Friday, June 24, 2016

Year Round Shopping Craze in Seoul

I've been to several Asian cities in the past but Seoul surely bags the top spot of the best shopping mecca in the entire continent. Just the sheer number of shopping districts with the insane level of energy added to the equation, to say that Koreans love to shop is an understatement.

Incheon International Airport, this year's 2nd best airport in the world as awarded by Skytrax, houses about 90 duty free shops so be prudent on your budget especially when you see the words sale and discount as there are so many shopping areas and markets you can visit throughout the city. Also, remember to get the tax refund slip when you spend more than KRW30,000 (Php1,200) from any shop with a tax free logo so you can claim the 10% refund at the airport before you depart from Seoul and do some last minute shopping at Incheon Airport.

Five days was not enough to cover all the shopping markets so we just chose the ones we liked based on what each has to offer. I've only been to Myeongdong on my first visit to Seoul so going to other shopping districts was an enthralling experience for me but a disaster on my wallet!

Myeongdong Shopping District

Shopping in Myeongdong is probably the most popular activity in any woman's itinerary when in Seoul. From big names like H&M, Uniqlo, Zara and Nike to local brands such as SPAO, Zio Zia, Etude and Laneige, you can walk from one store to another in less than a minute as everything's within reach! Moreso if you love cosmetics and Korean beauty products as this is the best place to hoard them because there's always a sale or good deals that you can take advantage of, not to mention the freebies and samples they generously give on every purchase.

Myeongdong Shopping District is also popular for its street food and local treats that occupy the roadways late in the afternoon until night time. If you have dinner plans, going here in the afternoon is a trap with all the appetizing displays and the smell of freshly-cooked treats that will lure you into buying them. Before you know it, you're already full by the time you reach your restaurant of choice, which happens to me all the time! Fried gyoza dipped in the spicy rice cake sauce with fresh strawberry juice was our favorite snack.

Although we loved Rainbow Hostel, we are still on the lookout for a better accommodation in terms of location, amenities and affordability for our next trip to Seoul. These three hotels we saw on our way back to the hostel seemed like good choices as it is located in the heart of Myeongdong yet far enough from the crowd. Will check out the reviews first and decide from there.

Ehwa Women's University

My favorite shopping destination in Seoul, the shops surrounding Ehwa Women's University is known for its cheap yet fashionable finds targeting college students with their limited budget for shopping. Apart from the clothes, shoes and bags, the street food sold here are also cheaper compared to other parts of Seoul. For instance, the strawberry juice that we usually buy elsewhere sets us back about KRW3,000 (Php120.00) on average while you can get it in Ehwa for KRW2,000 (Php80.00) only! You can also buy budget friendly snacks for as low as KRW1,000 (Php40.00).

I have the least photos taken in Ehwa as my hands were full with all the great deals I discovered here. To give you an idea, a cute shirt I saw in Myeongdong that costs around KRW10,000 (Php400.00) was also available in a quaint shop near the university for half its price! You can just imagine how I went gaga over all the good stuff I saw that I dragged my friends back the next day because we came here late and I was not able to check out the alleys on our first visit. Good thing I restrained myself from shopping for clothes and shoes when we went to Myeongdong.

Hongdae (Hongik University Street)

Another college town for great shopping is Hongdae located near Hongik University.

Famous for its youthful vibe, Hongdae is the perfect place if you're into arts and the dynamic culture of young people. Its common to see street performances and cultural events in Hongdae where people, students in particular, are encouraged to showcase their skills and talent.

Hongdae is a huge shopping area with racks after racks of trendy clothes, cute bags, Korean-made shoes, cheap prescription glasses, fun accessories and tons of unique novelty items you can't find anywhere else. I love the variety of things you can buy in Hongdae but the merchandise in Ehwa is still cheaper if you're into Korean fashion that's made locally.

Quick tip: A useful advise I tell my friends to avoid excess baggage is to check the weather on your destination beforehand so you can plan your outfit accordingly. This way, you'll pack just enough and would still have space for all the things you bought throughout your trip. Happy shopping!

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