Seoul is a veritable haven for the avid shopper.
Seoul is a city crafted to cater to the needs and desires of shoppers. It teems with both locals and tourists, all in search of the hottest sales and latest fashion trends. When one contemplates "shopping" in Seoul, certain names immediately come to mind: Dongdaemoon, Myeong-dong, and Gangnam. In these areas, one can indeed find what one seeks, including renowned brand names and incredible discounts depending on the time of year. However, beneath the bustling streets lies a hidden gem, waiting patiently to be discovered.
The savvy Seoulites have long known that the true treasures can be found "underground." Underground shopping is a phenomenon that captivates the city, with its various locations offering mile upon mile of pocket-sized stores, each offering a plethora of items to fulfill every need. These subterranean labyrinths offer everything, from socks to selfie-sticks, artistic masterpieces to exquisite designer lamps, not to mention an abundance of handbags and the latest fashion trends. It is not unheard of to encounter shops selling any item within for a mere W5,000 - W10,000. Truly a paradise for the bargain hunter.
Allow me to divulge the names of the four primary locations you must be aware of, in order to experience this breathtaking phenomenon.
At the epicenter of the labyrinthine arcades lies the Express Terminal Underground Center, a vast expanse of lanes adorned with thousands of stores. Nestled amidst three subway lines, a five-star hotel, a colossal department store, and an entire shopping center above ground, this locale beckons eager shoppers from all corners. I must caution you, however, to try to avoid this area on weekends if you can, as it becomes a sea of people, all vying for the latest and greatest bargains. Fear not, for the center offers a wide array of cafes and restaurants, ready to satiate your taste buds, for we all know that shopping can work up one's appetite! Personally, I indulged in the delectable offerings of a sushi bar, where I was delighted to discover that each plate cost a mere W2,000! Sinsegae Department Store, which stands immediately above the underground center, boasts an entire food court, brimming with an extensive assortment of international gourmet fare and local delicacies.
I sincerely recommend having cash on hand, as numerous shops do not accept credit cards. This will also work to your advantage, as you can negotiate prices to some extent or even attempt to bundle several items together for a lower price! In my personal experience, I found it most convenient to enter the center via Exit 8 of Express Terminal, as this leads directly to the heart of the sprawling complex. Within, there are two main aisles to leisurely peruse, yet be forewarned that this will likely leave you longing for a foot massage by the end of your shopping excursion!
You can easily reach the Express Terminal Underground Shopping Center via Subway Lines 3, 7, and 9.
Thanks to the music video sensation "Oppa Gangnam Style" by Psy, Gangnam has become a prominent name on the international stage. Nevertheless, even before this cultural phenomenon, Gangnam had always been a mecca for Seoul's youth, featuring a plethora of major brand stores, an astonishing variety of both Western and Eastern eateries, lounges, cafes, and nightclubs, among many other attractions. Situated on Subway Line Number 2, Gangnam Station immerses visitors in a maze of shops offering a cornucopia of merchandise. So, before embarking on a memorable night out, take a moment to peruse the offerings of the Gangnam Underground Shopping Center and appease your shopping cravings.
Jamsil is yet another haven for Seoul's denizens, offering an overwhelming array of culinary delights, amusement parks, and, most importantly, an abundance of shopping options that ought to be deemed excessive. The construction of the Lotte World Tower, reaching a staggering 555 meters in height, is already visible from the opposite side of the city. This architectural marvel is accompanied by the new Lotte World Mall, boasting over 1,000 local and international stores. Across the street lies the Lotte World Amusement Park, which enthralls visitors with thrilling rides, a plethora of entertainment options, an ice rink, and is encompassed by yet another shopping center! Amongst all this grandeur, nestled within the basement, lies the Jamsil Underground Shopping Center. Resembling the aforementioned centers, such as Express Terminal, Jamsil leaves shoppers spoiled for choice, brimming with bargain opportunities. It must be noted that Jamsil is not just another location on the map; this area alone is a sightseeing extravaganza that could easily occupy several days, if one truly wishes to immerse oneself in all it has to offer.
Myeongdong is undisputedly Korea's most renowned shopping district. These bustling streets are teeming with enthusiastic tourists and wide-eyed locals. As you navigate through the labyrinthine alleys, you may feel as though you have been transported into an adventure game. I implore you to discard your map and surrender yourself to getting lost! Amidst these narrow passageways, you may just stumble upon hidden wonders, where you can procure those elusive items you were never aware you needed. From Myeongdong Station on Line Number 4 to City Hall Station on Line Number 2, Myeongdong conceals a secret metropolis beneath its surface. Underground, one will discover endless avenues of enchanting shopping opportunities. My personal experience left me thoroughly disoriented, to the extent that I had to ascend to ground level to regain my bearings!
Should the abundance of shopping options become overwhelming, you can always escape to the serene tranquility of the nearby Cheonggyecheon Stream, where you will feel transported away from the bustling city.
Bear in mind that if you become burdened with an excessive load of purchases, a common predicament, most subway stations have pay-per-use lockers available to store your items while you take a respite (or, perhaps, continue purchasing even more!)