Korea is a shopaholic’s dream. Whether your weakness is skincare, cosmetics, fashion, homewares or houseplants, you’re sure to find everything your heart desires in one of the country’s many shops.
In Busan, you’re best to head to shopping hotspots such as the downtown areas of Seomyeon or Nampo-dong — but if you’re pressed for time, it’s good to have a plan. Here are the best stores in the city, so you can shop ’til you drop with maximum efficiency.
Grapefruit Moon is a small independent fashion store at the heart of Seomyeon’s youthful fashion neighbourhood. Its wares are much like many of the other shops in this district–street style with a K-pop twist for men and women–but if you only have time to go to one trendy shop in Seomyeon, this one should be it. It’s always bang up-to-date with trends, and blasting party music gives the store a fun atmosphere.
Measuring over 125,000 square meters, it might be pushing it to describe Shinsegae Centum City as just a shop. The complex includes an enormous spa, a golf course, an ice rink and a multiplex cinema. It’s the largest department store in the world, as certified by the Guinness Book of World Records, and an unmissable stop on any tourist’s itinerary. It’s a great place to stock up on high-end Korean skincare brands, cute and inexpensive jewelry, or go all out and blow your holiday budget on stylish clothes.
Daiso isn’t independent, under-the-radar (at least for Koreans), or even Korean – it’s a Japanese chain. It is, however, hands-down the cheapest place to stock up on skincare and beauty products, all of which are Korean-made and surprisingly good quality. Many of the sheet masks retail at a mere 500 won (approximately US$0.45) and come in a variety of scents. It’s also worth popping in for things like nail stickers and seasonal makeup ranges. Some of these make great gifts, for example cutely-packaged, cherry blossom-themed cosmetics which are available in the spring. While you’re there, take a look at the homeware and stationery sections for a sense of what Koreans spend their money on.
Busan fish cakes (also known as eomuk) are famous throughout Korea for their good-quality ingredients and fresh taste. Go direct to the source at Samjin Fish Cake Bakery, the oldest fish cake producer in the city. At the bakery and attached museum, you can learn about the history of Busan’s most-exported delicacy, sample freshly-made fish cakes, and even learn how to make your own fish cakes at one of their regular workshops. Check the website for details, but you might need to enlist the services of a Korean-speaking friend.
It’s impossible to choose just one store to visit in Bosu-dong Book Alley. Perhaps because the joy of this narrow, canopied street comes from how jam-packed it is with booksellers. Bosu-dong is one of the city’s most historical shopping experiences, and is famous throughout Korea. Even if you don’t plan to buy anything (as might be expected, many of the books are in Korean); it’s fun to leaf through old volumes, stroll from one shopfront piled high with old books to another, and maybe stop off at one of the alley’s cosy coffee shops for a pick-me-up. Most of the booksellers in this area set up shop in the 1940s and ’50s, and there is a palpable sense of nostalgia and a taste of old Korea.