There is more above the river than just Itaewon and Insadong. One of my favorite places to go is Samcheong dong. It is near Insadong, but it’s pleasant walk away. You can get directions here.
The way I like to go there is by going out Anguk Station exit 5. Then I cross the street towards the Tours de Jours (which is a crappy bakery that makes spongy cakes that taste like sugary Styrofoam). I take the first right and keep walking straight past numerous stores and restaurants such as 목쉬돈나 (723-8089)- a place famous for dukbokki and past 천진포자-a snack place renowned for pork buns and past a strange cafe with pink dogs until I hit Samcheongdong.
Samcheongdong is a great cafe street and restaurant street. My favorite place for coffee is Yeon which is on an elevated walkway that has a ancient look to it. It’s right near a toy museum. Yeon is the hippie cafe where the servers don’t wear shoes even in the dead of winter and the interior has a traditional han-ok style, but like it has been refinished and repainted for modern times. The servers there are relaxed in a Zen way and the entire place induces a calming sigh. It’s a bit of peace in the hectic world of Seoul Korea.
I’m also a big fan of the Book Cafe. The place has walls of books and you can browse through any of the books there and you can also get a great cup of coffee. I had a wonderful cappuccino that had foam so rich it could have been whipped cream.
Restaurants, I really like Gallery Hyun. It’s a bit pricy, but they have a wonderful wine list and excellent lamb chops. The chops were breaded with panko flakes and served with a rich demiglace. It’s not an ample meal, but great for when you wish to feel posh.
I also like “a Midi” which has amazing bouillabaisse. It’s the closest that I’ve come to the famous French dish in Korea. Most places overly spice the soup so it tastes more like a Korean 찌개(stew) than what it is supposed to be. “a Midi” knows how to nurture flavors and make the soup subtle and welcoming rather than an evening in a sauna.
Samcheong Dong is a great place for a walk, a contemplative cup of coffee, and especially great for a date if you’re trying to impress. Let’s just not all go there at once so it keeps it’s allure.