Itaewon has long been the favorite hangout district among English teachers in Korea, US Armed Forces in the country as well as countless expats. Known for its nightlife and shopping, Adventure Teaching takes you on a deeper dive about this remarkable neighborhood that has become much more to its international visitors than just a place to find comfort food from back home.

The birthplace of Korea’s first multicultural society

Itaewon is considered to be one of Seoul’s iconic multicultural streets along with Seorae Village in Seocho-gu. Seorae Village is home to many French residents. Because it is adjacent to the former US 8th Army Headquarters (aka Yongsan Garrison), it has evolved into an entertainment district for US forces in Korea and has become a tourist destination visited by many foreigners.

If you go up the hill from the Itaewon Fire Station, you can find the Seoul Central Mosque, an Islamic mosque, and you can see Muslims worshiping. Many Muslims in Korea come from Arab countries or Islamic countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Central Asia.

It is said that this mosque was first proposed by the South Korean government to strengthen diplomacy with Middle Eastern countries. It was built in the 1970s with donations from all Islamic countries.

A Jewish Synagogue was built in 2008. It offers Sabbath service every Saturday at 10 o’clock.

Itaewon Overview

As an iconic downtown area of Yongsan-gu, Itaewon has become famous as a gathering place for foreigners, foreign goods, and foreign cultures. Administrative wards, known as ‘dongs’, are organized as Itaewon 1-dong and Itaewon 2-dong.

It borders Yongsan-dong 2-ga and Yongsan-dong 4-ga to the west, Dongbinggo-dong and Bogwang-dong to the south, Hannam-dong to the east (another great international scene), and Jangchung-dong 2-ga to the north across Namsan.


Travis Estell on Flickr (Creative Commons)

Itaewon History

From the beginning of the Goryeo Dynasty to its end, the area of ​​Itaewon-dong was an administrative district different from the western part of Yongsan-gu, and it shared some of its history with Seongdong-gu.

Stations were usually setup in Korea at key transportation points, and as a large floating population would naturally come and go, villages began to form around


Jinho Jung on Flickr (Creative Commons)

these stations, and it became customary to name surrounding villages accordingly. According to archives, in addition to Itaewon (梨泰院), there were other names such as Itaewon (李泰院) and Itaewon (異胎院) with different Chinese characters.

It has been said that Itaewon was the site of a Japanese residence called Itain (異他人). It is believed that the name of the village was derived from that.

Later, the Eighth US Army occupied the site of the former Japanese military barracks in the area. As a result, Itaewon-dong and Hannam-dong near Yongsan Garrison became a vital entertainment and shopping district. The Itaewon market established by local businessmen prospered by continuing commerce with materials from the PX of the US military. As a number of embassies and embassy residences are located in Itaewon and Hannam-dong, starting in the 1970s, the northside and hills beyond the main road, Itaewon-ro, gradually began to take on the appearance of a wealthy village.

Administrative Wards of Itaewon

Itaewon 1-dong

It is an administrative dong that has jurisdiction over the southern part of Itaewon-dong, and consists of residential and commercial districts centered around Itaewon Station. Yongsan-gu Office and Hamilton Hotel are also located here.

Itaewon 2-dong

It is an administrative dong that has jurisdiction over the northern part of Itaewon-dong. Popular Gyeongridan-gil road is located down from the hills leading to Namsan Mountain.


There are several vacant lots to the east of Yongsan Garrison. Formerly US base facilities. Now, as they have moved to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, the city of Seoul is setting up a master plan step by step by placing it as a special conservation area.

Roads and Traffic Landmarks of Itaewon

Seoul Subway Line 6 runs along the main road, Itaewon-ro, with main stations in the area being Noksapyeong Station and Itaewon Station. Global cuisine and nightlife venues have formed around Exits 1 and 2 of Itaewon Station. If you go down the road between Exits 3 and 4, you will find Antique Furniture Street. From Noksapyeong Station’s Exit 2, follow along the former US military base towards Namsan and veer off to Haebangchon and Gyeongridan-gil on the other side for more great hangouts. Hangangjin Station is not as close as Noksapyeong Station from the main action around Itaewon Station, but close enough to walk to. Near Hangangjin Station, Seoul Yongsan International School, Blue Square, and imported car exhibition and sales centers are located. Coming out of Exit 1 or 3, go straight and you will eventually come to the Itaewon main intersection.

Seoul Subway Line 9 will eventually extend to the area and provide a new subway route connecting Gangnam to the Yongsan area. Stations will be at the existing Dongbingo Station. This will make a subway line quite close from Itaewon 1-dong side by the southeast end of the former Yongsan Garrison. The new line extension will then have another stop at National Museum of Korea before connecting to Yongsan Station. The extension will finish by 2027.


Buses #110, #400, #405, #421, and Seoul City Tour Bus come through the area.

Tourism / commercial areas

There are various restaurants specializing in international cuisine, but among them, Muslim restaurants are especially strong. Near the Islamic Mosque, there are quite a few restaurants serving Middle Eastern or Arab food. In particular, there are many small bakeries and grocery stores that sell halal food run by Muslims.


NARA & DVIDS Public Domain Archive (Creative Commons)

Itaewon attracts foodies from all over as it offers food from various cultures.  There are many Itaewon restaurants and street vendors run by people from all over the world such as Egypt, Jordan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Central and South America, etc.

Itaewon was also the birthplace of the craft beer craze in the Korean beer market.

In addition, at the Itaewon Global Village Festival held every October, restaurant owners go all out on Itaewon-daero. So it’s good to plan a visit to the area on this day.

Although not your typical form of tourism, the adjacency of Yongsan Garrison induced the formation of more nightlife. And with that, ‘Yankee Bars’ began to pop up in the late 1950s. This eventually grew into a cluster to become known as ‘Hooker Hill’. However, the Yongsan Garrison began to migrate down south to the Pyeongtaek area from 2012. Then, the base-reliant economy in Itaewon died down and a commercial multicultural economy emerged. The alley that became known as ‘Hooker Hill’ has since been going through a renaissance. Particularly as Itaewon has been seeing real estate investors buying up and breathing new life in the wider area. In the same back streets, ‘Homo Hill’ has taken root. Known for its gay scene, the alley gained a lot of notoriety for its Covid breakout in past years.

Major Institutions/Facilities

As it is the most well-established multicultural society in Korea, embassies of many countries are located here. Around Gyeongridan-gil, there are many embassies and residences of the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Also, there is also a foreign school nearby.

Hamilton Hotel is also famous as a landmark in Itaewon. There are many famous restaurants around here. In addition, the hotel’s outdoor swimming pool is one of the city’s most popular summer hangouts.


Korean anju in Itaewon

4th House Gobdoritang – Itaewon restaurant

Almost in a form of reverse gentrification, Korean restaurants are slowly moving back into the Itaewon restaurant scene as a means to appeal to more Korean customers as the area undergoes a makeover amid Yongsan Garrison gradually closing up its base and taking its US soldiers down to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek.

While Itaewon restaurants still skew to international tastes, attracting both Koreans and foreigners alike, upon taking a glance at what is ranking high online on sites like Naver and what is getting hashtagged a lot on Instagram, you might be surprised to see an old school eatery named 네번째집 (4th House) attracting a lot of buzz with patrons taking up seats inside and at tables strewn about on the narrow street in front. What brings the hungry hordes to 네번째집 is its signature dish, 곱도리탕 (gobdoritang).

Korean anju

Diced up giblets?

While not a dish exclusive to 네번째집, 곱도리탕 is a newer entrant to the ever-expanding Korean cuisine vernacular. And in typical Korean-style hybridization, the word and the dish itself are a collision of two other Korean dishes, 곱창 (giblets, as in the diced up liver, heart, gizzard, and neck of animals like chicken, pigs or cows) and 닭도리탕 (spicy chicken stew).

That kind of combination might easily compel you to raise an eyebrow or trigger your gag reflex, but this kind of thing needs to be tried at least once, and as it is considered to be a trendy 안주 (Korean-style pub food) nowadays, you would be showing good form to be able to brave some of the more adventurous concoctions that Koreans like to snack on when out for drinks.

If that’s too bold for you, 네번째집 also features some amazing alternatives such as Jjajang-ddeokbokki, ddeokbokki in rose sauce and beef brisket ddeokbokki.

네번째집 can be found in the backstreets behind Exit 4 of Itaewon Station, if heading south from the station and turning right before Troy Kebab, heading past JR Pub and then taking the next left. Be sure to refer to their Naver profile for a map in case any landmarks change.

Anju bar in Itaewon

Itaewon restaurants

Hue 135 – Itaewon Restaurant

Looking for a ‘Dry Aging’ Itaewon restaurant?

Dry aging is one of the methods of aging meat. Dry-aging is a method in which meat is aged by exposing it to the air for 2 to 4 weeks under constant conditions (temperature, humidity, etc.).

A particular Itaewon restaurant serves delicious beef using this dry-aging technique in the form of omakase. Those who know right away say they have heard of ‘Hue 135’. Specializing in meat, Hue 135 stands out among other Itaewon restaurants due to being run by chef Kim Se-kyung, who appeared in ‘Korean Food Battle Goseogaejeon’, and the name is a combination of ‘hue 休’, meaning ‘rest’ and ‘135 degrees’, the temperature at which meat is most deliciously cooked.

As soon as you enter, the luxurious interior welcomes you, and a professional chef grills all the meat before you. The unique flavor and texture of meat aged with dry-aging techniques are roasted by the chef to a bronze color. You can definitely feel a new appeal of meat with a fresh and savory taste.

Not for those who like to sit on their wallet, so if you are curious about a truly luxurious steak experience, best to spring for this on a special meal with you and a special someone.

Located on the east end of Itaewon.


Itaewon restaurants