Perhaps, it can be defined as the “rediscovery of a space partitioned by invisible lines.” Markets and youngster hangouts are bordered by a single street, and old canteens and sleek restaurants share the same alley. Different places have different age groups and cater to them in different ways. But there are no impassable barriers—there are different hangouts, and the only problem is choosing where to hang out this time. But even within this intensely dynamic place, Jeonpo Cafe Street remains the hottest place today. Rumors of this charismatic and unique place have already reached other countries: New York Times selected Jeonpo Cafe Street as one of the “52 Places to Go in 2017.”
The alleyway next to Seomyeon’s Norimaru, which signals the beginning of the Jeonpo Cafe Street, is characterized by the ideal combination of the old and new buildings. The scenery of this place showcases its New-tro philosophy to the fullest, exemplified in its combination of old buildings with modern touches. Even the new buildings stand unique without harming the harmony of the area. Such coexistence of the old tool shops with new restaurants and cafés is one of the biggest charms of this area.
The alley itself is an exercise in the culinary diversity of the world. One corner has the unmistakably elegant blend of spices from Indian curries, while the next alley takes one to Thailand’s fresh scents. Lounging further along the alley are French and Italian restaurants. The dishes that only existed in tourist guidebooks are shaped into reality in these alleys.
Once satisfied with the meal, the next step is to relocate to many dessert cafés of the neighborhood. The burden of choice is very much alive in this case as well. From cafés furnished lovingly with teddy bears to clear display cases that barely hide the luster of sumptuous cakes within, walking down the Jeonpo Cafe Street is a terrible experience for the indecisive. Giving up is not an option; however, where else in Busan would one find the perfect café to spend a lazy afternoon in?
Those who prefer something more unique, or those who are not satisfied with the dynamic atmosphere of Jeonpo Cafe Street, only need to cross a road toward Busanjin Fire Station. There are four alleys that somehow feel similar to Jeonpo Cafe Street but are actually different—the Jeollidangil Street area, the hangout for those who dance on the cutting edge of style. This area is home to a large collection of restaurants, cafés, ateliers, nail shops, vintage fashion shops, photographer’s studios, and leather workshops—all united in their pursuit of uniqueness and industrial-retro interior. It feels a bit older and rougher than its more popular sibling, giving an air of a rebellious individualism that clashes with the relatively tame areas that surround it.
This sense of tension is what makes Jeollidangil Street so dynamic. Old and run-down tool shops and machine workshops intersect with the shops on the cutting edge of fashion, generating a strange sense of rhythm that pulses throughout the neighborhood. It feels as if the past and the present are meeting like cogs in a machine here, grinding along to create the icons of tomorrow’s culture.
The common charm of these two alleyways is the freshness of the space generated by the fusion between unexpected spaces. They are also spaces that offer a wide range of cultural experiences in compressed forms but refrain from forcing a choice to its visitors; they are free and young spaces.
The rays of the sun drifting between the buildings have left the area unnoticed. The dusk scrambles hastily into the corners. Some are closing down the shutters; others are lighting the bulbs for the night. The first act of Jeonpo Cafe Street and Jeonpogonggu-gil closes. There is no intermission until the second act.