Seoul is better known for its Hallyu tourism and amazing shopping, but take a closer look at its walls and you’ll find that the Seoul street art culture is surprisingly vibrant. Street art is all over Seoul, from cute murals for that perfect aegyo selfie, to impressive stretches of graffiti bombs and throw-ups, and even used to rejuvenate past slum villages (known as Daldongne or moon villages) into outdoor galleries that draw tourists and local visitors alike.
I had two days to wander Seoul on my own and since I’d already explored most of the major tourist sites in my previous trip (see all my Seoul posts), my street art quest took me to some unexpected areas – these places 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.
Ihwa Mural Village 이화 벽화마을
This little village on the slopes of Naksan Park has lots of colourful murals all over. 60 artists were invited to decorate and revitalise this sleepy little village, and today it continues to attract lots of visitors willing to brave the steep slopes to go mural hunting. 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. Remember to keep your squeals to a minimum as it still is a residential area so as not to disturb the residents.
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:
How to get to Ihwa
Take 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 you are 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 pretty steep to climb.
Mullae Arts Village 문래예술촌
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 walked around quite a bit here and it’s easier to talk about it in 2 parts:
BORDERED BY DANGSAN-RO, DORIM-RO AND DORIM-RO-128GIL
BORDERED BY DANGSAN-RO, GYEONGIN-RO-77GIL, GYEONGGIN-RO, DORIM-RO
How to get to Mullae
Take 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
Time Out has a pretty cool guide on things to check out in Mullae – it’s still very much under the radar even with its upcoming arts venues and activities but is apparently becoming one of those upcoming hipster areas. Fun fact: It’s the place where the train derailment scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron was filmed.
Apgujeong Graffiti Tunnel 압구정
There is an underpass lined with graffiti throw ups that connects Apgujeong 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.
How to get to Apgujeong Graffiti Tunnel
Take 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)
If you are looking for more things to do around this area, check out my guide for non-shopping things to do in Gangnam.
The Hongdae 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 (also known as Picasso’s Street) near Hongik university that is popular for murals that I visited 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.
How to get to Hongdae
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
This trip to Seoul was sponsored by the Korea Tourism Organisation for Tripzilla. This article was first posted on Tripzilla.
Looking for more street art? I have a whole collection of street art guides to Singapore and places I’ve visited in Asia, Europe and America.
Want to see more of Seoul in winter? Check out all my Seoul posts from this trip or see all my posts on South Korea.