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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.
- 1 What to do in Insadong
- 1.1 Wander in Ikseon-dong Hanok Village
- 1.2 Hang out at Ssamzie-gil Shopping Complex
- 1.3 Explore the shops on Insadong-gil (Street)
- 1.4 Have tea in a traditional teahouse or cafe
- 1.5 Visit an Art Gallery
- 1.6 Wear a hanbok
- 1.7 Get to know your tea(s) at the Beautiful Tea Museum
- 1.8 Eat Street Food
- 1.9 Relax at Tapgol Park
- 1.10 Visit Jogyesa Temple
- 1.11 Discover traditional Seoul at Bukchon Hanok Village
- 1.12 Visit Gyeongbokgung Palace
- 1.13 Take a stroll along Cheonggyecheon Stream
- 1.14 How to get to Insadong
- 2 Where to eat in Insadong
- 3 Where to stay in Insadong
What to do in Insadong
Wander in Ikseon-dong Hanok Village
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.
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
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
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
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
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, TEL 02-6110-3281 ) 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.
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
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.