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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Top 4 Places to Shop in Seoul | Korea Travelogue

Seoul is the capital of South Korea, and it is definitely the place to be if you are interested in all things Kpop and Kbeauty. I have fallen head over heels in love with Seoul since the first time I visited 2 years back and every year, I make at least one trip back to shop and to eat. Seoul is definitely a shopper's paradise when it comes to fashion, beauty, accessories, even lifestyle items. 

Many Korean beauty brands have made it to the world stage and some famous ones are definitely Laneige, Amore Pacific, Sulwhasoo, The Face Shop, Innisfree and Etude House. There are so many Korean brands focused on makeup and skin care that you will probably have to do good research before heading there if not you'll be swamped with the sheer amount of products available to you at very affordable prices. 

I have been to Seoul 4 times in the past 2 years and all 4 times, I find myself gravitating to the same few places to shop because they never disappoint. Since many of my friends have been asking me where to go to shop in Seoul, I thought I would compile a list of my top 4 places to shop. 

You may or may not agree with me as to where are the best places to shop in Seoul but these are just the places that worked for me. So if you only have a few days to spend in Seoul and you want to do some hard core shopping, then please carry on reading.

Before I kick start this post proper, I would like to point out that if you're looking to buy quite a few items from any beauty brand, try to hit at least 30,000 KRW per receipt because then you qualify for a tax refund. The amount you actually get refunded may seem little but if you're doing a helluva shopping than every little bit you save adds up to a lot of money at the end.

Hongdae/Hongik University

Nearest Subway Station: Hongik University Station (Exit 9)

The first place I always recommend to people is definitely Hongdae. It is literally the place to be. It's easy to get to because both Line 2 and the AREX stops at this station, being situated near a university means that the shops open till late, the clothes are fashionable and reasonably priced, many beauty brands have at least one outlet there, there are loads of pubs and drinking places available and there is always something to do no matter what time you're here.

I always recommend my friends who are coming to Korea for the first time to find a guesthouse in Hongdae because accommodation is readily available and reasonably priced to boot. Hongdae is also very easy to get to from the airport (take the AREX directly to Hongik University Station) and Hongdae is also a convenient starting point to get to anywhere else from.

Most food outlets and shopping places open in the afternoon and stay open till about 11pm (later on weekends I believe) and you will be spoilt for choice there. There are all the usual beauty places like Innisfree, Face Shop, The Saem, Aritaum, Missha, Etude House, and VDL all within walking distance from the main shopping area. There are also international fashion brands available like F21, Bershka, H&M, Nike, New Balance and more localised fashion brands like SPAO all available in Hongdae. Needless to say there are also a whole bunch of local shops selling fashion pieces any where from 5,000 to 25,000 KRW and you can get shoes, socks, tops, bottoms, bags, accessories and caps easily. Also, the Stylenanda flagship store is located in Hongdae so you can get your fashion fix and even makeup fix (3CE) there as well.

If you stay in Hongdae till later in the night (maybe 8pm onwards), you'll be treated to many buskers in the area as well. A lot of young people turn up with their crew and they dance and sing the night away.

Must visit places in Hongdae: Isaac Toast, Bonjuk, Thanks Nature Cafe, O'Sulloc, Yeolbong Jjimdak, Bau House, Trick Eye Museum, Stylenanda

Express Bus Terminal

Nearest Subway Station: Express Bus Terminal Station (Exit 8)

Rain or shine, this shopping haven is the place to be. What makes the Express Bus Terminal an amazing place to shop is that it is located underground which means that regardless of the weather, or the temperature outside, this place makes shopping a very comfortable affair because you get to hide away from the heat (or cold). 

Whenever I am in Korea, I allocate a full day just to this maze of shops because it is huge. There are two main "streets" there, with shops on both sides so what I recommend is sticking to one of the streets, walk to the end then head over to the other street, walk to the other end, then finish up the first street so you end up at the station again. Does this make any sense? I hope it does.

Here, you can find extremely affordable fashion items, most being around 5,000 KRW - 10,000 KRW but of course item prices go up from there for the more designer items. There are so. many. shops there that I have never managed to visit every single one of them, ever. It gets pretty crowded during the evening time and weekends so try to head there on a weekday if you want to avoid the peak hour crowd. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes because you're going to be doing a lot of walking and bring a huge bag if you don't want to walk around carrying tons of plastic bags. (Also, this is more environmentally friendly.)

While mainly female fashion items are sold here (read: clothes, shoes, bags & accessories), you can also find some male fashion items as well. There are homeware stuff towards the ends of the streets (blankets, bed sheets, plates, fake flowers...) and also there are a few shops selling beauty items but not many (I think there's an Aritaum, Face Shop, Missha and Innisfree there).

If you're looking to spend a full day here, you don't have to worry about food because there are eateries towards the end where you can find food to fill your tummy and coffee to fuel your shopping spree. There are also tables with seats you can rest at when you get tired.


Nearest Subway Station: Myeong-dong Station (Exit 6) / Euljiro 1-ga Station (Exit 6)

When you think about shopping in Singapore, the first place you'll think of is probably Orchard Road. Now, Myeongdong is the Orchard Road of Seoul. Google the top place to shop in Seoul and I guarantee you Myeongdong is on every single list, and with good reason. Myeongdong is chock full of beauty brands, and you can find every single beauty brand in Seoul here. Many of the beauty brands have multiple outlets within a 100m radius and it will be really hard to avoid seeing the same brands repeatedly no matter which street you walk on. 

Shopping in Myeongdong is great because if one outlet has run out of a particular product you're looking for, no problem, just hop over to the next one. Also, shopping here has its perks because beauty brands always give tons of free samples when you purchase anything in the shop. Of course, the more you purchase, the more samples you get. 

A note of caution though, Myeongdong gets insanely crowded with shoulder-to-shoulder human traffic so if that isn't your scene then either get here earlier in the day before the working and schooling crowd gets here or avoid Myeongdong altogether. I actually do not do any shopping in Myeongdong because I don't like pushy sales people (the sales people here are more pushy than any where else in Seoul) and I have actually seen sales people physically pulling people into shops before. The only reason why I head to Myeongdong these days is either to buy a particular product that is OOS (out of stock) in other outlets, to eat (there's really good food here in Myeongdong especially the gamjatang and Myeongdong Gyoja) or to head to Aland and Olive Young to shop.

Must visit places in Myeongdong: Myeongdong Gyoja, N Seoul Tower, Onedang Gamjatang, O'Sulloc, Andong Jjimdak, Miss Lee Cafe

Edae/Ewha Womans University Shopping Street

Nearest Subway Station: Ewha Womans University Station (Exit 2)

Similar to Hongdae, Edae is located in front of Ewha Womans University and caters to young women's fashion needs. Cheap clothing? Bags? Cute socks? Shoes? Check, check, check and check. Prices here are very similar to what you can find in Hongdae as well. The shopping street here isn't as big as Edae but if you walk up to Sinchon, you can find more shopping there as well.

There are tons of food places around Edae because once again, it is outside a university and students get sick of university food sooner or later. There are a lot of street food here as well so if you aren't interested in having a sit down meal, you can always go ahead and make a meal out of all the street food available.

Also, like any where in Seoul, there are many beauty brands available so if you're looking to do beauty shopping then you can head here as well.

If you're sick of shopping at this point, be sure to head to the university to take a look because it is beautiful. You'll see many tourists wandering in and part of the grounds is open to public so head in there to take a break from all the shopping.

Must visit places in Edae: Angel-in-us Coffee, Homilbat Patbingsu, Palsaik Samgyupsal Sinchon Main, Nene Fried Chicken, 

Whew, this post is finally done and I hope this helps anyone looking to go to Seoul for some shopping. If you have any questions, do leave a comment below and I'll try my best to answer them. Do click the "Korea" label to the right if you want to read more posts on Korea and check out my YouTube channel if you want to see my vlogs when I was in Korea. Thank you so much for reading! x

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