Western Seoul doesn’t get much respect. Oh, of course, you can argue that the young and hip Hongdae and Sinchon districts are in western Seoul, but for some reason, when people mention western Seoul it’s usually the area south of the Han River: Guro, Sindorim, Yeongdeungpo, Mok-dong, and Yangcheon.
Perhaps the lack of respect is due to the fact that the area was rather late to be put on the urban redevelopment plan, perhaps it’s because the area didn’t have any particular noteworthy characteristics except for it having been a dense industrial area for decades, which, it seems, many find to be dull, but all in all, it’s not an area that immediately comes to mind when recommending places in Seoul to visit.
However, in recent years, the area has had a big boost in redevelopment in residential and commercial zones, and in a large scale befitting the level of its expansion. Mok-dong was one of the first, whose passion for education almost rivaled that of the Gangnam area almost from the beginning; then Yeongdeungpo Times Square, a huge commercial and entertainment complex, opened in 2009, creating a new landmark for the district.
In 2011, a new landmark appeared in the neighboring district of Sindorim – D-Cube City. A multi-complex comprised of office space, a hotel, a department store, an outdoor park, and an arts center, the complex is becoming an “it place” to visit within the area. Direct access from the Seoul Metro (Line #1 and Line #2) makes it extra convenient as well.
The department store is very spacious and boasts an architectural design that allows you to gaze at the other floors while shopping. Water fountains, various seats and chairs for resting, and cafés on each floor create a very pleasant ambiance; you don’t feel as cramped as you would in most Korean department stores. I was particularly impressed with the many sweets and dessert shops: chocolates, cakes, pastries, tteok (떡, Korean rice cakes), and many shops of colorful macarons.
The complex also has an indoor children’s playpark, “Pororo Park”, featuring the immensely popular animation character Pororo. Mostly geared towards toddlers, I thought it was the ideal place for dads and kids to hang out while moms were shopping.
Food and drink is an important element of the complex. I have already mentioned the many cafés; there is a wide choice of restaurants as well, from casual to fine dining, from Korean to western. There are restaurant floors and also a food court floor, with one of the most notable places being the “Korean Food Street” which is an area completely devoted to traditional Korean food, in settings resembling the marketplace of Yangdong village in Gyeongju, the “living museum city” of Korea.
The area is composed of five restaurants: Yetsan (옛산, Old Mountain) which serves Korean BBQ; Byeokgyesu (벽계수, Clear Blue Stream), a fully set traditional Korean table; Bandal (반달, Half Moon), simple traditional dishes and anju (안주, side dishes for alcoholic beverages) such as gukbap (국밥, soup rice), kimchi jjigae (김치찌개, kimchi stew), and bindaetteok (빈대떡, savoury Korean pancakes); Jatnamubae (잣나무배, Pinetree Boat), a casual snack and food court with mandu (만두, dumplings), gimbap (김밥, rice rolls), bokkeumbap (볶음밥, fried rice), and many others.
The Sheraton Hotel is also situated at the complex. The hotel has recently been awarded the 2012 Business Traveller Asia-Pacific Award as the best new business hotel. A high-rise building, not only can you enjoy the top notch service, you can enjoy the fabulous view: the airplanes rising and landing from Gimpo Airport to the west, the winding Han River, the National Assembly, the subway trains coming and going from the aboveground station, the mountains far in the background. The night view is especially spectacular; the lights of the expressways and cars are neverending.
Another noteworthy place of the complex is the D-Cube Arts Center. If you’re in need of something cultural in addition to the shopping and eating, the D-Cube Theater and Space Sindorim are there for to fulfill that purpose. Large scale musical productions usually are on stage at the main theater while lesser volume plays, musicals, and film festivals take place at the latter.
Last but not least, there is the outdoors. The complex is situated next to Dorim Stream (도림천), which is surrounded by bikeways and walkways. You can take a ride or a walk along the bubbling stream and take in nature in the urban landscape. If you don’t want to venture that far, the D-Cube Park is right next to the complex, with an amphitheater-like open space whose ground floor turns into an outdoor water fountain during the hot months of summer. Wooden accents in the steps make seating very comfortable. It’s a great place to lounge and enjoy the sunshine.
Whether you just happen to be in the neighborhood either to meet someone or to go to the theater, the complex offers various options to spend your time. If you’re a foodie, trying out all the cafés and all the dishes at the Korean Food Street would be fun; if you like to shop, the wide spaces would let you enjoy shopping at a leisurely pace; if you like to take things slow and just spend time with friends, sitting in the sunshine at the park while nattering away is also nice. Not to mention that you can enjoy all the luxuries of a high-end hotel should you decide so.
A day at D-Cube City was a day well spent. I’m definitely going to go again, if only to get macarons from all the different macaron shops.
D-Cube City : http://www.dcubecity.com
D-Cube Arts Center: http://www.d3art.co.kr
Sheraton Seoul D-Cube City: http://www.sheratonseouldcubecity.co.kr
Korean Food Street: http://www.koreanfoodstreet.co.kr
Pororo Park: http://www.pororopark.com