It’s a literal dream.
In recent years, Seoul has risen to become Asia’s top destination for shopping and anything beauty. K-beauty, has recently become a global phenomenon, to say the least. Known as Iran and Brazil of the Far East (since all three countries seem to pump out plastic surgeries at every other hot minute,) Seoul is ideal for cosmetic and skincare lovers. But the city is far bigger than one can ever imagine, so follow this guide and you’ll be able to lock down the perfect shopping itinerary.
1. Garosu-gil Road 가로수길 街路樹
Shopping in Seoul must start with Garosu-gil Road. This street is essentially the Soho of Seoul, with many local boutiques featuring Korean designers, concept stores that lure you in with flashy window displays. Most major brands can be found here, but the gem of all the gems is the Dr. Jart+ flagship where you enter a prescription lab space on the first floor. Discover amazing deals (five boxes of masks for 5 boxes of FREE masks) on the second floor, then make your Instagram go wild at the outdoor swimming pool. Another must-stop is the Gentle Monster flagship, where every level is bedazzled with animated installations and endless shades for you to freely try on.
2. Apgujeong-dong 압구정동 狎鷗亭洞
Considered as the Rodeo of Seoul, Apgujeong-dong is home to many concept stores, including: 10 Corso Como (a very disappointing in-store layout and display that ooze of JC Penny rather than Colette,) Boon The Shop (highly recommend the bottom floor for curiosities and books,) and Beaker (loved everything about this store.) Both Louis Vuitton and Chanel stores are beautiful to visit. Don’t forget the infinite cafés as well as beauty salons that make this area a fun place to stroll around. Even in the rain!
In Gangnam, head to Apgujeong-dong – home to a wide variety of extravagant concept stores, including: an unfortunately disappointing 10 Corso Como, and The Beaker where collaborations with several Korean fashion brands can only be discovered in this store. Both Louis Vuitton and Chanel are beautiful stores to check out.
3. Myeongdong 명동 明洞
Neighborhood: Myeong Dong
A very touristy hotspot since it’s popular among Japanese and Chinese travelers, Myeongdong is MADE for K-beauty trends and makeup since it’s known as the main focal point of cosmetic boutiques in Seoul. If you’d like to purchase luxurious Sulwhasoo serums at discount prices (USD $30+) that are even lower than those at the airport duty free, then enter one of these beauty stores that are in tiny alleys where the staff speak fluent Mandarin Chinese. Another great cosmetic store to visit is Stylenanda, aka: Pink Hotel of 3CE beauty products.
Need a food break from all the shopping? Head to MyeongDong KyoJa, for noodle soup and dumplings. The original store is at Myeongdong, and it’s in the Michelin Guide of 2019.
4. Lotte Duty Free
The famous duty free shop, Lotte, is located in the central part of Seoul, with a few other domestic branches. Lotte made its name by launching the first Louis Vuitton in Korea and continue to extend 400+ luxury and lifestyle brands, including: Gucci, Chanel, Bvlgari, Prada…and many more. The main Lotte building in Myeong-dong has a Seoul Sky at the top of the mall, where you can catch the magnificent view of Seoul from 120th floor. Remember, shopping in Seoul isn’t complete until you’ve done duty free!
5. Dongdaemun Market (DDM) 동대문시장 東大門市場
If you want to find malls open for 18.5 hours a day from 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 a.m., then head to Dongdaemun Market which is even more lively at night. Some shops are even open for 24 hours a day, which makes this area a definite shopping heaven/or hell. Doota is the famous duty free mall here, with some gems on the B1 level. Late night snacking on the street is also a must-do, with hot bowls of ramen and fish cakes on saucy sticks!
6. Insadong 인사동 仁寺洞
Known for combining the past and the present, Insadong spotlights Korea’s traditional arts and crafts alongside modern art galleries and shopping complex. Frequently attracting locals and foreigners, Insadong is one unique part of Seoul exuding the cultural and historical aspects of the country. Back in the day, artists and painters gathered in this area to create art. After the Korean War, more galleries congregated in Insadong to produce traditional porcelain, paintings, and pottery. Since this is one of the best places to buy tea, don’t forget to stop by wooden tea houses for an authentically Korean experience, throwback-style.
7. Namdaemun Market 남대문시장 南大門市場
Namdaemun is the oldest traditional market in Korea, and it features 10,000 vendors which is enormous even for shopping in Seoul. The market has been around since 1964, it’s where you can find traditional and cheaper garments, sporting goods, locally made products. During Joseon Dynasty’s early days in 1414, this area served as a place for merchants to conduct businesses. When the Japanese took over Korea, fires damaged this region of the city. But after the Korean War, US military goods were illegally sold at the back corner of the market. Since the 1960’s, Namdaemun has revived its glory of selling luxury hand-sewn products. Today, even if you don’t know where you’re going or what you’d like to buy, it’s still an experience to walk around.
8. Coex Mall
Coex Mall is the largest underground shopping mall in Asia, located in Gangnam. Check out the indoor library which is filled with 50,000+ books and 200 seats/chairs. Instead of staying hush hush inside, grab a book and treat it like it’s a lively café. In addition, there are also exhibitions, a museum, cafes, and an Artium that offers nine floors of K-pop merchandise, theater, and a recording studio.