks at work. Unlike at a regular flea market, the exhibitions here feature original handmade items created by local artists. You won’t find typical used consumer goods here.

Free Market

At the Free Market, you’ll peruse unique artwork, handicrafts, and clothing accessories. The lively shopping marketplace also features a stage. Watch upcoming local bands perform and add to the lively atmosphere.

  • Address: 19-3, Wausan-ro 21-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
  • Opening Hours: 1pm to 6pm on Saturdays (Mar-Nov)

Getting there: From Exit 9 of Hongik University Station (Line 2), walk one block west on Yanghwa-ro to Hongik-ro. Turn left and walk towards Hongik University. When you reach the main gate at the end of Hongik-ro, hang right. The Free Market is located in the space between the two streets at the Y-junction.

Overwhelm yourself with cuteness at Meerkat Café

With the Hello Kitty Café’s Seoul Hongdae location long gone, there’s a new undisputed king of “weird places to sip on a coffee.” Now crowned among the oddest places to visit in Hongdae is the Meerkat Café.

Asia’s fascination with animal cafés is hardly a surprise. But this odd hotspot is a whole new level of weird. The café crawls with meerkats along with other animals, including an arctic fox, raccoon, kitten, genet & wallaby. It takes the cake for inducing Korean culture shock!

As a word of warning: Don’t dress up in your Sunday best to visit the Meerkat Café. Although playful, these mischievous little devils may dig at your clothes or bite.

They’re also expert pickpockets, and will grab belongings from your jeans. (Fortunately, you’ll be required to empty your pockets anyway.)

  • Address: 3F 19-12 Wausan-ro 21-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
  • Opening Hours: 12pm to 9:45pm
  • Entrance: ₩8,000-11,000 for a drink (required)

Getting there: Take Exit 9 at Hongik University Station in Mapo-gu. Walk down Yanghwa-ro and turn left at Hongik-ro. Follow the street until you reach the main gate of Hongik University. Turn right and keep right at a Y-junction. One block up, turn left at Wausan-ro 21-gil. The Meerkat Café is in the third building to your right on the 3rd floor.

Chow down on street food or at one of the best restaurants in Hongdae

Like in much of Seoul, seeking out food to fill your belly is one of the absolute must-do activities in Hongdae. And with its massive population of hungry university students, it shouldn’t surprise you that the area is one of the best places to eat in Seoul.

Street Food

Whether you’re looking for some of the best local dishes in Seoul or a break from Asian cuisine with some Western favourites, your tastebuds will find their match at one of these best restaurants in Hongdae…

  • Myth Jokbal. (23-1, Eoulmadang-ro, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul). This popular local favourite serves up a succulent garlic jokbal (pig’s feet). It’s rated among the best in Seoul.
  • Hongdae Dakgalbi. (32, Hongik-ro 3-gil, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul). This non-descript restaurant sits on a quiet side street. It specializes in fiery dakgalbi (spicy stir-fry chicken).
  • Kyochon Chicken Hongdae. (362-15, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul). Move over Colonel Sanders! This famous Korean chain restaurant rocks out some of the best Korean fried chicken on the planet. Visit with a friend (or two!) to test out all the options. There are several different flavours including garlic soy, honey, and spicy red pepper.

Recommended tours

Looking to dig deeper into Hongdae & Seoul? Here are a couple of the best Seoul tours including some of the top Hongdae points of interest…

  • Seoul Pub Crawl & Party: Let the legendary nightlife of Hongdae or Itaewon get under your skin on this tour of the hottest party spots in Seoul. Includes free skip-the-line entrance to 10+ popular Seoul clubs and a guided group visit to 4 bars & pubs.
  • Moonlight Riverview Bike Ride & Korean Market Food Tour: This unique evening cycling tour zips along the Hangang River. It features a stop at Mangwon Market, one of the best destinations for street food in Seoul. You’ll also get a chance to explore the nearby Mapo Fish Market, a lesser-known Seoul gem in Mapo-gu.
  • Korean Culture Day Tour: This full-day tour focuses on the top cultural attractions in Seoul. Stops include Jogyesa Temple, Gyeongbokgung Palace, and Cheongwadae (Presidential Palace). You’ll also get to visit a traditional Korean folk village. Hotel pick-up and drop-off are included.

Where to stay in Hongdae

Looking for an alternative to the most popular districts of central Seoul? Hongdae in Mapo-gu is one of the best areas in Seoul for travellers. Here are a couple of the best places to stay in Hongdae

  • 9 Brick Hotel: This delightful hotel features modern guest rooms and elegant common areas. The property is doused with European-style flair. The hotel is also located blocks away from some of the best things to do in Hongdae.
  • L7 Hongdae: This brand-spankin’-new 4-star hotel is set in a superb location. It’s just one block from the metro and many of the other top places to see in Hongdae. Rooms are ultra-modern, colourful, and super stylish.
  • RYSE, Autograph Collection: The first full-on 5-star luxury hotel in Hongdae. The hotel’s unique design & elegance charms from the moment you enter the lobby until your head hits the pillow. These brilliant accommodations are close to the top points of interest in Hongdae.

Final recommendations for where to go in Hongdae

Still struggling to sort among the best things to do in Hongdae? Here are a few quick last-minute suggestions for where to go in Hongdae…

  • Want to experience the weirdest attractions in Hongdae? Visit the quirky Meerkat Café. It’s one of the oddest places on earth to drink a coffee. The popular Trick Eye Museum Seoul is also a great place to belly a few laughs with some friends.
  • Got a craving for some Korean food while sightseeing in Hongdae? Chow down on some delicious dakgalbi at the aptly, yet unimaginatively named, Hongdae Dakgalbi. Or devour some greasy, mouth-watering Korean fried chicken at Kyochon Chicken Hongdae.
  • Looking for an interesting Hongdae cultural experience? Get entertained by the amazingly funny “cooking-class” performance at Hongdae NANTA Theatre. Or explore the unique creations of Seoul’s most talented artists at the Hongdae Free Market.

More places to go in Seoul

Ryan O'Rourke

Ryan O'Rourke is a Canadian traveller, food & drink aficionado, and the founder & editor of Treksplorer. Join Ryan as he explores the world two to three weeks at a time from his home base of Canada with Treksplorer's independent and unsponsored mid-range luxury travel guides including itineraries, things to do, where to stay, when to visit, and hiking & walking trails.

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