Insadong is a must-visit destination for all first-timers in Seoul. Best known for its extensive array of shops and restaurants, the area is also good for museums, tea houses, and even a tea museum. Here’s our top 10.
The Alive Museum is all about taking funny selfies with the exhibits. The idea is that you can insert yourself into the artwork and create an optical illusion to make the piece come alive. This is a big place to explore, with many exhibits including the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Indiana Jones.
Insadong has some of the tastiest food vendors in all of Seoul. One of the main street-food delights is King’s Dessert, aka Dragon’s Beard Candy – 16,000 strings of honey wrapped multiple times with a flavouring of either almond, peanut or chocolate inside. Another popular street food is the corn cookie, which isn’t actually a cookie but a twisty ice cream cone with sweet fillings. There are also gooey pancakes and spicy Korean dumplings to sample.
The Shin Old Tea House is tucked away down an alley, far from the hustle and bustle of the main street. It’s small, with only floor seating, as you’d expect to find in a traditional Korean tea house. The lighting is dim and provides a relaxing aura, while the tea list is extensive and boasts some fantastic regional specialities.
The Kyung-in Art Museum, which opened in 1983, is filled with international and cultural exhibits. There are six different exhibitions each year, along with permanent sculptures in the garden. Insadong is steeped in tradition and Kyung-In reflects this in its artwork and architecture, which comes courtesy of the Joseon dynasty.
This is a tea shop and museum rolled into one. Located inside a hanok, a traditional Korean house, it has a variety of teas on display, from China, Korea, Japan, Sri Lanka and India among others. Ceramic artworks and displays chronicling the history of tea drinking are also on display.
Ssamzie-gil Market is part mall, part outdoor bazaar. Comprising more than 70 shops, it sits on the main road of Insadong so it’s easy to find. If you’re looking for one-off clothes, ceramics, furniture, food and traditional Korean item, it’s all here – a great place for retail therapy or souvenir hunting.
At the Insadong Tourist Information Center, for a small fee you can try on a hanbok, a traditional Korean piece of clothing worn since the Joseon era. They come in a variety of colours and styles and there are designs for men, women and children. Even though this was clothing worn by Koreans throughout history, actual hanboks now cost upwards of $500.
BBQ places are a popular option for eating out in Korea. Not only do they serve delicious food, they are a great spot for meeting, chatting and drinking. Insadong is home to many BBQ restaurants, one of the most popular being Cha Iyagi, meaning “tea story”. The interior looks like the inside of a hanok (a traditional Korean house) and the food is delicious.
Along with Korean BBQ, Insadong has some restaurants that serve royal Korean cuisine. Royal meals contain about twenty different courses of traditional Korean delicacies. JinJinBara is one of the few places that gives the royal dining experiences in Insadong, and comes highly recommended.
Tapgol Park, one of the first parks in Korea, is home to many national treasures. It was also the site of the Independence Movement of March 1, 1919. It’s a fairly small park compared to Korea’s other national parks but makes up for that with its many monuments and must-see sights.