Revisiting old places always brings pleasant surprises – at least that is the case in Seoul. I have always thought Samcheong-dong is well-travelled (super popular) but also very commercial. Little did I know that there is a quiet quarter between Samcheong-dong and the beautifully patterned stone wall of Changdeokgung Palace, where art, design & craft, gastronomy, cafe and culture come together. It is called Wonseo-dong (원서동).
This enchanting hanok cluster is home to a few artist studios, an art museum, award-winning restaurants and a few indie brands where you can shop for clothing, bags, shoes, and tableware, or even attend art workshops! It is also the drama filming site for SBS’s popular drama ‘Our Beloved Summer’ (그해 우리는).
While much of the rest of Bukchon and Samcheong-dong is turning ever more commercial, Wonseo-dong is like an oasis of peace and tranquillity. As it is still primarily a residential area, you may see local residents go about their day in this neighbourhood that is filled with hanok. So zen and peaceful that you could feel time passing by really slowly.
You will also find small little workshops, showrooms, studios and cafes hidden among these Korean tiled-roof homes. These places are where young artisans and craftsmen set their roots. A visit to Wonseo-dong doesn’t feel like any ordinary “shopping trip”. You actually soak in the serene atmosphere and will be able to appreciate the beauty of slowing down right at the centre of Seoul, as if you are part of the community.
Wonseo-dong Travel Guide:
I have created an interactive Google map and travel guide about Wonseo-dong here.
‘Our Beloved Summer’ 그해 우리는 Drama Filming Sites
House of Go Hui-dong 고희동 미술관
This location actually appeared twice in the drama: During Choi Ung & Guk Yeonsu’s high school time when they were participating in their school’s documentary TV program, and another time when they were in university. I thought this neighbourhood was super cool to go for a walk. If you’re keen, just search “House of Go Hui-dong” or “고희동 미술관” on your map and you’ll be able to find this location.
Yunbosun-gil in Wonseo-dong actually appeared in many different TV dramas. One of the most popular ones would be ‘Dokkaebi‘, or ‘Guardian: The Lonely and Great God’ (쓸쓸하고 찬란하神 – 도깨비), where Ji Eun-Tak and Dokkaebi Kim Shin brushed past each other on a rainy day.
While in ‘Our Beloved Summer’, Guk Yeonsu was seen carrying Choi Ung on her back when he was drunk during their uni days. This was also the same filming location where the two share a kiss.
One of the most pretty locations in the drama was Gamgodang-gil, where two characters cycle past the alley. This was also the same location where Choi and Guk broke up in the drama. Ginko trees along the alley make this place ultra-romantic in the autumn. Be sure to check this out when you’re in Seoul from late October to early November.
Wonseo-dong Dining Options
From Michelin-star restaurants to time-tested local Matjib, there are plenty of hidden restaurants and local hang-outs you can find here at Wonseo-dong. I have gathered the below list for ease of your trip planning. They’re all rated 4 stars and above on Naver and Google as this article was published.
A contemporary take on traditional Korean cuisine in a modern Hanok overlooking the beautiful Changdeokgung Palace. Listed on Michelin Bib Gourmand and Blue Ribbon Survey, South Korea’s first and premier restaurant guidebook. With a panoramic view of the palace’s garden, this is one of the best restaurants in the neighbourhood to bask in the grandeur of Seoul’s autumn!
Cheonha Bossam 천하보쌈
Cheonha Bossam is a time-honoured restaurant in the hood. This speciality restaurant selling Bossam (braised pork with sweet kimchi) is a constant favourite among locals. What makes them stand out is their excellent execution of the juicy pork without the gamey smell. Expect a hearty homestyle classic of thinly sliced, well-marbled braised pork with well-marinated sweet kimchi wrapped in fresh lettuce here at this restaurant.
If Modern Korean fine dining with a panoramic view of Changdeokgung Palace is your thing, check out Myomi. With outstanding flavour, excellent plating, warm service and a magnificent view of the palace (especially when the leaves turn yellow gold in the Autumn), this place may just be the highlight of your Seoul gastronomy trip!
If you’re tired of Korean food, there is a wood-fired pizzeria just a 3-minutes walk from Changdeokgung Palace. This cosy restaurant focuses on making good Italian-style pizza and is popular among the expats in the know. We highly recommend their Margherita pizza. The warm, soft and chewy pizza crust, scratch-made tomato sauce, melty mozzarella cheese and fresh basil will leave you wanting for more.
Milgua Bori 밀과 보리
If you’d like to enjoy authentic Korean food done in country-style, we’ll definitely recommend Milgua Bori. It is a typical hole-in-the-wall restaurant only frequented by the locals. The dishes remind the locals of their grandma’s cooking — Bindaeddeok (mungbean pancakes), Haemul Pajeon (seafood pancake), Bajirak Kalguksu (clam knife cut noodles), Bossam (boiled pork belly), Ddakbokkeum Tang (spicy stir-fried chicken stew) to name a few.
Don’t miss out on their amazing organic Bori Bap (barley rice) or Gondre Bap (Korean dried thistle rice) that goes so well with any main dish served in the restaurant! This is one unpretentious restaurant in Anguk that we know won’t disappoint. Foodie Tip: order Makgeolli (Korean rice wine) to go with the food, you will love it!
Miryang Handmade Dumplings 밀양손만두
Miryang Handmade Dumplings is a handmade Korean dumpling place that was featured in the TV program ‘I Live Alone’ 나 혼자 산다. The restaurant is famous for its dumpling soup with ox bone broth. While most dumpling restaurants in Korea only serve non-spicy dumpling soup, the restaurant also has its very own spicy broth version (얼큰 국물) that is popular among Korean who prefer to have a bit of a spicy kick to their usual dumpling soup.
This idyllic cafe hidden in Wonseo-dong is a drip coffee and espresso-based beverage specialist. We love its dark green and natural wood interior, so as their amazing cup of joe. You’d smell coffee scents before you even arrived at the cafe, which is a good indication of quality coffee in our opinion.
HAAP Wonseo 합(合)
Located on the second floor of the “Arario in Space” art gallery building, HAAP Wonseo is a modern tea house that serves excellent traditional Korean tea, snacks and desserts. Their Patbingsu (red bean shaved ice dessert) is a popular dish in summer. We love the airy, naturally-lit bright modern space. You can get an amazing view of Changdeokgung Palace here, especially in Autumn.
Fritz Coffee Company (Wonseo Outlet)
Fritz Coffee Company is probably no stranger to many who frequent Seoul. It is a chain cafe started by a barista champion and they source their beans from all over the world and roast them in-house. So you can expect great brews while enjoying their freshly baked bread together. We love how they blend the retro-inspired interior with the historical Hanok building!
London Bagel Museum
If we were to select the most popular cafe/brunch places in the Anguk area in 2022/23, London Bagel Museum would definitely be on the list. It is so popular nowadays that their queue can get really crazy. However, I would say their bagel is worth the wait. Read our dedicated blog post about the bagel store here.
Shopping at Wonseo-dong
If you’re into indie fashion brands or designer labels, look no further. Wonseo-dong is the perfect place if you are up for some serious shopping therapy with things that you won’t find in Singapore. Whether it is clothing, handmade leather goods, ceramic art pieces for your own keepsake or a gift for someone important, this neighbourhood got you covered with its unique list of South Korean homegrown labels.
Nuer is an indie designer leather bag brand by a husband & wife team. After years of bag designing experience with renowned bag brands under her belt, the wife now starts her own designer bag label while the husband sources their top-quality leather from Italy.
From ballerinas, sandals, mules, loafers to heels, leather shoe lovers would be able to bag home a pair of stylish and comfortable handmade shoes at Cueren.
Rye Ceramics is a studio and retail outlet by Korean ceramic artist Kim Myung Rye. You may purchase her ceramic work here, or take a one-day ceramic lesson in her studio.
Zeroroom 152 carries work from a comprehensive list of Korean homegrown designer dining ware labels. It is a nice place to stop by for a unique souvenir for all of your domestic goddesses back home.
Maison de Ines
Maison de Ines is one of my favourite Korean clothing brands. I love that the designers pay attention to their fabrics and that their clothes are usually very classic and so they can never go out of style — they usually last for years!
Whale 2 Whale
This interesting letterpress & silverworks studio is owned by Miss Cho Young In. Not only you can purchase whale-themed silver accessories, but you can also purchase letterpress cards that are produced from a century-old letterpress machine too!
Historical Sites, Museums, Workshops
House of Go Hui-Dong 고희동 미술관
A beautiful Hanok museum that was the home of South Korea’s first modern art painter Go Hui-Dong. Master Go was the first Joseon artist to adopt western style painting. Here at his home, you get to see how his paintings transform over the years. There are also interactive sections where you can DIY some art & craft.
Wonseo-dong Public Laundry Site
Another interesting and historical place at Wonseo-dong is this public laundry site. As Wonseo-dong used to be where the servants of the royal family lived, there is a designated area where the servants of the Joseon dynasty did their laundry. There are also evident that water actually flows from Changdeokgung palace, which is an interesting site if you are interested in the lifestyle of the general public back in the Joseon dynasty.
Hong Byeokheon Hanji Doll Workshop 홍벽헌지형공방
Hanji is a traditional hand-crafted paper in South Korea, and its often used in making traditional handicrafts including Korean paper dolls. Hong Hyeokheon Hanji Doll workshop is where you can learn and experience the fun of making paper dolls using hanji. You can even make your customised hanji paper doll at the workshop!
Writer’s Note: If Samcheong-dong and Bukchon Hanok Village are a tad too mainstream and overly crowded, my recommendation is to check out Gye-dong (계동) and then take a scenic stroll to the less travelled, quaint Wonseo-dong that exudes a laidback and artsy vibe.
I have also created a Google map of Wonseo-dong’s Cafe, Restaurants and Shopping places here. If you’re in Samcheong-dong or Bukchon next time, please check out this alternative hanok cluster that is quiet, beautiful and has so much more to offer.