Shopping Report – Seoul
Slightly south of the palace complex is the Bukchon area, which houses over 900 traditional Korean hanoks that have been converted into numerous galleries, craftsmen’s workshops, and guesthouses that offer an authentic “old school” Korean experience. Adjacent to Bukchon is Insa-dong, a labyrinthine network of side and back streets that fan out to form a large area specialising in antique wares and local artist boutiques. Widely recognised as the cultural and artistic heart of the city, Insa-dong is a shopper’s paradise of old books, historical furniture, and handmade traditional crafts. Ssamziegil is particularly wonderful to browse, its spiral-shaped space filled with quirky stores hawking a variety of unique knick knacks, including handmade soaps and scents, traditional pottery and tea sets, cat-themed merchandise, and a multitude of exotic and charming terrariums to delight any green thumb. Peppered throughout the area are a wide selection of traditional Korean cafeterias and pushcarts offering local snacks and desserts; an outstanding favourite is hotteok, a sweet dessert pancake that is a comforting concoction of hot fried dough, honey, nuts, and cinnamon. There’s even an adorable stall near the entrance of Ssamziegil that sells a poop-shaped version! Insa-dong is also famed for the fact that most, if not all, of its shop signs are written in hangul (Korean script), even Starbucks, the most perpetuated of Western exports.
For those looking to chase down the latest fashion trends (but also desire for them to come with supremely affordable price tags) the university towns of Hongdae and Sinchon are the perfect answers to your prayers. Hongdae, famed for being the centre of Seoul’s underground arts and indie scene, is a chic collection of independent lal>el stores, street fashion, and graffiti culture, often dotted by impromptu street performances by local indie rock bands and performers. Many attribute this colourful street scene to nearby Hongik Univerisity, renowned nationwide for its art programs. In fact, the Hongdae Free Market is a weekend flea that is a popular ground for student artists to showcase their talents, with stalls offering a unique range of handmade crafts, art, and vintage items at a steal.
The nearby area surrounding Ehwa Women’s University Ls famously known for its fashion street, catering to young women in their early 20s and offering an exciting crawl of shop-line streets peddling a good mix of designer and street wear. Recently erected Yes apM is easily accessible from the subway station and offers a one-stop shopping opportunity. Another popular option for visitors to the Ehwa Women’s University Fashion Street is to get their hair done – the huge concentration of salons keep prices competitive, with many impeccable options to try out new trends and hairstyles.
Just a short hour away from Seoul is Yeoju Premium Outlets, a shopaholic’s wonderland of luxury labels at 25-65% off retail price all year round. Housing 144 brands, including big names like Giorgio Armani, Bottega Veneta, Burberry, Dior, Fendi, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, and Yves Saint Laurent, this retail village is a plethora of shoes, bags, accessories, and housewares ripe for the picking. Visit the outlet’s website before heading down to snag some coupons for added discounts and special offers that you can excahange for at the outlet’s Information Centre.