Top 4 Shopping Streets in Seoul – Myeongdong, Hongdae, Ewha, Dongdaemun

30 August, 2014

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On 30 August, 2014
Last modified:30 August, 2014

Summary:

Every weekend from March to November, Hongdae hosts flea markets of a unique nature. On Saturdays, the Hongdae Free Market is held from 2pm to 6pm around the Hongdae playground in front of the main entrance to Hongik University. At this art market, young artists get the opportunity to show their handmade work or performances. Some of the items on display include hats, shoes and t-shirts painted with interesting characters, ceramic accessories, dolls made from wire, diaries with handmade covers and many more.

Seoul is a shopping paradise for all kinds of things e.g. skincare products, cosmetics, fashionable clothes, shoes – yup all the things you see the actresses and actors wear and carry in those Korean drama – Seoul is the place to get them all.  So many things to buy and so many places to see in Seoul but where exactly to find them all – I will share with you top 4 shopping areas in Seoul in this blog post.  If you need help planning your Seoul itinerary, you can download our Seoul 5D4N itinerary and 4D3N Jeju self-drive itinerary for reference. 🙂

Let’s start with Myeongdong…

The “Orchard Road” of Seoul – Myeongdong: Buy Your Skincare/Cosmetics Product Only At Myeongdong

The number one thing that my friends ask me to buy when I told them I am going to Seoul for holiday is Skinfood, Missha, Nature Republic etc. – all the skincare products that they are using.  You can buy these skincare products in Seoul for 30% to 50% of what you are paying in Singapore and there are also some products that you can only find in Seoul – the secret to why those Korean actresses/models look so beautiful (besides the use of plastic surgery of course :-))

myeongdong-shopping-cosmetics-skincare

It is impossible to miss out any of these skincare product shops in Myeongdong because there are just so many of them – not just in terms of variety (some of them sound very similar e.g. Skinfood, It’s Skin) but there are so much duplication of shops of the same brand within Myeongdong – you can walk a few steps and you will reach another branch of Etude House just a few metres away from another branch.

A quick look at the Myeongdong map below will reveal that there are many many branches of Skinfood, It’s Skin, Etude House, Nature Republic, Tony Moly.  We stayed at J Hill hotel (marked by “H” along the MyeongDong Ro. (St.) around where Myeongdong Gyoza (marked by 16) is located.  If you are catching a Cookin’ NANTA performance in Myeongdong Seoul, the NANTA Theatre is marked by 12.

myeongdong-shopping-map

Do not buy your skincare products anywhere else in Seoul or in fact Korea – if you have to buy cosmetic/skincare products, buy them all here in Myeongdong.  Because you get free samples when you buy at any of the Tony Moly, Missha, The Face Shop here in Myeongdong and they are very generous with them – in fact for some shops, you get a free facial mask from the point you enter the door!  You won’t be alone in your quest to gather up all your facial masks, powder and everything that you need to make yourself beautiful – the shops are usually very crowded and expect long queues to buy your cosmetic products especially over weekends during late afternoons/early evenings.

Just another map to illustrate how many skincare/cosmetic product shops are there in Myeongdong – just look at the right sidebar.

myeongdong-seoul-shopping-map-skincare

Besides buy 50 facial masks get 50 free facial masks deal and the tonnes of free samples they stuff into your shopping bag upon purchase, you can enjoy more savings while shopping in Myeongdong by printing out the Visit Korea Committee vouchers which gives you discounts off purchases above a certain amount.

myeongdong-facial-products-shopping

Ok – I believe you got my point to buy skincare products in Myeongdong but interestingly, Myeongdong is not just about skincare products – there are many other shops selling fashionable clothes, belts, watches, ties, T-shirts and shoes at the makeshift street stalls as well as in shopping malls in the area.

Here at Myeongdong you will also find big-name stores like Spanish fashion chain, ZARA and Forever 21.  Migliore, easily accessible via Exit 4, Myeong-dong Subway Station, is a starting point to shop for many tourists coming out of the subway station.

If you are buying things that cost more than 30,000 won at a shop where you are eligible for tax refund, request for a tax rebate form – you will typically be given a blue or orange colour form.  Fill it up and submit for tax refund in cash at one of the tax refund outlets here in Myeongdong or at the Incheon airport if you depart back to Singapore.  All skincare/cosmetic/beauty products outlet are eligible for tax refund and it is quite easy to chalk up more than 30,000 won (about 30 USD) with your purchases!

There are also many street food stalls serving traditional Korea delicacies such as fish cakes, tteokbokki (a stir-fried dish made of rice cakes with vegetables in hot sauce) as well as new food inventions like the potato tornado!  So if you don’t have time for a proper sit-down dinner/lunch, just grab some food on the go, shop through a few shops/street stalls and then grab something else from the next food stall and continue on!

myeongdong-night-shopping-seoul-food

We bought a lot with just about a day of shopping in Myeongdong – this picture below shows the free samples we received (excluding our purchased items)!  So don’t forget – print out your VKC discount coupons (read more abt it in our pre-trip prep post) and claim your tax refunds for all these purchases – that way, you get even more money to shop for other stuff in Seoul especially when you have 3 more awesome shopping places to check out – see below for more info!

free-samples-myeongdong-shopping-skincare

Non-Stop Shopping at Dongdaemun – Opening Hours: 10am to 5am!! This is not a typo – most Dongdaemun shops close at 5am.

Shopping is taken to the extremes here in Seoul – from the thousands of beauty product shops in Myeongdong to the wee hour shopping here at Dongdaemun!  Dongdaemun is Korea’s largest wholesale and retail shopping district featuring 26 shopping malls, 30,000 specialty shops, and 50,000 manufacturers. If you look hard enough (and understand a fair bit of Korean), you can find almost anything here from silks and fabric, clothes, shoes and accessories, electronics, leather goods, sporting goods, office supplies, pet products and toys.

dongdaemun-shopping-hours-midnight

Dongdaemun shopping district is made up of 2 main sections – the retail shopping and the wholesale shopping areas.  The best time to visit Dongdaemun is after 10pm when the night markets around Dongdaemun is set-up and you get complementary street food stalls to replenish your energy while you shop.

The big multi-storey shopping malls Doota (located within Doosan Tower), Migliore, Good Morning City, Freya Town, LOTTE FITIN and Hello apM are lined up almost side by side at the Dongdaemun retail shopping section.  Around these big shopping malls, you will find quite a number of street stalls selling various items e.g. clothes, shoes, belts as well as food.  There are also underground shopping malls all around this Dongdaemun shopping district.  You can see the map below for a 3D-view of the Dongdaemun area – do note that this is an old map – the Dongdaemun stadiums had been demolished and replaced with a huge shiny object – you can’t miss it!

dongdaemun-shopping-map-sections-wholesale

The opening hours of the shopping malls are from 10 am to 5 am the next day.  You will find foreigner-friendly facilities such as money exchange counters and information desks with multilingual staff at many of these shopping malls.

dongdaemun-shopping-mall-doota

Shopping at these shopping malls felt like the shopping experience in Platinum Mall of Bangkok except that it is more expensive (tops cost around S$30 – S$45) but these clothes are more fashionable and of better material than those you find in Bangkok.  Most of these clothes boast of the label “Made in Korea” so these are not supposed to be cheap imports from China, thus the price.  Check the labels before you buy – at least they should say made in korea before you splash out 40 bucks for them.

dongdaemun-shopping-migliore-good-morning-city

The Dongdaemun wholesale shopping section comprises smaller malls where the shopkeepers deal mainly in wholesale and retail, but mainly sell in bulk. These wholesalers are usually open at about 8 pm and close at 5 am the next day – they get quite busy late at night through early morning as the shopowners from the retail shopping district of Dongdaemun and other parts of Seoul come here to stock-up.

Don’t expect dressing rooms to try out the clothes since they deal mainly with wholesale purchases. Refunds and exchanges are not guaranteed, so make sure to check the quality and size carefully.

Younger shoppers usually shop at Designer’s Club, Migliore Valley, Nuzzon and Gwanghee Fashion Mall, while middle-aged shoppers tend to prefer shopping at Jeil Pyeonghwa, and Heungin Stardom.

pyoung-hwa-wholesale-dongdaemun-shopping

dongdaemun-wholesale-shopping-area

You can also find a second-hand book street, located on the first floor of Pyeonghwa Market. The bookstores on this street have been around for over 30 years and sell all sorts of publications including novels, essays, poetry, magazines, foreign language titles and rare books, all at 30 – 40 percent off normal retail prices.

While you can snack on street food stalls while you shop, there might be times when you crave for a proper sit-down dinner then I recommend you head over to Mukja Golmok, located between Dongdaemun Shopping Complex and Jongno. Literally meaning “Let’s Eat Alley”, Mukja Golmok is a street famous for its various restaurants. Grilled fish and Korean chicken soup are the must-try when you are at this alley.  See map below for info on how to get there – follow the arrows drawn on the map that lead to Chicken Soup/Grilled Fish from Good Morning City shopping mall.

dongdaemun-map-shopping

From our travel experience in different countries, we noticed that the area around universities tend to take on a life of its own as entrepreneurial students or opportunistic entrepreneurs set up shops around the universities offering affordable clothes, knick-knacks and many other things – Seoul is no different.

Shopping Around Hongik University – Hongdae Shopping Area

One of the most popular shopping area around universities in Seoul is Hongdae.  Hongdae (Hangul: 홍대) is an abbreviation of Hongik Daehakgyo, the Hongik University (학교).  The term ‘hongdae’ is usually used in regards to the Hongik University.

Here at Hongdae, you can expect many shops to sell a variety of goods such as fashion items, accessories, stationery supplies, furniture.  Since this is a university town, the clothes here are quite affordable – prices usually start at 10,000 won and up for most items.  But the highlight had to be the sale of unique fashion or arts associated with Korean street culture, influenced by Hongik University known nationwide for its arts programmes.  Hongdae is the center of Korea’s youth culture and is well-known for its bustling club scene so if you like to “chiong”, this is also the place to be.  The whole area starts to open up around 1pm – if you go before lunchtime, most of the shops are closed.

hongdae-pedestrian-shopping-street

Every weekend from March to November, Hongdae hosts flea markets of a unique nature.  On Saturdays, the Hongdae Free Market is held from 2pm to 6pm around the Hongdae playground in front of the main entrance to Hongik University.  At this art market, young artists get the opportunity to show their handmade work or performances.  Some of the items on display include hats, shoes and t-shirts painted with interesting characters, ceramic accessories, dolls made from wire, diaries with handmade covers and many more.

There are also free concerts from 2pm to 5pm.  Various genres of artists transform the corner of the market into an open stage for music, dance, performance art etc, and the crowd is as wildly enthusiastic as any audience at a big concert. After the performances, some musicians sell their home-recorded CDs.

On Sundays, the Hongdae Hope Market is held from 2pm to 6pm at the same place as the Free Market. The Hope Market shares the same ideals as the Free Market, as an art marketplace for innovative artists.

hongdae-free-market-shopping-seoul

Getting to Hongdae Shopping Area is easy – take Line 2 Green subway to Hongik University station – take exit 9 and walk towards the pedestrian friendly street as shown in the map below.  The first part of this pedestrian friendly street comprises pubs and restaurants.  As you walk towards the tourist info (marked by TIC in the map), you will reach the Hongdae shopping area on the opposite side of the road.

A taxi ride from Myeongdong to Hongdae will cost you about US$8 – US$9.

The arrows below show how to get to the Hongdae Free Market on Saturday/Hope Market on Sunday from the Tourist Info Centre.

hongdae-hongik-university-shopping-map

Shopping Around Ewha Women’s University – Ewha Shopping Area

The Ewha shopping area is located right in front of the Ewha Women’s University – enough said, this has to be the best place to shop for young women’s fashion.  The prices are also very cheap compared to shopping at other parts of Seoul since it is targeted at students.

The area around Ewha Women’s University is commonly referred to as Ewha Women’s University Fashion Street. Here, you will find a number of stalls lining the streets selling fashion items, such as clothing, shoes and accessories, for young women.

ehwa-university-shopping-clothes-fashion

Getting to Ewha Shopping Area is easy – take Line 2 Green subway to Ewha Women’s University station – take exit 2, referring to the map below, if you are in a rush for time – skip the “Main Shopping Street” labelled in the map, the best place to go to for shopping is labelled “Casual Clothes and Shoes Shopping Street”.  You find a lot more variety and affordable shopping at this street compared to the main street.  If you see an area like the picture above, then you are in the right place – this is also the most crowded area of Ewha.

If you are travelling in a group of 3-4 and is shopping around Hongdae, I recommend that you take a taxi from Hongdae to Ewha – it will cost about 3800 Korean won for the ride.  Considering a single trip ticket for the subway cost a minimum of 1150 Korean won, you will achieve some savings and get to Ewha faster!

After shopping at Ewha, if you still have time – check out the Ewha Women’s University grounds too – it is quite beautiful.

ewha-university-shopping-map

Zhiqiang & Tingyi

Comments (45)

  • MandyReply

    24 September, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    Hi,

    I have read your seoul blog and found the map you upload very useful. Where you get the map? Is online or take it at Seoul tourism counter? Can you advice us.

    Thanks.
    Mandy

    • Zhiqiang & TingyiReply

      24 September, 2014 at 9:35 pm

      you can get it from the Korean Tourism Organisation in Singapore or at airports in Korea when you land

  • PlastReply

    18 October, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Thanks for sharing Zhiqiang & Tingyi. I appreciate for your information share. Its really amazing post. It will help me whenever I travel to Korea.

  • angieReply

    23 February, 2015 at 6:23 am

    Hi,

    Our family of 4 (with 2 teenager kid)will be gg Seoul & Jeju in early December (staying at december hotel). Intend to go jeju (3d2n)direct once we reach incheon at 730am . Any places to recommend for the 1st half day & another 1.5days. We hv visited mystery Rd, Cheonyeon waterfall, dragon head rock & teddy bear museum @ 6 years ago.
    Please advise & thanks a lot.

    • Zhiqiang & TingyiReply

      23 February, 2015 at 9:36 am

      Hi angie – addressed your questions at the Jeju blog post where you posted the same comment.

  • Experiencing the Sights, Smells and Tastes of Noryangjin Fish Market with Seafood Feast (Abalone, Tiger Prawns and Fish) | Singapore Travel BlogReply

    2 March, 2015 at 11:40 pm

    […] get to Noryangjin Fish Market, (if you are staying in Myeongdong J Hill Hotel), take the subway from Myeongdong Station (Line 4) to Seoul Station and transfer to […]

  • JVReply

    9 April, 2015 at 8:42 am

    Hi, I have been to Seoul several times. For most of the content in this article, I feel that it is really helpful to people on their first or second trips to Seoul. But, I do not particularly agree that Myeongdong is the only place to buy skincare/beauty products in Korea (Or if you meant Seoul only?)
    Myeongdong is NOT the only place in Seoul that provides free gifts when you purchase skincare/beauty products. In fact, I have purchased cosmetics in other places in Seoul that gave me full sized products as “free samples”. Ia will only say that Myeongdong is great for shopping for tourists because of communication. Whether you speak Mandarin or Japanese, they will always have staffs to serve you. Whereas in other parts of Seoul, it is generally more difficult to speak to them as most of them only speak Korean with minimal English.

  • JessicaReply

    25 May, 2015 at 8:41 pm

    Hi, thanks for the info and pictures! They’re really helpful!!
    I am visiting Seoul during the winter period this year, but I wish to shop for summer clothes cos I’m from Singapore..
    Are there any specific places you can recommend to me for cheap off season shopping?
    It would be great if you could include other touristy places as well as it is my first time travelling there!!
    Thank you so much hehehe ^^

  • JessicaReply

    28 May, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    Ahh I see.. its ok then.. Thanks for replying anw ^^

  • SelinaReply

    10 August, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    Hello,

    I am planning to fly out to Seoul in the next month to buy cosmetic products to sell in my Europe.

    Do anyone have any siggestion where I can buy Korean cosmetic products for retailing. The ones me mentioned above seems more for tourists.

    Best regards,

    Selina

    • Zhiqiang & TingyiReply

      10 August, 2015 at 5:43 pm

      Hi Selina – i have no idea about wholesale cosmetics purchases in Seoul

  • inaReply

    8 September, 2015 at 8:51 am

    Hi there in myeongdong is it possible to find halal restaurant?

  • MichelleReply

    30 September, 2015 at 9:29 am

    I’ve been scouring plenty of blogs reading people’s trips to korea and I really felt the need to tell you how much I love your posts – plenty of relevant details and pictures for references (shout-out to your tax refund post – brilliant). I like how organised your writing style is too! A true pleasure to read 🙂

  • VictoriaReply

    22 February, 2016 at 10:38 am

    Thanks for the informacion im traveling in november , but i was really nervous somehow I feel relived after reading your post

  • JocelynReply

    7 March, 2016 at 11:14 am

    Hi, very informative. Just one question, we are not really big into shopping , but would like to browse around for some really good souvenirs and maybe branded bags, shoes and clothes ? Where would you recommend to have this done as a one stop shopping place ? Thanks in advance

  • SallyReply

    13 May, 2016 at 12:30 am

    Thank you for all your information and all the maps! It is really helpful so I can plan my vacation in advance from the US. Can’t wait to go to Seoul for the first time with my family but it is hard to learn so much information. Thanks for the tip on cost of taxi versus subway – I just assumed it would be cheaper to ride the subway but with 5 people it may not always be cheaper! Thank you

    • Zhiqiang & TingyiReply

      21 May, 2016 at 4:03 pm

      Thanks Sally 🙂 – do note that it is only cheaper to take taxi than subway for a group of more than 3 persons if the journey is a short one as described in the post from Hongdae to Ewha

  • VereneReply

    23 May, 2016 at 11:56 pm

    Hi, may I know which month did u visited Korea? I saw the clothing seems to b like summer period 🙂

    • Zhiqiang & TingyiReply

      28 May, 2016 at 9:52 pm

      May

  • SharReply

    28 May, 2016 at 4:29 am

    Hi – what time do the shops open in Myongdeong on weekdays please??

    • Zhiqiang & TingyiReply

      28 May, 2016 at 9:49 pm

      typically around 10+am

  • ElizabethReply

    1 June, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    Hi may I know the best route to take from Myeondong to Ewha University using the subway? I would also like to know if there are any good places for eating at Ewha. Thanks!

    • Zhiqiang & TingyiReply

      1 June, 2016 at 8:25 pm

      i am not sure – follow the subway map – quite intuitive. I tried only street food at Ewha

  • AineReply

    4 June, 2016 at 11:57 am

    May I know how convenience the free wifi in Seoul..? Do we really need to rent wifi services..? As I read, free wifi still need to pay for charge.

    • Zhiqiang & TingyiReply

      9 June, 2016 at 7:06 am

      The free wifi in Seoul is available in a lot of the shopping streets – mainly in myeongdong area. whether you need to rent wifi services depend on your need, if you just need to occasionally surf the net and check emails, then the free wifi is good enough (but do note that using such free wifi services, you run the risk of exposing your content to hackers).

  • anywherejourneyReply

    28 June, 2016 at 9:38 pm

    Thank you for a very informative blog. Very detailed and thank you for the tips. I really appreciate it because it helps me a lot in making our itinerary. Its my first time to travel in South Korea with my teenage daughter. Its our birthday gift to her and we are from the Philippines. We are limiting our travel to Seoul because of a limited time and our passion is shopping! This is of great help, keep up the good work!

  • MayReply

    10 July, 2016 at 10:25 pm

    Hello! i read your blog post and it is so helpful!! I will be traveling in two weeks time. May i know if you have any places to recommend to eat in myeongdong/hongdae/dongdaemun? Thank you so much!

  • IreneReply

    2 September, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    Hi.. does it snow at these area like Dongdaemum during December and christmas timing

    • Zhiqiang & TingyiReply

      8 October, 2016 at 9:22 pm

      yes usually but sometimes snow starts Jan/Feb

  • VineetReply

    11 September, 2016 at 11:33 am

    I am reaching seoul on sunday night. Is sunday night a good time to visit hongdae area?

    • Zhiqiang & TingyiReply

      8 October, 2016 at 9:20 pm

      yes

  • Che C.Reply

    11 September, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    Hello, what time do the stalls at Ewha normally open?

    • Zhiqiang & TingyiReply

      8 October, 2016 at 9:18 pm

      I think around 11am

  • ChomineReply

    19 October, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    I’m travelling to Seoul next month. Any recommendation on the accommodation?

  • Mei MeiReply

    24 October, 2016 at 8:17 am

    May I know which hotel to stay?

  • FatmaReply

    13 November, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    Hello, I am from Bahrain, and coming to Seoul for the first time for business, could you please let me know if the wholesale market in November sells only winter clothing? or I can find summer products as well?

    • Zhiqiang & TingyiReply

      15 November, 2016 at 9:41 pm

      mostly winter clothing

  • HazelReply

    25 November, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    Images are broken 🙁

    • Zhiqiang & TingyiReply

      27 November, 2016 at 1:35 pm

      my site is going thru some problems – unfortunately but the text descriptions will suffice to help you understand what to expect. 🙂

  • cytotecReply

    6 December, 2016 at 7:55 pm

    Thank you very much for sharing information that will be much helpful for making coursework my effective.

  • DilaReply

    2 January, 2017 at 7:14 pm

    Hi, can you please tell me the best and the cheapest price for buying the cosmetics in Korea? 🙂 Thank you in advance

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