Your shopping list in Seoul is going to grow even longer. From artisan-made handicrafts to modern products with traditional designs, these must-buy Korean souvenirs are ideal mementos of your trip as well as gifts for friends and family back home.
A visit to Seoul promises a one-of-a-kind travel experience, packed with delectable cuisine, breathtaking natural scenery, and fascinating cultural experiences. You’ll want to bring home a souvenir of your trip to share with a friend or to keep for yourself so you can experience your Korean adventures again and again.
Where to shop for souvenirs with Seoul
Insadong, Seoul’s traditional culture district, is a good site to start your souvenir buying. Its touristic main street is lined with stores offering anything from K-pop memorabilia and cosmetics to more traditional products like calligraphy brushes and pottery, with quality varies from store to store.
Off the usual road, explore the neighborhood’s maze of lanes to find a plethora of traditional tea shops, attractive galleries, and workshops that provide more selected selections of artisan products.
Similar stores can be found in nearby Samcheongdong and Bukchon Hanok Village, though finding them can be difficult because they are more spread, not to mention obscure. If you have the time, though, looking for them is an experience in and of itself, as these specialty workshops and businesses are nestled amidst lovely hanok, traditional Korean residences.
Must-try Korean souvenirs
Hanbok: Traditional Korean apparel, worn daily until approximately a century ago, is making a resurgence with contemporary styles that are not only catwalk-worthy but also wearable.
Stamps: For thousands of years, Korean stamp seals, or dojang, have been used as a signature on official documents and even artwork. Take your stationery game to the next level with a one-of-a-kind, personalized stamp, which can be designed on the spot at one of Insadong’s many stamp shops.
Embroidery: Embroidered garments used to identify a wearer’s position, while patterns represented class and position. Women also sewed motifs into household goods based on their family’s wants. These motifs are still employed in current designs on practical items like bags and cushions.
Dyed textiles: Persimmon, walnut, indigo, and even squid ink are used in the Korean technique of natural dyeing to lend color to textiles. Despite the fact that most conventional techniques have been supplanted by computers, a few artists continue to pursue this ancient art.
Ssamziegil, a quirky shopping complex made up of 70 individual boutiques specializing in handcrafted things, is a one-stop shop for exceptional Korean souvenirs. Ssamziegil has it all: embroidered pouches, hanji boxes, silk fans, and even clay dioramas of iconic Korean themes (think pojangmacha street-food tents and thatched cottages). It’s also built so that you can simply window shop your way through all of the stores until something special strikes your attention.
DDP Design Shop
The DDP Design Shop, located in the ultra-futuristic Dongdaemun Design Plaza, provides contemporary items developed by local designers. Search through hundreds of items ranging from eccentric home decor to innovative interpretations on traditional handicrafts. Korean-themed painted fabrics, jewelry, and kitchenwares are very appealing.