There are indeed many shopping areas and districts in Seoul itself, which ranges from shopping malls of different sizes and offerings to shopping streets or roadside shopping. As we did not visit every single shopping area, we will only cover those that we have visited during our short week stay. For more details on the other places, do check it out from the Korea Tourism Organisation website HERE.
The Dongdaemun district is where our team stayed, and there is definitely valid reason for choosing this area. Dongdaemun is home to many shopping malls that operates throughout the night from about 1000 Hrs to 0400 Hrs the next day. Since the other major shopping areas like MyeongDong operates mainly in the day, it makes more sense to visit those daytime places in the day and stay near an area where there is shopping available through the night. This saves you transport costs to get back to your hotel or guesthouses in the middle of the night.
The district is very vibrant in the night where many roadside shops operates selling all kinds of items you can possibly imagine. Other then fashion, there are also stores selling popular Korean snacks that we have recommended in our previous post on food HERE. Something that was not mentioned in the previous food post is the large roasted chestnuts that is sold at one roadside stall operated by an ajusshi, which is simply delicious.
Dongdaemun has every fashion item imaginable: fabric, clothes, accessories, and wedding goods. The newest fashion trends, along with the newest fabrics, often make their debut in the market. It is home to the largest clothing suppliers in Korea, and aspiring designers also come to here to hone and test their skills. Cheap and diverse clothes attract not just fashion leaders but also the average consumer. It has become a place frequented by major Korean and international buyers as well.
The honest feedback is that there is almost nothing you cannot find in the malls in Dongdaemun, which you can find in MyeongDong. The shopping malls such as Cerestar, Migliore, Designer’s Club, and Doosan Tower offers a wide range of fashion items and attracting young people by holding frequent music and dance performances at night.
Doosan Tower or Doota is a modern mall that offers many well known brand name products that you will be familiar with, and also houses many fashionable products from young designers. There is also a food court at the upper levels that serves a variety of Korean food at very reasonable prices, and the JajangMyun is delicious.
This area is very different from Dongdaemun as there are not much shopping malls to flaunt about. However, it features many shopping streets with boutiques of many major brand items from around the world. So in terms of comparison, the shopping streets are comparable to those you find in European countries. For our team, it is not an area we will actually recommend for shopping if you do not have deep pockets to dig into. The only reason why you should be visiting this area is simply because this district is home to many agencies like SM Entertainment, Cube Entertainment, and many others. Be prepared to spend some time “camping” outside the agencies before you might get a chance to meet your favourite idols.
COEX is generically the exhibition and convention centre in Seoul, but is home to the COEX mall, which is the largest underground complex in Asia. In comparison, it is of a similar concept to the Suntec City Mall in Singapore, which is also home to a convention and exhibition centre and a major mall. Many will probably be surprised, but so much for the strong Hallyu and entertainment industry in Korea, it is not easy to find CD shops where you can grab your favourite Korean albums. However, you will be able to find one in COEX mall with many other retail mix like a huge stationary shop, restaurants, a cinema, an aquarium and also some duty free shopping and even a casino nearby.
With a mall in such a large scale, it can be pretty challenging to navigate yourself around the mall. Therefore, be prepared to spend some time finding your way around the area.
MyeongDong is a place that needs no further recommendations from us. It is not a shopping mall infested place, but is an area with many shopping streets with shops and boutiques lining both sides of the streets. Before you start, do try and head to the tourist booth to get yourself a map of the area, which will show you exactly where each shop is located. You can find almost every brand of skincare and cosmetics like Etude House, Skinfood, The Face Shop, Tony Moly, Innisfree and many others. Skincare and cosmetic products are generally much cheaper in Korea than when they are available in your home country (if not Korea). For Hallyu fans, you should also keep a lookout for unique limited edition gifts given out by these shops for purchase up to a certain amount. These items can be posters of your idols who are brand ambassadors for that skincare and cosmetics brand or catalogues and many others. When you make purchases at these shops, they will also almost definitely throw in bundles of samples for you to bring home with.
Apart from skincare and cosmetics, some sports brands’ products also seem to be a good buy. Even if the pricing is only competitive, the larger variety in terms of designs makes it worth every single cent. Sneakers is one of the favourites if you are into more fashionable designs, as there are many on offer from various brands. You will also be able to find idol look products from the brands of BSX, SPAO, Colonize and many more. Apart from the shopping streets, you will be able to find a Lotte Young Plaza and a Lotte Departmental store across the road. Lotte Young Plaza is a small mall that has many younger brands targetted for the younger crowd. However, it can get slightly crowded, which somehow affects the shopping experience.
Lastly, a major highlight to this area is the SPAO building, which also houses a Karaoke in the name of “Everysing”. The entire offering of SPAO and Everysing is by SM Entertainment, so you will notice that all the promotional posters consists of SM Entertainment artistes like Super Junior and Girls’ Generation. The SPAO store has many in trend items on offer at great prices, but do not expect superb quality for the prices you are paying. The concept of the store is probably similar to that of UNIQLO of Japan and Giordano or Hong Kong.
The upper level has a store that sells various products of SM Entertainment artistes, which ranges from small card holders to large posters. So Super Junior, Girls’ Generation, f(x), SHINee and TRAX fans should pay this place a visit to see if you can grab some official products home.
This brings us closer to the end of our entire coverage of travelling Free & Easy to Korea. Do leave us many comments and we will be glad to answer and questions you may have for us, as we continue to plan our next trip there as well.