Shopping in South Korea is nothing less than a celebration. From mega shopping malls to exhilarating shopping districts, the diversity in Korean design is astonishing, as are the multitude of markets selling fabrics, handicrafts and haberdashery. Travellers find everything connected to traditional Korean style, from antiques to Hanboks, vintage fashion to cultural crafts and amazing concept stores to sumptuous street food.If you love shopping, Korea has a lot on offer. So, let’s get sucked into the madness that Korea offers by exploring the top 10 shopping destinations in Korea.
Dongdaemun market is one of the biggest haberdashery and fabric markets that you’ve ever had the joy to visit. There are more than 50,000 manufacturers selling wholesale clothing, fabric, trimming and unique fashion items. The maze-like mini-metropolis is extended over two buildings and six floors. Always remember to spare plenty of time to find the best deals in this cave-of-wonders. The crowd here is diverse; get ready to bustle your way through jostling fashionistas, busy business men and savvy old women, searching for a bargain. Keep in mind that you can expect to pay 20% less than the original asking price. There’s a contemporary and clean food market on the 6th floor – visit there when hunger strikes. It is better if you gain some knowledge about what you’re looking for before you step in.
Myeongdong shopping street is primarily known for cosmetics and skin care. The shopkeepers would lure you into their stores with free face masks. Make the most of the pampering whilst you’re in the midst of the cult of beauty that has taken a hold of Seoul. Huge advertisements for cosmetic surgery decorate the streets, majorly targeted at young girls. And everyone is, well, quite ‘perfect’ looking. Lots of new beauty products are found here and you’ll be offered to try (and buy) the latest products in cosmetic domain. Myeongdong is, certainly, one of the least favourite shopping areas but it’s still well worth a visit. Not least for the street food; try the Korean dumplings and/or the ginseng soup.
Insa-dong Street is one of the most widely visited attractions in Seoul and signifies the main centre of Korean traditional culture and crafts. Stores in Insa-dong specialize in a wide range of goods that can only be purchased or appreciated in Korea: hanbok (traditional clothing), hanji (traditional paper), traditional teas, pottery, and folk crafts. With such a variety on offer, one is really bound to be spoilt for choice here. On Sundays the street turns pedestrian-only and is filled with street performers, buskers and the lively crowds of young and old rushing to enjoy one of Seoul’s most exciting and creative neighbourhoods.
Hongdae is a vibrant shopping hub where one can browse through numerous shopping streets that are perfect for fashionable youths, restaurants and cafes for hangouts with friends, street art and even live performances by tomorrow's rising stars! The area is named after the nearby Hongik University (Hongik Daehakgyo), one of the most reputed fine arts universities in Korea. The area is primarily known for its infinite options of music and dance clubs that are visited everyday by thousands of university students from Seoul and other international visitors looking to dance and party.
There is a little chance that you don’t know the much-popular Gangnam style. Well, there is a dedicated Gangnam district where you will find Garosu-gil in Sinsa-dong a home to some of the cool, classy Korean designers and concept stores. Garosu-gil is a European-esque promenade with leading designer labels and the starting point for a shopping spree in Sinsa. Even if the garments are way above your budget, it’s still worth visiting to marvel at the vision that’s behind the boutiques that litter the district. And to see the fashionistas that frequent the gingko lined streets, waiting to be snapped for blogs or style magazines. There are more affordable vintage shops in the area too; the recommend one is 9 Owls which specialises in 70s and 80s wares and has a huge collection of vintage Chanel bags.
Taking up a total of 5300 square meters in land space, Common Ground is regarded as South Korea’s first pop-up shopping district featuring 200 shipping containers used as retail stores. Here cargo containers are transformed into regular brick-and-mortar shops that look simple amazing. It is best to explore latest designs and unique items here that closely related with Korea’s rich youth culture. If you live and breathe fashion and lifestyle, this is the place you must visit.
The departmental store has got its name registered in the Guinness World Records as the largest shopping complex in the world. It is comprised of two wings, which are connected on every level to facilitate shopping, has a floor area of 509,810 sq. meters (5,487,594.84 sq. ft.), setting the world record. Built on the former Busan airport site, Shinsegae Centum City is comprised of 14 floors above ground and four below ground. It cost 1.025 trillion won (USD 1.09 billion) to build. Based on the concept of a “golden sea”, this gigantic building is made by Italian architect Claudio Silvestrin and an American architecture and design firm Callison.
If you’re looking to buy vintage wears, artsy antiques, and mouth-watering street food, Gwangjang Market is the place where you should be. It has been there since 1905 and regarded as the oldest continually functioning market in South Korea. The vibe is Asian antique-charm meets street style chic. You can shop for early 20th century parasols and classic 80s trainers under one roof, with a soundtrack of funky house and old school classics playing on the speakers in the background. On bargain front, this market is a heaven. One can easily find the best price deals on fabric stalls filled with awesome stuff. The vintage market on the second floor may be hard to locate, but ask the swaths of effortlessly cool-looking teens and you’ll be in the right direction. There’s a great collection here, with most of the clothes coming from Asia and Europe. When you’re ready, move to the street food section to taste Mayak Gimbop.
Lotte Mart and E-mart are Korea’s leading discount stores where you can find everyday essentials, clothes, and lots of SNACKS! The most popular and easily accessible outlet of Lotte Mart for most tourists is the Seoul Station Branch whereas Yongsan Branch of E-Mart is easily accessible. You can buy high-quality goods - groceries, processed food, household goods, clothes and fashion accessories, electronics, toys, cosmetics, and more - at the lowest prices with excellent service. Don’t forget to visit tea section at E-mart where you can get amazing Korean citron tea.
Widely regarded as Busan’s largest traditional market, Gukje Market is known to have long historical backdrop. Started during the Korean War in 1950 for war refugees to seek living space, it soon grew up into a large, busy market. You can find almost anything in this market as it offers several goods from electronic items, home appliances, clothing, fruit, fish and vegetables. For those who love to bargain, Gukje market is nothing less than a paradise. The Market is located near several other tourist attractions in Busan: the Bupyeong Market, Jagalchi Market, and Nampo-dong.
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