Despite sitting near the heart of downtown, the area around Euljiro-4-ga Station remains off the radar for most. Surrounded by Jongno, Myeongdong, and Dongdaemun, it suffers a bit from Bermuda Triangle syndrome, disappearing amid the attractions of its more well-known neighbors. But there are plenty of reasons to get off the subway here and explore, from specialty shopping streets to Ojang-dong’s naengmyeon restaurants to a stroll along the Cheonggye Stream, Seoul’s favorite urban oasis.
If you’ve just moved or simply decided it’s time to redecorate, you could do a lot worse than making your first shopping trip to Euljiro-4-ga. It could be the only one you need. The area brims with stores that will help you outfit your home exactly as you envision it.
Just inside the main entrance to Bangsan Market (방산시장), accessible from Exit 6, the street is lined with wallpaper stores where you can find everything from the most traditional black and white checkerboard pattern to glittery purples and golds. For furnishings, cross Euljiro (을지로) and head south on Baeogae-gil (배오개길). The street hosts practically nothing but furniture stores (Exit 8 or 9), with a special focus on chairs. Whether you’re looking for seating to fill out your home or business, you’ll probably find what you’re looking for here. Metal lawn furniture? Check. Cow-patterned mini barstools? Of course. Red velvet armchair with a two-meter high back and gold accents? Why, yes, but the scepter will cost extra.
Speaking of treasure, Euljiro-4-ga is also home to a collection of businesses selling safes. Those of the same style but different sizes are lined up next to each other like disassembled Russian nesting dolls, and while you can of course get safes in standard no-nonsense shades of silver and beige, some of the stores offer them in designs you might never expect: crimson on crimson floral patterns or with pictures of van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ or Klimt’s ‘The Kiss’ on the front.
Lining Euljiro, particularly west of the station (Exit 1 or 10), are a number of lighting shops. Spotlights, track lights, chandeliers, metal lampposts – they’re all here.
It’s a great place to look for more unique fixtures that you’d never find at big department stores too: giant v-shaped ceiling lights or softly glowing orbs that look something like luminescent dinosaur eggs.
Filling out the street are businesses for practically every home DIY niche: metal banisters, pigments for mixing paint, and more. Tiling and bath stores had urinals and squat toilets lined up on the sidewalk for inspection. We even came across a hulking, broken Konami arcade game called ‘Warzaid’ just sitting on the sidewalk, its big purple guns with nothing to do now that the electronic guts had been removed.
Even if you’re not outfitting a new home there are plenty of reasons to visit the Euljiro-4-ga area. To the north, Baeogae-gil is lined with sewing machine shops (Exit 3 or 4), vestiges of the area’s grittier past, when it was filled with garment factories churning out the clothing that found its way to Dongdaemun Market. Nowadays, those factories are long gone, but you can still find businesses selling and repairing not only desk-size industrial machines but also machines and supplies for home use.
Continue walking, and on the street facing Cheonggyecheon is a series of stores specializing in power tools, circular saws, drills, and jigsaws. One entire shop was even devoted to nothing but pivoting wheels for flatbed carts.
Running south from here all the way back to Mareunnae-gil (마른내길) is the Daerim Arcade (대림상가), a very run-down two-story shopping center, mostly filled with closed shops. We walked up a set of concrete stairs to the second level where, surprisingly, a small restaurant was open with, even more surprisingly, customers. Better than that, though, was the seemingly forgotten glass display case outside that held stun guns and condoms, both of which, judging by the fading color on the boxes, had been sitting there for so long that the question of which was more dangerous was not rhetorical.
The neighborhood, especially within Bangsan Market, is also filled with small printing and packaging shops, and motorcycles zip through alleys with stacks of paper or pallets of cardboard strapped to flatbeds rigged onto the bikes.
Many shops focus on specialty packaging – some are devoted solely to stickers or clothing tags, while others might make, say, both the bags dog food gets sold in and the ones in which you get your new jeans handed to you. Or, our personal favorite, an oversized cloth shopping bag that read ‘LET’S BE PALSY-WALSIES’ on the side.
Across Eulji-ro from Bangsan Market is another fairly large market, Jungbu Market (중부시장) (Exit 7), expanding for blocks. It runs the usual gamut of market food, but its focus is on seafood, and you can find fresh fish, dried fish, seaweed, dried shrimp, six-inch fish tied with thick yellow twine into ladders of ten…you get the picture.
If all that shopping has worked up an appetite, head to Ojang-dong’s (오장동) collection of naengmyeon restaurants. These cold noodles are served in either an icy broth (mul naengmyeon) or a spicy red pepper mix (bibim naengmyeon) and are popular in summer.
We stopped for lunch at Heungnam Jip (오장동 흥남집) (Exit 8), a restaurant that’s been open since 1953, an eternity in Seoul. Staying power like that isn’t accidental, and despite the frigid temperature outside, the restaurant was full of families chowing down.
Heungnam Jip specializes in Hamheung style naengmyeon, which is made from sweet potato starch and is sweeter and chewier than its cross-peninsula cousin, Pyongyang style, made from buckwheat. In addition to mul and bibim, the restaurant also offers variations that come with raw fish (hoe naengmyeon) and a mix of raw fish and beef (seokkim naengmyeon). You can also order your mul naengmyeon to be served warm. All varieties cost 8,000 won and come with a delicious beef broth to drink that quickly chases the winter chill away.
Just west of Ojang-dong, across Baeogae-gil, are a number of stores making shopping bags and a thin side street running south that’s lined with only with small printing and cardboard box manufacturing companies. Pallets of fresh, flattened boxes were being moved around by forklift and transported here and there by motorcycle.
If it’s relaxation and not shopping or food that you need, the area has that too. Just north of the station runs Cheonggye Stream (청계천) (Exit 3 or 4). Lit up, accessorized, and sometimes congested where it begins near City Hall, it’s a truly calming place here, perfect for a stroll any time of year. The water flows around stepping stones and past banks of reeds, starker, but no less beautiful in the winter, the tawny stalks brushed with fresh snow.
Bangsan Market (방산시장)
Specialty Wallpaper, Printing, and Packaging Markets
Exit 6 – The market’s main entrance is approximately 50 meters ahead on the left.
Exit 8 or 9
Lighting Fixture Stores
Exit 1 or 10
Sewing Machines and Parts Stores
Exit 3 or 4
Jungbu Market (중부시장)
Ojang-dong Heungnam Jip (오장동 흥남집)
Exit 8 – South on Baeogae-gil, Left on Mareunnae-gil.
Jung-gu, Ojang-dong 101-7
Cheonggye Stream (청계천)
Exit 3 or 4 – North on Baeogae-gil