Ihwa Mural Village
Update 2020: I visited Ihwa way back in 2015. A LOT has changed since then (including these poor fish stairs below). I haven’t had a chance to revisit to update this very out of date post. I highly recommend taking this tour my friend, Hallie, which covers the village with much better nuance.
It has a quieter, serene atmosphere, with a focus on local community and beauty. In a metropolis where all the skyscrapers begin to take on the same, dull shapes and cold, gray colors, Ihwa is colorful and intimate.
History of Ihwa Mural Village
Much like Busan’s Gamcheon Culture Village, the village has more impoverished origins. Generally, those workers who could not afford houses in the flatter, more central parts of Seoul lived in places like Ihwa. This was most textile factory workers. Even as Seoul industrialized, the village stayed more or less the same. This lead to plans for demolition after the nineties.
Interestingly enough, instead of demolition in 2006, Seoul decided to commission a bunch of artists to create different installations with the theme of “Mix, Connect, and Get Together.” They created about sixty-four in all. However, this first round brought on too much clutter and trash from tourists and subsequently complaints from the residents The city wound up destroying many of the murals, presumably finding the art project a failure.
However, in 2013 they assembled more artists, including university students, to create more installations. This resulted in over a hundred works. There is now an emphasis on respecting both the privacy of residents as well as maintaining the quiet atmosphere.
Residents have opened restaurants, galleries, and cafes, with all proceeds benefiting the village itself. Even while Ihwa has grown, it has seemed to avoid the bali-bali growth of its neighbors and maintained its own, steady speed. As one of the artists involved, Lim Young-Suk, said, “We need to be analog, not digital.”
The place is still very much off the beaten path for Seoul and Korea visitors. Although I can see it growing more popular in the future. Often times my Korean friends have not heard of it let alone any of my friends visiting from abroad. But just as I found Gamcheon to be utterly charming, I find Ihwa Mural Village to be wonderfully sweet escape from the bustling city. Also, you know, it is used in quite a few drama filmings so, if you’re a K-drama fan, you might recognize some of the art!
How to Get to Ihwa Mural Village
- Get off at Hyehwa Station on Line 4, Exit 2.
- Walk towards Marronier Park and then take a left after you pass it.
- Walk straight towards Naksan Park until you come across the murals.
When in doubt, there will definitely be some Korean couples out on a date here, so follow them!
Have you heard of Ihwa Mural Village? What are some of your favorite off the beaten path places?
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I love the mural paintings here and the place is very unique. Surely a must visit destination and I will surely appreciate it.
Wow! I’ve not been to Korea yet, but this will definitely be a must-visit. I absolutely love street-art so a whole village of it is really incredible! I love the murals that spread across the steps. That’s so impressive. It’s also pretty cool that it’s a bit off the path too so it’s still a hidden gem.
What a nice day trip! It’s amazing how much murals can change the feel of a place.
This place is so cute! I wanted to go here while in South Korea but didn’t have the time. But at least I get to see your pics of it. :) Thanks for sharing.
I am pretty sure that I have seen that staircase mural of the goldfish before. How awesome! It must have been a very talented artist to paint that. There is a lot of interesting history to this area – that’s incredible to think that they almost demolished it!
This is so cool!!! I love murals and these are on steps!?? I seriously need to find this place!
I never heard of this place before but it looks stunning! I am quite a big fan of murals so this will definitely end up on my already too long travelling list (although long? it can never get too long can it? haha). Beautiful photos too!
Sounds like a super cool place. Hopefully it stays feeling like a neighborhood since it sounds like a lot of effort was put into having it that way! Perfect place to just chill though.
Interesting history for this little village. The colorful murals are darling. The fish steps are my favorite!
It is amazing how murals are so popular these days! Really on trend and sure to draw people from far and wide to visit. Thank you for the lovely photographs.
Ihwa Mural Village is one of my fav place I visited in Seoul!
I went there with a tour: Fortress Wall of Seoul Tour (http://www.onedaykorea.com/tours/fortress-wall-of-seoul-tour/) and it was really good! The atmosphere, the art.. everything!! We also went to the seoul fortress, the views were beautiful! I had a great experience with this tour! ^o^
Right? Such a cute place! Glad you enjoyed it :)
This is awesome! I have a long layover in Seoul and will have to check this out. I wish I had more time to explore! BTW, I randomly found your blog and I LOVE it!
Yes, definitely! Ihwa is adorable, and you’ll also enjoy Dongdaemun Plaza and Namsan. :) Enjoy your layover!
And yay! I’m so happy you love the blog! Thank you so much :) :)