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Why Insadong is special ?
Insa-dong is a dong, or neighborhood of the Jongno-gu district of the South Korean city of Seoul. The main street is Insadong-gil, which is connected to a multitude of alleys that lead deeper into the district, with modern galleries and tea shops. At one time it was the largest market for antiques and artworks in Korea.
In area, 12.7 hectares (or 31.4 acres), the district is bordered by Gwanhun-dong to the north, Nagwon-dong to the east, and Jongno 2-ga and Jeokseon-dong to the south, and Gongpyeong-dong to the west.
Insadong was originally two towns whose names ended in the syllables "In" and "Sa". They were divided by a stream which ran along Insadong's current main street. Insadong began 500 years ago as an area of residence for government officials.
What to explore at Insadong?
Going along the main road in Insa-dong, you can see 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.
How to get to Insadong?
Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 6.
Go 100m straight, then turn left.
Jonggak Station (Seoul Subway Line 1), Exit 3.
Go straight 300m, and turn left at the 4-way Intersection.
Go straight 100m, and take the left road towards Insadong-gil Road.
Take any bus bound for Jongno 2-ga or Jongno Police Station.
Jongno 2-ga: 101, 103, 143, 150, 160, 201, 260, 262, 270, 271, 273, 370, 408, 470,
471, 601, 708, 710, 720, 721
Jongno Police Station: 109, 151, 162, 171, 172, 272, 601,6011, 708
- A Heaven for Art., Food, Culture Lovers
- A long street of traditional Korean goodies
- Great place for souvenirs
- Nice walk and street food
- Shop for Art, Traditional Souvenir, Unique Cafe & Tea House
130-4, Insa-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul-si
Tips for you
Very cute area for arts & craft shops. Lots of street vendors. Some interesting restaurants in the back streets. Cool area to explore!
This is always my favorite shopping experience in Korea. And I mean shopping--not buying (although I almost always do): looking, people-watching, wandering, having a cup of tea or a meal. These pedestrian only few square blocks are full of culturally oriented businesses: tea shops, calligraphy stores, art galleries, ceramic galleries, antique shops and interesting restaurants. I always seem to find what I am looking for. This time I was looking for ceramic gifts I didn't know exactly what I wanted but knew that I would know it when I saw it. And just so!--I walked into a small gallery with a show of unusually fine functional ware and quickly spent too much money, knowing also that my art buyers intuition was well satisfied. It is a wonderful contrast to the mass merchandising appeal of places like the Coex Mall. The one small downside is that in the last few years an influx of Mainland Chinese tourists has produced a market for cheaper stuff and cosmetics and these businesses are beginning to proliferate. I'm hoping that this doesn't progress much further because traditional Korea gets harder and harder to find in general.