Hongdae takes its name from the nearby Hongik University (with the Korean word for ‘university’…
While there are no shortages of traditional and cultural heritage districts in Seoul that are alive and well, there’s nothing that captures the spark of modern life in Seoul today like Myeongdong. Myeongdong is where Seoul’s blood pumps the fasts. Myeongdong shopping is the best shopping in Seoul; and there’s no hotel like a Myeongdong hotel. This central district is a place of wonderful boutique shops, delectable street food, and exciting live music. Myeongdong is where you go to both feel the electric atmosphere of Seoul properly and taste the wonderful authentic Korean street food for yourself.
You can easily spend more than 24 hours in Myeongdong, but one day is certainly enough to really get a feel for the exhilarating ebb and flow of this modern delight of a district. Let’s set out on a Myeongdong shopping guide, find the best hotel in Myeongdong, find out how to get to Myeongdong Station, and sample the very best Korean street food.
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Myeongdong Shopping Guide
The first thing you need to know is that there isn’t one single Myeongdong shopping street. Instead, there are many. As you exit Myeongdong Station, you’ll find yourself surrounded by waves of people excitedly darting from street food stall to boutique shop and back again. This is what makes Myeongdong one of the most exciting places to be in Seoul, especially on a weekend. So, don’t go looking for one Myeongdong shopping street. Instead, allow yourself to get a bit lost in this labyrinth of Myeongdong shopping and Korean street food. But what is there to shop for, exactly?
While there are a lot of places to go shopping in Seoul (malls are still a big deal here, like Lotte World Mall in Jamsil), Myeongdong shopping is the best for boutique fashion. If you’d rather go for big high street brands like H&M, Zara, Nike, and Adidas, they’re here, too. But it’s the boutique shops that really take the cake. Most of the boutique fashion shops are found crammed down the smaller streets and alleyways. Just follow the crowds. There, you’ll find vintage clothing stores and off-brand boutique fashion galore!
You’ll also find that a lot of what catches your eye is independent stalls. There are a lot of stalls in Myeongdong; so many, in fact, that you could comfortably call the area Myeongdong market. And in this Myeongdong market, you’ll find stalls selling bags and purses, trinkets related to K-pop boys (not my forte, sorry), cute and cuddly Pokémon plushies (very much my forte), bright and cheerful character socks (so many socks) and a lot of darling accessories.
High Street Shopping
Like I said, Myeongdong shopping is also about those big high street brands. And you’ll find a lot of them at the Myeongdong Underground Shopping Center and the Lotte Department Store. If you’d rather stick to the Myeongdong shopping street, you’ll still find along the way a Zara, a big H&M, a Nike store, and more big brand names to sink your teeth into for some good ol’ retail therapy.
Korean beauty products are what women and men the world over swear by these days, and of course you can find their specialist stores all over Seoul. But since you’re in Myeongdong, why not stock up on an overwhelming number of K-beauty products. While you’re out Myeongdong shopping, you’ll notice a constant slew of people working outside the various K-beauty shops (Innisfree, Skin Food, Etude House, Tony Moly) offering free samples of single-use face masks to tempt you in. They’ll hand you a small basket for your convenience, and before you know it, you’re stocking up on skincare products, makeup, and whatever else you didn’t realise you needed! Myeongdong market isn’t just about that K-pop fashion; it’s also about that K-pop beauty (I think – again, not my forte, but I do like their skincare products).
Like I said, you’ll find multiple branches of the big K-beauty stores on your Myeongdong shopping trip: Innosfree, Skin Food, Etude House, Tony Moly, and some boutique shops selling makeup, skincare products, face masks, and everything else you could ask for!
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Where to eat in Myeongdong
There’s a lot more to this district than just following a Myeongdong shopping guide. There’s also at least one coffee chain on every street corner, including the staple Korean coffee shops. You’ll also find some great restaurants, which we’ll talk about in a second. But first thing is also the best thing: Korean street food.
Korean Street Food
Myeongdong is a great place to go for breakfast, lunch, or dinner because you can simply walk by the street food stalls (which can be found right outside Myeongdong Station) and sample the delightful and delicious delicacies they have to offer you. In fact, you’ll be almost too tempted to simply step right out of Myeongdong Station and just feast on the Korean street food that’s on offer. But what exactly is Korean street food?
Well, if it’s still morning and you’ve got a sweet tooth, we recommend the hotteok sweet breads and sweet gyeran-bbang (literally meaning egg-bread). Both of these are sugary, soft, bready yumminess. They’re the most harmless of the street foods (and, again, they’re right outside Myeongdong Station). If your sweet tooth is demanding something more familiar, you’ll also find crepes of all styles with all kinds of toppings for you to wrap up and heave down your throat!
If you’re rather try a local favourite Korean street food with a bit more of a kick to it, track down and try some tteokbokki. These are a pile of thumb-sized squidgy rice cakes slathered in a traditional orangey-red Korean spicy sauce. They’re an absolute favourite amongst young people in Korea, especially children who crave spicy foods and they really do pack a punch! You’ve been warned. But they’re filling, soothing, and they definitely do a good job of waking you up! When we were living in Seoul, I had no interest in them during the summer months but come winter they were more of a Christmas favourite than mulled wine or yule log!
If you’d rather sit yourself down after a long morning strolling Myeongdong shopping street and the Myeongdong market, here are some restaurant recommendations!
Isaac Toast: Korea is expert at combining traditional Korean food with foods from other cultures or even just a few simple cheap snacks. Korea will take a thousand-year-old recipe and slather it with cheese or add some slabs of spam to it for fun. Isaac Toast epitomises this attitude by taking the traditional Korean staples of fried chicken, eggs, and rice cakes and mixing them with Western toast to get some truly original results. Isaac Toast represents Korean culture in a rather unexpected way. It’s not traditional food but, honestly, Korea isn’t entirely about tradition these days, or at least it’s very good at modernising tradition to keep it relevant. It’s about innovation, fun, and creativity. That’s what makes it such an enticing place. In short, get your lunch at Isaac Toast.
Din Tai Fung: If it’s dinner you’re looking for after your day of Myeongdong shopping, can I interest you in some authentic and mouth-watering Chinese food at Din Tai Fung? This chain of Chinese restaurants was started by a Chinese migrant to Taiwan decades back, and now you can find it in the UK, US, and all across East Asia. And this branch in Myeongdong captures the authentic feel of a high-class Chinese restaurant. We ate here more times than we could afford, just because its options and flavours are hard to resist. After a morning of Korean street food, a hearty Chinese dinner goes down very nicely.
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Where to Stay in Myeongdong
So, you’ve had your fill of Myeongdong shopping and chowing down on Korean street food, and now it’s time to relax. Let’s take a look at both the best hotel in Myeongdong and a good alternative to the dense and busy Myeongdong accommodation: a great hotel near Myeongdong. When you’re looking for where to stay in Myeongdong whether it’s a Myeongdong hotel near Myeongdong Station or something a little more out of the way, these two Myeongdong accommodation options should satisfy your needs.
Sejong Hotel: This very classy Myeongdong hotel is, as you probably already know, named after Korea’s famous King: the legendary King Sejong, creator of the Hangeul alphabet. This elegant Myeongdong hotel is just five minutes’ walk from all the great Myeongdong shopping and is also the perfect hotel near Myeongdong Station – not too close and not too far. There’s also an on-site art gallery and a garden for a calm retreat once you’re exhausted by all the great street food and wandering the Myeongdong market and Myeongdong shopping street. Sejong Hotel, for its name and for its classy décor, its art gallery, and its garden, could confidently be called the best hotel in Myeongdong, certainly if you’re looking for a classy affair.
Sosetsu Hotels The Splasair: If you’re looking for a hotel near Myeongdong rather than one directly at the heart of it all (a hotel near Myeongdong Station isn’t to everyone’s tastes, after all), then embrace the colours at Sotetsu Hotels The Splaisir! This is a hotel near Myeongdong but also one that’s in a more artsy and calming neighbourhood, away from all the hustle and bustle. If you’re hoping to enjoy some of Seoul’s quirkiness while you’re in the city, this adorable hotel with rooms packed with Line (the Korean phone brand that has its own selection of plushies and adorable characters) toys is the ideal choice. There’s also a roof garden offering incredible views of the cityscape which make this – while not the best hotel in Myeongdong – certainly the best hotel near Myeongdong.