Korean pop culture has gained popularity the world over. This can be attributed to the sensational TV dramas and delightful music scene, which led to an increasing interest in the Korean culture in general. This doesn’t just stop at entertainment, food and fashion but has transgressed to history, art and of course the language.
Due to popular demand, business owners in the UK have found a niche market to cater for the growing number of Korean fans in the country.
I have put together this guide to help the new fans to Korea navigate their way to all the Korean delight London has to offer…
The Korean Cultural Centre is located in the heart of touristville London AKA Trafalgar square. Here, you are sure to find all the information you could possibly need about Korea. The centre boasts an interesting exhibition hall with displays ranging from ‘thousand year old scripts’ to a ‘futuristic fashion exhibition’. There’s always something interesting to show. You can also sign up with the library which has a wide selection of books and films.
The centre hosts a variety of activities such as film nights, language classes and a range of performances and events. One of the great things about the KCC is that over the years, it has become a bridge between accomplished and prominent Koreans of the Arts and intrigued Londoners, just like me and I was fortunate to meet the Manhwa writer Yoon Tae-ho. KCC is definitely your number one stop for information on the various Korean related events in the country.
Click here to read all about the K-Fashion Odyssey exhibition and to have an insight on the fascinating exhibitions the centre provides.
The British Museum is home to Arts from around the globe and Korea is not left out. Room 067 houses art from the different periods in Korean history. It also has a life-sized Sarangbang~Traditional Korean house.
For More information, check out My blog post about my trip to the museum: Korean Art at the British Museum
For most of us, our first introduction to Korean food is through the TV. We watch with awe as a variety of dishes are laid out for a meal and wonder at what it tastes like. Luckily, Korean food has found its way to most cities around the world such as Antwerp in Belgium and Edmonton in Canada, but of course London is not left out, boasting a wide variety of Korean restaurants to satisfy your taste buds.
You might be a bit anxious in addition to your excitement the first time you try Korean food, this is normal for a first timer. The plethora of dishes to try out might seem daunting but do not fret, to make this experience easier for you I would recommend you read Korean Food Never Ending Stories by Maria Margareta for your 101 on some Korean food. This will surely equip you for your first trip to a Korean 식당 (Shigdang)~ Restaurant!!!
Let’s get on with it then, first stop is…
This has become my favourite Korean hangout spot in London. When you think of Assa, just picture a laid-back restaurant with kpop playing in the background, bubbly atmosphere and delicious and affordable Korean food. I imagine this is what a typical restaurant in Korea feels like (Hopefully I shall find out one day). My favourite dishes to order are kimchi fried rice, kimchijeon (kimchi pancake) and hot pot.
Location: 23 Romilly St London W1D 5AQ United Kingdom.
I found out about this restaurant from my KPop Academy friends. They mentioned that cheese ddeokbokki was served there, that obviously got me to the front door. After my first visit, I knew it wasn’t going to be my last. The first thing I noticed was the friendly staff and all the customers were Korean. This is usually a good sign. I would highly recommend the BBQ menu, however the menu is extensive so you could have fun with it. The atmosphere, just like Assa, is laid back and the location is great.
Location: 6 Panton Street, Leicester Square, London SW1Y 4DL.
This one is for the KPop fans. A few KPop idols have paid this restaurant, located at the heart of tottenham court road, a visit. The walls are covered with notes from their customers and autographs of Donghae, Siwon and Shinee. You could definitely tell that it is one of the most popular Korean restaurants in London and one of the oldest as well. The food here is really authentic, super cheap and yummy. Their specialty is gimbap and it can be said to be the best gimbap in town. The only downside is the size of the restaurant but don’t worry you could order to go!!.
Location: 55 St Giles High St, London WC2H 8LH
You could also find more Korean restaurant suggestions here on the Korea blog 10 FAVOURITE London Korean Restaurants
You will be surprised to know that a large number of Korean fans in London have no idea that there is a ‘Koreatown’, a train ride away from the city. New Malden AKA Koreatown London has one of the largest settlement of Koreans in Europe. Here you can find a variety of Korean restaurants, Noraebang~Korean karaoke, supermarkets and mini marts, Korean hair salons etc. Signs are written in both English and Korean and you will surely hear a lot of conversations in Korean. So to all the language learners, here’s your chance to show off what you’ve learnt so far.
You can travel to New Malden by overground Southwest train from Waterloo or you could use TFL website to get the best directions (you can use your Oyster card).
With the increasing awareness of Korea in London, there has been a large presence of Korea at festivals all around the UK. From the annual korean film festival hosted by the KCC bringing you the best of Korean cinema, to the participation of Korean indie bands at the Liverpool Sound city festival (of which two of the acts held a private performance at the KCC that I got to attend), and of course the focus on Korea at the London Book fair.
The Latest one is the city of London festival choosing Seoul as this year’s theme. For More information on the programs and how to book click HERE. The event is running up until the 17th of July.
Korean food is not left out in the festivals as well, these fast foods were the perfect start to the summer picnics as they were featured at the London Urban Food Festival. The theme for this year was Korea and Japan. Korean fast food stands like Galbi Bros and Korrito did bring their A game with the highlight being the Ramen Burgers. Yup you read it right, Ramen Burgers!! Who would have thought, right?!
For the KPop enthusiasts, the days of only getting KPop merchandise from online stores are over. You could now find a wind range of KPop mercandise at H-Mart in New Malden, Hoho’s KPop shop at Seoul Bakery and the Kawaii Collective at the Chinatown Market.
For your other Korean goodies such as food and cosmetics, aside from the supermarkets at New Malden, you could find them at different stores in Chinatown and Soho. There’s a new grocery store now open at ASSA as well. For now I only know of one bookshop that has a selection of Korean textbooks which is the SOAS University bookshop. If you’re in the area it might be worth a visit.
I hope this mini-guide will help you discover and explore more on your interest in Korea.
If any of you readers know of other fun and interesting Korean spots in London, please do share with us in the comments.