Insa-dong (인사동), located in the heart of the city, is an important place where old but precious and traditional goods are on display. There is one main road in Insa-dong with alleys on each side. Within these alleys are galleries, traditional restaurants, traditional teahouses, and cafes.
The galleries are the heartbeat of Insa-dong. There are about 100 galleries in the area and you can see every example of traditional Korean fine art from paintings to sculptures. The most famous galleries are Hakgojae Gallery, which functions as the center of folk art, Gana Art Gallery, which promotes many promising artists, and Gana Art Center.
The teahouses and restaurants are the perfect complement to the galleries. At first they might be hard to find, but if you take the time to stroll around the twisting alleyways, the window shopping in itself can be very entertaining. The shops in Insa-dong are very popular among all age groups, because each one is unique.
Every Saturday from 14:00 – 22:00 and Sunday from 10:00 – 22:00, some streets are blocked off from traffic and it becomes a cultural space. Stores set up booths outside and others set up shops (Korean candy merchants and fortune tellers.) There are traditional performances and exhibits as well. Insa-dong is especially popular with foreign tourists. This is where they can experience and see traditional Korean culture firsthand, and also purchase pieces of fine art. On the street you can eat Korean taffy and traditional pajeon (Korean pancake), and see many foreigners lost in all the joyous festivities of the street.
Myeong-dong (명동) is one of the primary shopping districts in Seoul. The two main drags meet in the center of the block with one beginning from Myeong-dong Subway Station (Seoul Subway Line No. 4) and the other from Lotte Department Store at Euljiro. Many brand name shops and department stores line the streets and alleys. Common products for sale include clothes, shoes, and accessories. Unlike Namdaemun or Dongdaemun, many designer brands are sold in Myeong-dong. In addition, several major department stores include Lotte Department Store, Shinsegae Department Store, Myeong-dong Migliore, Noon Square and M Plaza. The department stores carry many premium labels and other fashionable goods at reasonable prices.
Myeong-dong also has family restaurants, fast food, plus Korean, Western and Japanese dining options. Many restaurants in Myeong-dong specialize in pork cutlet (donkas) and kalguksu (thick noodles). Other businesses include hair salons, banks and theaters. Myeongdong Catholic Church is also a well-known tourist attraction. It is pillar of the Catholic church in Korea and was built in the Gothic style. Behind the church is a quiet space for relaxation.
Hongdae is a neighborhood known for its youthful and romantic ambience, underground culture, and freedom of self-expression. Unique cafes, cozy galleries, accessory stores, fashion shops, live cafés and clubs, art markets, and gourmet eateries make this a popular hang-out for local youth and a fascinating place to walk around.Also in this same area is the ‘Ballerina Who Loved A B-boy’ theater and other theaters dedicated to the art of b-boy dance. Another big draw of Hongdae is the weekend ‘Free market,’ (1pm to 6pm) where artists gather each week to display and sell their handmade crafts and accessories. During this period, there is usually a variety of open-air concerts and events as well.These unique places plus the cultural events, street performances, and festivals held here make Hongdae an area that is always packed with people and excitement. Special streets such as ateliers’ street (lined with private institutions for art students preparing for university entrance exams), Picasso’s Street, and Club Street are also must-go places if you’re hoping to fully experience the Hongdae area.
Gangnam Subway Station area is the prime district for those living south of the Han River. Gangnam main road links Teheran Road in the east to Jamsil and Sadang in the west. Kyobo Tower Crossroad connects Express Terminal to Noryangjin and west of Seoul. Hannam main road in the north extends to the north of the Han River. A southward direction leads to metropolitan areas such as Seongnam, passing Yangjae and Bundang.
Many people tend to gather at Gangnam Subway Station, as the location is geographically and commercially suitable as a meeting point for social gatherings, events or personal engagements. Hence, during the weekdays it is usually crowded in the evenings while on weekends, areas around Gangnam Subway Station exit number 6 and 7, as well as the front of New York Bakery shop, City Theatre, and Giordano are often bustling with people. Visitors travel to Gangnam to take advantage of its convenient transportation, fashion malls, movie theatres and bookstores.
Apgujeong Rodeo Street is the leading fashion mecca, formed as a cultural zone with a high propensity for consumption. It creates leading fashion trends, customer friendly shops, foreign brand shops with high-quality goods, reasonably priced hip hop fashion shops, and accessory shops. There are many cafes with unique interior designs, as well as many Korean, Thai and Japanese restaurants. Beauty clinics are clustered on the streets and due to this atmosphere, Rodeo Street attracts many youngsters.
Apgujeong Rodeo Street is emerging as a new cultural space as well. Along with the opening of Multi-Plex Cine-City, more theaters such as
Cineplus, and Nanta Theater (non-verbal performances) have moved into the area, and it is now a full-blown cultural zone for youngsters. If you get lucky, you may meet famous Korean celebrities as they make frequent visits to the area.