Neon starts to flash overhead, filling the streets with an instantly recognizable buzz, barely audible over the rhythmic beats of K-pop that blare from hidden speakers. Shop assistants clap violently and shout out, effortlessly switching their sales pitches from Chinese to Japanese to English and back again, luring in wide-eyed visitors with free face masks and samples of eye cream. Wafts of sausage-scented smoke rolls through the alleys, while Seoul Tower peeks through the small crevices of space in between of shopping centers.
|Myeongdong shopping crowds | © el_ave / Flickr|
Myeongdong doesn’t feel like Korea. In fact, it has become so popular with Chinese tourists that the majority of signage and sales transactions are in Mandarin. It’s not a place to go to see the real Seoul. What it is good for, however, is shopping, unique street food, and sensory overload, in the best way possible. So, if you seek any of these three things, be sure to spend an evening—when the place really comes alive—in Myeongdong.
The Myeongdong location is located right in the thick of things, and is a good place to take a shopping break. When you’re ready to hit the streets again, check out the vendors in the adjacent alley for ridiculously affordable bags and shoes.
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More SPA brands abound down the road. MIXXO is another player in the fast fashion market looking to compete with international brands. Catering specifically to career women, MIXXO’s collection consists of basic casual wear, career wear and suits that are more classic than trendy. MIXXO Secret offers intimate wear and comfortable pajamas.
Nearby, TOPTEN10 unveils its brings together quality, design and price and makes it easy to find the latest looks of the season with its “Top 10 Items You Need” display. While most of the items here are basics in fun prints and patterns, TOPTEN10 has a huge selection of graphic tees which boast vintage and modern designs.
Behind the cathedral, St. Mary’s Garden, is a nice place for a peaceful stroll. Like all places of worship, it is a quiet and solemn place to visit. Visitors are free to enter and take pictures, but should be careful so as to not disrupt parishioners.
Specializing in premium teas produced in Jeju Island, O’Sulloc functions as a cafe and gift shop and boasts an expansive collection of Korean herbal, red and green teas, some of which are roasted on-site in the large cauldron at the entrance.
Appreciate the gorgeous aromas of the teas for sale by smelling the samples on display (the Tropical Dream Green Tea will send you to another place and time). As a bonus, they are beautifully packaged and additional gift boxes can be purchased for a minimal fee.
In fact, it’s not uncommon to see tourists dragging along suitcases chock full of cosmetics. While each shop has its own concept and specialty items, some stand out above the others.
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Innisfree’s flagship store in Myeongdong is a tourist favorite, as the brand’s products (and packaging) are eco-friendly and manufactured without parabens, artificial pigments, animal ingredients, mineral oils or artificial fragrances. This particular location is just as sustainable, built to resemble a greenhouse and illuminated with energy-saving LED lighting. Innisfree, like most of the cosmetics shops on Cosme Road, offer free samples with each purchase and larger, more deluxe free gifts with bigger purchases.
If you’re shopping on a bigger budget, Lotte Department Store is ten floors of retail bliss, featuring mostly higher end and luxury brands, including a Duty Free Shop on the tenth floor. The basement’s food court has a fantastic selection of just about any type of cuisine you can imagine, while the eleventh and twelfth floors are punctuated with dine-in restaurants.
More Information: Myeongdong
To Get There: Take the Seoul subway to Myeongdong Station (Line 4, Exit 6).