Seoul is a huge metropolis that has a good mixture of modern city life and cultural traditions. Like Japan, it is also one of the best cities for splurging your spare pocket money on shopping.

It isn’t surprising at all since Seoul is not only South Korea’s government centre, but it is also the capital of the K-Pop culture which drives the country’s fashion and beauty trends.

Planning to bring some extra shopping money in Seoul? Then we have compiled for you the best places to splurge in this bustling metropolis.

Shopping Destinations

1. Lotte Department Store – If you prefer to go to huge malls for shopping rather than in shopping streets, you will enjoy Lotte Department Store. It is South Korea’s biggest shopping mall-chain which offers almost everything there is. From designer items, clothes, beauty products, and even snacks and other goodies. Be mindful though that since this is a mall, the prices of the items could be a bit higher as compared to other shopping areas. Its main branch is located just across Myeong-dong and it has 14 floors of shopping options.

668147_image2_1

Photo by Korea Tourism Organization

Address: 81, Namdaemun-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 중구 남대문로 81 (소공동))

Access: Euljiro 1(il)-ga Station (subway line 2) exits 7, 8; City Hall Station (subway line 1) exit 6, roughly 10 min. away on foot; and Myeong-dong Station (subway line 4) exit 5, roughly 20 min. away on foot

Operating Hours: Weekdays 10:30AM -8:00PM; Weekends & public holidays 10:30AM – 8:30PM

2. Insa-dong – Located in the centre of the City, it is definitely a must-visit for travelers. If you’re looking for affordable clothes, fashion accessories, and traditional goodies (souvenirs and even home decors), this is where you could all find them. Looking for a place to also shop for street food? Insa-dong is the best place for you then. It is also located near some of Seoul’s tourist destinations like Trick Eye Museum and Tapgol Park (one of the first parks in Korea). On weekends, some alleys and streets are blocked off to vehicles during certain hours, which makes strolling more enjoyable. 

Insadong

Address: 62, Insadong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 인사동길 62 (관훈동) 일대)

Access: Subway Line 3 to Anguk Station (Exit 6) or Subway Line 1 to Jonggak Station (Exit 3)

Operating Hours: The shopping street is open 24 hours but stores may close depending on their respective schedules.

3. Ewha Womans University Shopping Street– Yep, you read it right. Various stores abound the university area. And we’re not just talking about ordinary establishments. We’re talking about shops that sell affordable goodies like bags, clothes (especially for women), and more beauty products. We got to buy an Instagram-worthy backpack for only 4000 KRW (approximately PhP 200, or USD 4).  

Ehwa-Womans-University-Shopping-Street

Not to mention, the University itself is picture-perfect and is worth visiting.

Ehwa-Womans-University

Address: 52, Ewhayeodae-gil, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 서대문구 이화여대길 52 (대현동,이화여자대학교))

Access: Line 2 (Green) to Ewha Womans University Exit 2 or 3

Operating Hours: The shopping street is open 24 hours but stores may close depending on their respective schedules.

4. Hongdae – It’s another shopping district located near a university (Hongik University). We could say that this is one of the top places to shop in Seoul. It offers almost all shopping goodies you are looking for in South Korea. Some retail stores offer their products at a much affordable rate as compared to department stores or even to Myeong-dong. The products being sold here are mostly beauty essentials and fashion items, for both men and women. Hongdae

The Hello Kitty and One Piece cafes are also located in Hongdae, but be ready to wait in line.

OnePiece-Cafe-HongDae

Address: Hongik-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 마포구 홍익로 (서교동))

Access: Hongik University Station (Seoul Subway Line 2, Gyeongui-Jungang, AREX), Exit 8 or 9. 

Operating Hours: The shopping street is open 24 hours but stores may close depending on their respective schedules.

5. Myeong-dong – The most famous shopping district in Seoul. Myeong-dong could be considered as the fashion and beauty stores capital of the City. The main street of Myeong-dong is dominated by stores offering mostly beauty products for both men and women. While in the inner streets, you could find most of the fashion brands (both local and global brands), restaurants, and even street food stalls. Note though that since it is the most popular shopping street, expect that the goods here are a bit more pricey. However, if you have limited time and could only visit one shopping district, Myeong-dong should still be on top of your list.

Myeongdong

Address: Myeongdong-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 중구 명동길 (명동1가))

Access: Euljiro 1(il)-ga Station (Seoul Subway Line 2), Exits 5, 6 & 7 or Myeong-dong Station (Seoul Subway Line 4), Exits 5, 6, 7 & 8

Operating Hours: The shopping street is open 24 hours but stores may close depending on their respective schedules.

6. Gwangjang Market – It is a bit different from other shopping destinations listed above. You could buy some traditional items in Gwangjang like silk, linen, and other fabrics. It also is known as the first permanent market in South Korea. If you’re looking for some gastronomical experience to satisfy your Korean food cravings, this is definitely one of the best places to go to.

Gwangjang-Market

Address: 88, Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 창경궁로 88 (예지)동)

Access: Jongno 5-ga Station (Seoul Subway Line 1), Exit 8 or Euljiro 4-ga Station (Seoul Subway Line 2 & 5), Exit 4.

Operating Hours: General stores 8:30AM – 6:00PM; Restaurants 8:30AM – 11:00PM; Clothing stores 9:00PM – 10:00AM (Next day). Market is closed every Sunday.

7. SM Town in Gangnam – SM Town may seem like any other malls that sell branded clothes and items, but it is, in fact, more than that. A K-pop lover knows that if you want to get a chance to see K-pop artists or at least buy some K-pop collectibles, SM Town is the place to go. It even has a cafe, the SUM Market,  that sells K-Pop albums, memorabilia, planners, etc.

SM-Town--Gangnam

Address: 06164  513, Yeongdong-daero, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea

Access: Samsung Station exits 5 and 6, line 2

Operating Hours: 11:00AM – 10:00PM

Here’s a map of all the shopping districts listed above, just zoom in and out to see the proximity of each location to each other:

Must-buys

If you don’t know what to buy, here are three types of items that you may find interesting or you may end up considering as a need-to-buy:

1. Beauty Products – South Korea is known for the world-famous beauty products. Know that their beauty essentials aren’t limited to cosmetics but, primarily, their culture puts a high value to good skin care. You may also think that skin care is only for women, but in Seoul, men also take good care of their skin quite as much as how women would. We’re no skin care experts but we find Korean products more effective and we highly recommend trying them.

2. Korean Snacks – These goodies are almost sold everywhere and are perfect as presents or for self-consumption. The Korean noodles and sweet confectionery snacks are truly delicious, and also affordable. Just make sure to buy only what could fit in your luggage. Food may be light but their packaging can be bulky.

3. K-Pop Collectibles – Fans should never miss buying a collector’s item (or two) of their favourite K-Pop stars. You could buy them almost anywhere in Seoul. However, if you’d want to buy it close to where almost all K-Pop stars were born, buy some at Gangnam’s SM Town.

Helpful tips when shopping in Seoul

1. Tax-Free Shopping – Like most countries, you can simply present your passport in government-accredited stores once you reach a minimum purchase of 30,000 KRW to avail of tax deductions. For stores not offering outright tax-free transactions, you will need to keep the receipt and claim your refund in designated kiosks at the airport. The kiosks will scan your boarding pass and the receipts, and only then can you get your tax refund. For more information, check out Visit Korea’s website.

2. Check-in all liquid items more than 100mL – This may sound basic, but when we were in Incheon International Airport, we still saw several passengers who forgot to check-in the beauty products they bought. Immigration officers needed to confiscate them since liquid items more than 100mL are not allowed to be in your carry-on bags.

3. There could be a limit to the number of items you can bring home – South Korea does not have any policy as to how many items you can bring out from their country, but your home country may regulate how many items you could bring home. Check your country’s customs policy to find out any applicable regulations.

As for the Philippine Bureau of Customs, the limits are shown below:

boc-infographic

4. Credit cards are accepted but bring enough cash  Most stores accept credit card payments. But if you are to buy from bazaars or street-side stalls, you will have to pay in cash. Using credit cards may also be more convenient but remember that you’ll be charged corresponding transaction fees for purchases made outside your country.

These shopping districts are travel destination themselves. You need not shop to enjoy your visit! They reflect how vibrant Seoul’s pop culture is and how enjoyable the bustling city experience can be.

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Posted by:Harvey Perello

A blogger, photographer, traveller and foodie.

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