Itaewon: Exploring Seoul’s Foreigner District

In some cities there are Chinatowns, Little Italy’s, Little India’s and more to get your fix of foreign food, shopping and culture. But in Korea, it’s all rolled up into one neighborhood: Itaewon.

Itaewon - Seoul, Republic of Korea

When we first arrived here, we kept hearing about Itaewon, but so many of the things we heard about it were negative. Since it’s near the U.S. military base, it’s known to be packed with service members getting rowdy at night, many of the stores sell “Big Sizes” to cater to the foreigners (which is both sad and a little insulting…but necessary), and overall, we were just worried it would be a “Little America” in all the wrong ways.

However, once we finally made it there and had a chance to form our own opinions, we realized we were totally wrong. It’s not “Little America,” it truly is a melting pot of foreigners. The streets are lined with American fast food chains, French bistros, Italian restaurants, loads of Indian and Turkish food, Chinese food, Vietnamese food…the list goes on and on. Plus, we found our favorite Mexican food restaurant here!

USA tile in Itaewon, Seoul

USA, representing in Korea!

We first experienced the nightlife of Itaewon on St. Patrick’s Day while out celebrating a friend’s birthday, and honestly, it wasn’t as bad as we expected, even on a crazy night like St. Patty’s Day. However, there are definitely way more foreigners out and about in the bars than Koreans, but for us, the plus side is almost everyone in Itaewon can speak English, so ordering is a breeze! This seems to be the case with all foreign establishments in Korea.

Bar in Itaewon

The only bar we’ve been to Itaewon so far is Hollywood, across the street from  subway exit 3, on the second floor. They have fairly cheap drinks and they do specialty shots, plus they have really good pizza.

For food, we’ve liked a few places: besides Vatos Urban Tacos for the best Korean/Mexican fusion ever and Hollywood for delicious pizza, we also  liked Kervan, a Turkish restaurant. This restaurant is beautiful, filled with a ton of gorgeous Turkish design details. Plus, they have a brick oven and an open kitchen, so it’s entertaining to watch the food being prepared.

Kervan Turkish restaurant in Itaewon, SeoulKervan Turkish restaurant in Itaewon, Seoulkervan turkish restaurant in itaewon, seoul

Overall, Itaewon is so much more than American fast food and big sizes. There is an interesting mix of cultures, smells, sites and foods, and it is definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area!

To get to to the foreigners district, take Seoul subway line 6 to Itaewon.

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8 Responses to “Itaewon: Exploring Seoul’s Foreigner District”

  1. Lori Finley April 5, 2012 at 10:54 am #

    Loved your pictures!

  2. waterfallsandcaribous April 5, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    Oh wow, this is the absolute polar opposite to where we are currently living in South Korea….no one in our village speaks English and there are no restaurants that aren’t Korean (other than the fried chicken joints, I guess). Clothes shopping is also off the list for us here, haha.

    • andreasherrodd April 5, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

      Have you been to Seoul yet? We don’t have much in our town, but we run off to Seoul quite often to get our fix of non-Korean food and shopping!

      • waterfallsandcaribous April 5, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

        Yip we spent our honeymoon travelling around Korea and saw Seoul at that point – we absolutely loved it and are planning to go back there again later in the year. Our village is about halfway between Ulsan and Busan so we do escape to the cities for a bit of fun from time to time!

        • andreasherrodd April 6, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

          Nice! We’ve been to Ulsan, but not Busan yet. Do you have any recommendations for Busan?

  3. Rachel April 5, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    I find Itaewon really interesting because it is both classy and trashy, all rolled into one.

    • andreasherrodd April 6, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

      Haha, exactly! If nothing else, there is a lot of really good food there 🙂

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