Insadong is the predictable tourist souvenir shopping spot. Don’t be distracted and head a bit further north and you’ll find an area full of tiny boutiques, small museums, galleries and classic hanok houses with wooden beams and curved tile roofs. First, make a pit stop to see the ceramics at Yido and KwangJuYo, both of which sell traditionally-inspired ceramics. Then cut westward to the commercial area of Samcheongdong where you’ll find shopping in spades (navigate the hills of the Bukchon Hanok Village for beautiful views, or take the easy way through on the main roads). Some shops worth visiting include Sogno for their delicate, ladylike jewelry (with semi-precious stones in one shop and precious stones in their adjacent shop); the beautiful packaged all-natural soaps at LYA Nature, by Korean mega-celebrity Lee Young Ae; and the workshop of modern hanbok designer Tchai Kim, whose clothing and bags are inspired by traditional Korean garb. Then grab a snack—try the red bean porridge and tea at the charmingly humble The Second Best in Seoul. From there, head back south of Anguk Station to one-stop-shop Ssamziegil, a reliable shopping center for handcrafted, local knickknacks and fun gifts. Just across the street is a branch of Jeju Island tea shop O’Sulloc, a great place to find unique teas. Avoid the poetically named fruit-blended teas in neon packaging and stick with the classic green and fermented black teas like Sejak and Samdayeon.
A simple journey away, take the 5 Line train from Yeouido to Jongno 3-ga to bring you into the middle of the Jongno-gu neighbourhood. Commonly known as the face and heart of Korea, this area has played an important role in the history, culture, economics and politics of the country. With wide, tree-lined streets all around, it’s also a great example of urban beauty.
YIDO: 191 Changdeokgung-gil, Jongno-gu; 82-(0)2-722-0756; yido.kr
KWANGJUYO: 42-2 Bukchon-ro, Jongno-gu; 82-(0)2-741-4801; kwangjuyo.com
SOGNO: 71-2 Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu; 82-(0)2-730-1460; sognojewelry.co.kr
LYA NATURE: 94, Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu; 82-(0)2-732-2833; lyanature.com
TCHAI KIM: 4, Samcheong-ro 4-gil, Jongno-gu; 82-(0)2-736-6692; blog.naver.com/tchaikim
THE SECOND BEST IN SEOUL: 122-1, Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu; 82-(0)2-734-5302
SSAMZIGIL: 44, Insadong-gil, Jongno-gu; 82-(0)2-736-0088; ssamzigil.co.kr
O’SULLOC – Insadong branch: 45-1 Insadong-gil, Jongno-gu; 82-(0)2-732-6427; osulloc.com