Our Airbnb in Hongdae exceeded our expectations and really served as our home away from home during our extended trip to South Korea. We knew the five of us would never survive in a one-bedroom hotel room for 6+ weeks so we decided to find an apartment through Airbnb instead.
OUR SEARCH REQUIREMENTS:
- two bedrooms with beds for each kid
- spacious living/family area
- kitchen with refrigerator and stove
- washing machine
- close to subway
Steven’s “Spacious 2BR2BA @Hongdae” more than delivered. The apartment is on the top floor (5th) of an apartment building about equal distances from Hapjeong and Hongik University subway stations. There is no elevator, which wasn’t a big deal except for the first night we arrived dead tired with all eight suitcases and a few times when we over-purchased groceries and had to walk them home and up the mountain of stairs.
We loved the clean and open design. It’s minimal yet inviting, with wood tones, bright whites, and pops of greenery throughout. I loved the natural light from the big windows and the plants really made it feel homey. Steven provides so many little bonus necessities like a dirty clothes hamper, a high chair, hangers, and ample changes of sheets to really make you feel at home.
The streets of Hongdae are happenin’ until the wee morning hours but noise wasn’t too much of an issue considering we were located so close to everything. (We are used to the dead quiet of the country and really weren’t bothered.) If you stood near the windows at night you could hear some street sounds but otherwise it wasn’t bad (save for an occasional loud motorbike).
If I had one complaint about our stay it would that there wasn’t a good spot for our coats. We ended up laying them over the back of the chairs near the windows in the kitchen but coats + hats + gloves + scarves times five people out in the room made the space feel busy/disheveled. I wish the cabinet immediately inside the door was a coat closet… but, again, I’m working hard to find a complaint here.
HELPFUL TIPS IF YOU DECIDE TO STAY AT STEVEN’S AIRBNB IN HONGDAE:
- The WiFi is incredibly fast in the apartment and Steven provides you with a WiFi Egg. If you happen to get kicked off or receive an “incorrect password” error, just restart the router and it will start working again.
- Steven provides universal adapters (which simply allows the plug to work in the different configuration). We brought converters (to convert the power down) however we didn’t need them because everything we needed to plug in (i.e. iPhone charger, Mac charger, my hair straightener) was compatible with the higher voltage. We thought this was going to be a bigger issue than it was; check the tags on the items you plan to plug in to see if you need a converter or if you only need an adapter.
- We brought our Roku stick with us and were able to plug it straight into Steven’s TV and were automatically signed in to our Netflix and Amazon accounts. Netflix in Korea is different from home, some titles weren’t available but there were TONS more options. Almost every Disney and Pixar movie was available (even oldies like 101 Dalmatians and the original Beauty and the Beast).
- The showers are fantastic, they heat up quickly (and stay hot thanks to a tankless water heater) with great pressure but watch out for the faucet. The hot/cold conversion happens between the two knobs (not behind the wall) and the hot water side becomes extremely hot to the touch! Also: the towels are full size and it is a separate shower (not a wet room)- YAY!
- The beds were surprisingly comfortable (we have a very nice Tempurpedic at home that has us spoiled) but the pillows were too soft for me, just as they are at most hotels. I’m a side/back sleeper and prefer a firm pillow; I ended up purchasing one for about $30 USD at The Spring Home near Home Plus. I had brought my own silk pillowcase with me so it worked out perfectly. UPDATE: The Spring Home store has closed!
- Steven provides shampoo and conditioner, body wash (Dove brand), and hair dryers. I brought my own hairdryer from home (unsure if there would be one or if it would be powerful enough for my super thick/long hair) with a converter, but I didn’t use it once. The ones that Steven provides are great.
- We all sleep with fans on for the white noise and were so excited to find two oscillating fans in the closet!
- The kitchen is stocked with plates, bowls, silverware, glasses, pots and pans. We ended up purchasing a strainer (for pasta), a measuring cup, measuring spoons, a spatula (for pancakes) and a muffin tin (for Ian’s favorite Chocolate Chip Muffins).
- The rice cooker is in Japanese. Steven says you just need to push the big yellow button on the front, but we still weren’t sure of the rice/water ratios or how long it would take to cook, etc. We purchased ready to cook rice packets from GS25 and Home Plus instead.
- The washer/dryer is in Korean. Steven provides great instructions and we were able to get by. It is one machine, so after your clothes finish washing they will immediately move on to drying. A full cycle takes about 3 hours and even then the clothes didn’t always come out 100% dry. Small loads did better and make sure to always select the 120 minute dry (as Steven instructs).
- Our kids are not used to sleeping in the same room (they each have their own room at home) and they did remarkably well. We did end up separating the beds though so they weren’t all right next to each other. We also put the mattress on the floor without the box springs so that we didn’t worry so much about Ian falling off (as he sleeps in a toddler bed at home). The girls slept in the queen-size bed against the wall with double closets and Ian slept on the opposite side against the other single-closet wall. This was a lifesaver!
- There is one IKEA high chair (ANTILOP) that we greatly enjoyed. Ian has been out of a high chair for some time but he actually loved this one. We could set him up with a cup of cereal with some cartoons while we prepared breakfast for everyone. (We loved it so much we purchased two online while in Korea to be delivered at home.)
Steven was a fantastic host, always quick to respond and even checked in on us a few times to see if we needed anything. I definitely recommend his Spacious 2BR2BA @Hongdae apartment!!
UPDATE: We had to book another Airbnb for our last week in Seoul (we ended up needing to extend our stay as we waited for the adoption to be finalized and Steven’s place was already booked). After staying somewhere else, I CAN’T RECOMMEND STEVEN’S PLACE ENOUGH! The beds at our 2nd place were rock hard… the bathroom was a wet room only and smelled horrid anytime someone took a shower… we found evidence of critters… it was next to an office building that kept the lights on 24/7 which made our bedrooms bright as day… I am convinced that Steven’s place is the reason we had such an enjoyable stay in Seoul!
NEARBY RESTAURANTS IN HONGDAE
Cafe Fors- literally straight outside the front door of the apartment building. This quiet little cafe serves hot and cold beverages with a very light snack menu (toast/ bagels). I didn’t have any trouble ordering in English. The iced peach tea was my favorite!
Nagomi Ramen- also located incredibly close, walk outside the main door, take a left and walk straight in. I became a fast regular at this Japanese-style ramen restaurant where I ordered the Nagomi Ramen (8,000 KRW). It comes with sliced pork, thin Donkotsu Ramen, bean sprouts, spring onions, tree ear mushrooms, and an egg that has been slowly half-boiled in soy sauce. The servers didn’t speak any English while we were there and there is an ordering kiosk but it is only in Korean. I just pointed at the menu and the servers have all been super helpful, now when they see me coming they key in my order before I even sit down.
9 ¾ Kings Cross aka the Harry Potter Cafe- a fun themed cafe complete with a platform entrance, a wand selection wall, and numerous other photo opportunities. It is four floors with various HP decor. You must order a beverage on the first level and that pays your entrance fee to access the rest of the cafe. The Butter Beer and cream cheese soft pretzels were good.
Kyochon Chicken- our favorite fried chicken! We always ordered the boneless honey variety. It’s crunchy, not too sticky, and has good flavor without being overly sweet. We also tried the Kyochon Salsal which is coated in a crispy, savory rice crumble. Both were delicious and the fried potato wedges are perfect.
Gcova Chicken- this wasn’t our favorite, Emily doesn't really like dark meat but Isabella and I enjoyed it. The staff didn’t speak any English and it would have been difficult to convey our order by pointing at the menu; we had our friend translate the order for us so we went in with it already typed on our phone. We tried one order of the mild and one of the seasoned grilled (no sauce). We were worried about it being too hot so we went with the mild to be safe; it had a hint of spice but was definitely mild. If you’re looking for a little heat, I would bump up to the medium at least. We got this to go and ate it with rice at home.
Thanks Nature Cafe– another favorite, we ate at this cafe more than once. The sheep are adorable, the owners are very friendly, and the waffles were delicious.
Travel Maker Cafe- if you’re craving a traditional American breakfast, this is your place. It is about a 10-15 minute walk but so worth it. Any time we were feeling homesick we would head here for a big plate of fluffy pancakes, crispy hashbrowns, cheesy eggs, with bacon and sausage.
There are also a few Western restaurants nearby like McDonalds, Dairy Queen, and Starbucks.
NEARBY SHOPPING IN HONGDAE
Forever 21, H&M, and Nike were all in walking distance (toward Hongik University subway station).
The streets are flooded with different shops and vendors in the evening.
From March – November the Hongdae Free Market is open every Saturday from 13:00-18:00.
FAMILY-FRIENDLY ATTRACTIONS IN HONGDAE
NANTA Cooking Show- one of our favorite things we did. Located extremely close to Steven’s Airbnb, this show was SO fun. It is an interactive, non-verbal, physical comedy show that was family-friendly for all ages. Ian (3yo) thought it was hilarious and it was fast enough to hold his attention the whole time. Isabella was called up on stage and participated in one part of the show. Highly recommend!
Trick Eye Museum- a short walk from Steven’s Airbnb, this was another favorite. 3D exhibits with photo ops galore- be sure to download the new app for added augmented reality features.