CK Travels

19 brilliant things to do in Insadong, Seoul

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Seoul in South Korea is a joyous mix of the old and new, and no more so than Insadong, one of Seoul’s most popular neighbourhoods and shopping streets with a historic heart.

From traditional tea-houses hidden down back alleys and ancient pagodas to modern and quirky shopping centres and new but retro vinyl LP bars, Insadong has got it going on.

Here is our guide to the top things to do in Insadong, Seoul:

Things to do in Insadong, Seoul

1. Insadong Street

At the weekends, the main street in Insadong is closed to traffic between 10am and 10pm on Saturdays and Sundays meaning it becomes a popular shopping spot with the streets lined with various street food stalls and craft carts.

We really liked our Sunday visit to Insadong as the neighbourhood was thronging with families, all visiting the various shops and stores along the street without fearing about traffic or errant mopeds.

There aren’t that many other car free shopping streets areas in Seoul (Myeongdong is another good example of a pedestranised street at certain times of the week).

2. Visit a historic Korean tea house in Insadong – Sinyet chatjip

Visiting a traditional tea-house is a must thing to do when in South Korea, and one of the best (and most tasty) things to do in Seoul.

In terms of tea-tasting and historic tea-houses, you are spoilt for choice in Insadong. Down one particular alley (8 and 9 Insadong – gil), you’ll find both Shin Old Teahouse (Sinyet chatjip) and Namusae Tea house – both are hidden away and ooze history.

Shin Old Teahouse (Sinyet chatjip) insadong Seoul
Shin Old Teahouse (Sinyet chatjip)

We visited Shin Old Teahouse one rainy afternoon and were amazing by its interior – the teahouse is wooden timbered with a variety of old furniture, warm snugs and indoor gardens.

Upon entry at Shin Old Teahouse, you are given a menu and you then find a seat before going back to the counter to place and order and pay. It was 7000 Won for most teas and 5000 Won for an Americano (in case you don’t like tea!).

Tea options at Shin Old Teahouse include the classic green tea, chrysanthemum tea plus ssanghwa tea (a mixture of herbs) which is effective (apparently) for physical and mental fatigue.

Shin Old Teahouse (Sinyet chatjip) insadong Seoul

Other available tea types included quince tea, ginger tea, omija tea plus a small snack menu with sweet rice cakes, hangwa (traditional Korean sweets) and sweet red bean porridge. Shin Old Teahouse prices and info correct as at December 2022.

Alternative famous tea houses in Insadong include Moon Bird and Dawon Traditional Tea House (located in the courtyard of Kyung-in Museum of Fine Art).

Shin Old Teahouse (Sinyet chatjip) insadong Seoul

3. Ssamziegil complex

A colourful and cute as shopping complex located in the heart of Insadong, this is like no other mall in Seoul. In fact, we’d go as far as saying this is the most quirky and possibly our favourite shopping centre in the whole of the city, with mainly small and independent stalls.

Ssamziegil complex shopping mall Insadong Seoul

From the bright courtyard at its centre to the six floors of quirky character and craft based shops and stores, visiting Ssamziegil is quite the experience. It isn’t slick and flashy like all the other malls and the design is unique in the sense that you can visit all the stores on all levels by following a ramp footpath (similar to that of the exhibition hall at Seoul’s Dongdaemun Design Plaza).

Ssamziegil complex shopping mall Insadong Seoul

There are DIY craft stalls, cartoon character shops, homeware and jewellery vendors plus much more at Ssamziegil complex. In addition, there are several cafes and restaurants including one on the outdoor rooftop with nice views of Insadong.

Also keep an eye out for curious design features like a herd of metallic giraffes on the roof. We love the Ssamziegil complex and could buy so much stuff from here!

Ssamziegil complex shopping mall Insadong Seoul
Ssamziegil complex shopping mall Insadong Seoul

4. Tapgol Park / Pagoda Park

The first ‘modern’ park to be be built in Seoul and now a popular hang-out for the neighbourhoods elderly community, this small but serene city park is most famous for its 10 story pagoda, designated National Treasure No 2, built in the 15th century (now protected behind a glass tower).

Tapgol Park / Pagoda Park Insadong Seoul

The pagoda at Tapgol Park (formerly Pagoda Park) is 12 metres high and all that remains of the Wongaksa temple once built by King Sejo (so the placard says) – it is made from marble and it is incredible to find such an old structure in the heart of the modern metropolis that is Seoul city centre.

Tapgol Park / Pagoda Park Insadong Seoul

5. Bukchon Son Mandu Insadong

There are SO many restaurants and bars in Insadong to choose – frankly, you are spoilt for choice with alley way upon alley way of dining options.

One such restaurant we discovered totally by chance and which was delicious and inexpensive was Bukchon Son Mandu (dumpling restaurant). We found it purely because of the huge plume of steam that emanated in a little side street just across from the Ssamziegil complex.

Bukchon Son Mandu Insadong Seoul
Bukchon Son Mandu Insadong Seoul

It was a cold winter’s day so the steam was like a warm beacon to us – we were not disappointed and managed to grab the last available spot inside the small restaurant before a massive queue formed outside.

The dumplings at Bukchon Son Mandu Insadong were out of this world and some of the best dumplings / mandu we had during our entire time in Seoul. We ordered three dishes (dumpling and noodle soup bowls plus two types of dumplings) and it cost less than 20,000 Won. Recommended (but be prepared to queue if you are arriving during peak dining hours).

Bukchon Son Mandu Insadong Seoul

6. Ddong Café AKA Poop Cafe

‘Crap’ thing to do in Insadong alert!  First up, this is not be confused with Poop World – a similar ‘sh*tty’ themed attraction in Insadong that has now permanently closed (sh*t business eh).

Ddong Cafe is a basically a poo / poop themed cafe located on the top-floor of the Ssamziegil complex, popular with all ages (not just kids).

Ddong Café AKA Poop Cafe insadong Seoul

From drinks and food served in toilet bowls to turd themed interiors, Ddong Cafe in Insadong is quite the experience.

Sitting amongst poo emoji cushion chairs and faux toilet cubicles with plastic poos may not be everyone’s cup of tea (or crappy coffee even), but it is one of the more fun and silly things you can do in Seoul and to be fair, the coffee we got was actually better (stronger) than most Seoul coffee shops we went too.

Ddong Café AKA Poop Cafe insadong Seoul

You can enjoy your Mojito latte (nicer than it sounds) and Rose latte at Ddong cafe served in small toilet bowls for 7000 Korean Won as at December 2022, plus accompany it with a chocolate poo shaped waffle for 1500 Won.

The one thing we didn’t like at Ddong cafe was that the toilet cups were cracked and chipped AF; they badly need replacing – truly sh*t.

Ddong Café AKA Poop Cafe insadong Seoul

7. Insadong Art Galleries

Insadong may be known for its pedestrianised shopping street and traditional tea houses but is also has numerous galleries to explore.

Perhaps the best known is the Korean Craft and Design Foundation Gallery, a cultural centre selling arts and crafts by known and up and coming Korean artists and designers.

The KCDF has two floors of exhibition space, a rooftop garden plus a large shop and basement library. Other galleries to visit in Insadong include the Dongduk Art Gallery and the Ara Modern Art Museum, showing contemporary  creative exhibitions.

Korean Craft and Design Foundation Gallery Seoul
Korean Craft and Design Foundation Gallery

8. Anyoung Insadong shopping centre

One of the newest shopping centres in Seoul – so much so that we couldn’t find that much information about it! We stumbled across this bright and breezy shopping centre and cultural complex whilst visiting Insadong one busy Sunday morning.

Anyoung Insadong shopping centre Seoul

It was packed with families when we visited, likely because of the temporary Haribo sweets exhibition which goes on until March 2023 to coincide with Haribo’s 100th birthday!

Anyoung Insadong shopping centre Seoul
Anyoung Insadong shopping centre Seoul

9. The Beautiful Tea Museum

The self-titled ‘Beautiful Tea Museum’ (nice to see such confidence in your tea) in Insadong is a one-stop shop for all things tea related. Housed in a homely hanok, its mission is to promote the very best of Korean tea culture (and Insadong is the perfect location given the number of traditional tea houses in the area).

As well as exquisite and historic tea pots and cups, you can also visit the onsite cafe to put your tea-tasting skills to the test, plus there is a tea shop where you can buy tea leaves from all over the world – tea-riffic etc.

10. Museum Kimchikan / Kimchi Museum

The Museum Kimchikan (formerly Kimchi Museum- because even kimchi deserves a rebrand) is a uniquely South Korea museum and once named as one of the top food museums in the world by CNN (hands-up if you can name the other 10).

The process of making kimchi is UNESCO designated, such is its cultural significance. At Museum Kimchikan, you can learn about the history of kimchi, the different types and how it is made. Note the museum is closed on Mondays and admission price is 5000 Won per adult (around £3) as at December 2022.

If you are a massive Kimchi convert like we are, then most restaurants in Seoul offer it as a free side dish from help yourself style buffet counters. You can also hone your kimchi culinary schools at the nearby Kimchi Academy where you spend several hours learning about the history of this spicy dish before attempting to make some yourself.

11. Jogyesa Temple

Dating back to the 14th century (although rebuilt in the early 1900s due to a fire, Jogyesa Temple in Insadong is one of Seoul’s most historic temples and the main temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.

Jogyesa Temple Insadong Seoul
Jogyesa Temple Insadong Seoul

The Dharma Hall of Jogyesa Temple hosts several Buddhist events and celebrations throughout the year  – for the Buddha’s birthday, the Jogyesa Temple holds a lantern festival.

Jogyesa Temple is free to visit.

Jogyesa Temple Insadong Seoul

12. Insadong Restaurant Alley

Hidden away from the main Insadong drag (high street), you find a warren of restaurants hidden along a series of side streets and alleyways. Literally dozens of small eateries (some with huge queues) selling all manner of food, from dumplings and BBQ beef to vegan restaurants and seafood dining.

Most of these restaurants are dotted along Insadong 14-gil and even if you aren’t hungry, it is quite the experience winding your way through the continuous warren of dining places. At night, it is a whole new experience as these dimly lit alleys become lit up with huge neon signs and bright restaurant sites.

There are so many restaurants to try in Insadong  – we generally looked for ones that looked fairly busy with a small line of locals outside and were not disappointed.

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13. Get a quirky caricature

Insadong is home to a quirky cartoon caricature studio, where street cartoonists have set up a studio in the creative and crafty Ssamziegil complex.

Prices vary but starting at 9,000 South Korean Won per person based on a minimum of two people, these are really good value caricatures. Compared to some of the street artists we’ve seen back home in Leicester Square in London (DO NOT get a cartoon drawing done in Leicester Square – they are always bad), these are amazing in comparison.

Even if you don’t want a caricature while in Insadong, Seoul, it is quite fun to watch the cartoonists at work as the subjects awkwardly smile. Truly impressive, you can get your illustrations down with the courtyard of the Ssamziegil complex.

14. The ColorPool Museum (Colourpool)

Also known as a Instagrammer’s wet-dream (probably), The ColorPool Museum is located on the top floor of the Anyoung Insadong shopping complex and is like a rainbow brought to life.

The Colorpool Museum in Insadong, Seoul comprises of 9 rooms (or zones), each with its own colour (sorry, color) theme – think pink ball pits, unicorn utopias, rainbow walls and more inflatables than your local swimming pool.

Open from 10am to 9pm, The ColorPool Museum costs 15,000 KRW (South Korean Won – about £9.30) as at December 2022.

15. The Music Complex Seoul

Insadong is home to the largest vinyl LP cafe in the whole of South Korea – an also a great way to escape K-pop if you aren’t a fan!

Located on the upper levels of the Anyoung Insadong shopping complex and retro as, the Music Complex Seoul is the place to enjoy a beer of coffee whilst listening to classic LPs or modern vinyl records. Vinyl LP cafes are a big thing in Seoul as you can ensure you only listen to the music you want to.

The Music Complex Seoul

At Music Complex Seoul, the interiors are beautiful and there are over 20,000 LPs to choose from. Each table has a vinyl record player – talk about fantastic plastic! Music Complex Seoul is open daily from noon until midnight.

16. Look our for Line characters in Insadong

Line Friends characters are ever so popular in South Korea and in most parts of Asia (these are cutesy cartoon characters that help promote the Line messaging service).

Line characters Insadong Seoul

Although there are lots of Line Friends stores all around Seoul where you can merchandise galore, in Insadong, we found the largest collection of large Line characters than you can pose with including a huge one on the main Insadong street that you can pose with (kids love it).

Line friends store Insadong Seoul
Line Friends store

17. Alive Museum

A fun art and multimedia museum aimed at all ages, the Alive Museum in Insadong makes you feel…erm alive! Open daily from 11am to 6pm, the Alive Museum promises an exciting visual journey and photo opps galore – get up close with life-size exhibits, trick art and all manner of optical illusions.

Alive Museum includes multiple selfie and self portrait zones including a new time-travel tunnel attraction, a Toy Village plus retro gaming area to take pictures in. Alive Museum also includes a new attraction – the Dynamic Maze (just don’t get lost looking for it).

18. Insadong Souvenir Shopping

Whether you see it as tasteful tourist trinkets or tacky travel tat, there are many large souvenir shops (and smaller street stalls) to suit all tastes and budgets at Insadong.

Insadong souvenir shop seoul

At the start of the Insadong shopping street (as you approach from the Myeongdong area), you’ll find two of the largest souvenir shops  in Seoul – although they call themselves traditional Korean crafts.

You are free to browse these stores at your leisure without being hassled, making it a pleasant Seoul shopping experience.

19. Vegan restaurants in Insadong

It can sometimes be quite the challenge to find a vegan restaurant in Seoul given most restaurants seemingly focus on meat and fish with scant regard to vegans and vegetarians.

Whilst exploring Insadong, we discovered several vegan restaurants all within a couple minutes walk of each other, making it the highest concentration of dedicated vegan restaurants in Seoul (we reckon – let’s just go with it for now).

Osegye Hyang Insadong Seoul
Osegye Hyang

Osegye Hyang is currently the most well known and best reviewed vegan restaurant in the Insadong neighbourhood, located down a small alley (often there is a queue outside). When you first sit down, you are offered free tea, plus the menu is in english and Korean and includes meat based alternatives like soy.

Nearby, there is also a vegan gelato place (Vegan Agitato) which also does vegan pizza plus Han Gwa Chae vegan buffet and Maru Vegan restaurant.

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