1. Ssangmun-dong, Seoul | 쌍문동
If you listened to half of what Gi-hun said in Squid Game, you must have heard the word ‘Ssangmun-dong’ about a dozen times. This is the neighborhood in which Gi-hun proudly calls home, and he seldom lets anyone forget it. Ssangmun-dong is indeed a real neighborhood located in Seoul. It’s famous for its older history and quiet residential areas. The neighborhood was also made famous by the popular Kdrama ‘Reply 1988‘ – my favorite Korean show of all time.
Not only can you explore the small streets where Gi-hun grew up, but you can visit one of numerous attractions in the area. Firstly, the neighborhood sits at the base of Seoul’s Bukhansan National Park. The park has plenty of walking paths that are easily accessible from Bukhansan Ui Station (북한산우이역, Ui-Sin Line), just at the tip of Ssangmun-dong. For detailed hiking paths, click here. Please note that this is the largest mountain in Seoul and does have slightly dangerous routes, so choose wisely.
If you’re not in the mood to explore natural scenery, why not visit one of Ssangmun-dong’s many cafes? Start your day off right at the minimalist cafe Slow Hand. If you’re feeling hungry, cross the road to Hippie’s Bagel for a wide variety of cream cheese flavors. Head deeper into Ssangmun-dong for Cafe Tikkle and their fluffy lattes with box cakes boasting unique flavors such as strawberry cream, mugwort, gold kiwi and banana chocolate. Click the names for address details and opening hours.
2. Myeongdong, Seoul | 명동
Myeongdong (명동역 / Myeongdong Station, Line 4) is one of the busiest shopping districts in central Seoul. Although the area has been hit hard due to the COVID-19 pandemic*, there are new businesses popping up all the time. The district is not only for blowing your cash; it’s also full of boutique cafes and award-winning restaurants that make it a must-see stop during your visit to Seoul.
Why would a crowded shopping district make our list of Squid Game locations? This is because the area is a hotspot for fandom souvenirs. You can buy adorable Squid Game accessories here like keychains, plushies, costumes, masks, and even hairpins. Most vendors are flexible on price, so give haggling a try if you’re feeling brave. I’ve succumbed to the consumerism side of Squid Game by purchasing my own set of Pink Soldier keychains.
Another popular place to visit for merchandise that’s especially popular among younger crowds is Hongdae University (홍익대학교역 / Hongik University, Subway Line 2). Stroll the alleyways and outdoor shopping stalls for more affordable Squid Game goodies.
*Please note this article is from 2020.
3. Euljiro, Seoul | 을지로
Euljiro (을지로입구역, Euljiro 1(il)-ga Station, Line 2) is located just next to Myeongdong and is one of the city’s banking and professional districts. The area is lined with big banks, department stores, and telecommunication companies that dot either side of Cheonggyecheon Stream.
Due to the nature of Korean businesses, Euljiro is also a hotspot for outdoor eating and drinking. The area is well-known for its pojangmacha (포장마차), an outdoor tented eating area offering warm food and occassionally alcohol. We see pojangmacha appear more than once in Squid Game, such as when Gi-hun meets his daughter for her birthday, or when he pays a visit to Sang-woo’s hard-working mother in the last episode. Euljiro is also a great place to grab food (preferably ramen) from a convenience store, just as Gi-hun does when he returns to Seoul the first time.
As Seoul has no open container laws, I highly suggest grabbing some food and enjoying it alongside Cheonggyecheon Stream. If you’ve already ticked Euljiro off your list, check out the popular neighborhoods Ikseon-dong (종로3가역 / Jongno 3(sam)-ga Station, Line 5)* and Sinchon (신촌역 / Sinchon Station, Line 2)** for more pojangmacha options.
* Exit 5 will lead you to pojangmacha.
** Exit 8 will lead you to pojangmacha.
4. Let’s Run Park (aka Seoul Race Park), Gwacheon | 과천
One of the first things we learn about Gi-hun is that he has a gambling addiction. Wah wahhhh. Setting us up for some drama at the get-go! His bet of choice? Racehorses. The race park is also where Gi-hun and Saebyeok meet for the first time and have their infamous tumble.
As South Koreans are forbidden to gamble in casinos, many addicted Koreans will wind up betting on racehorses. We suspect you’re not looking to blow all of your cash like Gi-hun, so why not come to enjoy a live race instead? You can check out the official website here for race details. If you’re not a fan of horse racing life myself, you can also visit the compound’s Horse Museum. Additionally, check out some great tourist destinations nearby* such as Gwacheon Reservoir, Gwacheon National Science Museum, and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Gwacheon). All destinations can be reached from Grand Park Station (대공원역), Line 4.
*Pinpoint Korea does not wish to promote Seoul Grand Park Zoo due to accusations of animal abuse. Please reconsider your visit. If you know any allegations of misconduct against racehorses at Let’s Run Park, please send an email to email@example.com
5. Dokdo Islands, East Sea | 독도
If you’re familiar with modern politics in East Asia, you likely already know about Dokdo. Dokdo is an island that rests between Japan and Korea and has been a source of contention between the two countries for centuries. Both countries claim the small islands as their own and refer to them with their respective names. You can find Dokdo merchandise all over the country, showing support for the islands’ ownership by South Korea.
Not only are the Dokdo Islands stunning, with their crystal blue waters, but these famous grounds give off echoes of the mysterious island where Squid Game players are trapped. Although Dokdo is considerably smaller, if you’re going to visit any island in South Korea for Squid Game vibes, why miss out on the most famous one?
Dokdo is, unfortunately, not easy to reach due to large waves. Ferry trips can be canceled suddenly and visitors must check the weather carefully before booking. If you’re lucky enough to make it, you’ll first have to make a stop at Ulleungdo (울릉도). This larger island is known for its vibrant community and beautiful bike trails, so make sure you spend time exploring here as well. If you’re traveling from Seoul, we suggest grabbing a ferry from Gangneung (강능) Passenger Terminal. Ferry tickets cost around 60,000 KRW; call the terminal at 1577-8665 for a detailed time schedule.
If you’re looking for the real island featured in Squid Game, you’re looking for Seongapdo in Incheon. This island is not too far from Incheon International Airport. It is, however, privately owned and has no ferry service. If you’re looking for something more tropical, be sure to visit Jeju Island aka the ‘Hawaii’ of East Asia. As this is the largest island in Korea, we recommend exploring for 3-4 days.
6. Korea’s Southern Coast
We’ve already covered our favorite stops on Korea’s southern coast before, as well as in our Yi Sun Shin Tour. Like Dokdo, Korea’s Southern Coast is home to a plethora of heavenly islands. There are nearly 3,500 officially recognized islands off the southern coast and plenty more without a formal title. Many of these islands do not allow visitors, but simply looking at them from national parks is enough to take your breath away. Some of the most popular destinations for travelers are Goje Island, Hongdo Island, and Cheongsan Island.
What’s Han Your Mind? : The Podcast
Learn even more about Korea, its history, hidden gems, and everything in between by listening to our podcast. Made in collaboration with Hannah Roberts of ‘ByHannahLou’. Available on anchor.fm/WhatsHanYourMind or anywhere you listen to podcasts.