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South Korea Shopping Guide: From Traditional Markets to Modern Malls

Reading Time: 7 minutes

If you’re visiting South Korea, your trip would be incomplete if you didn’t pay a visit to its traditional “Seoul street markets“, charming boutiques, department stores, and high-end shopping malls. This country is a retail paradise for all things fashion, jewelry, accessories, beauty, food, electronics, handicrafts, and antiques.

South Korea Shopping Guide

Many shopping hotspots in South Korea stay open all day. So, you can go whenever you want and discover some of the best deals on a wide range of goods. These shopping areas also have their own charm and personality which makes them a must-visit for tourists and locals alike. Here, we list the top 10 places to go on a South Korea shopping spree.

1. Dongdaemun

Dongdaemun is one of the biggest wholesale and retail shopping areas in South Korea. In the early 1900s, this district was a traditional market.

Today, it is home to around 30 malls, 10 shopping streets, 30,000 specialty stores, and 50,000 leading brands. You’ll find everything here from clothes, fabrics, jewelry, leather products, and shoes to electronics, toys, pet products, and office supplies.

Mukja Golmok is a well-known lane in this shopping district that attracts foodies with its lip-smacking Korean street food. After you finish gorging on the food, enjoy the vibrant evening festivities, dance and music performances, and fashion shows.

2. Myeondong

Another popular must-visit on our list is the South Korea shopping district of Myeongdong. It houses an endless range of modern malls, department stores, designer boutiques, streetside stores, and flea markets where you can score great bargains.

Here, you can spend all day browsing through a wide collection of affordable fashion, footwear, handbags, jewelry, and souvenirs from local and global brands.

This prime retail area has more than 1,000 beauty shops where you can discover the latest in skincare and cosmetics. You will also find employees from some of these shops standing outside them handing out freebies and testers. So, keep an eye out for free goodies while you’re in this area!

Myeongdong Seoul

3. Insadong

Insadong is one of South Korea’s oldest neighborhoods and was once the residence of the country’s nobles and artists. Besides ancient hanoks (traditional Korean houses), the winding alleys of this vibrant area feature antique stores, handicraft shops, bookstores, and teahouses.

While here, you can also head to Ssamziegil, a shopping mall that sells souvenirs and other goods.

Some of the traditional finds you’ll discover in Insadong include hanbok (folk clothing), folk crafts, artwork, pottery, vintage toys, and hanji (traditional paper).

The area also has around 100 art galleries where you can check out South Korea’s traditional fine art. Some reputed galleries include Hakgojae Gallery where you’ll get to see folk art, and Gana Art Gallery which displays artworks by budding South Korean artists. The Kyungin Museum of Fine Art is another popular stop here.

On the weekends, the main street in Insadong turns into a pedestrian-friendly cultural spot that showcases art exhibits, classical concerts, and delicious street food.

4. Gwangjang Market

Gwangjang Market, which was featured on Netflix’s show, Street Food Asia, is famous for its yummy Korean street food. Dating as far back as 1905, it draws tens of thousands of people who mainly come to shop and eat. This covered traditional marketplace is also famous as a vintage flea market where you can unearth unique finds and bargains.

You can buy imported vintage clothes and other cool knick-knacks from the 5,000 shops in the area. Its vast selection makes it a fantastic spot for getting all your South Korea shopping done!

Gwangjang Market
Cho’s Korean Handmade Noodles features on Netflix Street Food

5. Ansan Multicultural Street

Ansan Multicultural Street is the best spot for foodies who want to try mouthwatering dishes from all over Asia. This well-known food street houses rustic restaurants, food stores, and stalls that serve cuisines from countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, India, Nepal, Uzbekistan, and China.

You can also buy imported snacks and cooking ingredients from Asian specialty stores. If you’re into Oriental medicine, you can get healing herbs from Chinese homeopathy stores and pharmacies in this area.

But it’s not all about food. In this area you will find typical Korean stores and you will be able to see Asian fashion up close. If you like to combine a good day of shopping with a good culinary experience, this area is an excellent choice. 

6. Hongdae

Hongdae Shopping Street is close to Hongik University. So, it is naturally packed with students and goods that cater to them. This shopping district is where you’ll get cheap, edgy youth fashion and discover indie, underground cultures. You’ll also find chic budget stores for handmade apparel and luxury products.

After you shop till you drop, relax in one of the many pretty cafes, live music bars, clubs, and art galleries that dot this area.

The weekend “free market” in Hongdae is open from 1 pm to 6 pm. Local craftsmen and artists display their handicrafts, paintings, accessories, and secondhand wares here. You can also attend live street performances, dance performances, cultural events, literary exhibits, and festivals.

7. Ewha Womans University District

The Ewha Womans University area is one of the go-to shopping spots for Seoul’s college students, especially the female crowd. Cute shops, stalls, restaurants, cafes, and entertainment hideouts line its streets which are flocked by the young population.

The brightly colored, well-decorated stores here sell stylish and affordable fashion, footwear, bags, accessories, and cosmetics for women. But you can also find a decent range of high-quality products for men.

Keep in mind that most shops open at around 10 am. So, you can head to this area in the morning and enjoy a full day of shopping followed by drinks, dinner, and music in nearby spots.

8. Bling Night Flea Market

The Bling, a popular club culture magazine, hosts the Bling Night Flea Market on the last Saturday of every month from 5 pm to 9 pm in different venues. That means you’ll have to check The Bling’s Instagram page to know the venue of the next flea market.

The Bling Night Flea Market isn’t your regular flea market because it features one of Seoul’s trendiest shopping experiences. A favorite haunt of shoppers, the pop-up flea market has stores selling cheap secondhand clothing, accessories, and books. You can also enjoy food, booze, live music performances, and DJ nights after your shopping spree.

9. Lotte Malls and Marts

You’ll stumble upon Lotte outlets all over the country so they are hard to miss. Lotte is a famous department store chain that draws shoppers for its attractive discounts and duty-free shopping.

It sells high-quality local and imported goods ranging from food and clothes to electronics, home goods, toys, and souvenirs. Lotte Mart, on the other hand, is a popular hypermarket chain. It’s basically a large supermarket. You can find groceries here but also clothes. So, you can easily find something to take home for yourself or your friends and family from your trip to South Korea. This place is ideal for those who want to go shopping in Korea but have a limited budget. 

10. Common Ground Shopping Mall

The Common Ground Shopping Mall in Gwangjin, Seoul is the world’s biggest container mall. It is made of more than 200 recycled bright blue shipping containers that have been hollowed out and stacked on top of each other. Launched in 2015, the mall has quickly turned into one of the top hangout spots for Seoul’s young crowd.

It has four shopping zones: the Market Hall, the Seoul Street Market, the Terrace Market, and the Market Ground.

While you’re here, feast your eyes on trendy apparel stores, boutique shops, food stalls, bars, and restaurants. You will find a plethora of exclusive designer labels and indie clothing brands along with accessories, gourmet food, and stationeries.

What Kind of Markets Exist in South Korea?

You will find all kinds of markets in South Korea, including:

  • Traditional markets
  • Farmers’ markets
  • Flea markets
  • Antique markets
  • Specialty markets such as those for fish, electronics, and other goods
  • Department stores
  • Hypermarkets
  • Boutiques
  • Wholesale and retail markets
  • Shopping malls

These marketplaces sell everything from food, electronics, clothing, textiles, accessories, jewelry, artwork, craft items, decor, toys, memorabilia, and more.

Cheongju Shopping Street

Conclusion

South Korea is a shopping haven that many international tourists enjoy. People from all over head to this country to not only experience its vibrant culture and nightlife but also its fine retail experiences, including the Korean shopping center. You can dig through local shops, boutiques, flea markets, and malls, and take home unique souvenirs for your family and friends.If you enjoyed reading this blog post on South Korea shopping, read up on other popular Southeast Asian destinations here.

FAQs about South Korea

What to buy in South Korea?

If you ask yourself what are the best things to buy in South Korea, you should add to your list: Ramyeon, Soju & Makgeolli, Gim and Korean Beauty Products.

What are some curiosities of markets in Seoul?

Seoul’s markets offer a fascinating blend of tradition and modernity. From the historic Namdaemun Market to the futuristic Dongdaemun Design Plaza and the unique Tongin Market, these markets provide a diverse range of experiences, whether you’re interested in traditional crafts, fashion, street food, or cultural immersion. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the dynamic market scene in this vibrant city.

What is the famous Korean street market?

One of the most famous Korean street markets is the “Myeongdong Shopping Street.” Myeongdong is a popular and bustling shopping district located in the heart of Seoul, South Korea. It’s renowned for its vibrant street market atmosphere, where you can find a wide range of shops, boutiques, street food vendors, and cosmetic stores. Myeongdong is especially well-known for its extensive selection of Korean skincare and beauty products, making it a popular destination for both locals and tourists looking for cosmetics and fashion items. The market comes alive in the evening, with various street performers and food stalls offering a taste of Korean street cuisine.

Are there big malls in Seoul?

Yes, Seoul is home to several large and impressive shopping malls, some of which are iconic and offer a wide range of shopping, dining, entertainment, and cultural experiences. Here are a few notable malls in Seoul: Lotte World Mall, Starfield COEX Mall, Central City Mall and more!

Recommended Travel Guides for Korea

If you want to learn more about South Korea and have a handy travel guide in your pocket, check out these three options below:

DK Eyewitness Top 10 Seoul

This Top 10 Seoul guide is a great pocket guide that breaks down the best of Seoul into helpful lists of ten – from selected highlights to the best museums and galleries, and the most authentic restaurants, tearooms, bars, shops, and markets. I personally helped update the most recent version of this guide. Buy this book.

Lonely Planet Korea

You really can’t go wrong with a lonely planet guide in your hand luggage! I’m a huge fan of Lonely Planet and own this guide myself. What I love is the brand-new pull-out, passport-size ‘Just Landed’ card with wi-fi, ATM and transport info – all you need for a smooth journey from airport to hotel! Buy this book.

South Korea: The Solo Girl’s Travel Guide

Calling all my solo female travel ladies out there – this guide is amazing! Part of the #1 Travel Guidebook Series for Women (and couples), this take on South Korea will help you avoid the scams, creeps, and tourist traps and skip ahead to the cities and adventures that are worth your time (and money)! Buy this book.

Linda's Pick
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04/20/2023 05:57 am GMT
Best Guide Covering All Of Korea
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04/20/2023 06:02 am GMT
Best for Solo Female Travelers
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02/17/2024 08:09 pm GMT

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Linda

Linda has been living in Asia since 2012 and loves sharing her travel and life experiences on her website. She currently works remotely in Online Marketing and also teaches various English classes in South Korea.

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