Lace up your shoes for these 5 alleys in South Korea

Discover Gyeonggi province’s best-kept secrets before everyone else does. Source: Shutterstock.

MOST travelers are familiar with Seoul, but very few are aware of the South Korean capital’s extended suburbs.

On the outskirts of Seoul is Gyeonggi, a province wrapped around Seoul and the most populous province in South Korea. In fact, its name literally means the “province surrounding Seoul”.

Though easily accessible from Seoul (via subway from Seoul Station to Suwon Station), Gyeonggi is often overlooked. But it does have a couple of pleasant surprises up its sleeve.

For example, Suwon, the capital of Gyeonggi, is well known for the Suwon Hwaseong stone fortress. It was built in 1796 by King Jeongjo to guard the tomb of his father, Prince Sado.

Suwon is also home to the picturesque Korean Folk Village, a 245-acre living museum and themed experience center which will introduce you to the Joseon dynasty through food, showcases, and performances.

And just a short distance away from the Korean Folk Village is the incredible Everland, South Korea’s largest amusement park which includes a zoo and water park known as Caribbean Bay.

Everland

Everland. Source: Shutterstock.

Everland boasts the T Express, the first wooden roller coaster and the largest of any kind in South Korea, and the sixth longest wooden coaster in the world, among other attractions.

There are many more pockets of discoveries, historical sites, and hidden gems waiting to be found. So lace up your shoes and explore these Gyeonggi hot spots:

King Sejong’s Hangul Alley “Yeoju Hangul Market Mural Alley”

There is a special principle in the Hangul market in Yeoju, Gyeonggi Province. Along with the name of the “Hangul Market”, every single sign of all shops are in Hangul.

Unlike other places, the franchise ice cream shops and cosmetic shops that people are familiar with also have signs in Hangul, the Korean alphabet invented by King Sejong.

Hangul. Source: Shutterstock.

King Sejong’s tomb is located in Yeoju. He invented Hangul because of his love for the people. Therefore, the market is based on Hangul and it is impressive that such a small market is operated so actively.

The Hangul market is constantly open, and on the 5th and 10th day of every month, visitors can have more active experiences.

“Suwon Haenglidangil”, the cultural street next to the castle

Haenglidangil is arguably the hottest spot in Suwon. It is located in Haeng-gungdong, near Hwaseong Haenggung, Hwaseomun (West Gate) and Janganmun (North Gate) of Suwon Hwaseong Fortress.

As there are many unique new cafes here, people started calling this place Haenglidangil or Haeng-gungdong Cafe Street.

Source: Shutterstock.

From the beginning of 2018, as some cafes were featured on SNS, young people started to come to this alley that used to be quiet. This is how the area began to attract attention.

Since then, plenty of cafes opened and now about 90 cafes are operating. Some people are worried about gentrification due to the opening of too many cafes.

However, new restaurants with brilliant ideas also opened in Haenglidangi, where there were mainly cafes. Now, this area has emerged as a lively cultural street in Suwon.

One thing to note about Haenglidangil is the alley leading to Suwon Hwaseong Fortress.

Hwaseong Fortress. Source: Shutterstock.

The alley is a place where memories of many people have been dissolved, but traditional aspects and modernity coexist.

Visitors can see old walls and houses built with red bricks. While watching Hwaseong – the world cultural heritage in the alleyway – with a coffee aroma, visitors can listen to the story of Haenggung-dong.

Feel the kindness of neighbors at Yangpyeong Market Road

The Yangpyeong Market Road is the most interesting alley of all because there are so many things to see, buy, and eat. It is a place full of people’s kindness and joy even during noisy bargaining.

The market alley, where visitors can hear plenty of stories from everyone they meet, is splendidly beautiful in the winter.

The Yangpyeong Market Alley in Yangpyeong is also an alleyway full of people. On the third and eighth of every month, when the Yangpyeong Oil Market is held,  a festival where all villagers and the merchants come together

To get to the Yangpyeong market, after exiting Yangpyeong Station and walking over, the market is on the left side.

Passing by the markets of radishes and cabbages, visitors can smell the fragrance of deodeok and Bellflower for kimchi and the spicy fragrance of buckwheat pancakes.

Buckwheat pancake. Source: Shutterstock.

A piece of buckwheat pancake with cabbage is only KRW1,000 (US$0.89), which visitors must not miss.

Enjoy gourmet food at the “Ansan Multicultural Food Street”

Won-gong-dong, on the other side of Ansan Station, is called a “village without borders”. It is a unique village where foreigners and naturalized Koreans from all over the world live together. About 60 percent of people walking on the streets and alleys are foreigners.

Foreign workers working in the industrial complex here are extremely busy on weekdays. Therefore, banks and hospitals are open on weekends, which only happens in this area.

70 percent of the 400 foreign businesses in the area are restaurants. Along the street, visitors can savor delicious food from all over the world including China, Vietnam, Uzbekistan, etc.

Ansan City has referred to this area as a “special place for multicultural food”. It is a food street that appeals to foreigners and is quickly developing into a global food town where local Koreans taste foreign food.

Recently, an Indonesian restaurant located in the inner alley has been attracting attention due to a travel program on TV. Its mi goreng (stir-fried rice noodles) and nasi goreng (fried rice noodles) are especially popular. At the shops in the alley, visitors can easily buy food ingredients from China and Southeast Asia.

“Pyeongtaek International Central Market Shopping Street” – the Itaewon of Gyeonggi Province

The Pyeongtaek International Central Market has developed into a unique destination due to the influence of US troops stationed nearby. On the streets, the flags of Korea and the US are raised. It looks just like a shopping complex in a foreign resort.

In recent years, restaurants that sell food from various countries such as Turkey, Thailand, and Vietnam have opened along alleys connected to the “shopping street”, the main street market.

It is also called the Itaewon of Gyeonggi Province because many foreign tourists and Koreans visit this place. A leisurely stroll down the alley will afford you unexpected treasures such as unusual patterns of clothing or military accessories.

Songtan, where the International Central Market is located, is famous for its special food culture. It is a combination of Western and Korean food under the influence of the US military.

Typical examples are the Songtan sausage stew and the Songtan hamburger.

The sausage stew is very rich and spicy, and the “Songtan hamburger”, a Korean-style hamburger, is Songtan’s special food that has been loved for many years.

Between the thick pieces of bread, the Songtan hamburger is made with a meat patty, ham, fried egg, and plenty of fresh vegetables to create a rich taste, also comes with common sauces such as ketchup and mayonnaise. It tastes familiar but with a strong taste that is distinctly different from other franchise hamburgers.