South Korea · Travel Tales

Why Insa-dong should be your base in Seoul

This is probably Getting Old Me talking — I could pull all-nighters in college, but now, in my early 30s, I’m finding it more difficult to stay up beyond 10 PM — but I have mentioned before that you should stay in Insa-dong when you are in Seoul.  Why? Let’s recap:

First, many sights are a walking distance away: Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, Unhyeongung, the Jongmyo Shrine, the Gwanghwamun Square, the Bukchon Hanok Village, and (a little farther off) the Cheonggyecheon Stream.

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Cheonggyecheon Stream

Cheonggyecheon Stream, much like the Haneul Park in the World Cup Park, used to be just a neglected area in Seoul that was restored to a more eco-friendly space. In the 1950s, the place was a slum area; then, it was covered by concrete to create an elevated highway. It was only in 2003 when the Cheonggyecheon Stream was restored in a massive, $900M undertaking. It is now a park that is more than 5 kilometers long.

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People were still walking along its banks when we came here one evening, after about 20 minutes of walking south from Insa-dong.

Second, Insa-dong is an art street, so you’ll find eclectic stuff in its stores, and musicians playing their instruments here and there.

Ssamzie-gil along Insa-dong functions as an artsy shopping complex. It has cafes, galleries, workshops, and fashion and accessory boutiques.

 

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Ssamzie-gil

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As you can see, there are many souvenir shops, so you can easily make a pasalubong run without wasting too much time.

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For the K-pop/K-drama fan in you (and your family or barkada)

Finally, it’s not as crowded as Myeong-dong. There are food stalls at the southern end of Insa-dong. They’re not as ubiquitous as the ones in Myeong-dong, but there are restaurants and other interesting food stuff there. And there’s a really good dumpling stall in one of the alleys branching from Insa-dong. Let me show you a picture again:

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The fried dumplings are as crunchy as they look!

Stay in Hongdae if you’re into mingling with crowds and partying, and Myeong-dong or Dongdaemun if you want to go shopping all day and all night everyday (Dongdaemun malls are open from 10:30 AM until 5:30 AM!). But if you’re looking for laid-back fun, stay in Insa-dong.

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