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Introducing Western Seoul

Home to several major campuses the areas of Hongdae (around Hongik University), Edae (around Ewha Womans University) and Sinchon (between Yonsei and Sogang Universities) are – as you’d expect – packed with places for students to be diverted from their studies. Hongik is Korea’s leading art and design institution, so this is a particularly fertile patch for chaotic creativity and unbridled hedonism; it’s also ground central for the K-Indie scene with scores of live music clubs and dance spots.

Hongdae morphs into Sinchon, another student area with masses of bars and budget restaurants, not to mention love motels, pool halls and DVD, karaoke and internet rooms. From Sinchon it’s a skip to Edae, where female students are the predominant customers. French architect Dominique Perrault’s stunning redesign of the Ewha campus centre has put the area on the archi-tour map.

In complete contrast is the no-nonsense business centre of Yeouido. This 3km-long and 2km-wide island on the southern side of the Han River used to be a sandy airfield. It’s now home to skyscrapers housing media, finance and insurance companies, as well as the National Assembly and stock exchange buildings. It’s not entirely devoid of tourist attractions: the aquarium and observation deck of the gold-tinted 63 City and nearby Noryangjin Fish Market are both impressive. There’s also the central Yeouido Park and Yeouido Hangang Riverside Park, each lovely places to relax or go for a bike ride.