North of Anguk subway station, and between the palaces of Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung, lie Samcheongdong (삼청동) and Bukchon Hanok Village (북촌 한옥 마을), two of the city’s most characterful areas. Like Insadong, Samcheongdong is crammed with quirky restaurants, cafés and galleries. Though most of the area remains charming and relaxed, one particular street has become rather popular; heading off from Gyeongbokgun’s northeastern corner, and a five-minute walk from the palace’s eastern exit, Samcheongdonggil has an almost European air to it, its side streets snaking uphill in a manner reminiscent of Naples or Lisbon. A few of the cafés and galleries spill over into Bukchon Hanok Village, an area characterized by the prevalence of traditional wooden hanok buildings – these once covered the whole country, but most were torn down during Korea’s economic revolution and replaced with row upon row of fifteen-storey blocks. The city council spared this area the wrecking ball, and as a result there’s some delightful walking to be done among its quiet lanes, where tiny restaurants, tearooms and comic book shops line the streets, and children play games on mini arcade machines, creating a pleasant air of indifference hard to find in the capital; a few of the buildings have even been converted into guesthouses.
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