One of Seoul’s most famed quarters, Itaewon (이태원) is something of an enigma. It has, for years, been popular with American soldiers, thanks to the major military base situated nearby. Expat businessmen and visiting foreigners have followed suit, and until English teachers started pouring into Korea by the planeload it was one of the only places in the country in which you could buy “Western” items such as leather jackets, deodorant, tampons or Hershey’s Kisses. While it remains a great place to shop for cheap tailored suits and shoes, Itaewon’s popularity also made it a byword for transactions of a more sexual nature – hostess bars sprang up all over the place, particularly south of the Hamilton, a hotel that marks the centre of the area, on the affectionately named “Hooker Hill”. Times are changing, however. Most Western goods are available in cities across the country, and the gradual withdrawal of American troops has coincided with the opening of an ever more cosmopolitan array of restaurants, possibly the hippest in the city outside ultra-fashionable Apgujeong. The area is also heaving with clubbers on weekends, and from Hooker Hill also sprouts “Homo Hill”, Seoul’s only real gay area.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

South Korea features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

19 places to get utterly lost

19 places to get utterly lost

One of the great joys of travelling is stumbling across unexpected places, wandering without a single destination in mind and embracing the journey. These place…

12 Sep 2017 • Keith Drew camera_alt Gallery
Seoul food: the transformation of a neighbourhood

Seoul food: the transformation of a neighbourhood

Itaewon, a neighbourhood in the South Korean capital Seoul, is on the up and food is at the forefront of its renaissance. Here Amy Guttman explores a district u…

14 Jan 2016 • Amy Guttman insert_drive_file Article
Would you get down and dirty at South Korea’s Mud Festival?

Would you get down and dirty at South Korea’s Mud Festival?

What once began as a marketing ploy for a therapeutic mud found near Boryeong, a small city on South Korea’s sandy west coast, has since transformed into a un…

17 Jul 2015 • Colt St. George insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook