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Monday, January 25, 2016

[Seoul, Korea] Where to Shop: Seoul Shopping Guide 2016

I had a request via email to introduce some of my favorite shopping areas in Seoul (if you have a request for travel information or a food tip, please send me an email).
I don't really have any pictures, so please bear with me.

If I missed any or you'd like to give your opinion, please leave a comment here!




Clothing, makeup and accessories:
1. Myeongdong
This area is always full of tourists shopping for makeup products, clothing, and accessories.
I usually try to avoid shopping here because it's always so crowded and people are always pushing.
But, BONUS just by walking around and entering stores, you can come away with a ton of free samples.
Careful though! Make sure to check the expiry date on any of the products (especially face masks) that you are given! Often, the masks they give out for free expire that day or maybe one or two days after!

Another major draw is that the shops typically speak foreign languages (often English, Japanese and pretty much always Chinese).
For English-speaking visitors, just a heads up, most of the shop workers at makeup stores are actually Chinese, so English is not one of their main languages. Also, they will not approach you as quickly as Korean workers would. If you need help, you definitely need to approach them first.

The density of shops here is quite high, so if there is a specific store you are looking for, you probably have about a 90% chance of finding it here.

Location:
Myeongdong station (line 4)
Euljiro-1-ga (line 2)

2. Dongdaemun
This is another area that's crazy full of apparel stores AND tourists.
A ton of my visiting friends really wanted to go to Doota and Yes APM, but I try to avoid going to Dongdaemoon because I hate bartering.

The shop workers are also not Korean here, mostly Chinese.
Since the prices are not posted, you definitely need to barter. I also noticed that the quality of clothes here is actually not that good and the workers really jack up the prices.

Maybe about 7 or 8 years ago, the quality was still good and the merchants sold Korean-made clothing, but these days I have noticed there are more and more products made in China.

English speaking workers are sometimes available, but often you'll have to rely on calculators to barter.
I do like Dongdaemoon Plaza (DDP), however. There is always something interesting and artsy going on there.

Doota also has a Remicone location, which is a nice bonus, I guess.

This is probably one of the easier areas to find male fashion.

Location:
Dongdaemoon History and Culture Park (line 2, 4, 5)
Dongdaemun Station (line 1, 4)

3. Ewha Women's University
This area is very famous, too, for shopping for women's apparel, accessories, and makeup.
The prices are fixed and posted.
Be careful, though, often cards are not accepted!
Definitely, do not try to barter here!!

The shop workers are typically Korean, but many of the cosmetics stores hire Chinese workers, so Chinese is also available.

I really like this area because there are plenty of cafes and restaurants, check out my other posts about this area here.

There are a couple of streets in Edae that sell men's apparel, just explore the small side streets by the Adidas store.

Location:
Ewha Women's University Station (line 2)

4. Sookmyung Women's University
This area is still pretty unknown to tourists, so it's nice and pretty peaceful.
The density of shops is not quite as high as in the other areas I have previously listed.
However, the shops that are there have higher quality goods and the price is the same, if not cheaper, than the other areas.

There are also some cute cafes and restaurants in the area.

Location:
Sookmyung Women's University Station (line 4)

5. Express Bus Terminal (click for a more complete review)
If you are in need of something cheap/quick, stop by the Express Bus Terminal.
The quality will be a bit lower than at the other areas, but the price will be significantly lower.

Many of my Korean friends who are not from Seoul are often shocked at the area here.
It's in the underground shopping area, there are probably miles of shops down there.

It's also probably just worth a look. You can find anything from shoes and cosmetics to artificial flowers and antiques.

There is also a Shinsegae Department Store for you to check out.

Location:
Express Bus Terminal (line 3)

6. Gangnam Station Underground
One of my favorite areas to shop when I first came in 2009 was the Gangnam Station underground shopping center.
It has been revamped rather recently, with the addition of the Bundang line subway station.

The area by line 2 has all the major standbys - every cosmetics store imaginable and a ton of clothing stores and shoe stores. You can also find almost any cellphone accessory here you would ever need.

The area by the Shin Bundang line is a little more expensive. It's got a lot more classic style and is much brighter.

There are also many places to eat, so you can definitely make a day of it.

I would probably recommend stopping by here, definitely.
It's probably THE place to hit up if you're staying south of the river as Myeongdong is kind of far for you.

The best part is that it's underground, so you don't have to worry about Korea's weather - snow, freezing winds, heat, or typhoon.

Location:
Gangnam Station (line 2, Shin Bundang Line)

7. Jamshil Station Underground
This is much like Gangnam Station.
The prices are a bit cheaper than in Gangnam, but the selection is much the same.

Which you go to depends on where you're staying.

This would be perfect if you're staying in the eastern part of Seoul.

Location:
Jamshil Station (line 2, 9)

9. Youngdeungpo Station Underground
Like the previous two underground shopping areas.
This one is also quite expansive and cheap. It's also connected to a large Lotte Department Store, Shinsegae Department Store, and Times Square shopping mall (see below).

This shopping area is perfect for you if you're staying in between Incheon and Seoul or in the western side of Seoul.

Location:
Youngdeungpo Station (line 1); Mullae Station (line 2)

9. Konguk University Area
The selection around here is not quite as high as the other university areas, but the prices are dirt cheap.
There are also plenty of places to eat.
There is also a Lotte Department store and the Star Avenue shopping center.

Location:
Konguk University (line 2, 7)

10. Garosugil
I can't believe I almost forgot about here.
I like this area, it's got a good mix of shops, cafes, and restaurants.
The quality seems to be much nicer than in a majority of the other areas.

Location:
Sinsa Station (line 3)

11. Samcheong-dong
This area is more than just cute cafes and restaurants.
I really love it, obviously.
You can buy a ton of cute little artsy accessories and more unique items.

Location:
Anguk Station (line 3)

12. Insadong
This is an area on most tourists' lists. It's one of the easiest places to buy traditional Korean souvenirs, pottery, and arts and craft.

There are also a ton of traditional (and not so traditional) tea shops and restaurants in the area.

Location:
Anguk Station (line 3)

13. Itaewon
This area is good if you have difficulties finding your size in typical Korean stores.
You can find big and tall stores and shoe stores that stock larger sizes here.

Location:
Itaewon Station (line 6)

EDIT 1/26/2016
14. Hongdae Area
This area is known as a party area in the evening, but it's a great shopping area during the day.
I can't believe I forgot it.
It's a little more expensive, but down some of the side streets, you can find more unique items.
The style skews a little more "artsy" or "hipster" than Edae's cutesy, girly style.

Shopping Malls:
1. Lotte World Mall
This one is not as busy as the others because it has been deemed "unsafe" by Koreans. It was built quite quickly and, during the construction process, sinkholes were discovered.
But, it has a ton of stores and it's not very crowded.
There is also a great mix of stores here (think luxury brands mixed with H&M).
A HUGE duty-free shop is also here. It's always crazy busy.
It also houses an aquarium and is right next to the Lotte World amusement park and ice skating rink.

Location: Jamshil Station (line 2, 9)

2. Times Square
This is in Youngdeungpo.
It has basically everything you'd want. It is quite busy on the weekend. My theory is that its location makes it ideal for people who live in Incheon.

Location: Youngdeungpo Station (line 1); Mullae Station (line 2)

3. Enter 6
This easily has to be one of the weirdest shopping malls I have ever been to. It is like they took decor cues from The Venetian casino.
There are crazy fountains, ceiling murals, and paved paths.

Location: Wangshimni Station (line 2, line 5, Bundang Line, Gyeongui Joongang Line)

4. D-Cube City
This is also a pretty recent addition.
It's in Sindorim. I like it here, but like Times Square, it gets to be quite busy for my same theoretical explanation.

Location: Sindorim Station (line 1, 2)

5. Mecenapolis (more complete information here)
For some reason this mall is just not that busy.
Compared to most of the other malls I have listed, there are not that many stores, but it has all the major ones covered.

Location: Hapjeong (line 2, 6)

6. I'Park
I Park mall in Yongsan station is a nice central location.
There are a ton of stores here that are not easy to find anywhere else.
There is also a large "toy land," making it perfect for families with young children.

My friend was drawn to it because of the Totoro store and large Gundam store. So, if you're a fan of that sort of thing, this is the place to go.
Incidentally, the Totoro store in Lotte World Mall is the second store, but it is much larger!

Location: Yongsan (line 1), Shinyongsan (line 4)

7. IFC Mall
This was one of the first "Western-style" malls in Seoul.
It's not quite as big as most of the others, but it a nice size and not overwhelming (like Lotte World Mall can be).

Location: Yeouido Station (line 5, 9).

8. COEX Mall
I am pretty sure this was THE first "Western-style" mall in Seoul. COEX got a major makeover last year! There are a ton of new stores and restaurants and it seems like it expanded, too!
It's so much brighter now and more organized. It used to be a weird mix of Korean-style and Western-style concept with an awkward food court in the middle.

You can also stop off here, like at Lotte World Mall, and check out the aquarium.

Location:
Samsung Station (line 2)

Street Markets:
1. Namdaemoon Market
This is always on every tourist's itinerary.
It's an interesting visit, that's for sure, but I personally really don't like it.
You can check out the wholesale market area and look at wholesale jewelry, accessories, and clothing.
There is also a large selection of kitchen supplies and the famous camera area.

Location: Hoehyun Station (line 4) - most easily accessed from here
You can also access it from City Hall Station (line 1, 2)

2. Gwangjang Market
Stop here for traditional Korean market fare (ie street food).
My friends like going here for the live octopus (산낙지)
The area is well known for kimbap, mung bean pancakes (info here), and yukhoe (Korean steak tartare) 

Location: Jongno-5-ga (line 1)

3. Bangsan Market
This is a very specialty market.
It's the arts and crafts market. You can literally get lost in here and find absolutely anything you need for any craft project.
There are floors and floors of fabric, yarn, beads, thread, etc.

Location:
Dongdaemoon History and Culture Park (line 2, 4, 5)
Dongdaemun Station (line 1, 4)

Food Markets:
1. Cheongryangni Fruit and Vegetable Market
This may seem strange to add on this list, but it's a sight to see.
There is also a street full of herbal medicines.

Location:
Cheongnyangni Station (line 1, Gyeongui Joongang line, Gyeongwon Line, ITX)

2. Noryangjin Fish Market
This is a major draw, too.
You can see all the seafood and fish. Choose which you want for your dinner and then take it to a restaurant and they'll prepare it for you

Location:
Noryangjin Station (line 1)

3. Garak Market
This is kind of a combination of the last two.
There is a large fruit and vegetable market AND a fish market.
The fish market is cheaper than Noryangjin.

The problem is this market is far from where most hotels are location.
It is quite convenient to Gangnam/Jamshil, so check it out if you're in the area.

Location:
Garak Market (line 9)


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