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.
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!
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.
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.
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.