Seoul’s Shopping District

Hi, I’m Gameema and I’m a shopaholic. OK, maybe not all the time, but sometimes, when I have some cash money and depression that only retail therapy can cure. But if you are a shopaholic then I’m going to be your enabler. And if you aren’t completely addicted to shopping then you haven’t been to Seoul, where consumerism is the be all and end all and no-one is exempted. The shopping district in Seoul caters to all individuals, even those on a budget. You can actually take yourself on a full-on shopping spree here! There are so many elements to this consumerist culture that I’ve tried breaking it up into sections.

The Department Stores
Be careful to check your bank balance beforehand as the Korean department stores will definitely break your budget. This is brand central, with an array of international brands to tickle your fancy or to make you hate your life if you’re not in the 1% elite. You’ll immediately be in awe as you walk through the doors as the marble floors and down lighting will make you feel as though you’re in some kind of wonderland. I loved going to the department store in Myeongdong, which was love at first sight. I can’t even begin to explain the magnitude of these buildings and what they represent for a modernistic first world culture. It’s like malls on steroids.  I couldn’t count the amount of floors there were but I made my way up to the 8th and that was basically a summit for me. I’d advise you to take an elevator as the escalators have made me so dizzy I swear I lost consciousness. The Department Stores are my favourite places to find international skincare brands. They are of course high end buys which seem to be preferred in Seoul. You may also find a Boujoir counter which I thought a bit ridiculous as this is a drugstore brand everywhere else in the world (not that I’ve been everywhere but you know). But cheaper brands like Boujoir get a better reputation if sold in department stores and it also gives them a little more freedom to raise their prices and still be cheaper than other cosmetic brands there. But that’s just the ground floor. All the way up is mainly fashion stores, which is like 7 floors of designer clothing, which also includes bags, shoes and price tag panic attacks. But enough with all the expenses, let’s talk alternatives.

The Markets
The markets are like the department stores minus the flashy lights. It hosts a wide range of Korean brands and an overwhelming sense of stuffiness. Claustrophobic folks – Beware! These are mainly indoor markets and may make you feel like you’re in one of those Where’s Waldo picture books surrounded by a mass of people. Except here are actual humans and clothes, and bedding and pig noses. Ok maybe they aren’t that much like the department stores. Markets are a big deal here. I feel like every place you go to in Seoul has a few good markets. The Dongdaemun market is probably the largest market you can find and also has quite a number of floors and not to mention a few buildings. Famous for its late night shopping, this market closes as late as 5am. For what reason, I’ll never know. They are known for selling high quality goods, even the same quality as the department stores but without the exorbitant price tag. I wouldn’t say it is necessarily cheap, but you do have a bargaining window here so take it! Korean brands are of a high quality so these items can last years and still maintain good condition. You do obviously get less extravagant markets in Seoul, but are they really worth talking about? Probably not. Let’s move on.

The Streets
Fashion streets are prominent in Korea and Seoul has no shortage of them. They have definitely been my favourite places to shop as they are a lot cheaper than the markets and they have this thing called fresh air. These streets can get packed on weekends but there’s always an easy escape and a fresh lemonade stand. Again, the quality of the Korean brands is exceptional so you can’t go wrong here. My favourite fashion streets in Seoul are at the Ewha Women’s University in Sinchon and Garuso-gil in Sinsa-Dong, which is supposed to be the Parisian street in Seoul. One day when I’m in Paris, I’ll let you know how accurate that statement is. The fashion street in Sinchon is a bit rugged in comparison to Garuso-gil and a lot busier too. It hosts a lot of boutiques selling women’s clothing catering for the students of Ewha, and I found a lot of the shops to be quite cute. You’ll know what I mean when you get there. It is also the best place to shop for stationery! I promise you, Korea does the prettiest perk me up miscellaneous goods ever! I could literally spend a few solid hours looking at ornaments, journals, lamps, clocks etc. you name it, they’ve got it (in pink!). Garusogil on the other hand is more sophisticated. It’s a little less cutesy and a lot more artsy. If it were in Cape Town, It would most likely be infiltrated by hipsters. I hadn’t spent much time there because I found it towards the end of my stay when hunting down Paula’s Choice. I also found Forver21 there to my surprise, as I always went to the one in Myeongdong, which we’ll get to in a bit, as well as Melvita, Banila & Co., the best Missha store I’ve seen and Wonderbra. Yep, women need bras. But in between all the smaller boutiques you may find some good bargains. I sure did.

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Ewha Women’s University

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Shopping District opposite Ewha University
Shopping District opposite Ewha Women’s University

206I feel like Seoul is always having a sale. It’s an extremely competitive market so you never fall short of a good deal. Don’t even speak to me about the summer and winter sales that occur in Myeongdong. That’s another dizzying experience which my mind tends to block out. But my love for Myeongdong will never die. It was my Krispy Kream breakfast on a Saturday morning and a wander around the streets, markets and department stores. It’s the hybrid of Seoul’s shopping district and the heart of my shopping memories. Two massive department stores practically a block away from each other, numerous street vendors selling goods at dirt cheap prices and basically an outside market of the most trending international and local brands. If you have one day to shop in Seoul, this is your destination.

There are so many amazing places to shop in Seoul, all of which cannot be mentioned in this post. But if you are planning a trip to Seoul or are interested in Seoul’s shopping district then do look out for places like Itaewon and Hongdae, even Insa-dong. There’s so much to do in this city you’ll literally feel like taking another holiday on your return home. It also took a while for me to go shopping when I returned home as I knew I had left the biggest bargain behind. I dream of going back there and just spoiling myself!

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Shopping in Itaewon

Where’s your favourite place to shop? Leave a comment below Xx

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