Your Guide to Itaewon & Hannam

Art, Food, Drinks, Coffee, & Shops

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Every time I land back in Seoul, I drop off my bags and head straight for Itaewon / Hannam. It’s my favorite neighborhood when it comes to consistently high quality exhibitions. And the young and hip energy of the area always helps me get over my jet lag. With a wide variety of coffee shops, it’s also a convenient area for whenever I need a spot to work. By the time the evening rolls around, I know I can rely on staying in the neighborhood to relax with friends at a wine bar or the plethora of new restaurants that call Itaewon & Hannam home. 

I’ve organized the list below in order of art, restaurants & bars, coffee, then shops. Happy exploring! Will keep updating this list over time as new places pop up.

–Gary Yeh

Leeum Museum | ArtDrunk Seoul Art Essentials

Leeum Museum of Art

Leeum is made up of three buildings, each of which is designed by a renowned architect (Mario Botta, Jean Nouvel, and Rem Koolhaas). One wing houses their collection of traditional Korean art. Another wing houses their collection of Modern and Contemporary art. And the last wing features temporary exhibitions. From historical celadon-glazed ceramics to contemporary masters like Basquiat and Bourgeois, there are always new things to explore. For art-selfie-seekers, Olafur Eliasson and Anish Kapoor both have mirrored works regularly on display.

Admission is free for the permanent collections. Tickets for temporary exhibitions typically cost ₩10,000-15,000 (about $10).

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Pace Seoul

As one of the first international galleries to open in Seoul, Pace has steadily expanded into its current space located just down the road from Leeum. Long one of the mega galleries (with locations in New York, London, Hong Kong, and more), Pace occupies three floors, one of which showcases digital and experiential art. Recent exhibitions have included Alexander Calder, Loie Hollowell, and Sam Gilliam. During Frieze Week, they’ll be inaugurating their outdoor courtyard, which will host installations and sculpture, plus a teahouse that will also sell art books and editions. Few things I love more than seeing art and then immediately relaxing with a cold cocktail, without even having to leave the building.

Free admission.

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Various Small Fires (VSF) Diedrick Brackens

David Kordansky Pop-up Exhibition

Sicili Italian + Pasta

I’ve been to the Mediterranean once and distinctly remember three things: the bluest water, the freshest ingredients, and beautiful painted plates. Sicili doesn’t quite sit on the waterfront, but it checks off the other two for a dining experience that momentarily transports you out of Seoul. For lunch, they’re a super reasonably priced pasta bar. And for dinner, it’s prix fixe only (which also does include a couple pasta dishes). 

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ckbg.lab Fried Chicken Burgers

The story goes that people loved Yoo Yong-woo’s fried chicken burger so much (from his famed barbecue prix fixe experience), that he turned the dish into a restaurant. It really is that good and focused on the basics with red cabbage, a slice of cheese, and your pick of spice levels. Recently, they’ve added more traditional fried chicken to the menu (the drumstick and thigh kind). Worth a try but I’d recommend starting your day here if you don’t want to risk waiting in lines for too long.

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Big Lights Natural Wine Bar

Ask any local art world friend and they’ve definitely visited Big Lights on more than one occasion. It’s the first natural wine bar in Seoul (a big deal given that natural wine bars are all the rage these days). As the first one, they’ve got first pick on many of the great wines that make it into Seoul. The food (mostly wood-fired) is also consistently great and the intimate setting makes is good for conversations with dates or just friends. Dogs are welcome too, and if you get lucky, the restaurant owner’s dogs will be hanging around to say hi. 

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Salad Seller Salad + Sandwiches

This is a much more casual spot than most on this list, but when you’re running from gallery to gallery during the day, it’s good to have a quick (and healthy) lunch to keep you going. You can go for one of the year-round classics like the quinoa grain bowl or for one of the seasonal favorites like the fig and ricotta salad. Seating can fill up quick on the inside, but luckily they have a long outdoor bench to enjoy your salad (or sandwich). 

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Anthracite Hannam Hip Coffee Shop

With so many of the coffee shops in this area being super Instagrammable, it can sometimes be hard to find a seat. Anthracite takes over three floors, though, so that is rarely an issue here. They roast their own beans and rotate daily between different blends that you can choose from. I mainly go here to work, but love the outdoor benches for taking a break or a quick call. Pro tip: they have a kitchen on the top floor they use for their baked goods. Hang out there for taking in all the good smells.

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DAY ROW Yummy Desserts

I’ve tried working here on my laptop a few times, but it’s really best for having casual meetings or hanging out with friends. The café is tucked into the back of a small alleyway, so it’s a great place to sit outdoors too since it doesn’t get overly hot or sunny. Come for coffee but stay for the desserts – my favorite is the lemon almond cake!

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Crate Coffee Best Flat White

I love sleek interiors and high ceilings. Crate Coffee has both, plus plenty of different seating to choose from. My usual itinerary starts with checking out whatever show is on view at Thaddaeus Ropac, then Gallery Baton, and then working my way down to Crate for a quick work session and flat white. If I’m feeling adventurous, I’ll grab one of their desserts too – pretty good canneles. 

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Artisan Bakers Freaking Good Bread

The more you get to know me, the more you’ll realize maybe I should be working in the food industry. Nothing beats good bread for me. Artisan Bakers has a more humble exterior compared to Tartine next door, but you’ll regret not popping by here first. This is the kind of bakery where I stare at the loafs of fig sourdough and debate whether it’s really a healthy decision to have it all to myself. On the few occasions I don’t cave to those desires, I go for the croissants instead!

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MO-NO-HA Contemporary Ceramics

Although slightly out of the way, MO-NO-HA is a shop that has a little bit of everything for those who enjoy the finer things in life. Occasionally they put on art exhibitions (previously featured Yun Hyong-keun and Lee Ufan), but I like going back often to see the new ceramics and assorted Korean crafts they have for sale. Tiny wooden tables, metal teapots, and a range of cutlery makes it easy to break the bank though – so proceed with caution. 

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Post Poetics Artbook Store

One of the few dedicated artbook stores in Seoul, Post Poetics carries a deep selection of art, design, and architecture books. It’s a small store but packs a punch for a quick browsing experience. The focus is on contemporary names that lean more blue chip and are great coffee table gifts. If you’re looking for a broader selection – including rarer titles – try The Book Society in Samcheong Guide. 

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