Seoul shopping or shopping for the soul! If you intend to shop till you drop, welcome to Korea! Korea has a range of products from cosmetics to cheap clothes and designer style. There’s everything for everyone, including guys. Yes, I understand and know how often guys go unnoticed when it comes to fashion. Fret not, welcome to Korea.
Like I said, there are many types of shopping. Since this is the one and only shopping guide you need in Seoul, I’m going to split them up into these: wholesale shopping, cosmetics shopping, traditional Korean shopping, weekend shopping, ladies market and luxury shopping.
Dongdaemon is the largest wholesale and retail shopping area in Korea. They have many little invidiual shops selling Korean and Japanese style fashion. Occasionally, you can also find European/Western styles too. There are a total of 26 shopping malls in the Dongdaemon area. From fabric to accessories parts, clothes and shoes, electronics, leather goods and sporting goods, you can find everything and anything you want here!
Related article: Shopping Guide in Bangkok
The unique thing about Dongdaemon is that they operate as a retail shop in the morning and once it reaches 8pm, they convert to wholesalers. They mainly sell to customers in bulk and prefer speaking with shop owners, not individual. They totally ignored me when I was there because their main target groups are the business owners in Taiwan, China, Thailand and Singapore. There are also no changing rooms because it’s wholesale after all. Do check for your products before leaving as there is no refund or exchange policy there.
Shopping Malls to HAVE to hit in Dongdaemon:
Do not worry! These shops are all beside one another. They also have huge neon signs with their shop names.
#TrevellersTip 1: Before leaving for Korea, do download the “Simple Korean Handbook for Shopping”. You will find some really helpful tips and phrases that can make your shopping much easier!
- Designer’s Club (The most popular mall)
- Migliore Valley
- Gwanghee Fashion Mall
- Hello APM
#TrevellersTip 2: Do check your clothes if they are made in Korea or China! The ones made in Korea generally have a better quality. If it is made in China, you know you can negotiate for even lower price.
Timing: 10am – 5am (Wholesalers open from 9pm – 5am)
Things to buy: Wholesale and retail shopping, accessories and fabic, bags, shoes
Nearest Subway Station:
Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station (Line 2, 4, 5, Exit 14)
Dongdaemun Station (line 1, 4, Exit 8,9)
#TrevellersTip 3: Most Important Wear comfortable footwear. I wore heels and accidentally shopped for 4 hours. I could barely feel my feet at the end of the day.
Cosmetic and Make Up Shopping
Top 3 brands of cosmetics to purchase in Korea:
- Etude House
The skincare products in Seoul are extremely cheap. You get tons of free gifts, samples and the best part, buy 50 facial masks and get 50 facial masks for free!
Where to Buy Cosmetics? Myeongdong is the answer!
Most of the brands are there and it’s extremely fun to pop into the shops because sometimes, you get a free mask for just entering! It is always extremely crowded so be prepared to queue for a long time.
#Trevellers Tip 4: Check out the Korea Tourism for the latest discounts! Simply download and print the coupon or coupon book before leaving for Korea and use them when you can!
Also, Korea is very tourist friendly. Simply spend more than 30,000 won (S$ 37 or US$ 26) in a shop to be eligible for the tax refund! It is really easy to chalk up to 30,000 won of cosmetics, trust me. Not only is Myeongdong great for cosmetics, there are large international stores and brands. There is also the Lotte Department store with duty free shopping!
Timing: 9am – 9pm
Things to buy: Cosmetics, apparels
Nearest Subway Station:
Myeongdong Station (Line 4, Exit 6)
Euljiro-1-Ga Station (Line 2, Exit 6)
Traditional Korean Shopping
Traditional Korean culture would include a Hanok, crafts and food.
Namdaemon is a street market with lots of food options. It has a few popular and good food places like Korean buns and street side snacks. Basically everywhere with people are filled with good street food.
If you want to taste the traditional food of Korea made by the experienced hands of the old Koreans, then you should visit Namdaemon. These people have been making the food for the past 50 years and there’s nothing but the true authentic traditional taste. It’s one of the most popular foods with endless queue is the Korean bun.
The most popular souvenirs are wallets, pencil cases and key chains, handcrafted by the experts. These items are great souvenirs as they represent Korea with the small little Korean dolls.
Gyeong Bok Goong is just nearby. It is the main palace of the Korean kings in the past. If you are a foreigner, simply pay the minimum entrance fee and you can explore the whole palace. Also, get to experience the life of Koreans centuries ago as you can rent the Hanbook (Traditional Korean Costume) there too.
Timing: 11am – 5pm, closed on Sundays
Things to buy: Ginseng, winter sports gear, Ladies’ wear, fine arts
Nearest Subway Station: Hoehyeon Station (Line 4, Exit 5)
If you are looking for a traditional low-budget shopping, you have to see the Gwangjang Markek in central Jongno neighborhood. It is known as the “bridal market” and there are many housewares, traditional hanbok and accessories. It’s called the bridal market because the brides are suppose to manage the furnishings inside the house. Be prepared to bargain and negotiate a lot. Also, the hanboks here are much cheaper as it is less of a tourist-y area. (pic credit)
#TrevellersTip 5: Bring cash as the shops do not accept credit cards
Area: Gwangjang Market
Timing: 9am – 6pm, closed on Sundays
Things to buy: Traditional souvenirs
Nearest Subway Station:
Jongno 5-ga Station (Line 1, Exit 8)
Euljiro 4-ga Station (Line 2 & 5, Exit 4)
Weekend markets are popular everywhere. You can find the best and most unique products at a great discount.
Weekend Market: Hongdae Weekend Market
Timing: Saturdays & Sundays, 2pm – 6pm
Area: Hongdae playground in front of the main entrance to Hongik University
Things to note: handmade work, young artists, clothes, accessories
Nearest Subway Station:
Hongik University Station (Line 2, Exit 9)
Hapjeong Station (Line 2, Exit 3)
Sangsu Station (Line 6, Exit 1 or 2)
Korea is a heaven for the ladies. Ewha and Edae are not only youth areas, but also where the shopping district is!
You’ve probably heard of it because of “Ewha Women’s University”. The area is the best place for ladies to shop! Because of the presence of so many shops and the fact that they are mainly selling to students, the items are all very cheap. The area near the university is Ewha Women’s University Fashion Street. You can find anything from clothing to shoes and accessories for ladies.
Shopping Area: Ewha Women’s University Fashion Street
Timing: Opens everyday from 10am
Area: In front of Ewha Women’s University
Things to buy: Ladies fashion
Nearest Subway Station: Ehwa Women’s University Station (Line 2, Exit 1, 2 or 3)
With all the cheap shopping everywhere, does it mean that it’s impossible to find great brands? Fret not, Seoul houses many rich and famous people. One of my favourite areas would be Gangnam. Taking a drive down the streets is just beautiful. All of the buildings are brilliantly designed.
Related article: Shopping Guide in Hong Kong
Apgujeong Rodeo Shopping Street
One of the richest areas in Seoul is Apgujeong. This is where you will find all of your Louis Vuitton, Prada and Chanel. Galleria Department Store is also the main department store to find all of your high end products.
The Apgujeong Rodeo Street is where you should be. It is the fashion city with the latest fashion trends, tourist-friendly services and high-quality branded goods everywhere. Not only so, the unique interior design and architecture does make everything feel more sophisticated! If you are lucky, you may meet Korean celebrities too!
Shopping Area: Apgujeong
Nearest Subway Station: Apgujeong Rodeo Station (Bundang Line)
Gangnam is popular thanks to PSY’s Gangnam style, but it’s actually a high-end sophisticated area in Seoul. Louis Vuitton lines the streets and you will see plastic surgeon clinics and advertisements everywhere! (pic credit)
Be prepared for fancy stilettoes, luxury brands and labels everywhere. This is THE place to give your wallet a good diet. You can find all the top fashion brands here, as Koreans are luxury lovers.
Another place to check out is Shinsegae. They are a fancy department store with top brands like Michael Kors and Dolce & Gabbana. Think Lane Crawford in Hong Kong or Barney’s in New York. Bonus: you get tax refunds for purchases of KRW 30,000 and above!
Departmental Store: Shinsegae, Gangnam
Timing: 10.30am to 8pm, closed on 1 Monday a month (day varies)
Nearest Subway Station:
Express Bus Terminal Station (Line 3, 7 & 9)
Note: Remember Dongdaemon? In that area, there is this shopping mall called Doota, which sells local designer brands. The designs are unique and one of a kind!
Have fun shopping in Seoul! Do comment and share other of your favourite shopping places. Unless otherwise stated, all pictures are credited to Valentin Q.
Trevellers is my way to change the world. Through my stories, tips and lessons learnt, I truly hope to inspire you to get out of your comfort zone, see the world and see who you truly are. Travel is more than just taking a selfie at beautiful destinations. Travel is an adventure, where you can truly become who you are, give you the time to reflect and grow to become the person you’ve always dreamt of.