Between Yulgok-no and Jong-no, Jongno-gu
HOURS: Daily 24 hours; shops generally daily 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
SUBWAY: Anguk (Line 3), Jonggak (Line 1)
It’s safe to say virtually all visitors to Seoul will at some point find themselves on Insa-dong, a street running roughly between Anguk and Jonggak subway stations that is ground zero for anyone seeking traditional crafts or souvenirs.
The road and the web of narrow alleys that surround it are chock-a-block with stores and stalls hawking all manner of Korean trinkets, from classical scroll paintings and ceramic tea sets to garish K-pop star posters and cell phone ornaments.
It’s touristy, yes, but has so far managed to avoid the wholesale descent into crass commercialism that has afflicted similar areas elsewhere in the world.
Particularly in some of the neighborhood’s back alleys, a rustic, cozy atmosphere prevails, and there’s an abundance of restaurants, tea shops, and old-style pubs offering good fare at reasonable prices. Prices for goods generally aren’t exorbitant either, though some bargaining is recommended, and caution should be exercised with purchases of any supposed antiques.
Seoul’s center of artistic gravity has shifted to other areas in recent years, but Insa-dong remains a fixture in the city’s visual art scene and is home to several notable galleries.
© Jonathan Hopfner from Moon Seoul, 1st Edition