Jamsil is Gangnam’s trendy neighbour and the Lotte franchise capital. Home to Seoul’s major sports stadiums and towering skyscrapers, the younger generation have also brought their energy and ambition through start-up businesses to the streets of Jamsil making it a dynamic up-and-coming area on the Seoul social scene.
Having Gangnam as a bordering district puts Jamsil in a position to be easily overlooked, and once upon a time, it may have been, but a generation of youth has ensured it won’t be anytime soon. The residential area is now brimming with modern concept cafes, dive bars and stand-alone boutiques hidden in unseemly walk-up buildings, their neon signs lighting up the once grey streets.
Aside from smaller businesses, the Korean corporate giant group Lotte also chose Jamsil to locate a huge part of their empire. An ever-growing kingdom, Lotte have built everything from duty-free shopping malls to residential buildings in Jamsil. Still, the star of the Lotte show remains the 556 meter high pointed-topped Lotte tower skyscraper, added to the Seoul skyline in 2016, enclosing all kinds of businesses, and a viewing tower open to the public to take in panoramic views of the capital city.
Seoul’s sporting enthusiasts will be no strangers to Jamsil, either. Ahead of the 1986 Asian Games and 1988 Olympics, Jamsil gained the largest sporting arena in Korea, and in the same decade, the capital city’s main baseball stadium. When it comes to sports, the annual baseball tournament is usually the main event in Korea, a loved sport shared by close Korea-US relations. Millions of fans gather at the Jamsil stadium every year to cheer on their teams, whilst eating fried chicken and drinking beer in the stalls.
Jamsil is a district that can be visited in any season, with plenty of restaurants, cafes and shops to hide from the rain, and lots of outdoor space to make the most out of better weather. It’s a great city space to wander around away from the touristy gimmicks and busy streets, and accidentally stumble across places that won’t be listed in the guide books.
Still mostly a residential area of the city, Jamsil manages to retain a strong community feel, where the streets are often lined with local food stalls and pop-up craft markets full of hand-made goodies, and restaurant owners still treat their customers like family. This neighbourhood feel, and the abundance of parks in the area, makes Jamsil a relaxing place to be; somewhere where it’s easy to breathe in an oft-polluted city.
For incredible city views, the Signiel 5* Hotel (300 Olympic-ro) is located on the 76th to 101st floors of the 123 storey Lotte World Tower in the centre of Jamsil. The Signiel hotel provides a luxury city experience with the guest rooms, spa and fitness rooms all fitted with floor to ceiling windows to maximise skyline views. The restaurant and bar are also worth a visit for a taste of European-style fine dining in the clouds, illuminated by the city lights.
At the other end of the spectrum, Hostel Vene (29-15 Ogeum-ro) is a neat and tidy hostel close to Jamsil metro station. The hostel is within walking distance of both Olympic Park and Seokchon Lake, making a good hub for those who want to spend most of their time in Jamsil outdoors. A little more high-end than the average hostel, guests at Hostel Vene have access to a breakfast buffet and modern kitchen facilities.
Offering a city-apartment style on a mid-range budget is Jamsil Delight Hotel (21-9 Ogeum-ro). Small and modern studio apartments, some sneaking views of Lotte World Tower, are perfect for travellers seeking more home-comforts than a hostel. Jamsil Delight Hotel has a bike rental service, ideal for getting around quieter areas of the city like Jamsil.
Eats & Drinks
Part of a trend that seems to be rapidly developing in Seoul, themed concept cafes are opening up all over the city and Jamsil is no exception. A favourite among locals are watercolour cafés. The Seminyak Watercolor Café (51 Songpa-dong) gives customers a paint palette, water pen and a small A5 sheet of paper to get creative with.
Located on the fourth floor of a walk-up, Burn Bar (189-9 Jamsil-dong) is a great place to grab a cheap drink and make friends by playing darts with the locals. The staff are friendly and chatty, in English and Korean, making Burn Bar a popular choice for Jamsil residents to pop into after work on weekdays to unwind.
After a busy day enjoying all Jamsil has to offer, not much tastes better than a filling meal of dakgalbi. Dakgalbi is a Korean restaurant meal of spicy chicken, vegetables and cheese that are fried and mixed together on a stove at the table. All you need to do is grab the chopsticks and tuck straight in. Jamsil’s Wooseong Dakgalbi (28-7 Bangi-dong) restaurant is affordable and delicious, and conveniently located near Seokcheon Lake and Jamsil Station.
For those after something a little lighter, Vietnamese food has been of increasing popularity in Seoul, meaning pho joints are popping up all over place: some of the best of which are located in Jamsil. Locals line up outside Bun Cha Ra Boom (184-12 Jamsil-dong) from the start of dinner time until close, to try the beef pho and spring rolls.
Another Korean staple meal can be sampled at Won Grandma Bon-Ga (29 Sincheon-dong), which serves ‘bo-ssam’. Bo-ssam is a platter of pork slices, onions, rice and kimchi, all of which are rolled up into a lettuce leaf and eaten in one bite, much like a little Korean burrito, if you will.
During cherry blossom season, usually in the heart of spring, Jamsil really comes to life with a buzz centring around Seokchon Lake (47 Jamsil-dong). Couples and friends can be found strolling around the lake from early morning ‘til late into the night, enjoying the abundance of cherry blossom, and exploring the different market stalls located on route to the local metro station.
To check out some local monuments and spend an afternoon in the great outdoors, Olympic Park (Olympic-ro, Bangi-dong) is home to the World Peace Gate and the bronze Thumb statue by French artist Cesar Baldicinni. Although the park was already a noted historical recreational space, it began to be truly cultivated and cared for in anticipation of the 1988 Olympics in South Korea. The park also houses the Olympic Museum itself and the Museum of Olympic Art. Aside from the Olympic homages, the park has been turned into vast and varying landscape that changes distinctively throughout the pronounced seasons of Seoul.
For social gatherings under the city skyline, locals head to various spots along the Hangang River Park (Hangaram-ro, Jamsil-2-dong), meandering its way through the centre of the city, and part of which Jamsil is lucky enough to sit on. Scattered along the river path are convenience stores selling ramen and tteokbokki, and fried chicken stalls, making an ideal picnic spot at any time of the day.