Every expat in Seoul has their favourite areas. For me, it will always be Mangwon. Just a stone’s throw away from Hongdae main street is Mangwon, creative hub of independent craftspeople, authentic cuisine and animals. Yes, animals! Ready to do Mangwon in A Day? Here are the best places to see.
Mangwon in A Day
Arts and Crafts
There are several pop-up stores and stalls in Mangwon for artists and freelancers to showcase their work. What’s more, you might not know its a pop-up until you come back again to see its completely changed! No two days in Mangwon are the same and you never know what you might find.
Mangwon restaurants are renowned for their authenticity. From classic Korean food to French bakeries, you can surely find something that suits your taste here. Some highlights include the Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant, JinJin, with real Chinese chefs and Bali in Mangwon, the popular Indonesian restaurant boasting dishes native not only to Indonesia, but to its tropical paradise of Bali.
The ‘dong’ in Mangwon-dong might just stand for dong-mul (‘animals’ in Korean.) Who doesn’t love puppies and kittens? Mangwon is home to several animal hospitals and clinics, in fact, there’s one on almost every corner! As such, you’ll notice people with their fur babies almost everywhere.
What’s more, if you look carefully, you’ll notice plenty of food bowls and make-shift shelters left outside homes for the stray cats in the neighbourhood. It is a heart-warming sight to see, especially as stray cat abuse is not uncommon in Seoul.
Finally, the original branch of the Korean Animal Rights Advocates (KARA) is based here. I used to volunteer there and continue to visit once a week to give some love to my furry friends.
Note: Many establishments in Mangwon close on Mondays. I would advise going on a different day
1) Coffee and Cake @ ATMOSPHERE
While animal cafes can be extremely tempting, they are an unhealthy environment for animals. Those in charge of these cafes often seek to maximise profits, even at the expense of the animals’ health and wellbeing. However, boycotting animal cafes doesn’t mean you’re cut off from pets altogether. On that note, why not visit ATMOSPHERE? A cozy cafe with dog in management.
ATMOSPHERE offers adorable cakes and biscuits as their signature, all made by hand by a group of talented bakers. They also have a list of unique drinks, including imported teas and specialty ades. And, you’ll have the chance to meet 오늘 (o-neul.) Oneul, whose name means ‘today’ in Korean, is the owner’s adorable pup, but from the way she struts about, you’d think she was the boss!
ATMOSPHERE is a relaxing cafe to visit all-year-round, but it is particularly cosy during the winter. Oneul likes to keep to herself, but she’ll definitely show interest if you order cake… just don’t feed her any please! What’s more, if you ask politely, the owner may let you feed her a treat! Be prepared to see Oneul’s impressive array of tricks.
ATMOSPHERE Address: 54-1 Mangwon-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul Operating Hours: 12:00pm - 11:00pm Tues - Sun, closed Mon
[4 min walk]
2) Lifestyle Shopping @ Zero Space; YOUR GOODS
Zero Space is a family- and animal-themed poster and lifestyle shop. If you’re looking for a souvenir for family or friends, this is the place to come. I personally love their range of Seoul posters that have a simple yet heart-warming design. The products are unlike what you would find at a typical tourist gift shop, and surprisingly affordable, especially in comparison with other select shops.
Zero Space Address: 32 Heuiujeong-ro 16-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul Operating Hours: 1:00pm - 7:30pm Sun - Fri, 12:00pm - 8:00pm Sat Online Store: smartstore.naver.com/zeroperzero
YOUR GOODS, conveniently located right next door to Zero Space, is another lifestyle shop showcasing a huge variety of designs and styles. The overarching theme is one of cats, but there’s no telling what you might find. From minimalist line drawings to intricate prints of cats in hanboks, this place is a must-see for cat lovers looking to add some meow factor to their home.
YOUR GOODS Address: 56 Mangwon-ro 6-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul Operating Hours: 1:00pm - 8:00pm everyday Online Store: smartstore.naver.com/royfriends
[5 min walk]
3) Time Travel @ Silo Store; Light-full Studio
Now its time to meet a few of my Mangwon friends, who also happen to be independent shop owners. First up is Silo Store, a vintage shop split into 3 sections dedicated to the 1800s, post-WW1 and post-WW2, respectively. You will instantly feel like you’ve gone back in time in every sense. Oldies music playing, walls lined with old plates and trinkets and even the classic ‘old-book’ smell.
Silo Store is run by friendly couple, Ethan and Sumi. Ethan is actually a ‘gyo-po‘ (Korean raised abroad), as he was born in Korea but raised in Colorado, US. Despite being bilingual, Ethan admits to still struggling with Korean, so he loves to meet foreigners passing through. Sumi also speaks excellent English, though she’s too modest to admit it. Peruse the store at your leisure and if something peaks your interest, they will tell you the story behind it. Don’t forget to sign the comment book when you leave!
Silo Store Address: 394-85 Mangwon-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul Operating Hours: 2:00pm - 8:00pm Wed - Sun; Closed Mon, Tues
After leaving Silo Store, turn left and walk for about 20 seconds until you reach Light-full Studio.
Run by young travel artist, Gawool, the studio is designed to be a mini travel capsule, letting you travel the world inside one place. She opened the store during the Covid-19 pandemic that has prevented people from going travelling. Gawool has been all over the world, I was pleasantly surprised to see she had visited the city where I went to university.
When we met, we talked for a long time about her travels. I ended up buying a print of a man and woman hugging amidst a cityscape below. Gawool painted this when she was leaving one of her favourite places, Grenada, Spain. Additionally, the backdrop of both dusk and night was from a viewpoint in Grenada where you can see both at the same time.
Of course, art is subjective and I had my own reasons for buying the print. It reminded me of the long-distance relationship my partner and I had endured, and how when it was daytime in my country, it was night-time in his!
Light-full Studio Address: 394-2 Mangwon-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul Operating Hours: 2:00pm - 7:00pm Fri, Sat Online Store: smartstore.naver.com/gawooltravelwatercolor
[9 min walk]
4) Refill Station @ Almang Market
The next stop is another place that I travel to from Gimpo each week: eco shop and refill station, Almang Market. Almang Market was launched by 3 eco-warriors who met at a environmental protest in Seoul. Their aim was to make zero-waste and eco-living more accessible for the everyday consumer…we can’t all drive electric cars and wear dresses made from hemp.
At Almang Market, you can bring your own containers to load up on everything from shampoo to olive oil, purchase everyday products and interior goods made from recycled materials and even get/donate some free goodies from the shelf when you walk in! One of my greatest finds was a bag full of brand-new tupperware.
Fancy starting a stamp card on your way to getting more free gifts? Then come along with bottle caps (plastic only) and milk cartons which you can donate in exchange for stamps! You can even donate leftover coffee that the team use to craft plant pots.
Almang Market Address: Floor 2, 427-5 Hapjeong-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul Operating Hours: 2:00pm - 8:00pm Tues - Sun; Closed Mon
[8 min walk]
5) Vegan Gimbab @ Mangwon Hangang Park
Lunch time! If the weather is nice, you cannot pass up a picnic at Mangwon Hangang Park. But first, head to Bomulseom Gimbab for some vegan gimbab! Bomulseom has a huge range of Gimbab, so if vegan isn’t your vibe, there’s plenty more to choose from.
But if you are after the vegan option, simply ask for “야채김밥” (ya-chae gimbab), or if you’re nervous about speaking Korean, you can point it on the menu (its the first item.) Once you’ve got your gimbab, head on down to Mangwon Hangang Park.
Bomulseom Gimbab Address: 50 Worldcup-ro 13-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul Operating Hours: 6:30am - 8:00pm Tues - Sun, 10:00 - Mon
[10 min walk]
Stop at a convenience store on the way to pick up drinks and other snacks, or you can find one near the Mangwon Hangang Park Parking Lot. If you head down that way, you can find stalls that offer picnic blanket and tent rentals, though these can be a little bit expensive. There are comfortable grassy areas you can sit on with no blanket needed! But if you do want something to sit on, I recommend packing an old blanket or coat before you come.
Mangwon Hangang Park Address: 467 Maponaru-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
[13 min walk]
6) Dessert @ Tokyo Bingsu
You’ve probably passed several dessert cafes by this point, as Mangwon is full of them. However, there’s no place better than Tokyo Bingsu. You may have heard of Tokyo Bingsu already, as they have branches all over Korea, but don’t pass up the opportunity to eat at the original cafe. It’s not difficult to find Tokyo Bingsu as there is usually a line of people queuing up outside. But don’t let that put you off, people wolf down their bingsu so fast there’s not typically a long wait!
Believe it or not, but the signature flavour here is tomato! Yes, I was confused too, but I went with my Korean friend who said that tomatoes with sugar is actually a popular snack in Korea. Nonetheless, my favourite flavour will always be the “Berry Berry Raspberry!”
Tokyo Bingsu Address: 9 Poeun-ro 8-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul Operating Hours: 12:00pm - 10:00pm Tues - Sun, closed Mon
[1 min walk]
7) Traditional Shopping @ Mangwon Market
Anyone who lives in Mangwon will tell you that Mangwon Market is the best place to grocery shop. From seasonal fruit and veg to fish, meat and even fried chicken, you could easily spend hours looking through the produce. Despite the fact that I’ve moved away, I continue to visit Mangwon once per week and I always make a trip to Mangwon Market.
If you’ve got a refrigerator at your home or accommodation, I definitely recommend picking up some fresh food here. What’s more, head over towards the end of the day to witness some serious discounts. Go at the right time and you can even get 3 avocados for less than 5000 won!
Mangwon Market Address: 14 Poeun-ro 8-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul Operating Hours: 8:00am - 10:00pm everyday
[7 min walk]
8) Painting Class @ Studio in the Garden
I’ve already introduced you to some of Mangwon’s finest creative minds, so why not join them? At jeong-won sok-hwasil dam-da (“studio in the garden”) you can enjoy a peaceful cafe atmosphere while losing yourself in your own artistic world. The one day class is 2h 30 minutes, during which time you have free reign to paint whatever you like.
Did I mention this is another Mangwon destination where dogs make an appearance? That’s right, Ace and Byeol are the two pups in charge at this studio! While they don’t visit as often as our previously mentioned animal friends, they may pop by to check out your work.
Studio in the Garden Address: 53 Donggyo-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul Operating Hours: 12:00pm - 10:00pm Tues - Sat, - 6:00pm Sun, closed Mon
[3 min walk]
9) Gift Shopping for Pets @ Just Jumrae
Just Jumrae is an adorable independent pet goods store with everything from homemade natural pet treats and food to soju and beer for dogs! If you don’t have a pet to buy for, you can purchase animal-themed gifts, accessories and cards here too.
The store is run by married couple Eunjoo and Changyong, with their pug Bangsil and titular corgi Jumrae who will greet you on entry. Just be warned…they love attention. Give Jumrae belly rubs and she won’t let you leave!
Just Jumrae Address: 71 Poeun-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul Operating Hours: 12:00pm - 9:00pm Wed - Fri; - 10:00pm Sat, Sun; closed Mon, Tues Online Store: smartstore.naver.com/jumrae
You can also check out their cafe, Just Bangsil nearby to see where the natural pet treats are cooked up! Furthermore, the couple also run Nanheui, a natural interior goods and accessories shop named after Eunjoo’s mother — also just a short walk away! However, if you’re aching to meet Jumrae and Bangsil, you will find them at Just Jumrae.
Just Bangsil Address: 71 Heuiujeong-ro 20-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul Operating Hours: 12:00pm - 10:00pm Tues - Sun, closed Mon Nanheui Address: 77 Worldcup-ro 11-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul Operating Hours: 1:00pm - 8:00pm Weekends only
[9 min walk]
10) Fusion Ramen @ Ittengo
Finally, an evening meal at Ittengo, a Japanese fusion ramen restaurant conveniently located a short walk away from Hapjeong Station (Subway Line 2.) I made a note of Ittengo’s location when I passed it one day and saw a crowd of people waiting outside, later going myself one night.
Japanese ramen can be delicious, but also greasy and leave you uncomfortably full. However, the ramen at Ittengo is so wonderfully light and fresh, you will no doubt leave with a warm, satisfying feeling. There are 3 ramens available: Kitsune, Kiyomasa and Midorikame. The names are actually different animals in Japanese, with each animal corresponding to the colour of the delicious ramen.
- Kitsune 狐 “fox” Ramen
Light, silky miso ramen with angel hair noodles and pork bone broth
- Kiyomasa 清正 “red fox” Ramen
Spicy red ramen with angel hair noodles and pork bone broth made with Cheongyang red pepper powder (extra spicy)
- Midorikame 緑亀 “green turtle” Ramen
Light pesto ramen with angel hair noodles and pork bone broth made with Korean basil
Ittengo Address: 11 Poeun-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul Operating Hours: 11:30am - 9:30pm everyday