As my time in Seoul is slowly coming to a close, I’ve been making a bucketlist of activities to do before leaving. Now that I’ve been here for a year, it’s almost like doing the whole “tourist in your own town” thing – and what better of a place to be a tourist than Seoul?
With a raging hangover as part of my last Saturday night in Seoul the night prior, I decided to buck up, get on the bus and go to the Hyundai Department Store in Apgujeong. I’d heard that on the rooftop they have a grass lawn and café, and I wanted to check that out.
So, with a pounding headache and a purse packed with the essentials (camera, laptop, cellphone), I went to take the bus from Sinnonhyeon to Apgujeong.
Hyundai Department Store from outside
After a short 20-minute bus ride, I’d arrived in Apgujeong. While my plan was to go directly to Hyundai Department Store, something else caught my eye. The building right next door said “Gangnam Tourist Information Center Grand Opening” on the front. I didn’t even know that there was a tourist info center in Gangnam, so I decided to make a quick detour and look inside.
The Gangnam Tourist Center; newly-opened on June 26th, 2013
I knew that the 2013 Seoul Summer Sale was currently underway, so I went inside to ask for a coupon book. The girl at the front desk gave me one, plus a free cosmetic sampler and face mask from Etude House (a popular Korean cosmetic chain store). Then she handed me a free bottle of banana milk, which tasted like heaven on such a hot and humid day.
I decided to take a little browse around. It looks like the main purpose of this tourist info branch is to promote medical tourism. Makes sense, since there are so many high quality clinics around Gangnam, largely popular with Asian tourists from China, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Since it was a Sunday afternoon, the medical consultants and interpreters who would normally be manning these booths were away. Not a huge deterrent to me, since my budget for the week doesn’t exactly include plastic surgery!
Also, there’s a KEB currency exchange booth located next to the in-house Tom ‘n’ Tom’s café.
I decided to look around a bit more…
The medical tourism consultation zone
More info on medical tourism in Gangnam
Computers for visitor use, free of charge
Café and seating for visitors
Brochures on Gangnam attractions, and an ad for Hyundai Department Store’s “100-Day Time Letter Service”
Map of Gangnam and its various districts
My swag: coupon book for the 2013 Seoul Summer Sale, a copy of SEOUL Magazine with Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching blog on the cover, free cosmetics, and a free banana milk
I realized after I came home though, that there’s a second floor in the center! The main focus there is “hallyu” (the Korean Wave). You can buy K-drama sets, K-pop CDs, get your makeup done, and buy souvenirs.
Here’s a map for both floors:
Gangnam Tourist Information Center – 1F (Photo: Visit Seoul)
Gangnam Tourist Information Center – 2F (Photo: Visit Seoul)
After I’d had enough time looking around at the tourist info center, I made my way next door:
Entrance to Hyundai Department Store
The flagship Hyundai Department Store is directly connected to Apgujeong Station (Line 3). The first floor houses the store’s cosmetic booths. The food court is located on B1. My plan was to grab a snack and head up to the fifth floor Skygarden Café.
Tiffany & Co inside the Hyundai Department Store
Various international and Korean-brand cosmetics on the first floor
Take the escalators down to B1, where you’ll find the food court
Department store shopping is a popular activity in Korea. Every store has its own food floor, which I’ve noticed is essentially divided up into three sections: the “market” area, made up of different stalls selling fresh food and drinks; the food court, made up of a variety of restaurants (sushi, Japanese curry, noodle soup, Western, etc) where customers order and pay at a centralized cashier booth, then sit down and wait for their number to be called; and the grocery store.
Admittedly, I’ve always been a bit scared of intimidated of ordering up there (yet I will get on a motorcycle sans-helmet with a stranger in a developing country, eat live squid, or fly across the world to live with a family I’ve never met before – yep, weird logic!). So, I just stuck to the food court.
I must say BEWARE: if you are indecisive like me, choosing something from the food court will not be a quick task! From French blueberry cheesecake, to Chinese fried prawns, to traditional Korean snacks, there is truly something for everyone here.
Candied apples at the food court
One of the bakery stalls – the crêpe cake looked pretty good!
Gourmet Korean rice cakes – much more colourful and detailed than average ones!
A more “traditional” stall – they sell different varieties of kimchi, and are a little more loud/agressive in their sales techniques ^^
Gift packs for any occasion. I like the meat one!
Another traditional stall – these guys were selling one of my favourite Korean foods, sweet, chewy rice cakes (tteok).
Making the rice cakes
The sit-down/restaurant area of the food court
More gourmet rice cakes (tteok), with prices to match! This box was about $40, whereas at an average store, they’d probably be about $15-$20
More gourmet rice cakes (tteok). I like the rose one!
Women browsing the international and domestic cheeses section
Gourmet cooking vinegars
Kitchenwares for sale on the same floor as the food court. To the left are traditional Korean serving bowls. Quite smart, actually – the metal keeps cold food cold, and hot food hot.
Finally, I made a decision: I wanted something sweet, refreshing and preferably a bit cool. Gelato seemed like a good fit, so I chose the mint flavour and made my way up to the fifth floor.
I didn’t take any photos, but the fifth floor actually houses a number of sit-down style restaurants indoors. I thought the Skygarden was the only place on that floor, and was a bit surprised to see otherwise when I got there. It took a while to find too, since the place is set up like a maze and there wasn’t a huge sign saying “SKYGARDEN THIS WAY”.
I found it, though!
Pure bliss! If only it hadn’t been so humid and hot.
I chose a table and went to go buy a coffee from the café. At 4,000w ($4) for an ice coffee, it wasn’t exactly cheap. Although these are Gangnam prices, I suppose.
My mint gelato – so nice!
My little gelato cone
I’m not really sure what these tree things were supposed to be!
The garden seemed to be really popular with families. Parks, or just general community green spaces are very hard to come by in Seoul. This place is a bit of a hidden oasis.
Art on one of the walls
Lots of chairs to hang out in
My little work station
Father and son kicking a soccer ball
The Skygarden at the Apgujeong Hyundai Department Store is definitely worth a quick visit.
Here are the details:
- Directions: Apgujeong station, line #3 (orange line), exit 6. Hyundai Department Store is directly connected to the station. Skygarden is on the 5th floor; food court is in B1.
- Hours: 10:30am to 8:00pm; closed one Monday a month (chosen randomly)
- Website: http://www.ehyundai.com/newPortal/eng/dp_main_01.jsp?swfseq=0
Map of Apgujeong area – Hyundai Department store is at the top left (Photo: Vist Korea)