The area around Seongsu in the east of the city is another part of town where gentrification is seeing old-fashioned neighbourhoods slowly – or not so slowly – turn into trendy and sought-after districts. As with other locales like Gyeongnidan, Yeonnam-dong and Sangsu, cafés are often at the forefront of this social change, enticing younger people into the area and driving the “regeneration” (if you want to call it that) of previously depressed or downmarket places.
Aged just six years old, the mighty Casablanca Sandwicherie is already the granddaddy of foreign-owned food places in Haebangchon, the purveyors of the best sandwiches in Korea, and one of our little favela’s best-loved institutions. (If you haven’t been there yet, stop reading this and just go; it’ll soon become one of your favourite places in the city. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.)
Bukcheon, just north of the city centre, has changed quite a lot in the time I’ve been here. Five or six years ago it was a “hidden gem”, but now it’s anything but. Hordes of tourists stalk the streets with selfie sticks as tour guides squawk instructions at them. And, as usual in these situations, the rush to commercialise the area has destroyed quite a lot of its quirky appeal (see also the hanok village in Jeonju).
Café culture was never something I was that keen on – perhaps because I come from Glasgow, where
most all social interactions centre around the pub. If there’s one thing that living in Seoul is slowly bringing me around to (other than eating fermented cabbage), though, it’s the joy of a good café.
For years, I’ve been saying that a proper bagel place in HBC / Gyeongnidan would make a fortune. For years! I even considered opening a bagel shop on the HBC main road. The only thing that stopped me was (a) I don’t have the money to open a bagel shop (b) I don’t know how to make bagels. I was so close, though, dammit!
[UPDATE, JULY 2017: This pop-up has now ended. You can find Pick a Bagel at their main location in Apgujeong.]