Insadong: This historic neighbourhood was once the centre of the country’s trade in art and antiques. Today it is a popular tourist destination where visitors can pick up traditional souvenirs. Typical purchases include celadon pottery, wooden masks, handmade paper (hanji) and traditional dresses (hanbok). Be sure to buy from reputable dealers as there are some vendors in Insadong selling cheap imported items. This charming neighbourhood is also home to art galleries, tea shops and traditional eateries including Sanchon (30-13 Insadong-gil) which was established by a Buddhist monk. This is Seoul’s most famous vegan restaurant where fresh produce from the Korean countryside is turned into an impressive selection of innovative and tasty dishes. This beautiful venue is highly recommended even for carnivores!
Namdaemun Market: Dating back to the 15th century this is the country’s oldest and largest outdoor market. It is packed with thousands of stalls selling cheap clothes, fashion items, souvenirs and household goods. Whilst Namdaemun is a bargain-hunter’s paradise it’s important to haggle as prices tend to be extremely negotiable. The market is also a great place to sample an array of traditional Korean street food.
Dongdaemun Market: This is another sprawling market filled with countless stalls selling all kinds of products ranging from silk and leather goods to electronics and furniture. However, in the fast moving world of Korean fashion this is the top destination for picking up the latest fashion items at knock-down prices. Clothing sizes are mainly available for the Korean market so tend to be much smaller than you’d expect to find in a store in the West so be prepared to be disappointed if you’re anything larger than a small. Once again it’s important to bargain before agreeing a price. The area also includes some upmarket shopping malls where bargaining isn’t part of the deal. Probably the best known of these malls is Doota (Doosan Tower) which stocks the latest in trendy Korean brands and items from highly regarded local designers at more than 500 stores within the complex. This mall is a shopping heaven for young females who can get kitted out with all the latest clothes and fashion accessories. It stays open until 5am (in the morning)!
Myeongdong: This is another popular haunt for young women thanks to its huge selection of shops selling cosmetic and skincare products. All of South Korea’s top brands such as Nature Republic and Too Cool For School are represented here. The area is also filled with shops selling local and international clothing brands including Ralph Lauren, Giordano, Zara and Nike amongst others. Myeongdong is also home to the luxurious Lotte Department Store which sells pretty much everything you’d expect to see in an upmarket department store in a Western city. It is very popular with Chinese tourists who flock here to buy duty-free goods. Highly recommended is its food court which serves a fine selection of high quality Asian cuisine.
Hongdae: This hip neighbourhood is home to Hongik University which has a student population of almost 20,000, many of who are studying for art and design degrees. As such the whole area has developed into a young person’s playground filled with stylish boutiques and lively bars. Many smart retailers from Myeongdong have recognised the possibilities presented by this youthful market and moved their premises to Hongdae. As well as stalls selling Korean fashion items there are shops selling international clothing brands and many opportunities to buy typical handicrafts as souvenirs. This is also another great place to enjoy great Korean street food.
Traveller Tip: Whether you’re travelling to Seoul for business or pleasure it’s well worth booking a private transfer from Seoul-Incheon Airport. Your professional driver will be waiting for you on arrival and will safely transfer you to any hotel or other accommodation in the city.
Sinchon: Thanks to the presence of a number of universities this lively neighbourhood has developed into one of the city’s nightlife hotspots. It is packed with bars and chimaek restaurants which serve draft beer and fried chicken and are very popular with the local student population. Whilst there are some large department stores in the area its main attraction for shopaholics is the Ewha Woman’s University Shopping Street which is largely geared to the young female market. The most popular items on sale include discounted fashion items and cosmetics. As another popular student haunt Sinchon is a great place to enjoy Korean food at any number of relatively cheap restaurants.
Gangnam: In 2012 the K-pop single called ‘Gangnam Style’ hit the airwaves. Its video went viral and became the first video on You Tube to attract a billion views. The title of the song is a reference to the ostentatious lifestyle of the trendy young people who frequent the upmarket neighbourhood of Gangnam in Seoul. One of the wealthiest parts of Gangnam is Apgujeongdong which is where Seoul’s ‘beautiful people’ hang out. It is home to some of the city’s most luxurious shopping outlets including the Galleria Department Store. This is the place to find the world’s most prestigious brands such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton at eye-watering prices. Another retail attraction in Gangnam is the Starfield COEX Mall in Samseong which is Asia’s largest underground shopping mall. Its shops sell a wide range of national and international brands and it has some excellent food courts on the premises. The streets of Gangnam also have many mid-range shops and there’s an enormous underground shopping centre beneath the subway station which sells great value clothes, cosmetics and fashion accessories.
Yeongdeungpo Station: This is a mainly commercial and residential district located in the south-west of Seoul. It isn’t typically an area where tourists would head for but merits a mention because of the Times Square Shopping Mall which is one of the largest in the city. Located at Yeongdeungpo Station this mall is home to many big brand names including Louis Vuitton, Gucci and North Face together with the Shinsegae Department Store and an E-mart supermarket. However, this complex is much more than a shopping outlet, it’s a full scale entertainment centre which houses a Marriott Hotel, a CGV multiplex cinema and many restaurants.
Itaewon: This district earned a reputation for its lively nightlife which attracted many American military personnel who were stationed at the nearby Yongsan Garrison. Today it is a melting pot of cultures which attracts tourists and ex-pats rather than Koreans. This is the place to go to buy larger, western sized clothes as well as fake branded goods. The Itaewon Antique Furniture Street is where American soldiers sold their furniture before returning home. This busy street is filled with antique shops and is well worth a look. The streets of Itaewon are also a good place to find restaurants serving food from all over the world including India, Pakistan, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
Gwangjang Market: Dating back to 1905 this is one of the largest of Korea’s traditional markets. It’s a good place to buy items made from silk and local fabrics as well as vintage clothing and hanbok dresses. The main attraction, however, is not the clothes and souvenirs but the food market which is widely regarded as one of the best places in the city to enjoy typical Korean street food. Just take a seat on a wooden bench outside the food stalls and order local delicacies until your heart’s content.
About Shuttle Direct
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