There are so many great places to shop in Seoul. We spent more time shopping in Hongdae since that was where our apartment was. Each day, we would venture out for tours or tattoos or amusement parks. But we also went out and walked around Hongdae at least once a day either before we went on adventures or oftentimes, in the evening after we had rested a bit. So, the majority of these shops are in Hongdae, though almost all of them have shops all over Seoul.
First on the list is Etude House.
Etude House is a cosmetics company based in South Korea. Not only do they have cosmetics, they have amazing skin care masks! They are also pretty inexpensive. They were running a sale when my sister and I went. So, we each walked out with probably 40 or more face masks for around $20 American.
Not only do I love their products, I was impressed that the employees were more than happy to help us find the correct CC cream for our skin even though there was a slight language barrier!
The decor of the shop is very dainty and pink and feminine. However, as with many shops in South Korea, there isn’t a lot of space to move around.
TonyMoly is another cosmetics brand in South Korea. My favorite thing about TonyMoly? The packaging is super cute. Want banana-scented hand lotion that comes in a container shaped like a banana? TonyMoly has it! Want a lip scrub that’s in the shape of lips? TonyMoly!
Be warned though, TonyMoly products are heavily scented. If you have an allergy to fragrances or have respiratory issues, use TonyMoly with caution. I have mild asthma and the fragrances don’t bother me. However, one of my friends has skin that is sensitive to strong fragrances. So, many TonyMoly products irritate her skin.
Artbox was by far, our favorite shop. We literally went there at least once a day. This shop is a great place to get souvenirs as well as little odds and ends you might need in South Korea. We got everything from slippers to wear in the apartment to luggage straps to hold our suitcases together on the trip back to the airport. We also got external batteries for our electronic devices, hats, tablet holders, sleep masks and bandannas.
Artbox may be a small shop, but they have a wide variety of items to choose from. Not only that, Artbox is a duty-free seller. If you are a foreigner, they will automatically hand you the paperwork to fill out as well as your receipt. Also, Artbox does charge you for a bag if you need one. If I remember correctly, it was around $1 American, so nothing too crazy. That being said, if you have a bag on you (from another store or a purse or backpack) you can use that instead of paying for a bag. I paid for the bag just because it was cute and it was a sturdy paper bag. So, I kept it as a souvenir for myself.
The next shop on the list is located in Myeongdong. (There may be more locations. But we went to the one in Myeongdong.)
If you are looking for Kpop cds and dvds, check out Music Korea!
Check out my haul from our first trip to Music Korea!
There are several small kpop stores in certain subway stations. (Myeongdong station has a couple) But they are TINY! And cramped. And hot.
The outside of one of the shops in the subway station.
Music Korea, however, is right outside exit 6 in Myeongdong and it’s got a lot more room to look around at your leisure.
The first thing to know about Music Korea is that it’s on the third floor of the Nature Republic building. The directions I’ve found online say to take Line 4 to Myeongdong station. Look for exit 6. Once you exit the station, turn left and walk to the street. Nature Republic is right there. (When we went, the building was covered in bright green vines and leaves. It was actually really pretty!) Now, you can go in the front door or the side door. If you go in the front door, walk straight back to the stairs. Go up the stairs until you find the music store. If you go in the side door, the stairs are right night to the door.
Music Korea has pretty good prices for most cds and dvds. And the staff was super helpful. Not only did they keep taking our stacks of cds back up to the register so we didn’t have to hold them, they were really helpful when my sister asked about cds from specific groups that she was looking for. When we finally made our purchases, they made sure to give us several posters and a ton of photo-cards from different groups of our choosing. We went back a few days later and to get more cds and walked out with even more posters and photo-cards.
By the time we were done shopping the first time, we had enough cds that we each had to buy another carry-on suitcase just to get them back to the States!
So, a few paragraphs up, I mentioned shops in the subway stations. I want to touch a little bit more on that for a second. Most of the subway stations in Seoul have tiny shops underground that you should at least take a minute to browse through.
One of my favorite things about the shops in the subway? You can get socks for around $1 American per pair! This was a total lifesaver for me. We went during the summer. So, naturally, I brought a couple of pairs of sandals and some Toms-type shoes and a pair of Vans slip ons. Now, I have been unable to find socks in the States that will actually fit in those shoes, stay up when you walk and not show. So, I usually don’t wear socks with them. (Gross, I know.)
Normally, I switch my shoes out enough that they don’t get super gross and my feet don’t stink. But I was not expecting to be as hot in South Korea as I was. Needless to say, after a couple of days spent walking, non-stop, in the heat, my feet were not holding up so well. I had blisters. My feet were swollen and tired. I needed to make a change.
Seeing as how the socks in the subway stations only cost $1, I could afford to grab a couple pair to get me through my vacation. Even if they only lasted until we got back to the States, it would be worth it. I was pleasantly surprised.
Not only did the socks help prevent more blisters, they helped my feet/shoes to not be super smelly and the no-show socks actually stayed up! I was amazed. On top of this, most of the socks I bought had cute designs or pretty colors. And, even better, they lasted through my trip and I’m still wearing them 4 months later! If you ever need socks while visiting South Korea, take my advice! Cheap socks from the subway station are the way to go!
In one of my earlier Seoul posts, I mentioned the app Kakaotalk. If you use Kakaotalk, you might be familiar with the official characters used in the emojis. If you are a fan of the characters (or have a Kpop bias that collects them) you might be interested in visiting the Kakao Friends store in Hongdae. The store itself is massive, covering multiple floors. They sell everything from keychains to pajamas. We saw luggage and water bottles. Socks and stuffed animals. Everything has the characters on it. This store was seriously cute! It can get a little pricey, depending on what you’re buying. But even if you don’t buy anything, it’s worth it to stop in and see all the cute items.
I ended up with some Ryan gear!
Lastly, I couldn’t talk about shopping in Korea without mentioning the street-shopping!
We spent a lot of time just walking around Hongdae, checking out the street vendors. Cell phone cases, clothes, shoes, fidget spinners, accessories. We saw it all! We each bought shoes from a street vendor for around $10 American. (Pro-Tip: Before you go, find a conversion chart for Korean shoe sizes and screen-shot it! This makes it super easy to get the right size, even if there is a language barrier!)
I bought a super cute shirt from a street vendor and let me tell you! It was white and black striped with a bow in the back. The fabric was thick enough that the white wasn’t transparent at all. Which as anyone who has ever bought a white shirt only to find out it was totally see-through can tell you, is basically a miracle to find one that isn’t transparent!
One of my favorite things about the street shopping in South Korea is that they had a lot of clothing styles that aren’t very common in the States. I loved seeing the fashion, not only on for sale by the street vendors, but also on the people walking around. There is definitely a different vibe to fashion in Seoul than we have in Kansas City. I can’t tell you how many compliments I’ve gotten on my “street purchases” since I’ve gotten home!
Here’s my haul from one of our first days in Seoul:
Seriously, this was just ONE of our shopping trips. Now you know why we each had to purchase more luggage!
So, there you have it!
There are so many great places to shop in South Korea. What are your favorites?