Insadong is one of our favorite neighborhood in Seoul, South Korea. If you travel to Seoul, visiting Insadong is a must.
Insadong is known for its many alleys, great shops, authentic restaurants, galleries and so much more. Here, we’ve listed 8 recommendations of top things to do in Insadong.
Insa-dong (인사동), located in the middle of the city of Seoul, is an important place where old traditional and precious objects are exposed. The district is composed of a main street, Insadong-gil, which connects many alleys with Hanok (traditional Korean houses), where many galleries , restaurants, cafes and traditional tea rooms are located.
The galleries are the heart of Insa-dong. There are approximately 100 galleries exhibiting all types of art ranging from traditional painting to sculptures. In the renowned galleries, we find “Hakgojae”, considered as the center of traditional arts and “Gana Art Center”, which promotes future talents
Insadong is also the ideal place to buy souvenirs, discover local craft shops such as pottery, calligraphy, brushes, traditional fans etc. Even is Insadong is becoming more and more touristy, we also enjoyed going there a few times a year, just to enjoy our afternoon, eat great food, and check out local artists.
To access it by metro, take either line 1 JongGak station (exit 3), line 5 Jongno-samga (exit 5) or line 3 AnGuk station (exit 6)
1. Explore Insadong-oil
The Insadong district is characterized by a large pedestrian street and a maze of small side streets. The main street, Insadong-gil, is lined with craft and antique shops. Even if these tend to disappear in favor of more tourist souvenir stalls, you will always find something unique to buy.
Take the time to stop by the Tong-In Store, which is described as the country’s oldest traditional craft shopping center. Created in 1924, the latter promotes Korean know-how, both ancient and modern, as well as emerging artists.
2. Shop at Ssamzie-gil Market
Ssamzie-gil Market is a unique open air shopping area where you can enjoy over 70 craft shops offering jewelry, original clothes, decorative items, stationery, etc. It is has fantastic place to hand out and check out cool and trendy items from local artists.
Walk all the way to the rooftop, to enjoy a great cup of coffee and nice view overlooking Insadong. You can check out their website here.
3. Enjoy some delicious food in a Hanok
There are many kind of food available in Insadong.
Are you dreaming of a Korean barbecue? Chya Iyagi and 853 are certainly the most popular places.. You would rather like to discover traditional royal cuisine (and its twenty dishes), JinJin Bara will delight you!
You feel like having amazing Mandu, these dumpling from the North Korea? We recommend the well known Gaeseong Mandu Koong whose cuisine and hospitality will warm your body and heart.
Are you a vegetarian or vegan? Then Sanchon is a very popular place at the end of a traditional alley. We went to Sanchon too often, to enjoy their delicious and healthy food.
4. Drink a coffee in a unique cafe
The most unique cafe, will certainly be the poop cafe, This very cute café has an original concept to say the least: poop. Yes yes, you read that right! There, the cakes and waffles are shaped like an excrement – just like the cushions that make up the decoration! Only in Korea…
Just a few minutes walk from the Main Street, you will find Onion Cafe. One of our most favorite cafe in Korea with a great outdoor area. Onion Cafe is set in a traditional Hanok but re-built with a lot of modern architecture. Both blends perfectly.
5. Explore Art Galleries
To fully experience the soul of Insadong district, a cultural center of Seoul, you must also explore its art galleries.
One of the best known, the Kyung-In Museum of Fine Arts, will allow you to discover the works of classical and modern Korean artists. Take the time to take a break at the Dawon tea room, in this magnificent setting combining tradition and modernity!
The Korea Craft & Design Foundation (KCDF) and the Gana Insa Art Center are also worth a look, for the setting too, and for the works that you can admire. You may even be able to meet some of the artists there!
6. Have a tea and dessert at a traditional tea house
Insadong district is full of traditional tea houses.
One of the best known is the Shin Old Tea House. To find it, you will have to fight your way through a maze of small streets! Despite its popularity, this peaceful tea house will give you a unique experience.. You can taste excellent teas, from the most classic to the most curious (like a jujube tea), accompanied by injeolmi, these delicate rice cakes.
Banjjak Banjjak Binnaneun is another unique tea house. Located at the heart of Insadong, this place will offer you mugwort tea, a plant grown on Ganghwa Island. You can also drink a smoothie, enjoy a patbingsu (Korean frozen dessert) and injeolmi.
Finally, the tea room “The Moonbird Only Thinks of the Moon” seems to be a place as curious as its name. We’ll let you find out for yourself!
7. Explore the beautiful Jogye-sa Buddhist Temple
Jogye-sa Temple is a Buddhist Temple.
Located a little away from the main street, Jogye-sa Temple is the heart of Korean Buddhism. Although very popular – especially during the various events organized there – this temple is a magnificent place to discover! It a must if you visit Insadong.
8. Visit Tapgol Park
Once you have walked down the main street, you will see the entrance to Tapgol Park, Seoul’s first modern urban park. It was also the starting point for the March 1st movement for independence (against Japanese occupation) in 1919.
In addition to the historic site, you can discover the Wongaksa Pagoda, a magnificent 10-story stone pagoda protected by a glass structure, as well as the Palgakjeong pavilion.
And if you are tired of your day of visiting Insadong, do not hesitate to sit down for a few moments to enjoy the peacefulness of the place!
Other things to visit around Insadong
If you want to continue your exploration after Insadong, we highly recommend to visit Ikseon-dong. It’s just a few minutes walk from Insadong. This new up and coming neighborhood, is by far our favorite are in Seoul. Ikseon-dong became recently one of the trendiest districts in Seoul, however it is not as known as other areas like Insadong, Myeongdong, Hongdae etc.
Recently, artists or young entrepreneurs created craft shops and cafes which helped revitalize the neighborhood. It is one of the most “instagramable” area of Seoul. More info here.
If you like places like Ikseon-dong, make sure to also check the latest trendy place in Seoul: Mullae Art Village (full post here)
Opposite Insadong, you can visit Changdeokgung. It is one of the biggest and most beautiful palace in Seoul. The palace was thought to be in perfect harmony with its environment and its secret garden, called Huwon, one of a kind. Each year it attracts the attention of many visitors. Despite several fires, it is the best preserved palace in the capital. In 1997, it was designated by UNESCO “World Heritage of Humanity”.
Insadong is fantastic neighborhood to visit while you are in Seoul or South Korea. It has a lot of traditions, artists, great food and unique shops. Although a bit touristy, you can have nice surprises if you leave the main avenue an explore the side alleys which feels like a maze at times.. You could discover charming tea rooms, delicious restaurants and cute shops.
We lived in Seoul for 2 years. Check out all our related blog posts here.