Seoul is a shopping paradise for all kinds of things e.g. skincare products, cosmetics, fashionable clothes, shoes – yup all the things you see the actresses and actors wear and carry in those Korean drama – Seoul is the place to get them all. So many things to buy and so many places to see in Seoul but where exactly to find them all – I will share with you top 4 shopping areas in Seoul in this blog post.
Myeong-dong (명동) is one of the primary shopping districts in Seoul. The two main drags meet in the center of the block with one beginning from Myeong-dong Subway Station (Seoul Subway Line No. 4) and the other from Lotte Department Store at Euljiro. Many brand name shops and department stores line the streets and alleys. Common products for sale include clothes, shoes, and accessories. Unlike Namdaemun or Dongdaemun, many designer brands are sold in Myeong-dong. In addition, several major department stores include Lotte Department Store, Shinsegae Department Store, Myeong-dong Migliore, Noon Square and M Plaza. The department stores carry many premium labels and other fashionable goods at reasonable prices.
The number one thing that my friends ask me to buy when I told them I am going to Seoul for holiday is all the skincare products that they are using. You can buy these skincare products in Seoul with a cheaper price. It is impossible to miss out any of these skincare product shops in Myeongdong because there are just so many of them – not just in terms of variety. Duplication of shops of the same brand within Myeongdong – you can walk a few steps and you will reach another branch just a few metres away from another branch. Do not buy your skincare products anywhere else in Seoul or in fact Korea – if you have to buy cosmetic/skincare products, buy them all here in Myeongdong. Because you get free samples when you buy at any of the cosmetic brand.
Myeongdong is not just about skincare products – there are many other shops selling fashionable clothes, belts, watches, ties, T-shirts and shoes at the makeshift street stalls as well as in shopping malls in the area.
Dongdaemun is Korea’s largest wholesale and retail shopping district featuring 26 shopping malls, 30,000 specialty shops, and 50,000 manufacturers. If you look hard enough (and understand a fair bit of Korean), you can find almost anything here from silks and fabric, clothes, shoes and accessories, electronics, leather goods, sporting goods, office supplies, pet products and toys.
Dongdaemun shopping district is made up of 2 main sections – the retail shopping and the wholesale shopping areas. The best time to visit Dongdaemun is after 10pm when the night markets around Dongdaemun is set-up and you get complementary street food stalls to replenish your energy while you shop. There are also underground shopping malls all around this Dongdaemun shopping district.
The Dongdaemun wholesale shopping section comprises smaller malls where the shopkeepers deal mainly in wholesale and retail, but mainly sell in bulk. These wholesalers are usually open at about 8 pm and close at 5 am the next day – they get quite busy late at night through early morning as the shop owners from the retail shopping district of Dongdaemun and other parts of Seoul come here to stock-up.
Don’t expect dressing rooms to try out the clothes since they deal mainly with wholesale purchases. Refunds and exchanges are not guaranteed, so make sure to check the quality and size carefully.
Younger shoppers usually shop at Designer’s Club, Migliore Valley, Nuzzon and Gwanghee Fashion Mall, while middle-aged shoppers tend to prefer shopping at Jeil Pyeonghwa, and Heungin Stardom.
Hongdae – Shopping Around Hongik University
One of the most popular shopping area around universities in Seoul is Hongdae. Hongdae (Hangul: 홍대) is an abbreviation of Hongik Daehakgyo, the Hongik University (홍익대학교). The term ‘hongdae’ is usually used in regards to the Hongik University.
Here at Hongdae, you can expect many shops to sell a variety of goods such as fashion items, accessories, stationery supplies, furniture. Since this is a university town, the clothes here are quite affordable – prices usually start at 10,000 won and up for most items. But the highlight had to be the sale of unique fashion or arts associated with Korean street culture, influenced by Hongik University known nationwide for its arts programmes. Hongdae is the center of Korea’s youth culture and is well-known for its bustling club scene so if you like to “chiong”, this is also the place to be. The whole area starts to open up around 1pm – if you go before lunchtime, most of the shops are closed.
Every weekend from March to November, Hongdae hosts flea markets of a unique nature. On Saturdays, the Hongdae Free Market is held from 2pm to 6pm around the Hongdae playground in front of the main entrance to Hongik University. At this art market, young artists get the opportunity to show their handmade work or performances. Some of the items on display include hats, shoes and t-shirts painted with interesting characters, ceramic accessories, dolls made from wire, diaries with handmade covers and many more.
There are also free concerts from 2pm to 5pm. Various genres of artists transform the corner of the market into an open stage for music, dance, performance art etc, and the crowd is as wildly enthusiastic as any audience at a big concert. After the performances, some musicians sell their home-recorded CDs.
On Sundays, the Hongdae Hope Market is held from 2pm to 6pm at the same place as the Free Market. The Hope Market shares the same ideals as the Free Market, as an art marketplace for innovative artists.
Getting to Hongdae Shopping Area is easy – take Line 2 Green subway to Hongik University station – take exit 9 and walk towards the pedestrian friendly street as shown in the map below. The first part of this pedestrian friendly street comprises pubs and restaurants. As you walk towards the tourist info (marked by TIC in the map), you will reach the Hongdae shopping area on the opposite side of the road.
Ewha– Shopping Around Ewha Women’s University
The Ewha shopping area is located right in front of the Ewha Women’s University – enough said, this has to be the best place to shop for young women’s fashion. The prices are also very cheap compared to shopping at other parts of Seoul since it is targeted at students.
The area around Ewha Women’s University is commonly referred to as Ewha Women’s University Fashion Street. Here, you will find a number of stalls lining the streets selling fashion items, such as clothing, shoes and accessories, for young women.
Getting to Ewha Shopping Area is easy – take Line 2 Green subway to Ewha Women’s University station – take exit 2, referring to the map below, if you are in a rush for time – skip the “Main Shopping Street” labelled in the map, the best place to go to for shopping is labelled “Casual Clothes and Shoes Shopping Street”. You find a lot more variety and affordable shopping at this street compared to the main street. If you see an area like the picture above, then you are in the right place – this is also the most crowded area of Ewha.
If you are travelling in a group of 3-4 and is shopping around Hongdae, I recommend that you take a taxi from Hongdae to Ewha – it will cost about 3800 Korean won for the ride. Considering a single trip ticket for the subway cost a minimum of 1150 Korean won, you will achieve some savings and get to Ewha faster!
After shopping at Ewha, if you still have time – check out the Ewha Women’s University grounds too – it is quite beautiful.