Shopping in Seoul
Seoul is a shopper's paradise, offering everything from night markets to designer stores, sunglasses to electronic goods. True standouts in the city include the endless array of cosmetics shops, fashion boutiques and accessory stalls that sell everything from jewellery to charms for mobile phones.
Myeong-dong is the main shopping district in Seoul. It has large shopping centres, the original Lotte department store and side streets stuffed with stalls. The traditional Namdaemun Market is also located just across the street. Scruffier Itaewon is the place to get a tailored suit. Apgujeong's Rodeo Street in Gangnam-gu is the leading fashion mecca, stuffed with international designer boutiques, beauty clinics and poodle parlours, whereas the characterful Insa-dong has traditional arts and crafts, clothing and antiques. Amateur designers and artists ply their wares on Saturdays around Hongik University.
Namdaemun Market, at 49 Namchang-dong, is Korea's oldest, selling everything from silkworm snacks to jewellery and leather goods. For trendy and traditional clothing, try Dongdaemun Market, at 266 Jongno-6 ga, has 20 shopping malls (fashion segmented by floors), 30,000 stores and some 50,000 wholesalers. For photogenic browsing, check out the herbal medicine stalls of Gyeongdong Market at 1036 Jegi-dong.
Popular COEX Mall, at 159 Samseong-dong, sits under the World Trade Centre and incorporates entertainment and attractions, including an aquarium. Large electronics retailer Techno Sky City is among stores at Sky City (712-1 Banghwa-dong), while there are over 100 clothing and accessory outlets at World Cup Mall at Mapo-gu, Sangam-dong. One of Asia’s biggest shopping malls, I’Park, is in the electronics district of Yongsan at 55 Hangang-daero 23-gil.
Seoul is a shop-around-the-clock city. Most shops open until 2200, most night markets until midnight, and some are open 24 hours.
Traditional items like shamanistic masks, intricate paper fans and tableware sets are popular souvenirs and can be found in many tourist-frequented shopping centres, including Insa-dong and Itaewon. A personalised dojang (a stamp seal) makes a long-lasting memento, while foodies will appreciate a gift set of kimchi (a spicy fermented vegetable dish) or Korean ginseng.
Visitors can claim back most VAT and SET (Special Excise Tax) on purchases over a certain amount made at participating retailers. Look out for VAT Refund Check or Korea Refund Check signs.