The Shinsegae Department Store is a famous department store chain in South Korea. As far as I know, one outlet is located at Namdaemun area (next to the Namdaemun flee market) and another one is at the Seoul Express Bus Terminal (south of the Hangang River). Being a huge department store, it sells almost everything from clothings, cosmetics, shoes, toys etc to food and supermarket at the basement area.
What to buy: Shopping in Seoul is expensive, no doubt about it. Many items, especially those on the streets are overpriced. Also, not many items are native unless you'll buying kim-chi, artwork gingseng or a plastic surgeon;p Even in terms of fashion, they have a long way to go compared to Tokyo or Hong Kong. Nonetheless, if you insist on shopping, you're better off going to local shopping areas like MyeongDong than going to a touristy district like Itaewon. Aim for stores where you'll see lots of locals and where items are price-tagged to avoid getting fleeced. See my section on night markets.
I went on a DMZ tour while in Seoul and the tour guide took us to an amethyst jewelry shop and a ginseng shop at the end of our day. She was wearing a pretty amethyst bracelet during the tour, so when she took us to the shop, I bought a similar bracelet for $415. I subsequently saw the same bracelet for $100 in shops all over Seoul. I also puchased $400 worth of ginseng in the shop she took us to and found out the there was a higher grade of ginseng available in the government shops which sells for far less than I paid. I have since been informed that the tour guides get kickbacks from the shops for depositing the unwitting customer. I have many guidebooks, and was not warned of this scam. I am very trusting generally, but I wanted to warn people of this practice.
Kyobo Bookstore is Seoul's largest bookstore, perhaps the largest in the nation. It features a great section of English language books of all kinds. Business hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, up to 8 p.m. on most Sundays, closed every second Sunday
Other bookstores in Seoul include Youngpoong Bookstore (Jongno), Jongno Bookstore (Jongno), and the Jinsol Bookstore (Gangnam).
What to pay: Kyobo is more expensive than Amazon.com
Lotte World is a fun mall to hang out. Great atmosphere and tons of shopping can be done. You won't find bargain prices like Dongdaemun, so its a good place to do some window shopping.
Went to the swimming pool that they have. That was a lot of fun. Cute swimming teacher. weot weow. hahahah in their speedo. In Korea when you do any sports they always wanna dress up the part. Back home you can just go and swim, wearing your bathing suit. In Korea you have to wear a swim cap. That was funny when we were about to jump in and the life guard said "Hat! Hat!" lol.
Skating is the same thing. You need skating glove. Cost 1 000 Won. But seriously skating gloves? hahhaha. That skating rink is really big and its a famous spot for shootings of drama series. I saw famous Korean celebs doing a taping there. If anyone ever watch the Korean Drama Series "Full House' then you would know the skating rink @ Lotte World.
What to buy: Good to do some window shopping. They have great gift items here.
What to pay: No bargaining done here! Pay the price that you see.
Seoul Selection is a well known local institution. It is a coffee shop-cum-bookstore in the basement of a grey brick building near the Gyeongbokgung palace, just a few metres away and to the north of the Dongsipjagak watchtower.
The shop has pretty much every book written on Korean politics, language, culture and history and a good selection of contemporary Korean fiction translated into English.
They have a limited selection of CDs and DVDs as well as a fair number of second-hand books.
What to buy: English books
I got a pair of pants also and wanted them altered before I left. The guy said in the basement of a nearby building there was 밴딩/banding (Konglish for hemming, I gathered correctly). I thought I'd have to search the place to find one...but, in true Korean fashion, there were 7-8 down there. I just approached the one that was least busy and he got at it. The price was 4,000 won (3.60USD) and done in about 5 minutes. The guy I bought the pants from said it was 2,000 won but I wanted a cuff on it and was not energized to fight this guy for a couple of bucks (it costs 5,000 won for the dude to come to my apartment so what the heck).
What to buy: Here's a tip in negotiating: if you need alterations (basically all dress pants and suits) then ask them to discount the price of the item you're buying. It works A LOT. This guy (begrudgingly) gave me 1,000 won off the pants (a whopping 14,000 won total price) so even when they don't want to they usually do.
What to pay: 2,000 won for a normal hem, 4,000 for a cuff on your pants.
I walked in the FREEZING COLD for an hour and a half until the Markets opened so I could buy a Winter Coat ( just arrived from weeks in Malaysia,Singapore) Finally settled on a Down Filled jacket. It wasn't a Label I had ever heard of, but ended up being the BEST jacket I have ever owned. L.O.R. was the Brand, and I have had COUNTLESS quirries on where did I get that jacket. It only cost Me $10 CND.
What to buy: Korea is KNOW the WORLD OVER for it's Replica Products. Some are so GOOD that it is almost IMPOSSIBLE to tell the difference without having a data base to to cross reference the Serial
I have many friends who work in the Fashion Industry who swear by it, and they work for most of the BIG Labels.
What to pay: A fraction of the REAL Items Price
Not a shop, but basically a bazaar consisting of men's and women's dress and casual wear, shoes (usually Nike or Asics is a title brand) and kitchen/misc items that makes its way around Seoul throughout the year. Usually it opens at a particular location on a Thursday and packs up on the following Monday (after 10-11 days).
Finding one can be tough. There are usually signs in the area a week or so before the sale noting the time, location and main brands. If you don't understand Korean/Hangul just tear a sign down and show a friend.
What to buy: The deals are great, in most cases, but you have to know your quality and prices. I got a 675,000 won (USD 580) cashmere/wool overcoat for 150,000...that was nice. You can get shirts for 20,000-30,000; ties for 5,000 (poly) to 10,000 (silk) and suits that retail for 300,000 for cheap (I paid 350,000 for 2 suits with 2 extra pants each). Remember to haggle here. There is a 10-30% discount off their first price...and 60-80% off the retail price. (Best to bring a local or speak $$Korean to get the best deals.)
Be careful of the prices in Seoul. I never buy the first time I see something. If you think it is a good price, you probably can get it cheaper. I found that most of the souvenir shops prices vary a lot.
What to buy: The green vases that are traditional in Korea can be bought in Itaewon cheaper than anywhere else I have found. There is a small mall area near the Baskin Robbins where you can get the best prices and the merchants are a little agressive, but the prices are good.
What to pay: I bought the pair of vases for 25,000 won or about $22 USD.
Lotte Hotel Seoul Seoul
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