Branding itself the city’s belly button, Jung-gu (www.junggu.seoul.kr) stretches from the southern city gate of Sungnyemun and round-the-clock Namdaemun Market towards the eastern gate of Heunginjimun. Dominating the district’s heart is the youth-fashion shopping area of Myeong-dong. Myeong means ‘light’ – apt for an area where Seoul’s commercial razzle-dazzle reaches its apogee.
Myeong-dong’s streets and alleyways are invariably teeming with shoppers. Masses of commercial stores cater to a repetitive set of current fashion trends and a desire for cheap beauty products, along with plenty of cafes, restaurants and high-rise shopping malls. Chinese visitors in particular adore it and you’ll often hear shop and stall vendors address the crowd in that language. The mass of humanity, noise and visual stimulation can become overwhelming, but don’t let that put you off spending some time soaking up the electric atmosphere and indulging in retail therapy.
Tranquillity can be regained on nearby Namsan, downtown Seoul’s green lung, its hiking trails, parkland and old City Wall newly spruced up. From nearby Hoehyeon station and Namdaemun Market, the new park overpass Seoullo 7017 provides some peace and good views above the highways. It exits in the deserted area west of Seoul Plaza and City Hall in Deoksugung, a lovely palace around which early missionaries built Seoul’s first churches and schools, and where foreign legations were based; many old buildings have been preserved.