In the same vein that real New Yorkers can talk about taking the L train before Williamsburg got hot, one day people will talk about Yeomri-dong. Let’s face it. These days, knowing how to one-shot soju and sing “Gangnam Style” doesn’t make you anything of an authentic Seoulite. To collect creds for being a local, you need to go where the alleys are narrow and the menus untranslated—Yeomri-dong.
From Exit 5 of Ewha Womans University Station, enter the small alleyway opposite the bustling brand name businesses and go past your comfort zone. As you walk on, you’ll notice storefronts with muted colors, cracked red brick walls and low ceilinged houses wedged against and on top of one another. Here, with Yeomri-dong’s 80s architecture and residences preserved exactly as it was, you will find that the contemporary Seoul you thought you knew still has some tricks up its sleeve.
Albeit not as dangerous as it sounds, you could try the neighborhood at night for some extra credit. Back in 2012, the city, sensitive to high crime rates, redesigned this place: They built streetlights, painted yellow road signs and designated a cultural experience that they call the “Salt Road.” With the kaleidoscope of murals painted on the walls, the Salt Road currently doubles as Yeomri-dong’s safeguard as well as a scenic route. The Salt Road, along with the neighborhood’s vibrant personality and affordable rent, has been attracting a lot of attention from visitors and new residents alike.