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Seoul’s Best Hidden Restaurants and Bars

Seoul’s Best Hidden Restaurants and Bars

Seoul gleams with glass towers and brims with centuries-old architecture, but beyond the bright lights, it has a hidden intimate side, if you know where to look. Miles of winding back streets can lead you to a tucked-away cafe, a delicious new restaurant or an entire enclave ripe for exploring. All you have to do is take the first step.

Locals flock to two under-the-radar neighborhoods in particular for their insider cachet: the downtown industrial hub Euljiro, which is dotted with back-alley bars and eateries, and Sinheung Market, an old street mall that’s getting a well-deserved makeover. (Both enclaves are within a few miles of the site of last Halloween’s tragic crowd crush in Itaewon, but neither typically draws the large numbers of revelers for which Itaewon has been known.)

In these two areas, getting off the main roads to explore will reward visitors with cocktail bars, restaurants and other nightspots whose outsize personalities defy their cozy confines.

Tread carelessly in Euljiro, an area just off the business district in central Seoul, and you’re bound to walk right into one of dozens of grizzled, stubble-faced motorcyclists transporting stacks of fresh newsprint or machine cogs through these narrow streets still packed with print and manufacturing businesses.

But turn down the right alley and push the right door and you could find a candlelit wine lounge with a veranda perfect for stargazing. That magic has earned this enclave the nickname Hipjiro, where tucked-away watering holes and casually chic eateries entice native Koreans and foreigners in equal measure.

The trickier it is to locate a destination, the more stylish you can bet it is. But no matter where you go, the dress code is usually low-key — one of the best parts of lounge life in Seoul.

The area is changing quickly as redevelopment projects target older buildings, so get there fast. Here are three Euljiro spots worth peeking around the right corner to find.

Marked by only a short sandwich board out front with a red beacon behind it, the music-forward lounge the Edge is easy to walk past, but it’s well worth the careful climb up steep metal stairs reminiscent of a New York City fire escape. The Edge is part vinyl shop, part bar — all laid-back — serving coffee by day and beer and cocktails by night, often with a D.J. keeping the beat. The vibe is sedate and less see-and-be-seen than it is watch-and-chill-with-friends. Sit among the boxes…

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