Insa-dong /인사동

LUXE City Guides - Seoul - - Shopping Itineraries -

Some call it Mary’s Al­ley, some call it Dis­ney on kim­chi, what­ever you call it, it’s touristy, but fun to tot­ter down, and is a nifty on­estop shop­ping strip if you’re af­ter tra­di­tional rice pa­per crafts, cal­lig­ra­phy brushes and ce­ram­ics. De­spite the govern­ment’s best ef­forts to re­vive this once-prime an­tique mar­ket, se­ri­ous col­lec­tors will have to re­ally root and rum­mage among the faff and fad­dle. Or for the best of Seoul’s se­lec­tion, make a day of it at Jan­gan­pyeong An­tique Mar­ket (see Stand­out Stores).

Com­mence at the An­guk-dong Ro­tary end of Insa-dong /안국역인사동입구 / by the GS25 mini-mart and note the carts and stalls sell­ing ev­ery­thing from bam­boo uten­sils and dough­nuts to pot­tery. All you need to do is head down this brick-lined street and pop into what­ever takes your fancy. At Todok Gong­bang /토독공방 / 8844 3812 / on your left, watch crafts­men carve out fancy Ori­en­tal seals. Stay on the main strip; tot­ter half­way down to spy on your left the SSamzigil mall / ssamzigil.co.kr, a heap of sty­ley lil’ stores sell­ing jew­ellery, hats, bags, and knick knacks. The mall’s open, as­cend­ing spiral lay­out means you can only go one way and can’t get lost. At the very top is a café and out­door snack bar; once done, head back down to the main road, and di­rectly opp. is a small street that leads to Mokin Mu­seum / 722 5066 / mok­in­mu­seum.com / where you can view a spec­tac­u­lar pri­vate col­lec­tion of trad wooden fig­urines, and sleek Palazzo Due / 744 9240 / for Ital­ian bites, while op­po­site the resto is the Insa-dong Tourist In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter / 737 7890. Re­trace to the main drag, on the right is Gana Insa Art Cen­ter / 736 1020 / in­saart cen­ter.com / ex­hibit­ing fis­sion-hot lo­cal con­tempo artists. Carry on and twirl left at Sudo Drug­store /수도약국 / where there’s an English sign for the Kyun­gin Mu­seum of Fine Art / 733 4448 / kyung­i­nart.co.kr / for cul­ture and a cuppa at sweet hide­away Da­won / 730 6305. Fac­ing the mu­seum gate is Koong / 733 9240 / koong.co.kr / the area’s old­est and tasti­est North Korean dumpling spot. Ex­it­ing the mu­seum left, nip left again and a few steps down you’ll find a back­street packed with food stalls; try Cha Iyagi / 차이야기/ 735 8552 / for grilled meat and bam­boo-steamed rice, best en­joyed with liqueurs like makke­olli or dong­dongju. Or, op­po­site is Min’s Club (see Rest./Re­laxed) for a fancy bite and wine in 30s ar­chi­tec­ture. Re­trace your steps to the main street and con­tinue to find Tong-In on the left with neat ce­ram­ics, pa­per and silk on G/F – don’t bother with the other floors. Exit, keep left and spin left into the next al­ley, fol­low­ing it round to find San­chon (see Rest./Ca­sual), run by a dear old ex-monk in sus­pect footwear. Grab a veg­gie snack if so in­clined. Come out of the al­ley the way you came and turn left at the main road. At the four-way in­ter­sec­tion are Gyeongil Cul­tural Store / 733 8233 / for gorgey rice pa­per, and Nag­won Tteokjip /낙원떡집 / 733 9009 / for rice cake morsels to go. Keep go­ing and at the next cor­ner turn right, then shoot straight for the end of the lane to power up with Korean green teas, her­bal mixes, pas­tries, and retail at the Beau­ti­ful Tea Mu­seum / 735 6678 / in a hanok with pretty skylit atrium. Cha-aaah!

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