Shopping in Seoul in 2020: The 18 Best Places According to a Local

Shopping in Seoul is a great activity for your city break in the Korean capital. This bustling megalopolis has something for every taste and budget. Whether you are looking to purchase stunning one-of-a-kind clothing items from local Korean Designers, or you are looking for your favourite high street stores, rest assured you will find precisely what you are looking for .

Shopping in Seoul
Shopping in Seoul: Garosu-gil’s tree-lined promenades are a perfect setting for some retail therapy.

Shopping in Seoul

If you’re headed to Korea for the first time then I’m sure that you’re brimming with anticipation to go shopping in Seoul and get your hands on some Korean beauty products and some super cutesy Hallyu outfits that would put your favourite KPop idols to shame.

Where do you go for shopping in Seoul? More than likely you will jump straight on the subway to Myeongdong, since it’s in all the guidebooks and has been Instagrammed to death.  

After you’ve loaded up on Korean cosmetics and cute clothes, and you’ve stuffed your face with weird and wonderful street foods, maybe you’ll head over to Gangnam. You will carve time out of your weekend in Seoul to obtain the obligatory “Gangnam style” dancing selfie in front of the street sign. Then, you will doa little window shopping for clothes so way out of your price range they have you crying even more than chopping an onion.

Shopping in Seoul:
The Best Districts for Retail Therapy

Shopping in Seoul; Dongdaemun
Shopping in Seoul; Dongdaemun boasts 26 malls and more than 30,000 stores!

After living in Seoul for several years, I can tell you that my favourite shopping spots are not Myeongdong or Gangnam or any of the other places that tourists flock to first.

This guide offers a run-through of some of the best places for shopping in Seoul – from the well-known spots to the off the beaten track districts that you may not have otherwise discovered. Feel free to use the Table of Contents to help you navigate to the most relevant sections.

Shopping in Seoul at a Glance

It can be overwhelming to assess which of the plethora of places in Seoul you should take the time to visit. In summary, the best places for shopping in Seoul are:

  • Garosu-gil – for luxury clothing

  • Myeongdong – for cosmetics

  • Ewha women’s university and Hongdae – for cute, affordable Korean fashion

  • Insadong – for souvenirs

  • Gwangjang market – for street food

  • Dongdaemun – for fabrics and local, independent designers

Garosu-gil, Sinsa-Dong

Shopping in Seoul
Shopping in Seoul
Shopping in Seoul
Shopping in Seoul

The tree-lined boulevards at Garosugil are every bit as elegant and sophisticated as the shops that are situated upon them. Garosugil has developed rapidly in recent years intoa district that lies at the forefront of Korean fashion.

Perfectly dressed and preened locals sip cappuccinos beneath the cabanas of coffee shops here while looking as though they have just stepped right out of a fashion magazine.

Garosugil is not the place for budget shopping in Seoul. However, it is the place for locating high-quality apparel. The beauty of shopping in Garosugil is that it is home to the boutique stores of many up and coming local Korean designers. This makes Garosugil the perfect spot to pick up a one of a kind fashion piece that no-one else will have.

Shopping in Seoul
Shopping in Seoul

While Garosugil is home to the Korean flagship stores of international designers and brand labels, the highlight of this neighbourhood is the vintage stores and the quirky boutiques. Don’t miss Spicy Color and Nine Owls vintage stores.

Metro Station: Sinsa Station (Subway line 3)

Related Article: Solo Female Travel in Seoul

Bling Night Flea Market

Bling Night flea market is not exactly a flea market in the traditional sense. As a matter of fact, it offers one of the trendiest shopping in Seoul experiences.

Hosted by hip Bling Magazine, this pop-up market is usually hosted on the last Saturday of each month. It pops up in different locations around Seoul each time.

Expect live musical performances and sizzling street food stands as you navigate your way around the stalls. You will find everything from second-hand items and crafts, to independent clothing designers.

Metro Station: Venue changes each time. Check Bling Magazine’s Facebook page for details here.

Cheongdam-Dong and Apgujeong

Apgujeong Rodeo sits between the neighbourhoods of Apgujeong and Cheongdamdong. This was historically always the place to see and be seen in Seoul.

Many elegant coffee shops and restaurants are scattered throughout Apgujeong Rodeo making it the perfect spot to enjoy a girly day out featuring brunch, retail therapy, and evening cocktails.

These days, the Seoul glitterati now flock to Sinsa. However, Apgujeong Rodeo still has plenty to offer. The stores here are trendy, youthful, and relatively affordable considering the high quality of the products.

Shopping in Seoul
Shopping in Seoul

Dessertree, Apgujeong Rodeo

For a sweet treat to break up your retail therapy and a unique dining experience, consider stopping by Dessertree. This is a teeny tiny cafe that serves up some of the most exquisite desserts in Korea.

The restaurant proprietor is a pâtissier who studied in Paris for several years. Following his graduation, he decided to bring decadent Parisian desserts to Seoul.

Dessertree isn’t just your typical “coffee with a slice of cake” style establishment. The desserts here are served up in three decadent courses.

Expect to pay approximately 24,00 won for a set three-course menu (circa $24). Pricy but wholly worth it.

Shopping in Seoul
Shopping in Seoul: Enjoy a sweet treat at Dessertree

Visitors to Apgujeong Rodeo should also be sure not to miss a walk down Cheongdam-dong Fashion Street. This is the self-proclaimed “Champs Elysees of Korea” .

Cheongdam-dong Fashion Street is worth a look, even if your experience here will be restricted to window shopping. Here you can marvel at the window displays of the most renowned luxury brands in the world. Stores here include Cartier, Prada, and Louis Vuitton.

Metro Station:
Cheongdam Station (Subway line 7)

Lotte Mart

Korean food and snacks are a highlight of travelling to Korea. Perhaps you want to pack some weird and wonderful snacks in your suitcase to take home with you. Alternatively, maybe your Korean vacation has left you feeling that you cannot imagine your life without gochujang chili paste. If so, you need to go to Lotte Mart. 

Lotte Mart is one of Korea’s best discount stores. The store sells every item imaginable but most people stop by for the snacks.

Treats like Honey Butter Chips and Peppero sticks can be found in abundance at Lotte Marts. There are branches scattered all over the city.

You don’t have to set out specifically to find one, as you will probably pass a handful of them while shopping in Seoul. Just be sure to leave space in your suitcase for snacks!

Myeongdong

Shopping in Seoul
Shopping in Seoul: Navigate the bustling streets of Myeongdong

Myeongdong is arguably the most touristic of Seoul’s shopping neighbourhoods. However, it is the place that you want to head to if you plan on purchasing any Korean cosmetics and skincare products .

Cosmetic stores are situated every few paces in Myeongdong. Even stores of the same brand are repeated every few paces! Don’t miss the local favourites of Innisfree (natural skincare products and cosmetics from Jeju), Etude House, or Nature Republic.

You will notice that there are a lot of deals on products here. For instance buy one get one free on cleansers, or 10 face masks for $10.

Shopping in Seoul
Shopping in Seoul: Korean spicy tteokbokki makes for a perfect mid-shopping snack!


Many of the Korean cosmetic stores in Myeongdong have staff standing out front to hand out free samples on the streets in order to lure you inside. You are not obligated to buy anything. However, you can definitely stack up quite a nice selection of Myeongdong beauty freebies by the end of the day!

It is also important to note that all shops in Myeongdong are tax-free. The shop assistants will hand you a form to fill out regarding your purchases. You can then complete your tax return at Incheon airport.

When your credit card and your feet have taken a beating, be sure to sample some of the weird and wonderful Korean street food delicacies available along the streets of Myeongdong. Torpedo potatoes and 32cm high ice cream cones are among Myeongdong’s specialties.

Metro Station: Myeong-dong Station (Subway line 4)

Gwangjang Vintage Flea Market

Shopping in Seoul
Shopping in Seoul

Gwangjang vintage flea market is a wonderful place to visit. This is especially the case if you love a bargain and a unique find when you are shopping.

Most of the clothes here are not Korean but come in from the UK, the USA, Australia, and other random parts of the world. However this could be good news if you cannot find clothes that fit you in Korean sizes.

Gwangjang market dates all the way back to 1905. It is one of the oldest markets in Seoul and is worth exploring for the experience alone – regardless of whether you are interested in vintage apparel or not.

Have Dinner Beneath a Gwangjang Pojangmacha

Gwangjang is particularly famous for its food market. You should absolutely take the time to visit Gwangjang market for a quintessentially Korean dining experience.

Pull up a stool beneath a pojangmacha tent and order a bindaetteok and a cup of strong soju to wash it all down with. You will feel like a true Korean as you sit elbow to elbow with Korean company men.

Metro Station: Jongno 5-ga Station (Exit 7)

Goto Mall, Gangnam

Goto Mall is Gangnam’s best kept secret. The mall is a maze of more than 800 metres of underground stores that branch out from Gangnam station. 

Shopping in an underground subway station mall may sound sketchy. However, locals themselves often consider Gangnam Goto as one of the best places to pick up the latest fashions at a bargain price.

The vendors here sell everything from clothes, shoes, and accessories, to cosmetics and skincare products. You will often find cheaper prices at Goto than you would at retail stores. Consider it something of a Korean “outlet” mall.

Metro Station: Express Bus Terminal Station (Metro lines 3, 7, and 9)

Ewha Woman’s University Shopping Street

Shopping in Seoul
Shopping in Seoul: Be sure to explore the cutesy boutiques around Ewha Woman’s University

Ewha Woman’s University Shopping Street runs adjacent to the Seoul university of the same name. The boutique stores here cater to the feminine and trendy students that reside in the area. They sell apparel items that are relatively inexpensive, cute and fun!

Think quintessentially Korean short skirts, cutesy dresses, and a wide array of accessories and shoes. Many of the Korean skincare and cosmetic brands have stores scattered around the street also. Products tend to be offered at discount prices.

Metro Station: Ewha Woman’s University Subway Station, Exit 2 or 3

Dongdaemun

Imagine a heavenly place where you can shop for beautiful dresses and carefully crafted handbags any time you want – even at 4am. It would be cool, hey?

Fortunately, you don’t have to imagine such a place since it actually exists in the form of Dongdaemun. This is one of the largest shopping districts in Seoul.

Dongdaemun stores are open until 5 am – the ultimate shopaholic’s fantasy. This sprawling complex is made up of over 30,000 stores, 30 shopping malls, and 10 streets.

Dongdaemun Malls

It can be difficult to know where to begin. However, the Lotte FITIN building is a good start.

The top few floors of the mall showcase clothes produced by independent local designers. The price tags here are reasonable and competitive.

Good Morning City is another Dongdaemun mall worth checking out. The mall is spread across a whopping 23 floors. It sells everything from electronics to apparel and cosmetics.

Dongdaemun Markets

Dongdaemun is also a popular spot for bargain shopping. Be sure to fight your way through the crowded outdoor market and try your hand at haggling for good deals.

Under the cover of night, dozens of yellow canopies are set up around the Dongdaemun design plaza around 9 pm and operate until dawn. The stalls here sell everything from imitation designer handbags to cheap but cute skirts and dresses.

Metro Station: Dongdaemun History & Culture Park (Exits 12 or 14)

Hongik University (Hongdae)

Shopping in Seoul
Shopping in Seoul: There are plenty pf cute and quirky places to take a break in Hongdae.

Seoul’s Hongdae neighbourhood is often compared to Tokyo’s Harajuku. This certainly says something about the style of stores in the region and the crowds that they attract.

Indie fashion trends are prevalent here. Clothing items can be picked up in many of the cheap and cheerful stores that line the streets for less than $10.

If you happen to stop by Hongdae at a weekend, you will have the opportunity to browse the Hongdae free market. This runs from 2 pm to 6 pm every Saturday (between the months of March and November).

Items on sale at the Hongdae free market include clothes (second hand or created by independent designers), handicrafts, and artwork. Live performances and exhibitions are often hosted here by young local artists and musicians.

Metro Station: Hongik University Station (Subway line 2)

Itaewon

Itaewon has always been known as the “foreigner district” of Seoul. This neighbourhood is home to the American army base. It is where Koreans often travel to get their western fix.

Itaewon might not be the place to immerse yourself in traditional Korean culture. However, it is certainly a good spot for shopping.

You can find branches of many international brand stores in Itaewon. There are more than 100 different shops here selling apparel, arts and crafts goods, electronics, and every category of item imaginable. 

The Itaewon antique furniture street  (이태원 앤틱 가구 거리) is worth checking out. As the name suggests, this street is filled with ramshackle stores that sell antiques. This name was awarded to the strip after American soldiers came here to sell their possessions during the Korean war.

The international vibes of Itaewon make it a great place to stop for a post-shopping dinner. People from all over the world have opened restaurants here.

You can have authentic food from whichever corner of the globe you can dream of – Greece, India, Lebanon, Turkey, Thailand, etc. For dessert, don’t miss the eccentric “Dondurma” ice-cream seller.

Metro Station: Itaewon Station (Metro Line 6)  

Insadong

Shopping in Seoul: Insadong
Shopping in Seoul: Insadong

Where: Insadong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Insadong is the best place in Seoul for shopping for traditional souvenirs and handicraft products. This is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the Korean capital.

Despite the daily influx of tourists it receives, Insadong has somehow retained its authentic charm. Some places are popular for a reason.

The areas of Insadong and Bukchon were once home to Korean nobles. Hundreds of ancient hanok houses line the cobbled streets of Insadong.

These structures are remarkably well preserved. Some of them have been converted into boutique hotels and guesthouses which give travellers the experience of what it was like to live in a hanok as a Korean noble all those centuries ago. Others are now gift shops and coffee places. 

Your first point of call when shopping in Insadong should be Ssamziegil – a tiered shopping mall that is filled with stores that sell beautiful artisanal products. If you are looking for a unique reminder of your time in Korea, you could consider purchasing a hanbok – traditional Korean dress. Those who can’t imagine an occasion where they would ever actually wear a hanbok could buy a modern, contemporary version of the garment. 

For traditional masks, venture into the Tal Bang wooden mask shop. If you are interested in embroideries and soft furnishing products, don’t miss the Vin Collection store. 

Metro Station: Anguk or Gyeongbokgung Stations (Metro Line 3) 

Common Ground Shopping Mall

Where: 200 Achasan-ro, Jayang 4(sa)-dong, Gwangjin-gu, Seoul

As far as shopping in Seoul goes, the locations do not get more unique than the trendy Common Ground Shopping Mall. After the mall’s grand unveiling in 2018, Common Ground has quickly become the go-to hangout spot for young Seoulites. 

What’s so wonderful about Common Ground mall? Well for starters, the mall is built from hollowed out, bright blue shipping containers that are stacked on top of each other like Lego bricks.

Spanning across an area of more than 5300m2, and utilising over 200 recycled containers, Common Ground is the largest container mall in the world. The stores at Common Ground are a blend of exclusive designer brands and independent stores.

On the upper level (floor 3) of the mall, there are several roof terraces, bars, and restaurants. Throughout the week, various performances and exhibitions are hosted here. This is surely one of the most eccentric places for shopping in Seoul. 

Metro Station: Konkuk Station (Line 2) 

Namdaemun Market 

Shopping in Seoul: Nandaemun Market
Shopping in Seoul: Nandaemun Market

Where: 21 Namdaemunsijang 4-gil, Hoehyeon-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul

Namdaemun is Seoul’s largest traditional market. The first vendors set up their stalls here all the way back in the sixties.

This is not necessarily the place to come to for the finest fabrics and the latest fashions. However, the low-cost market is a great place to pick up casual attire and accessories. Best of all though, the Namdaemun shopping experience is a cultural one. 

As you twist and turn through the labyrinth-like network of narrow passageways and ramshackle lanes that make up Namdaemun marketplace, you bypass traditional medicinal halls, makeshift food stalls, and second-hand thrift shops. Experiencing the sights, sounds, and smells of this chaotic district is a highlight of any Seoul itinerary. 

Street Food in Namdaemun

Namdaemun is one of the best places in the Korean capital for sampling Korean street food. If you are interested in trying sannakji (live octopus), this is a great place to try it. Seafood stalls make up practically every other stand of the Namdaemun food market.  

Other popular eats worth adding to your radar while exploring Namdaemun are steamed/fried mandu (the kimchi mandu here is particularly good!), eomuk fish cakes served in a soup (odeng), and kalguksu – a seafood soup. 

Metro Station: Hoehyeon Station (Line 4) 

Gangnam Boutique Stores & Brands

Where: Gangnam Shopping Street, Gangnam-daero, Gangnam-gu, Seoul

Gangnam is one of Seoul’s most exclusive neighbourhoods. Numerous high-end international brands have their flagship stores in Gangnam. The eclectic, Instagrammable layouts of the various boutiques here simply exude elegance. 

Those interested in checking out the creme de la creme of Korean fashion designers should start their Gangnam retail therapy at Kimmy J. This is a store owned by Heejin Kim, one of the most important names in Seoul fashion week. Kim is a local designer who has won international acclaim for creating streetwear that somehow manages to be both edgy and sophisticated. 

Concept Stores in Gangnam

Nearby, Rare Market is a concept store that has been known to attract celebrities from Seoul, and across the globe. Meanwhile, “Around the Corner” is a one-of-a-kind store that showcases the exquisite works of both up-and-coming Korean and global designers.

Around the Corner sells a diverse array of products. Everything from stationary items and interiors to luxury apparel and accessories can be found here. 

Metro Station: Gangnam Station (Line 2)

Mecenatpolis Mall, Hapjeong

Where: 45 Yanghwa-ro, Hapjeong-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul

If you prefer shopping malls and the knowledge that everything that you need is under one roof, then Mecenatpolis Mall is a good choice for shopping in Seoul. Branches of both local and international brand stores are located at Mecenatpolis Mall. Furthermore, there is a wide selection of cafes and restaurants here. 

Mecenatpolis is one of Seoul’s best-designed malls. Its roof is designed from a canopy of umbrellas, and the glitzy bars and eateries that encompass it attract a chic crowd of Seoulites. 

Metro Station: Hapjeong Metro (Line 2) 

Starfield COEX Mall, Gangnam

Where: Samseong 1(il)-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul

Seoul’s Starfield COEX Mall is a sprawling mass of luxury stores and boutiques that runs beneath Gangnam. This is the largest underground mall in Asia. It is also one of the best places for shopping in Seoul due to the vast selection of stores that are concentrated here. 

Store directories are scattered throughout the Starfield COEX MAll making it easy to navigate your way around and locate your favourite stores. Both mid-range and high-end shops can be found here. 

Additional Information on Shopping in Seoul

Shopping in Seoul
Shopping in Seoul
  • Many stores in Seoul do not let you try things on which is ridiculous, but it happens and not just to foreigners.
  • If you are wearing makeup, sometimes the store owners will not let you try things on
  • Clothes in Korea run much smaller than in the west. You may have to take a bigger size than usual
  • Sometimes shoes in Korea come in a “one size fits all” rather than separate sizes
  • Shoes in Korea also run small. If you have wide feet or feet that are bigger than the average, you may struggle to find shoes that you can squeeze your toes into!

Have any questions on my guide to shopping in Seoul, things to do in Seoul, or general Korea travel advice? I lived in Seoul for 2 years and will help you as best as I can. Feel free to drop me a comment below. Annyeonghaseyo! Melissa xo

Disclaimer: High Heels and a Backpack is in no way affiliated with any of the mentions contained in this shopping in Seoul guide. All recommendations are based purely upon opinion. 


Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer and Blogger based in Athens, Greece. She writes for numerous high profile travel publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, Matador Network, The Times of Israel and The Huffington Post.

9 thoughts on “Shopping in Seoul in 2020: The 18 Best Places According to a Local”

  1. Thank you so much for this helpful list!
    My mom will be going to Seoul next week for the first time, and she’s been asking me about places where she can buy fabrics(which are sold by meter). Can you please suggest some?

    Reply
    • Hi Latifah, I am sure that your Mum will have a wonderful time in Seoul! The best place would be the Dongdaemun fabric market which has TONS of stores selling fabric by the metre. I would also definitely recommend her to check out Gwangjang market. On the ground floor there is a food market that she will need to pass through (also very interesting even if the food is a little “adventurous”). Part of the market is dedicated to fabrics and tailors and that might be a good place to look.

      Reply
  2. Hello Melissa,
    Enjoyed reading your writing about shopping in Seoul. I am planning to visit Seoul soon. My main attraction is dongdaemun wholesale market. Do you think that it will be wise for a non Korean speaking woman to visit and shop alone? Will language be a major problem?
    Also, where would be the ideal place to stay while there? Is it difficult to find one’s way around dongdaemun market and Seoul in general?

    Thank you

    Reply
    • Hey Akobou! Thank you for your comment.

      Don’t worry as most people in Seoul speak English – especially the younger generation!
      In general though, Koreans are very friendly and even when interacting with locals at the markets, etc, you will find that they are very accustomed to seeing international travellers and will try their best to communicate with you.

      Dongdaemun is a great area – the markets and malls there were among my favourite places to shop in Seoul! I have written a seperate guide dedicated to Dongadaemun here if you are interested – https://www.highheelsandabackpack.com/dongdaemun-seoul/

      It’s not too tricky to move around Seoul. The public transport is excellent and everything is signposted in English. To help you, I recommend downloading the “Subway Korea” app which shows metro routes and schedules. This is an easy way of planning how to get from one place to another. You can also use Naver Maps which is South Korea’s alternative to Google maps.

      Reply
  3. Hi! Be visiting Korea in December. What days is best to do shopping where stores are open? I heard there are days that malls, stores are closed. Thank youuu!

    Reply
    • Hey Gracy, you will find that most stores and malls are open long hours every day, though a few are closed on the second and fourth sunday of the month. Any day of the week is fine, but perhaps choosing a weekday rather than a saturday helps you avoid the crowds somewhat 🙂 Even on Christmas day you will find a lot of places open. Have a wonderful trip!

      Reply
  4. Hi Mellisa,
    Great page, thanks so much.
    Could you let me know the best place to buy girls clothes from 3 years to 18 years please?
    Thanks,
    Maddy

    Reply

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