What to do in Insadong: a little gem in Seoul

Last Updated on 15/02/2021 by secretmoona

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Insadong is home to Korean traditional culture. In this district located in the heart of Seoul, you will see handicrafts shops, hanok style tea houses and cafes, art galleries, ceramics shops and street vendors selling the best of Korean traditional snacks.

The number of shops available makes Insadong the best place to find authentic traditional items! It is also home to many restaurants and tea house. Let’s look at the best things to do in Insadong.

What to do in Insadong

Wander in Ikseon-dong Hanok Village

What to do in Insadong
Discover what to do in Insadong
Map of Ikseon-dong

Ikseon-dong is one of Seoul’s oldest neighbourhoods with traditional houses dating back to the 1920s. Although surrounded by modern buildings, many of the shops in the area have retained their architecture. Wandering through the winding alleys of Ikseon-dong with thousands of other tourists, shopping in the many shops, taking countless photos, tasting street foods, having coffee in a cute cafe are all great experiences to have. No matter whether your trip is just one week in South Korea or more, you should include Insadong in your itinerary.

Hang out at Ssamzie-gil Shopping Complex

Ssamzie-gil is a nice shopping mall on Insadong street and contains more than 70 shops on four levels. The mall includes clothing shops, restaurants, workshops and galleries. The design is quite interesting with a spiralling outside walkway. Although opened in 2004, the mall blends well with its traditional surroundings. The sky garden at the top of the building is worth a visit especially on a sunny and warm day. Ssamzie-gil, as well as Insadong Street, offer some unique shopping options in Seoul, a break from the overcrowded beauty and high street shops of Myeongdong.

Discover what to do in Insadong
Ssamzie-gil mall

Explore the shops on Insadong-gil (Street)

Insadong Street is a famous street located in the heart of the traditional district of the same name. The street is lined with boutique shops, handicrafts shops, art galleries, traditional stationery shops, pottery and ceramic shops, local restaurants, teahouses and cafes. Since no cars are allowed on Saturdays (2 pm – 10 pm) and Sundays (10 am – 10 pm), the street and narrow back alleys get busy with tourists and locals. If tourists are looking to explore the Korean traditional culture, the locals are more into buying things like tea, hanbok (traditional clothing) or antique furniture. This place along with the shopping mall mentioned above are the perfect places to go to if you are looking to get some traditional souvenirs for your family and friends.

Have tea in a traditional teahouse or cafe

Discover what to do in Insadong
Discover what to do in Insadong

To take a break from shopping or sightseeing, make sure to visit a teahouse. We have visited a few during our stay in Seoul. All the tea and coffee shop we have visited offer traditional Korean tea made of 100% natural ingredients, as well as organic coffee. Most teahouses and cafes are equipped with large Korean style rooms (with floor seating) and cosy gardens. As well as delicious hot beverages, they serve yummy cakes and other traditional snacks.

Visit an Art Gallery

Insadong is an arty district. Therefore, it would be practically impossible to walk in the area without seeing an art gallery. The galleries showcase a variety of traditional and contemporary arts including paintings, sculptures, pottery, ceramics and more. Take a moment to browse some of them since most are free. Some of the renowned galleries to look out for are Hakgojae Gallery considered the heart of the folk arts and Gana Art Gallery which promotes young up and coming artists.

Wear a hanbok

Hanbok is traditional Korean clothing worn since the Joseon Dynasty period. The colourful piece of fabric is available in different styles and types (women, men and children). There are many shops in and around Insadong, the palaces and Bukchon Hanok Village where you can purchase a hanbok. I highly recommend wearing hanbok during your trip. The palaces offer free entry for visitors wearing a full hanbok. For those too shy to stroll the city wearing a hanbok, you can try one out at Insadong Tourist Centre for a small fee. Hanboks can be very pricey, especially those worn at weddings but you can grab a cheaper version at souvenir shops.  Insadong Tourist Information Center – Tourist Information Center, 130-4 Gwanhun-dong, Jongno-gu

Tea Ceremony & Kimchi Making

Get to know your tea(s) at the Beautiful Tea Museum

Tea lovers will love the Beautiful Tea Museum, located in a lovely wooden hanok house. The small museum combines both a museum and a shop specialising in tea. There you learn all about the history of tea from Korea and see some tea-related items and beautiful ceramics made by young artists. As well as learning about tea, you can also enjoy Korean traditional tea. You can choose from more than 110 types of tea (green, black, floral & herbal teas) from South Korea, China, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Europe.

Address: 19-11 Insadong-gil, Insadong, Jongno-gu

Eat Street Food

Insadong is a great place to eat in Seoul, as well as, every neighbourhood in Seoul offer great food. The particularity of Insadong is the food tents that pop along Insadong-gil every evening. While in Insadong you will be limited only by your imagination and taste buds when it comes to a range of food on offer. From street food to traditional dishes like bulgogi or Korean BBQ, you will have everything at your fingertips.

Relax at Tapgol Park

Tapgol Park is the first modern park in Seoul and holds an important place in Seoulite hearts. The Wonggaksa Pagoda in the centre of the park lies on the grounds of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. The park is also the site of the March 1st Independence Movement of 1919. Although small, it still offers a relaxing environment.

Visit Jogyesa Temple

While in Insadong, take time to visit some temple grounds to escape the craziness of the city. Jogyesa Temple is a beautiful Buddhist temple, with the main hall as well-decorated as the nearby palaces. It hosts the Lotus Lantern Festival every May to celebrate Buddha’s birthday. People interested in a temple stay or want to know more about temple life should check it out as it offers a program for foreigners.  

Fun fact: Two trees on the temple grounds are more than 450 years. If only they could tell the story…they would have had lots to say. 

Address: 55 Gyeonji-dong, Jongno-gu


Discover traditional Seoul at Bukchon Hanok Village 

The traditional hanok village of Bukchon is only a few minutes walk from Insadong. The area which was once home to the Joseon Dynasty aristocracy is now a mix of private homes and traditional cultural centre. Visitors can experience the atmosphere of the ancient times by visiting traditional teahouses, restaurants or art galleries.

Visit Gyeongbokgung Palace

Discover what to do in Insadong
Gyeongbokgung Palace – Credit: Folk Musuem

With 5 palaces to choose from, you will be spoilt for choice. To learn about the Joseon Dynasty, join the Gyeongbokgung Palace tour. It was the main palace and home to beautiful buildings like the royal family residences, a beautiful pond and pavilion. Gyeongbokgung Palace offers direct access to the nearby Folk Museum of Korea. Besides, I recommend visiting Changdeokgung Palace, especially the secret garden: a peaceful retreat in the heart of busy Seoul.

Cheonggyecheon Stream is an oasis of calm and tranquillity amid the hustle and bustle of Seoul.

Take a stroll along Cheonggyecheon Stream

Discover what to do in Insadong
Discover what to do in Insadong

Restored in 2005, Cheonggyecheon Stream is an oasis of calm and tranquillity amid the hustle and bustle of Seoul. Stretching over 10km, the stream starts from Seoul City Hall and passes by many attractions and landmarks such as Insadong Street, Changdeokgung Palace and many more. You can take a stroll, sit and have a drink with your friends, enjoy the artworks along the stream etc..It’s nice walking there day and night, the lights make it even prettier at night.

How to get to Insadong

Insadong can be accessed via the following metro stations:

  • Jonggak Station ( Line 1) Exit 3
  • Jongno 3-ga Station (Line 1, Line 3 and Line 5) Exit 4
  • Anguk Station (Seoul Metro Line 3) Exit 6

Where to eat in Insadong

Korea is known for its food, especially the street food scene. Insadong is also known for the food stalls called pojangmacha that pops out every evening. The variety of food on offer is also massive: you can choose from traditional restaurants, Korean BBQ restaurants, food carts or street food vendors. 

Discover what to do in Insadong
Discover what to do in Insadong

For a snack, look for the yummy hotteok, a sweet pancake or Dragon’s Beard Candy, a flavoured candy made of strings of honey wrapped multiple times people can choose from the following flavours: almond, peanut or chocolate. 

If you are more in the mood for a sit-down meal, then the numerous cosy restaurants, see below a list of restaurants:

  • Sanchon – a vegan-friendly restaurant serving temple food – 14, Gwanhun-dong, Jongno-gu
  • Shin Old Teahouse – the oldest teahouse in Insadong – 164 Gwanhun-dong, Jongno-gu
  • 853 – another Korean BBQ restaurant – 16, Insadong 12-gil, Jongno-gu
  • Choedaegamne – a traditional restaurant with cosy garden and pond – 12-3, Insadong 8-gil, Jongno-gu
  • Insadong Chatjip – hanok-style teahouse serving traditional tea and snacks – 33-1 Insadong-gil, Gwanhun-dong, Jongno-gu
  • Yangbandaeg – traditional restaurant serving organic food – 19-18 Insadong-gil, Insa-dong, Jongno-gu
  • Solnaeum – tea room and coffe shop – 17-32, Suseo-ro 28-gil, Jongno-gu
Booking.com Klook.com

Where to stay in Insadong

Insadong is a great place to base yourself while in Seoul. It’s close to many attractions like the palaces, Bukchon Hanok Village, N Seoul Tower without being too busy. The prices around the area are very reasonable. You will find hanok guest houses, hostels, budget and mid-range hotels. During our three days in Seoul, we stayed at Ibis Ambassador Insadong. The hotel is great for sightseeing in the northern part of Seoul. Most of the attractions are within walking distance from the hotel. Highly recommended if you are looking for convenience, comfort and good price.

A walk through Insadong is just what you need to experience the traditional and old atmosphere of Seoul.

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Insadong is the most charming and traditional district in Seoul where you can experience the Korean culture. Follow along to find out what are the best things to do in #Insadong.

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Hi there! I'm Mayi. Welcome to my blog SecretMoona! I hope to share with you the hidden secret of places I visit.

18 thoughts on “What to do in Insadong: a little gem in Seoul

  1. This all sounds fantastic! Your posts about Korea always give me such wanderlust!!

    I would love to visit Changdeokgung Palace and its secret garden…and eat everything you have mentioned!! Nom nom nom!!

    1. Insadong is the perfect place to experience the tea culture, especially if you don’t have time to travel elsewhere in the country.

  2. I’ve been planning on moving to South Korea in the near future, so this post was incredibly helpful for me. I can already tell that the street food is going to be a highlight for me.

  3. I really enjoy visiting older parts of modern cities – there are often some unique restaurants and shops to find. I’ll make a note of this for when I visit Seoul!

    1. Agree! Although, Seoul is one of the most modern cities I have visited, it still has some part that have preserved their authenticity.

  4. I love learning about Korea. I would love to visit one day. I would have to check out the Tea Museum. Thanks for this great guide .

  5. Wow! Insadong sounds like a great place with the many coffee and tea houses and the art galleries. I would love to stroll form gallery to gallery. The palace and temples would be beautiful to visit as well.

  6. We had one very rushed day in Seoul and knew we wanted to go back and enjoy more. We saw a little of the Insadong area of Seoul but are sorry we did not get to explore at a more leisurely pace. Traditional tea is definitely something we would want to make time for. Along with a good selection of street food.

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