(SPOT.ph) No trip is complete without a shopping spree. Whether you're buying for yourself or your loved ones back at home, local markets or shopping malls are always a necessary stopover to find trinkets you can bring back home. It's easy to know where to shop locally, but things can be a little trickier if you're abroad. It's a new place, possibly even non-English speaking, and there are many places to shop. Unless you do proper research, you might miss some holy grail or special items just because you didn't know where to look. Case in point: say you go somewhere like Seoul, where every neighborhood has its own charm and an opportunity to shop, how do you know what to buy? Or, if you do know what you want, where's the best place to buy it? Well, don't worry, Spotters, we've got your back. We round up some of Seoul's best shopping districts and what you could find in them—think of this as your guide to shopping in Seoul.
Here are 10 shopping hotspots you should hit up when you're in Seoul:
Myeongdong needs no introduction. Arguably the most famous shopping destination in South Korea, this neighborhood is the one to hit if you're looking for makeup, cosmetics, and anything K-beauty. Unfortunately, the pandemic has significantly lessened the number of shops in the area. However, you'll still be able to find stores of your favorite Korean brands here, like Nature Republic, Etude House, Innisfree, and many more. Pro tip: be on the lookout for shops that give out free product samples. Many shops in Myeongdong often hand out free products to those who shop at their stores.
Hongdae is a district near Hongik University known for its youthful and trendy ambiance. You'll see a lot of students and young locals in this area frequenting the many cafes, boutiques, fashion outlets, and clubs. At Hongdae, you'll be able to find lots of fashion items at a steal. You can take home many accessories like earrings, phone cases, and necklaces for as low as KRW 1000 (or about P40). In addition, tons of thrift shops sell second-hand luxury products at a pretty reasonable price. Haggling at some of the local shops is acceptable too, so best practice Korean phrases to this effect.
Pro tip: Visit Hongdae on the weekend. This area is most famous for its weekend "free market" from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.where local artists and craftsmen showcase their handmade crafts, accessories, paintings, and secondhand goods.
Looking for traditional Korean souvenirs and other artisanal locally made products? Insadong is the place for you. Shop for authentic goods and souvenirs such as hanji (Korean handmade paper), hanbok (traditional clothing), artwork, vintage toys, pottery, and folk craft here. Insadong's many snake-like alleys and cobblestone paths will eventually lead you to a shop selling trinkets perfect for taking home. Make sure to drop by Ssamziegil, a multi-story shopping complex where you can buy locally made handicrafts and unique trinkets, and even visit a folk art gallery.
Dongdaemun is Seoul's largest retail shopping district. It has about 26 malls with over 30,000 stores selling about 50,000 different brands. Though the malls aren't exactly fancy, they sell various goods ranging from ready-to-wear clothes to wholesale accessories and art supplies. So if you're looking to buy things in bulk, Dongdaemun is the place to go. There's also a night market at Dongdaemun from 10 p.m. onwards that sells various items at discounted prices. Just keep an eye out for yellow tents and you're sure to find what you need, er, want.
Gangnam Shopping Street
Blast Psy's Gangnam Style in your head as you walk down Gangnam Shopping Street. You'll find many restaurants and, more importantly, stores selling clothes and accessories from some of Korea's top fashion names. For more casual shoppers, Gangnam Shopping street is the place to be as there are tons of retail brands like SPAO, Muji, Kakao Friends, and Line Friends that have put up their flagship stores here.
Looking to meet your own chaebol oppa, K-celebrities, or just in the mood to have your own Pretty Woman shopping spree? Head on to Apgujeong, Seoul's own version of Rodeo Drive. This fancy-schmancy area is famous for having high-end luxury brands at every turn. Think luxe boutiques, high-end department stores, and cafes with picture-perfect interiors. Aside from burning a hole through your wallet in luxe shopping, Apgujeong is also famous for its many beauty clinics that offer a wide variety of beauty treatments and cosmetic surgeries; this is where they talk about getting that Gangnam I.D. beauty.
Starfield COEX Mall
Starfield COEX mall is touted as the largest underground shopping mall in Asia. This mall carries over 300 brands ranging from fashion and cosmetics to electronics and entertainment. Aside from being a shopping mecca, COEX is also famous for many other attractions, such as the COEX Aquarium and Bricklive for kids and the Instagram-famous Starfield library, which is home to 13-meter-high bookshelves and over 50,000 books.
Looking for cute small home and office accessories to liven up your space? Samcheong is the place for you. Located near the Bukchon Hanok Village, this quaint, retro street is famous for its cutesy home decorating finds, stationery, and other daily "necessities."
Ewha Women's University
Ever wanted to cop a K-drama female lead's outfit? You're bound to find it here near Ewha Women's University. This spot in Seoul is famous for its bargain women's fashion and cosmetics. Heck, if you want to take your Korean transformation to a whole new level, you could even get your hair treated for a reasonable price at the many salons in this area. This shopping street is pedestrian-friendly and is a favorite hangout spot among young Seoulites. Getting tired from all the walking and shopping? Make sure to stop by the many cafes in the area for a quick snack.
Yup, the airport. Bet you didn't think you'd see this on a shopping list, ei? But, just in case you might have forgotten to get someone a souvenir or didn't have the time to go shopping, there's no need to fret. Incheon Airport is a massive complex with tons of duty-free shopping stalls. You'll find shops that sell everything from traditional souvenirs, cosmetics, luxury products, liquor, snacks, and even electronics. There are tons of shopping options at the Airport. You'd do a double take and think you might be in a vast shopping mall.