Apgujeong is a mid-high end shopping area in Gangnam-gu. In this area you will find many independently owned boutiques as well as designer shops such as Louis Vuitton, Prada and so on. Even if you’re only able to window shop, Apgujeong is a great place to go for a walk, window shop and have a coffee. You can get there by taking subway line number three to Apgujeong Station.
Located in the busy district of Jung-gu, Myeongdong is one of the best places to shop in Seoul. At the moment, this is where you’ll find Seoul’s only Gap clothing store, as well as Forever 21 and other Western chain stores. There are some great buys out in the streets as well as many boutiques that line the tiny roads. Myeongdong is also home to several large department stores and is wonderful for people watching. Prices levels range from low to high end. To get to Myeongdong, take subway line four to Myeongdong Station and enter through Migliore Department Store.
Both inside and outside the underground, Gangnam Station is a great place to shop. Above ground you’ll find Korean and Western stores like The Body Shop, WHOAU and American Apparel. Below ground, inside the station, you’ll find hundreds of small boutiques and kiosks selling clothes, shoes, cosmetics and undergarments at extremely reasonable prices. Whether above or below ground, the price range is similar to Myeongdong- you can get great deals or you can spend a lot of money. To get there, take line number two to Gangnam Station.
Also located in Gangnam-gu, COEX is the largest shopping complex in Seoul. From Western style restaurants to small Korean designer shops and even an aquarium, COEX has something for the whole family. Prices range from low to high end, depending on whether you plan to shop in the Korean stores or the Western stores like Zara. To get there, take the subway (line number two) to Samseong Station.
Covering the university areas of Hongdae, Ewha, Yonsei and Sogang, Sinchon generally caters to a younger crowd. There are plenty of boutiques showing off the latest trends at fairly low prices in addition to shops with even more cutting-edge fashions available. Think Harajuku in Tokyo, only in Seoul and a little less frenetic, but just as artistic. Prices range from low to mid end. To get there, you can go to Hongik University Station, Sinchon Station, Ewha Women’s University Station (note: if you are engaged, go to this area for a beautifully made wedding dress on “Wedding Street”, just outside the subway station) or Ahyeon Station on line number two.
Want a taste of traditional Korea? Head to this street, just around the corner from Jonggak Station on line one. Traditional Korean ceramics, lanterns, fans, jewelry, art and antiques stand alongside more modern jewelry designers and artists. It is also a great place to a have a cup of Korean style tea with some rice cakes. This street is always full of pedestrians, shopping or taking pictures and there is usually some kind of traditional music or dance being performed on the weekends. This is the street to go to get affordable, traditional gifts for loved ones back home. Prices range from very low end (bargaining is sometimes acceptable) to high end for a ceramic vase or Korean silk scarf.
If Insadong is where you go for tradition, Itaewon (in Yongsan-gu) is where you go for… well, the opposite. Mainly populated by foreigners from all over the world, Itaewon is a strange mix of cultures. On one end of the spectrum, it is classy with great international restaurants and interesting shops and clubs while, on the other end, it is unmistakably seedy. Itaewon, at night, is full of prostitution and shady characters. During the day, however, you’ll find all kinds of boutiques and underground “malls” where you can find cheap knock offs, American/European style football jerseys, purses and shoes for good prices. You’ll also find high end tailor shops, leather shops and some Western brand names like Calvin Klein and The North Face. Itaewon is one of few areas in Seoul where you’ll find larger sizes, as many shops cater to foreigners. Prices range from low to high end, and shops generally stay open late into the evening. To get there, take subway line six to Itaewon Station.
Namdaemun can be found in Jung-gu at Hoehyeon Station on subway line number four. It’s chock full of clothes, accessories, street food and about anything else you could possibly hope to find. Like in Insadong, it is sometimes acceptable to bargain for your purchases – just choose your words carefully (a good Korean phrase for this is “ka-ka juseyo!” which means “discount please!”). Namdaemun has many indoor shops and outdoor kiosks, and although each shop has its own hours of operation, generally you can shop well into the evening as well as early in the morning. The several city blocks that Namdaemun cover are not accessible by car, as the market is quite old and the streets are still very small and winding.
Dongdaemun is the largest market area in South Korea. Located in Jongno-gu, it covers about ten city blocks and, like Namdaemun, sells everything under the sun. Best known for its craft or sewing supplies as well as clothes, street food, shoes, leather products and traditional Korean medicines. Its hours of operation, like Namdaemun, depend on the store or kiosk, but generally businesses open from 10:30 AM until 5 AM – it’s a happening place and a great way to observe Korean culture. To get there, take subway line number four to Dongdaemun Station or Dongdaemun Stadium Station.