As an international in Seoul, away from my family for the holidays, there is one place where I can feel at home – Itaewon. Christmas in Itaewon is an occasion filled with lone foreign souls searching for a bit of warmth amid the coldness of winter. While a far cry from what we are used to, I must say, it never disappoints.
An Itaewon Christmas
Itaewon has long been my favorite area in Seoul. This sentiment is strikingly unanimous among the foreign community, though we often cite very different reasons. Mine is because Itaewon is so culturally varied and nuanced. It’s because the streets of Itaewon offer some semblance of freedom, I simply cannot feel in other areas of this city that are home to so many judgemental eyes. It is almost therapeutic for me to visit this tender-hearted neighborhood. I always seem to find my way to Itaewon when pressure builds and I want to lighten my heart.
This made Itaewon the perfect candidate for a place to visit on Christmas. I made a plan with my friends, a motley crew of international university students who found themselves a world away from their families during the holidays. Holidays can be strangely heavy in that sense. Loneliness hit hard for all – so we decided to keep each other company. We spent Christmas as happy as we could, especially since it came almost directly after the end of our finals.
Christmas Brunch at Summer Lane
Our first stop of the day was Summer Lane, an Australian-run brunch spot in Hannam-dong. It had long gained a name for itself among international crowds that call Seoul home.
Christmas morning at Summer Lane was very cheerful. All of the staff were decked out in festive Christmas accessories, like Santa hats and candy-cane-colored clothing. It was our collective first time there. So, we settled for the signature menu item of Smashed Avocado. It was essentially a big breakfast-type dish consisting of bread, a small garden salad eggs how you like it, and a choice of either roasted mushrooms or smoked salmon.
Right upstairs from Summer Lane was one of my personal favorite stores to visit in Hannam – Nonfiction. Nonfiction is a brand offering scented products like hand creams and perfumes. I managed to do some last-minute Christmas shopping there for a friend – and just as well, for I find Nonfiction always makes for a good gift.
Summer Lane (소다바렝게) Address: 738-13 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul Korean address: 서울 용산구 이태원로55가길 49 1층 Operating Hours: 07:30 AM - 06:00 PM
Soon after, we adjourned to the nearby Komune, a long-time favorite haunt in Hannam-dong. There, we spent the next hour chatting over warm coffee in refuge from the cold. Komune is well known for its striking orange-toned interior design and its cream coffees and fruit teas. All of their menu items were a welcome companion to the bone-chilling cold spell that fell over us that morning.
Komune (코뮨) Address: 14-2 Itaewon-Ro 49-Gil, Yongsan-Gu, Seoul Korean address: 서울 용산구 이태원로49길 14-2
Christmas Cake at Aufglet
One of the biggest – or only – Korean Christmas traditions is the eating of cake. And, although we scoured Instagram for a while in our quest to look for the prettiest and most delicious-looking cake from some of the most prominent cafes in Seoul, we eventually settled on Aufglet’s holiday cake. We placed an order on Instagram in advance for it.
Originally well-known for being one of the best places for croffles in Korea, Aufglet’s cake did not disappoint. The cake was topped with jagged chocolate like a Ferrero Rocher and consisted of layers of soft, spongy cake and rich fig jam, it was arguably one of the best cakes I have ever eaten.
Though it was not a white Christmas, the day spent in Itaewon was a truly memorable one. I can see myself returning again and again to the area in the coming years as a small Christmas tradition, all my own.
Aufglet Hannam (아우프글렛 한남) Address: 20 Itaewon-Ro 54 Ga-Gil, Yongsan-Gu, Seoul Korean address: 서울 용산구 이태원로54가길 20 1층 Operating Hours: 12:00 PM - 09:00 PM
Looking for some places where you can find Christmas magic in South Korea? Click Here to read about some of the festive places around.