Dongdaemun Design Plaza (동대문디자인플라자) is simply iconic. Referred to as the DDP in Seoul by locals, this spaceship in the middle of the city is a must-see for any architecture buffs, artists, and designers looking to be wowed by something truly amazing.
Much more than just a cool building though, Dongdaemun Design Plaza is an important social and cultural hub, with an ongoing series of compelling exhibitions, events, and shows to check out.
Not sure where to start? Don’t worry! Get started with this list of 11 brilliant things to do at Dongdaemun Design Plaza, then see where the road takes you.
In this guide
- 1 Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP Seoul) | 동대문디자인플라자
- 2 The Architect | Zaha Hadid
- 3 Getting to DDP Seoul
- 4 Things to do at Dongdaemun Design Plaza
- 4.1 Marvel at its unique architecture
- 4.2 Find all the Instagrammable Spots
- 4.3 Be Enveloped by Seoul Light
- 4.4 Attend an exhibition
- 4.5 Get inspired at Seoul Fashion Week
- 4.6 Learn History at the Dongdaemun Stadium Memorial
- 4.7 See the Ancient Igansumun Floodgate
- 4.8 Let the Kids Run Wild at Diki Diki
- 4.9 Check out K-drama Shooting Locations
- 4.10 Shop for Cool Design Items
- 4.11 Explore Little Russia
- 5 Where to Stay near the DDP in Seoul
Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP Seoul) | 동대문디자인플라자
The DDP is the world’s largest three-dimensional atypical building. The exterior is made up of 45,133 aluminum panels of varying sizes, patterns, and curves, and NOT A SINGLE ONE of these panels is the same. It’s kind of crazy-making and awe-inspiring when you really think about what this means.
When the DDP was being built way back in 2010, there were no other structures in the world available on which to base its design. Beyond that, it would’ve taken at least 20 years to make all 45,133 panels, using the existing production and installation methods of the time.
This is where Samsung C&T stepped in. They INVENTED the equipment necessary to form and cut all the tens of thousands of panels needed to build Dongdaemun Design Plaza.
DDP Seoul was ultimately fully constructed in just 4 and a half years. This landmark building officially opened on March 21st, 2014, and it truly is a one-of-kind architectural marvel, that you absolutely have to see.
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The Architect | Zaha Hadid
From Glasgow’s striking Riverside Museum to the eye-catching Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan to our very own Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul, Zaha Hadid’s wondrous buildings are unmistakeable.
Zaha Hadid was known as the “Queen of the Curve, for her ability to bend super stiff and difficult materials like concrete, steel, and glass into feminine curves and geometric shapes. She was the first woman to win both the Pritzer Architecture Prize in 2004. AND the RIBA Gold Medal in 2016.
This visionary and trailblazing architect left us far too soon, but not before she left an indelible mark on the way we see and imagine the spaces we inhabit.
Getting to DDP Seoul
Address: 281 Eulji-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul | 서울특별시 중구 을지로 281 (을지로7가)
Parking at the DDP is very expensive, and can cost as much as 50,000 won per day, so I recommend using public transit (or a taxi if you have mobility issues) to get to Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul if you can.
Using Public Transit
Seoul Subway: The subway stop for the DDP is Dongdaemun History and Culture Park Station, Exit 1. It’s located at the transfer point of subway lines 2, 4, and 5, so it’s very easy to access from anywhere in the city.
Bus: If you plan to take the bus, it’s best to map your route on Naver or Kakao Maps. You can input your start and end point in english, and the app will tell you which buses to take, provide directions to the correct bus stop, and even how crowded each bus is.
Seoul City Tour Bus
Dongdaemun Design Plaza is a stop on the Seoul City Tour Bus route. This is a hop-on hop-off bus which gives you access to all the best highlights and attractions of Seoul, while also saving you money on public transport / taxi costs.
- tickets can be purchased or redeemed at the ticket office in Gwanghwamun
- the first bus leaves from Gwanghwamun at 9:30AM, and circulates through a total of 15 stops, including Myeongdong, Cheong Wa Dae, Namsan / North Seoul Tower, Gyeonbokgung, Bukchon Hanok Village, and more (see full schedule here)
- the bus interval is 60 minutes, so you can hop-on and hop-off and explore major attractions easily
SEOUL AT NIGHT PRIVATE TOUR | If you’re traveling with family or a group, a private van tour is an excellent way to see the best of Seoul at night. Pick-up and drop-off service, an engaging guide, and stops at gorgeous night time hotspots like the DDP and N Seoul Tower included. Check full details here.
Things to do at Dongdaemun Design Plaza
The DDP in Seoul is a major hub of culture, art, fashion, and design. There’s a ton to see and do at this one-of a kind space, so be sure to add it to your Seoul travel itinerary.
Marvel at its unique architecture
Your first look at Dongdaemun Design Plaza will leave you awestruck. It’s literally like a sleek, shimmering UFO decided to land in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world.
There’s no other building in Korea (or maybe the world) quite like it, so you should spend some time wandering around and exploring all its unique nooks and crannies.
It’s worth visiting the DDP in Seoul both during the day and at night. During daylight hours, it’s a buzz of activity, with visitors, special events, and, exhibitions, but at night, the whole building is gloriously illuminated. It definitely should not be missed!
Find all the Instagrammable Spots
Full of extraordinary shadows and light, Dongdaemun Design Plaza is a photographer’s dream. While it’s super easy to find a ton of interesting spots to take Insta-worthy shots by just wandering around, there are a few places to specifically search out.
See if you can find these wonderful spaces around Dongdaemun Design Plaza:
- Miraero Bridge connects DDP with the world around it.
- Ouillim Square is the first entrance to Dongdaemun Design Plaza, where cultural events and public exhibitions are held.
- The Cave Stairs located between the Art Hall and Museum, has a vanishing point at the top that makes you feel like you’re being sucked into a cave.
- The Eight Junction is where all 8 streets that lead to DDP’s various spaces intersect.
- The Outdoor Stairs are located next to Exit 1 of Dongdaemun History Park and Culture Station. They’re beautifully lit at night.
- The Formative Stairs are located indoors and instantly recognizable due to the winding shape that changes on every floor.
THE BEST VIEWS IN SEOUL | Lotte World Tower is another one of Seoul’s architectural marvels – the tallest building in Korea, and 5th tallest in the world. Get breathtaking panoramic views of the city on floors 117 to 123, from the Seoul Sky Observatory, 555-metres up! Get info here.
Be Enveloped by Seoul Light
Seoul Light is a media art festival that uses the massive exterior of the Dongdaemun Design Plaza as a canvas by projecting images onto its 220-metre facade. Designed by both Korean and international artists, it began in 2019, and has already been seen by over a million visitors.
I’ve personally gone to Seoul Light a few times, and found it fascinating and totally immersive.
You can see Seoul Light from many vantage points, and even from across the street, but for the best experience, stand inside the DDP and let all that amazing light and sound wash right over you. Keep an eye on their website for future events.
Attend an exhibition
DDP Seoul is an art and culture hub for every exhibition imaginable under the sun. There are more than 100 different events, every single year. Everything from art exhibitions to fashion shows to product launches happen in the gorgeous spaces at Dongdaemun Design Plaza.
Past events have included the stellar teamLAB: LIFE digital exhibition and The World of Tim Burton, so you can definitely expect quality exhibitions at the DDP. For the most up-to-date and current info on what’s happening, check out their website.
Get inspired at Seoul Fashion Week
WHEN: F/W March 15th – 19th, 2023 | S/S October 11th – 15th, 2023
For the first time in 3 years, Seoul Fashion Week will be back full-force at Dongdaemun Design Plaza. This promises to be a gorgeous event with all the cutting-edge style, spectacular shows, and celebrities you’d expect from Korea’s premier fashion event.
Learn History at the Dongdaemun Stadium Memorial
The DDP was constructed on the old Dongdaemun Stadium grounds, which itself holds an important place in Korean history. Built in 1925, during Japanese colonial rule, it was a symbol of the modern sports era, with many international matches, games and events held there, right up until the mid 1980s.
It was demolished in 2007, to make way for the Dongdaemun Design Plaza – but you can still still see some remnants of the historic stadium at the Dongdaemun Stadium Memorial – including original seats, lights, and screens.
See the Ancient Igansumun Floodgate
Long, long ago, the runoff from Seoul’s inner mountains flowed down to the low ground located between the floodgates of Ogansumun at Cheonggyecheon and Igansumun at the DDP.
While no traces of the Ogansumun Floodgate were found, Igansumun was discovered buried beneath the old Dongdaemun Stadium during the construction of Dongdaemun Design Plaza.
It was part of Hanyangdoseong – Seoul’s UNESCO World Heritage City Wall, and it’s now possible to see this near perfect piece of Seoul’s ancient history at the DDP in Seoul.
Let the Kids Run Wild at Diki Diki
Children from the age of 24 months to 8 years old will love the DDP’s design playground, Diki Diki. Developed with sensory play in mind, parents can even get a “play report” service that tracks their child’s individual interests and design sense, as they make their way through the playground.
Diki Diki is located on the 4th floor of the Dongdaemun Design Plaza Museum, and closed on Mondays. Get full details on their website (Korean only).
EVERLAND 1 DAY PASS | Everland is Korea’s biggest theme park, with 5 super fun themed zones, giant pandas, the steepest wooden rollercoaster in the world, parades, and gorgeous gardens to enjoy. Check details here.
Check out K-drama Shooting Locations
No big surprise that Dongdaemun Design Plaza has been used as the set for a number of popular Korean dramas. See if you can find the romantic locations for scenes from hit K-dramas like Vincenzo, My Love from the Stars, Record of Youth, Love Alarm, and so many more.
Shop for Cool Design Items
The area around Dongdaemun Design Plaza is a super popular shopping district. Huge malls like Doota, Migliore, apM, and Goodmorning City offer the latest fashion trends at super affordable prices.
If you’re in the market for super-cool design items, be sure to head into the Dongdaemun Design Store to discover the latest lifestyle products, furniture, fashion items, and more. You can also find a Kakao Friends store on the B2 level of the Design Lab at DDP.
Explore Little Russia
Directions: near Dongdaemun History and Culture Park Station, Exit 7
Hidden on the back streets near the futuristic Dongdaemun Design Plaza is Seoul’s Little Russia. However, it’s more accurate to think of the area as a hub for all things Central Asian, rather than just Russian. On its narrow, slightly rundown streets, you can experience Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, all without stepping foot on a plane.
You’ll find Cyrillic lettering next to Korean, stores filled with vodka and bottles of the Russian beer Baltika, and the warm, comforting food of the region.
I hit up Fortune Cafe whenever I visit Dongdaemun Design Plaza. It’s my go-to place whenever I’m craving a proper hit of juicy grilled lamb. Order a few shaslik for everyone to share. These are perfectly seasoned and cooked skewers of meat, and it’s impossible to find them made quite this way anywhere else in Seoul.
Where to Stay near the DDP in Seoul
Myeongdong is undoubtedly the most popular area to stay on a trip to Seoul, due to its convenient proximity to tourist attractions, excellent transport links, and shopping opportunities, but Dongdaemun is also surprisingly convenient – due to its location at the intersection of 3 separate subway lines.
It’s easy to get pretty much anywhere in the city from this area, and if you want to hit up the wholesale markets, there’s nowhere better. Here’s where to stay near Dongdaemun Design Plaza.
Sotetsu Hotels The Splaisir Seoul Dongdaemun
The Splaisir Seoul Dongdaemun has spacious rooms, and a superb location from which to explore all of Seoul. It’s 10 minutes walk from Cheonggyecheon Stream, steps from major shopping destinations, and 1 minute away from 3 subway lines.
Nine Tree Hotel Dongdaemun
Nine Tree Hotel Dongdaemun offers spacious family rooms, in an ideal location. The hotel is walking distance to 4 different subway lines, traditional markets, and shopping opportunities galore.
Novotel Ambassador Seoul Dongdaemun Hotels & Residences
The Novotel Ambassador has 2 swimming pools, perfect for a summer trip to Seoul. There’s an indoor pool for all ages, and an adults only rooftop pool that operates from May to September. This hotel has luxurious rooms, and an excellent location, steps from Dongdaemun History and Culture Park subway station.
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Dongdaemun Design Plaza: Essential Info and FAQs
Is a stop at Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul on your list? It should be!