Seoul's Famous Insadong Neighborhood
by Brian Foden
Consisting of one main street and numerous narrow alleys, Insadong offers tourists and locals alike a wide variety of arts and crafts plus a look into Korea's past.
No trip to Seoul, South Korea, is complete without a visit to Insadong. A place where tourists and locals alike love to shop for traditional arts and crafts and other goods, Insadong consists of a single main street over 700 meters long, named Insadong-gil, with numerous narrow alleyways that branch off from it. It's been estimated that roughly 40 percent of the entire country's antique shops and galleries are located in the neighborhood. More specifically, there are over 100 galleries in Insadong featuring examples of fine art, paintings, sculptures, and much more. In addition to art and antique furniture, items for sale include ceramics, tea, calligraphy, and earthenware, plus a wide variety of other products and souvenirs. The area is especially popular with foreign visitors, who come to get a taste of traditional Korean culture and history. Apart from having a multitude of shops that make the district a shopper's paradise, Insadong has restaurants, a shopping mall concentrating on the sale of handicrafts, and bookstores.
The best and busiest time to take a stroll in Insadong is during the weekends, when streets are blocked off to vehicles for much of the time on Saturdays and Sundays. At this time, stores set up extra booths outside their establishments, and many free street performances take place. Moreover, festivals are often held there on Sundays. There is also a variety of snacks to be had, including Korean taffy and pajeon, which is a type of Korean pancake. With tens of thousands of people walking along the main street and twisting alleys on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, the neighborhood is alive with activity and excitement.