I thought I’ll type this up while I’m fresh from my trip to Korea. If you’ve bee following me on IG, you’d probs know I was there the past week for my husband’s (group) art exhibit with Asia Culture Center (@asiaculturecenter) in Gwangju, South Korea. It was a relatively short trip, and not a very touristy/leisurely one as it was really about his show–me and my daughter just tagged along.
Gwangju is more of a university town/culture hub..a quiet, almost provincial city which I find charming in many ways. I actually would have loved to stay there longer because it’s more laid back, less busy and well generally cheaper and better food. Anyway, we had a few days there and a few days in the capital. Seoul, on the other hand, is a vibrant city with the perfect mix of old and new. I lucked out on the hotel location as we were within walking distance from Myeongdong and Insandong..but the sweetest deal was the Cheonggyecheon Stream right below the hotel’s street level.
The Cheonggyecheon Stream was one of the best parts of our trip.
Anyway, let’s talk about Myeongdong, the busy shopper’s haven filled to the brim with shops, mostly beauty, shoes, apparel and restaurants. If you can, get a copy of the Myeongdong map for a comprehensive list of shops per street. Google Maps navigation don’t really work in Korea (like, it won’t route you) and there’s no Uber. Fortunately, there are plenty of Tourist Info booths around the city..the guides are speak English and are very helpful.
See that map my baby’s holding? You’d want to get that, it shows a complete list of shops per street, like below:A section of the Myeongdong area, look at all those shops!!!
This is the Myeongdong Cathedral, a very prominent landmark of the area..so if you ever get lost or finding your way in the area, look out for the tower and the cross!
Myeongdong entry from Samil Daero
We walked our way to Myeongdong from Samil Daero road. I guess the most direct way is to take the train to Myeongdong station, but we were just within walking distance of and coming from the other side. The area is busy and very festive, and huge! You can easily spend half a day here, even longer if you stop for coffee and meals. I was only able to go around for a few hours and now I’m haunted by shops and places I didn’t get to checkout!
A must-visit! The 3CE Stylenanda Pink Hotel! I love the -inspired interiors
Olive Young Dermo Cosmetics wall.
Olive Young brands.
Watson’s has Pony Effect.
Myeongdong can be quite overwhelming, with so many shops and streets to go to. If you’re like me (and almost all travellers) with limited time, you might want to keep these in consideration!
- If K-Beauty shopping is in your agenda, come prepared. List all shops/brands you intend to visit, as well products you intend to get. I actually did not come prepared so I got overwhelmed. I only managed to get a few things here and there and was not able to come back for stuff I thought I wanted to get.
- If you see something that you like/planned on getting, buy it already! Stocks are irregular across branches, and popular products are almost always sold out.
- Know that some brands have their own stand alone stores, and some are in retail chains like Olive Young, Watsons, Boots and Lotte Department Stores. For example, 3CE have their own Stylenanda shop in Myeongdong, but is also available in an Olive Young I visited in Gwangju, but not in Olive Young stores in Seoul. I know, weird.
- Help is hard to find..though generally friendly, communicating in English is a bit of challenge. If you see what you like, get it already rather than asking for assistance. Of course, suggestions and answers to questions are even harder to get from SAs so do your research beforehand.
- Try to really look around the store for deals (like 1+1, special kit freebies, additional discounts)..displays and posters get a bit confusing and overwhelming but it’s worth a look. Some stores give samples too. The cheapest bargains (like 10+10 masks) are usually out front (outside the store) so you can easily browse through.
- Bring your passport as most shops offer Tax Refund. Almost all shops accept credit cards, but if you prefer cash, Myeongdong has a lot of banks (where you can withdraw) and Forex shops (where you can exchange money).
- A lot of K-Beauty brands are also available at Incheon airport and are actually much cheaper there (tax-free)! However, the duty free shops of like 3CE, the Saem, Innisfree, Dr Jart , Tony Moly, Etude House (to name a few) only carry their basic makeup. But they offer a lot of skincare deals and exclusive boxes so check in earlier so you can roam around for some last minute purchases.
That all said, I LOVED being in Korea! Shopping and eating is not too expensive and prohibitive. People are pretty chill and accommodating–casual, and not too formal like in Japan. Except for some negative experiences with crabby cabbies (seriously, they need Uber), I thought that was such a fun trip, I’m definitely planning to go back! If you have questions, please ask away! I’m also on IG so feel free to ask me there too!