The 700m street of Insa-dong gil is synonymous to the traditional culture and craft souvenir shopping at Seoul. Here is where you can buy hanbok (traditional clothing), hanji (traditional paper), traditional teas, pottery, and folk crafts ranging from very expensive to the cheap ones.
Historically, Insa-dong is the original “art” neighborhood of Seoul. A famous hang-out place for painters and art students during the Joseon Dynasty, but these days it is more of a souvenir shopping bazaar though more arts and crafts shop can be found.
With many cafes, ateliers and galleries, the most famous establishment has to be Ssamziegil.
The four-story building with over 70 shops is called “mini Insa-dong within Insa-dong”, as it tries to replicate the whole street with spiral stair case, connecting alleys and wall graffiti.
However, no matter how much Ssamziegil tried to promote the cultural and artistic side of Seoul tourism, the selfie-taking machine at the ground floor entrance is always the first thing that most visitors notice.
Even if your not planning to buy anything, Ssamziegil is good to check out for a few minutes particularly the topmost floor for a view of the surrounding neighborhood and the brightly lighted chicken ginseng restaurant at the back.
A trip to Insa-dong is best recommended at night, when the weather is cooler and there are handful of street performers. Also, it is best combined with a visit to the nearby Jogyesa Temple,the center of Zen Buddhism in Korea.
Daeungjeon is the temple main building. Its exterior is well decorated with colored paintings while inside numerous lamps of red and blue variation hanging from the ceiling illuminating the giant golden Buddha statues.