Insadong is one of the most tourist-y places in Korea and is a great place to pick up souvenirs for friends and family. Unlike our Dongdaemun experience, I would like to say that Siree and I did Insadong well – exploring 80% of shops and only passing by shops which were not to our taste.
What I absolutely love about Insadong is its quirky kinda vibe blending traditional Korea with modern Korea, but at the same time still maintaining that “artsy craftsy” style that Korea does so well.
We arrived in Insadong around lunch time and instantly fell in love with this pretty looking traditional hanok restaurant called “Insadong Geujip,” located down the first side street on your left from the Insadong main street. Unfortunately we didn’t know anything about this restaurant prior to arrival so unfortunately…we didn’t order the best dishes…apparently recommended dishes for foreigners include “Insadong Seafood on Rice” or “Geukip On Rice”.
Siree and I, we needed to be exotic and order something that looked truly maginificent….
But unfortunately….our order was not so great…not that it wasn’t good, it just lacked as much flavour as we expected…probably because the food was traditional based.
Our side dishes were super yummy! Especially the kimchi!! We ended up asking for 2 serves which we – extra sneakily – chucked into our hot pot meal to add more flavour ahahahaha! What foreigners we were at that moment.
After our meal, we ventured off to what is the highlight of Insadong – Ssamziegil. I think Ssamziegil is amazingly cool because it’s just that little bit quirky and that little bit alternative. I can’t even describe what exactly this style is, but it is just so nice and seriously something that is in the essence of everything Korean. I just LOVE it!!
Ssamziegil is filled with amazing little accessory stalls/popup shops and boutiques and every time I leave Korea I wish I bought more things from here. They have some of the most quirky/cool accessories ever!!
On the ground floor of Ssamziegil there are the snack food.
Poo shape filled cakes…this stall was always SOO busy!! I didn’t try any though, I’m not really into sweets…
I bought soo much of these rice snacks, and they are really yummy, my mum loved them. They are a mixture of rice puffs, grains, seeds, sultanas etc. but they are quite nice.
I absolutely loved this little cart stand…look how beautiful it is! It totally has its own charm and character!!! This little pop up stall sold all different kinds of tea drinks which helped you in different ways – emotionally or physically. I ended up buying a lemon honey one which was really delish.
As you go up the levels of Ssamziegil there are mainly accessory stores selling jewellery, phone charms, little gadgets, tea sets, scarves and so on. Whilst there are some clothing stores, its not really the place you go to to buy clothing. None the less, things here are SUPER cool!! I swear all the quirky earrings KPOP stars wear in their videos are bought from Ssamziegil haha.
Inside Ssamziegil there is also a miniature museums with little figures that are so cute. Unfortunately the store is TINY and always super crowded!!
Another must – do experience in Insadong is to go to a rice cake cafe. We went to Jilrisu at around 5PM but I recommended going there a lot earlier than we did, because almost all rice cakes were sold out!!
As with most places in Korea, there are many ways to get to Insadong including different stations you can get off at etc, however I recommended getting off at Anguk Station (exit 6), one because it is such a short walk and two, because getting off at Anguk puts you at the beginning of the Insadong main street where as Jongno 3-ga station will drop you at the end.
How long should you spend here?
Siree and I spent 1 -1.5 days there, but really, one day I think is sufficient.
Time to go?
You definitely want to come to Insadong during a weekday (shops close around 6PMish). Weekends are usually crowded especially Ssamziegil.
- Eat as many foods as you can here because some things you cant find anywhere else in Korea. With almost all snack food places in Insadong ask to try – even if its tea or something, you can try it!
- Don’t try bargaining here as souvenirs are already relatively cheap.
- Make sure you shop around before buying something, many shops in Insadong sell the same things and different places can sell the same item for more or less.