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Insadong (Mary's Alley): Art and Seoul
It could be said that Seoul is representative of Korea, but it has grown too much like the other great cities of the world to say that it is of Korean culture alone. But what if there was a place in Seoul where you could hear traditional Korean vocalizations in the street, experience a proper Korean meal while enjoying a cup of traditional tea, and observe traditional Korean fine crafts, all in one place?
If you follow the bustle and noise from Jongno past Tapgol Park, you’ll find Insa-dong to your left. “Insa-dong," as referred to here, is the stretch of avenue extending about 700m beginning at Tapgol Park.
Here, in the myriad fine craft stores that line both sides of the street, you can find anything from simple hanbok (traditional Korean clothing), to beautiful Goryeo era vases. Recently there has also been an influx of items that have dominated an era yet can't entirely be considered Korean almost to the point where Insa-dong can now be considered a giant flea market.
Insadong is chocka full of restaurants, you’ll Japanese udon noodles, Chinese dumplings, and European cakes up until the entrance of Insa-dong, once inside, you'll find distinctly Korean foods in temporary stalls on the streets such as tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), eomuk (skewered fish sausage), hotteok, and various tempuras. These street foods are tasty and cheap, so it's definitely worth a try. You also find rare korean foods, such as rice cakes, yeot (traditional candy), and rice cookies. There are also many kinds of traditional drinks, such as cinnamon tea, Chinese quince tea, jujube tea, shikhye (fermented rice punch), and sujeonggwa (cinnamon flavored dried persimmon punch), so try a cup to compliment the food. If you'd like, you could also try the different traditional alcoholic beverages made from rice or grain. If you escape the busy main streets of Insa-dong into one of its alleys, you can experience a true Korean meal.
Insa-dong area is a great place to get souveniers from all across Korea. There are many galleries with origional artwork. There are also traditional tea houses and cafe's. In the warmer months the main road has street buskers from all around the world. There is a stage area near the entrance to Tapgol Park. On sundays there is usually a traditional show.... Last time I was there I caught a tradtitional wedding
- Theater Travel
- Arts and Culture
Tea in Insadong
Insadong is a great place for shopping, eating, people watching and having tea. Spend an afternoon wandering the cobblestone streets and checking out the shops filled with gorgeous woodwork and souvenirs. Look hard - go down some back alleys - and you'll find "The Old Tea Shop." Go up the rickety stairs to the second floor and treat yourself to a cup of tea. The shop is famous because live birds are flying all over the place (watch for droppings) and the interior is decorated with interesting artefacts and antiques.
Insa-dong Tea Shop
There is a great little tea shop tucked away in Insa-dong. Once you head up the creaky stairs you enter a beautiful area with a number places to sit - either on the seats or cushions.
The decor is very relaxing and there are heaps of teas to try. There is even a tea called the "Holy Mushroom".
The toilet is worth a visit even if you don't need to go.
And to top it off there are small birds which of fly around and land on your table for a look. It's a very relaxing way to spend an hour away from the crowds of Seoul.
- Food and Dining
- Arts and Culture
There are a lot of shops dealing in typical Korean souvenirs. The most famous ones are lovely potteries made from the celadon porcelain. As I entered one of the shops, I met an pottery artist by chance. So I negotiated directly with him for the prices!! It's so cool experience for me!!
One of my favorite places. I went to Topgol park and then wandered over to Insadong. All I can say is the best way to appreciate it is to explore all the shops and little alleys and side streets.
j-san's Things to Do Tip
An arty oasis. Maybe a tourist trap, lots of art shops and pretty floral cards etc. Still, it felt nice to wander down.
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