What do you get when you combine tourism and tradition? Insa-dong.
Insa-dong is a small neighborhood in central Seoul. It is very popular though, thanks to Insadong-gil, a street that is the center of Korea's shameless exploitation of its tradition.
If you are wanting to pick up any Korean souvenirs, this is a good place to start. There are several shops that sell traditional Korean goods. Some of the shops do indeed sell quality, albeit overpriced, goods. You have to be careful, though, as many shops want nothing more than to unload a lot of crappy souvenirs onto naive tourists.
Shopping for souvenirs isn't the only reason to come to Insa-dong. It is a good place to find a seat in a cafe and commence in some people-watching. There is no shortage of cafes here (this is Seoul, after all). Unfortunately, chains like Starbucks and The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf have found their way into this supposedly "special culture" zone. Nonetheless, there are several tea shops and restaurants that offer a more authentic Korean experience.
Despite Insa-dong's pretentiousness, it is a pleasant place to visit. No trip to Korea would be complete without an obligatory afternoon spent walking up and down the main street. Enjoy it for what it is: an artificial display of the essence of Korea.
These are the places you are likely to find in any travel guide.Learn More
The are the places you probably haven't heard about (until now).Learn More
Seoul isn't the only place that is worth visiting.Learn More
These are all the places in Seoul (that we've catalogued).Learn More