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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.

Key areas

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.

Markets

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.

Shopping centres

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.

Opening hours

Seoul is a shop-around-the-clock city. Most shops open until 2200, most night markets until midnight, and some are open 24 hours.

Souvenirs

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.

Tax information

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.

Featured Hotels

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The Shilla

Celebrities, royalty and heads of state have stayed at The Shilla, which is set in 9 hectares (23 acres) of woodland yet known for its state-of-the-art technology. Modern public areas belie traditionally furnished rooms. The restaurant, La Yeon, has three Michelin stars - the first restaurant to receive such an accolade.

Fraser Place Central Seoul

A luxury home-from-home is offered by these serviced 'residences' in Seoul, from studios to three-bed and penthouse apartments. Relaxation is further aided by the attractive leisure facilities - a large pool, steam and sauna rooms and peaceful atrium garden.

K-POP Hotel Seoul Station

Only a short walk from Seoul Station, this hotel ticks all the boxes when it comes to a central location and low price. The rooms are tiny, it's true, but they are light and modern and offer underfloor heating, minifridges and flat-screen TVs. There's also a lounge area, a basement cafe and rooftop terrace. Laundry facilities don't include dryers, though.

Ibis Seoul Ambassador Gangnam

A good value mid-range hotel in Seoul with smart facilities in a central location. Amenities include a restaurant, a rooftop garden and underground parking, plus there's a sauna and fitness room. The COEX convention centre and shopping mall are nearby.

Lotte Hotel Seoul

The refurbished wing of this huge super-deluxe hotel in Seoul is a good bet for those who want to stay in the heart of the city and close to shopping areas – there's even a large duty-free store on site. A good choice of dining includes French and Italian restaurants. A personal trainer and sports lab analysis are available in the fitness centre.

Grand Ambassador Seoul

This good, centrally located deluxe business hotel offers great views over the Seoul cityscape. There's easy access to the main markets and historic palaces, and facilities include six bars and restaurants plus a health centre with hydrotherapy pool.