Foreigners’ Playground, Itaewon (이태원)

Where to go for foreign cuisine.

Come to Itaewon (이태원) and you are bound to notice something familiar with Myeongdong – the streets are thronged full of foreigners, and with good reasons so! Itaewon has been designated the very first ‘Special Tourism District’ in Seoul. It is also here in Itaewon where the highest concentration of halal restaurants can be found. Itaewon is also home to Seoul’s one and only mosque, the Seoul Central Masjid. As such, you can find plenty of halal restaurants here in Itaewon and is most evident on the streets outside the mosque, which are lined with different kinds of halal restaurants. There are also plenty of other restaurants catering to tourists from all over the world, from Chinese restaurants to Italian, French, Japanese, Russian etc., you will definitely be spoilt for choice here!

Itaewon is located in Yongsan-gu, which is also home to the Yongsan Garrison, a camp belonging to the American troops. As such, you might find American troops walking along the streets of Itaewon at times. Many of the clothing stores also have signs that say ‘Big sizes available’ outside their stores, as many of the foreign population here in Seoul do their shopping in Itaewon.

Itaewon is also located near the Han River, and is of close proximity to Namsan Mountain, Seoul Station and Myeongdong. You can get to Itaewon by taking the subway on Line 6.

The welcoming sign at Itaewon.
Plenty of things going on at Itaewon.
One of the many different alleys at Itaewon.
A shop selling military gear.
A shop advertising big sized casual clothes.
Another shop selling souvenirs.
A bookstore dedicated to selling English books.

Besides restaurants catering to the foreign crowd, it is also here in Itaewon where bookstores selling books in languages such as English or French can be easily located.

Go on a walking tour of Itaewon and discover the many different flavours of this district.
You can find a few of such international markets at Itaewon.

There are also various markets here in Itaewon that sell mostly fashion items that are popular with certain groups of people. As many of the shop owners themselves come from all over the world, they best understand that kind of clothes that people from their own country like.

Itaewon market is one of the oldest markets here in Itaewon. It is a 3-storey shopping mall that sells mostly clothes and handbags and affordable prices. You many find it a little similar to shopping at the wholesale centres at Dongdaemun.

Itaewon Market.
Clothing store displaying their stuff outside.
And along the road.

Many of the other clothing stores here display their wares outside their shop, adding to the vibrancy of this neighbourhood. We found that most of the items are sold at reasonable prices, despite this being a place frequented by mostly tourists.

A store advertising its big sized clothes.

You will also be able to find many shops selling extra large shirt sizes catered for the western crowd. As many of you might have already known by now, Koreans are not only smaller in size, but prefer to wear tight fitting clothes as well. As such, many western residents or tourists have dificulties finding the right clothes here in Korea. In Itaewon, most of the clothing stores provide extra large sizes for almost all their offerings.

Such ‘big sized clothes’ signs are a common sight here.

As you walk along the main street, you will notice on your left and right many more other small alleys. It is here at these small alleys where most of the action takes place, as plenty of cafes and restaurants are tucked away in these alleys.

The vibrant alleys of Itaewon.
All kinds of things can be found here.

On Friday and weekend nights, Itaewon turns into one of the most vibrant and happening districts in Seoul, with plenty of people thronging its many foreign-themed bars, clubs and restaurants.

Party has already started for this group.

Another one reason that draws people to Itaewon, is the fact that Seoul’s one and only mosque is located right here in Itaewon. Not only the mosque, but other services such as immigration advice centres and halal-certified restaurants can be commonly found here in Itaewon. As such, it makes Itaewon a must-visit place for many Muslim tourists.

A halal restaurant serving Turkish cuisine.
Another halal kebab restaurant.
Turkish and Dubai halal restaurants
All you can eat halal buffet at only 9,900KRW.
Grocery store selling halal products.

The Seoul Central Mosque is located on one of the hills, near the Cheil office building outside Exit 3 of Itaewon Station on Line 6. It boasts a great view of the neighbourhood of Itaewon as well as the Han River from its location.

Religious studies and lessons are also held here different languages such as Arabic, English as well as Korean.

The beautiful Seoul Central Mosque.
The entrance to the mosque.
The view atop the hill that the mosque sits on.
One of the stairs leading up to the mosque.

The mosque was constructed on a piece of prime land donated by the Korean government. The construction was funded by Islamic countries and officially opened in May 21 1976. Various meeting rooms and offices of the Korea Muslim Federation can be found on the first floor of the mosque. The second hall consists of the men’s musalla (prayer hall) and the weomen’s musalla is located on the third floor. Do not give this place a miss if you are in Itaewon!

With so many things to do and see in Itaewon, it is no wonder so many foreigners love this place. In fact, there is a saying among the foreigner population here that even if you do not know Korea, you are bound to know Itaewon. With such a vibrant and bustling diversity here which is seldom found elsewhere in Korea, we couldn’t help but agree!

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