Gangnam style: A guide to Seoul's most affluent district

Posted at 10/13/2012 8:55 AM | Updated as of 02/22/2013 2:09 PM
"Gangnam Style" at the Lotte Department Store in Seoul. / Photo by Cathy Rose A. Garcia, ABS-CBNnews.com

SEOUL, South Korea - The infectious dance hit "Gangnam Style" has unexpectedly put the spotlight on Gangnam, the most affluent district in the Korean capital.

For most Koreans, having a Gangnam address means you've got money. Gangnam has the most expensive real estate in the country. Businessweek reported that about 1% of Seoul's population lives in Gangnam and the average apartment in the area costs about $716,000 or around P29 million.

Not surprisingly, Gangnam is the place where you can find the flagship stores of the top luxury brands, as well as some of the city's the most expensive restaurants and shops.

Korean singer Psy may have poked fun at Gangnam's new rich, saying "Gangnam Style" all about "dressing classy and dancing cheesy," but ABS-CBNnews.com discovers Gangnam is all about the high life.

Here's a guide to Gangnam:

Cheongdam

Cheongdam is synonymous with luxury, with men and women going around dressed in head-to-toe designer duds and driving fancy cars.

In Cheongdam, you can find the flagship stores of top luxury brands Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Cartier, Dolce & Gabbana, Armani, Ferragamo, Tory Burch and 10 Corso Como - all in one area.

One of the most eye-catching buildings is that of Italian store 10 Corso Como. The shop offers a range of cult designers from all over the world, as well as a bookstore, restaurant and cafe.

Interestingly, the luxury brands' flagship stores are usually half-empty, not because of lack of interest but mostly because Koreans prefer buying their Chanels and Vuittons at nearby Galleria or Hyundai department stores.

High-end beauty salons, art galleries and boutiques of Korean designers are also found in Cheongdam.

Tucked away in the alleys are small cafes and stylish restaurants, where you just might see a Korean celebrity having coffee. The headquarters of top entertainment agencies like SM Entertainment (home of SuperJunior and SHINee), JYP Entertainment (2PM, Wonder Girls) and Cube Entertainment (Beast,4Minute) can be found in the area.

Garosugil

Garosugil is a stretch of road with gingko trees in Sinsa-dong. The name itself means tree-lined street, which gave the area a certain charm. Art galleries used to fill the area, along with small boutiques and restaurants.

Garosugil is a popular shopping area in Gangnam,Seoul, South Korea. / Photo by Cathy Rose A. Garcia, ABS-CBNnews.com

The street used to be known for quiet cafes and shops of young designers, but is now being overrun by big-name international and Korean brands.

Kate Spade, Fossil, Massimo Dutti, Forever 21 and Finnish brand Marimekko have opened shops in Garosugil.

Lovers of ballet flats should drop by London Sole, while fans of Korean artist Youk Shim-won's quirky art should visit her shop filled with bags, wallets and accessories.

Try to visit Buccella for good, tasty sandwiches, Allo Paper Garden for brunch, and Deux Creme for delicious tarts and pies.

The Simone Handbag Museum, which opened recently, features a collection of 300 historical handbags from all over the world. The museum is built by Kenny Park, founder of Korean luxury bag brand Simone. The 10-storey building is shaped like a bag with a handle has already been featured on the New York Times and the Financial Times.

Apgujeong

You know you're in Apgujeong when you get off the subway station and see all the ads for plastic surgery and skin care clinics. With nearly 400 clinics in the neigborhood, it's no wonder why there's a street dubbed "Plastic Surgery Street." Some Asian tourists have been known to go to Korean clinics in hopes of getting the same nose or cheekbones as their favorite Korean drama stars.

If plastic surgery is not your cup of tea, Apgujeong has its own Rodeo Street, but the area has little similarity with Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. There are many shops selling second-hand luxury goods such as handbags, shoes, clothes and watches, but don't expect cheap prices. For fans of H&M, there's a big store along the main road.

Across the street from Rodeo Drive is Galleria Department Store, Luxury Hall East and Luxury Hall West, where you can find top international and Korean designer brands.

The Simone Handbag Museum in Seoul features over 300 historic handbags. / Photo by Cathy Rose A. Garcia, ABS-CBNnews.com

Dosan Park area

Dosan Park is an oasis of peace and quiet in the middle of bustling Seoul. The park is dedicated to Dosan Ahn Chang-ho, who was a known freedom fighter.

The Dosan Park area has a few notable stores and restaurants.

Maison Hermès, the flagship store of the French brand, not only offers Birkins and Kellys, but also has a cafe where you can have a cup of coffee and a museum where you can have a taste of contemporary art. The glass-covered building is a sight to behold whether day or night.

There are also several art centers in the area, such as Horim Art Center (with its distinctive building that reminds one of ceramics) and Coreana Art & Culture complex, a museum dedicated to cosmetics.

A popular restaurant near Dosan Park is Gorilla in the Kitchen, more popularly known to Korean drama fans as the restaurant owned by "Winter Sonata" actor Bae Yong-joon. The place serves healthy dishes and does not use any cream and butter or deep-fry any of the ingredients. It also has an in-house food consultant and trainer to give nutrition and health advice for customers.

For obssessive compulsive dieters, the menu lists the ingredients, calories and nutritional details of the dishes. For instance, the oven-baked pineapple chicken breast is only 412 calories.

Singer Psy performs the hit "Gangnam Style" at the Seoul Plaza. October 4, 2012. Photo from Reuters