Shopaholics will be quite at home in Seoul: the city has everything from trendy to traditional, markets to malls. High on the itinerary of many tourists are the colossal markets of Dongdaemun and Namdaemun.
There are department stores all over the city; the bustling streets of Myeongdong host department stores from the biggest nationwide chains – Migliore, Shinsaegae, Lotte and Galleria – and there are also luxury examples in Apgujeong. Perhaps more interesting are the city’s boutiques; these are most numerous (and expensive) around Apgujeong, though there are cheaper versions of the same in Hongdae and Samcheongdong. Itaewon is also worth a mention for its excellent tailored suits, and last, but not least, are the colossal markets of Dongdaemun and Namdaemun, which feature an almost bewildering array of cheap and knock-off brand-name clothing.
Arts, crafts and antiques
The best place to head for anything vaguely arty is Insadonggil and its side streets, which have numerous craft shops selling paints, brushes, calligraphy ink and handmade paper. There are also a few shops selling antiques here, though there are more of the same in Itaewon; these sell cases, cupboards, medicinal racks and the like, many in a distinctively oriental style. Proprietors often speak English, and can arrange international shipping.
Books and music
Most of Seoul’s larger bookstores have dedicated English-language sections stocked with novels, history books and language study guides for those studying Korean or teaching English. Three of these are directly accessible from subway stations – Youngpoong and Bandi & Luni from Jonggak, and Kyobo Bookstore from Gwanghwamun. These are also the best places in which to find mainstream music; fans of anything edgier should head to Purple Record in Hongdae.
Cameras and electronic equipment
Technophiles have two main choices – one is Yongsan Electronics Mart, a multilevel giant rising up alongside the train and subway station of the same name, and the other Techno Mart, near Gangbyeon subway station on line 2. At both, many staff speak a little English (particularly Yongsan, thanks to its proximity to Itaewon). Prices are generally about twenty percent less than elsewhere in the land; this can rise to fifty percent for imported goods.