South Korea’s streets are very colourful – street art can be found throughout the city, whether it’s a cute mural which has people lining up to selfie with it, or graffiti scrawls of expression. Art is such a large part of the cityscape, that it has even succeeded in rejuvenating entire slum villages (Daldongne or moon villages) within Korea by transforming once unremarkable spaces into outdoor galleries that draw tourists and local visitors alike.
I had two days to wander the city on my own and since I’d already explored most of the major tourist sites in my previous trip, my street art quest took me to some areas slightly further afield – they are easily accessible by Seoul’s extensive subway network and I’ll tell you more about how to get there, and as always there is a handy Google Map below which maps out where things are.
Here’s where I explored, click to read about that area:
Ihwa Mural Village
This little village on the slopes of Naksan Park has lots of colourful murals throughout its midst – 60 artists were invited to decorate and revitalise this sleepy little village, and these days it attracts lots of visitors who brave the steep slopes to go mural hunting, so much so that there are many signs reminding people to keep the volume down as it still is a residential area. It’s a nice way to spend an afternoon, and you are rewarded for your efforts with a panoramic view of Seoul from this elevated park.
If you follow the suggested route (see map below in ‘how to get there’), your path will be like this:
Naksan-gil >> Naksan-4-gil >> Ihwajang-1na-gil >> Naksanseongwakseo-gil>> Yulgok-ro-19-gil >> Ihwajang-1-gil
Take your time to wander, it’s a bit of a climb and there are lots of artworks hidden around the buildings, but some of the highlights:
- Blue Subway Line 4 – Hyehwa (Exit 2)
- Walk straight down Daehak-Ro – the main road should be on your right, the hill (Naksan Hill which you will be climbing) should be on your left. There should be a bronze sculpture
- When you see Marrioner Park, turn left onto Daehak-Ro-8-gil. If you walk along this road, Arco Art Center should be on your right. (If you see Dongsun-gil it means you’ve gone a bit too far, but you can turn left onto Dongsun-gil and left again to reach the same spot)
- Keep going down Daehak-Ro-8gil, past Daehak-Ro-12gil, until you reach Dongsun-gil cross junction, then make a right. A landmark to look out for at this junction is Handok Pharmacy
- Look for Naksan-gil on your left – this sloping street will lead you up to Naksan Park. It’s a very steep sloping street and you should see the green hills artwork, from there just follow the artworks
- There are several signages scattered around the area that will point and tell you how far it is to Naksan Park – if all else fails, follow those signs
The area around here is known as Daehangno (‘college street’) and was the old home of Seoul National University. There are many art centres in this area, and you might catch public performances if youare lucky. Daehangno is found in the Jongno district to the east of the Changdeokgung palace – I walked back to the Bukchon area where I was staying from Ihwa, but I suggest taking the train because the Naksan Hills are no joke.
This industrial area south of the Hangang river is filled with the soft whine of drills and the muffled buzz of machinery isn’t somewhere you’d associate with art, but there’s something quite fun about discovering fun, colourful little murals as you explore these gritty little alleyways. Hidden amidst this gritty light industry area are doorways to cute indie cafes and unexpected artworks, so definitely take the time to get a little bit lost here. I explored 2 main areas here:
Area 1 (bordered by Dangsan-Ro, Dorim-Ro and Dorim-Ro-128gil)
Area 2 (bordered by Dangsan-Ro, Gyeongin-Ro-77gil, Gyeonggin-Ro, Dorim-Ro)
- Green Subway Line 2 – Mullae (exit 7)
- From exit, walk straight out of entrance and follow Dangsan-ro
- Take a slight left to Dorim-Ro-128gil and you should see a bunch of low buildings on your right. That was where I started my exploration of Area 1
Apgujeong Graffiti Tunnel
There is an underpass lined with graffiti tags that connects Apjugeong to the Han River Park which has apparently appeared in several K-pop music videos. It seems to be a sanctioned area for graffiti, with signs listing some rules and regulations on what street artists can do here. The lined walls lead you down to the Hangang where you will encounter avid cyclists and a gorgeous view of the river on a clear day.
p/s most of the photos in this post are kinda wide angle because my phone DIED right as soon as I managed to find this place. Like, thank goodness I had the rental GoPro from RentSomethingLeh on hand
- Yellow Subway Bundang Line, Apgujeong Rodeo Station (Exit 1)
- Go around the exit and walk along Seolleung-ro away from the Galleria Mall buildings until you reach the end of the road – you should see Hanyang Apartments Blk 21 (Look for the HY mark on the top of the building)
- Cross the small road Seolleung-ro-189 or 190-gil to a small park and turn right, you should see the entrance to the graffiti tunnel that leads down to the park
- Walking through the tunnel should bring you to the waterfront at Jamwon Hanggang Park
- Most of the internet will tell you to walk from Apgujeong Station (Line 4) Exit 1, and you can do that but let me just warn you first that it is quite a walk (according to my Google Map, 1.6km to be exact). You basically go straight out of Exit 1 and follow Apgujeong-ro all the way, past Eonju-ro cross junction (it’s a large flyover bridge) and walk allllllll the way till you see Galleria mall and reach Seolleung-ro. You’ll walk by a lot of apartment buildings, but don’t try and cut into the park from those because they don’t connect up! (I say this from A LOT of personal experience getting lost)
This area around Hongik University is pretty well known as a super vibrant one with lots of shops and restaurants, and lots of young people busking, dancing or just performing along the streets in the evening. The graffiti all around the area really just adds to the energy in the streets and while most of it isn’t particularly refined, it does add great colour to the streets.
There is an actual Hongdae Mural Alley near Hongik university that is popular for murals – I visited it the first time I was here, but by the time I reached Hongdae this time around it was already getting dark (damn these short winter days) so I mostly wandered around the central area quite randomly.
- Green Subway Line 2, Gyeonggui-Jungang or AREX line to Hongik University Station
- Exit 4-7 (the blue line side). Once you come out the exits, you should see lots of hoarding covered with tags
Looking for more street art? Check out my other street art related guides:
- Kampong Glam, Singapore
- Little India, Singapore
- George Town, Penang, Malaysia
- Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
- Shoreditch, London
- Lagos, Portugal
- Lisbon, Portugal