Streets of Seoul

I recently had a long layover in Seoul and took the train into the city to wander for the day. With twelve hours, I did what I love most: explored a new city on my own, wandered down alleyways, hunted for street art, and got lost.


My first stop in the morning was Gyeongbokgung, the main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty for 500 years. It was built in 1395, burned and abandoned for centuries, rebuilt and destroyed in the early 20th century, and has been gradually restored since then.


Courtyard at Gyeongbokgung


After visiting the palace, I moved on to Insadong, a neighborhood just south of Anguk Station. Most of the tea shops along the main street, Insadong-gil, weren’t open yet, so I browsed inside antique stores and strolled through Ssamziegil, a mall complex with shops of local designers and artists. There’s an air of whimsy to the art on the streets.

Insa-dong Street

Ssamziegil Mall

Insadong Alleyway


I retraced my steps on Insadong-gil and walked up the winding street into Samcheong-dong, a hilly neighborhood that’s traditional yet eclectic: home to the restored traditional-style Korean houses of Bukchon Hanok Village, and boutiques, cafes, galleries, and street art. Some lovely views up here.

Samcheong-dong Street Art

Bukchon Hanok Village

Samcheong-dong Street Art



After a cup of tea in a tiny shop in the hanok village, I took the subway to Hongdae, the lively area around Hongik University full of students, cafes, clubs, and more colorful walls of art. I had trouble locating the cat cafes I’d read about, and had to get back to the airport. Next time, then.

Hongdae Storefront

Hongdae Street Art

Hongdae Signage

Photographs taken with a Canon G11. I took just a few iPhone shots, via Instagram.

Published by Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Senior editor at Longreads / Automattic

30 thoughts on “Streets of Seoul

  1. Love the way you capture street graffiti. The snap where characters are painted on the tarred road is pretty awesome. We’ve taken a similar shot in Kyoto, Japan.

  2. Loved the jimjilbang experience when in Seoul! But I wondered why is it that there’s a lot of people staying overnight in jimjilbang? Pretty sure they’re local people… why don’t they just sleep at home but rather spent their nights in there?

  3. I recognize all those shots, and it still holds as one of the truly most beautiful cities of the world. I visited Seoul a few years ago, and like you, I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did.

  4. That attitude of the explorer is such a gift. You wrote that you didn’t find the cat cafe, but it didn’t seem to matter, since there were so many discoveries to be made. I love the idea of street art as the theme as well. A good way to see beauty in the most commonplace of scenes.

  5. Thanks for sharing your shots. Even though I don’t usually take notice of graffiti (and I live in Barcelona which is plastered in graffiti) I’m very impressed by the ones in your photos. It’s so great to wonder and get “lost” in an un unknown place to get the feel of it. Cheers!

  6. Thanks (again) for allowing me to travel with you. The street art you caught from different sections of Seoul is fantastic. What a wonderful 12 hour layover. Looking forward to sharing in more of your travels.

      1. From living in Korea for awhile, I’ve learned sometimes they are phone numbers of the artist… Thank you for the lovely photos of my adoptive home 🙂

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