Insadong is one of the favorite destinations for tourists visiting Seoul. It offers a plethora of experiences and serves as an ideal place for an initial immersion into Korean culture. The district boasts a delightful array of shops, galleries, tea houses, restaurants, and more!
Today, I present to you this comprehensive guide to explore the district, along with practical information if you are planning a visit to Insadong. Here’s a summary of what you’ll find:
- What to do and see in Insadong?
- Where to eat and enjoy beverages?
- How to get to Insadong?
Let’s delve into the captivating world of Insadong and make the most of your time in this remarkable district!
Here are some suggestions for things to do and see in Insadong:
- Explore Art Galleries and Museums: Insadong is home to numerous art galleries and museums that showcase various forms of art. Here are a couple of recommendations:
- Insa Art Center: This cultural center spans across six floors and hosts exhibitions showcasing the works of Korean artists. It’s an excellent place to immerse yourself in Korean art and discover new talents.
- Kyung-in Museum of Fine Art: Situated within a traditional Korean house called a Hanok, this museum offers a unique setting for art exhibitions. You can explore six different exhibitions that change regularly throughout the year. The museum also features a sculpture garden and a traditional cafe named “Dawon” where you can enjoy a cup of tea.
- Indulge in Traditional Tea Houses: Insadong is renowned for its traditional tea houses, providing a perfect opportunity to experience Korean tea culture. Step into one of these tea houses, such as:
- Suyeon Sanbang: This tea house offers a serene atmosphere and a wide selection of traditional teas. You can relax, savor the flavors, and appreciate the tranquil surroundings.
- Moon Bird Only Thinks of the Moon: Known for its charming ambiance, this tea house specializes in Korean traditional teas. It’s an ideal place to unwind and enjoy the beauty of Korean tea rituals.
- Wander through the Streets and Shops: Strolling along the streets of Insadong is an adventure in itself. Explore the various shops and boutiques that line the district, offering an array of traditional Korean crafts, artwork, souvenirs, and more. Don’t miss out on the chance to find unique treasures and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere.
Days and hours of operation: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (closed on New Years, Seollal and Chuseok) | Price: Free entry
Official website | Address: 서울 종로구 인사동10길 11-4 경인미술관
Subway: Anguk Station, Exit 6 | Map: Google Maps – Naver Map
Korean Craft & Design Foundation Gallery
Another noteworthy place to visit in Insadong is the KCDF Gallery. This gallery focuses on promoting Korean crafts and design and features three exhibition halls. Additionally, there is a dedicated sales area where you can purchase these unique artworks and crafts.
On the top floor of the KCDF Gallery, you’ll find a rooftop that is accessible to the public. It’s highly recommended to take advantage of this opportunity and enjoy the view. From the rooftop, you can admire the neighborhood’s surroundings and take in the fresh air, providing a pleasant experience and a different perspective of the area.
Don’t hesitate to visit the KCDF Gallery, explore the exhibitions, and make your way to the rooftop for a delightful and refreshing experience in Insadong.
Days and hours of operation: 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (closed on Mondays, in Seollal and Chuseok) | Price: Free entry
Official website | Address: 서울 종로구 인사동11길 8
Subway: Anguk Station, Exit 6 | Map: Google Maps – Naver Map
Color Pool Museum
Another exciting attraction in Insadong is the Color Pool Museum. This unique space is entirely dedicated to the theme of color. Inside the museum, you’ll find nine rooms, each designed around a specific color and accompanied by a corresponding scent. Additionally, most of the rooms feature ball pits, adding an extra element of fun and playfulness.
The Color Pool Museum offers an excellent opportunity to capture vibrant and creative photos. Whether you’re visiting with friends, family, or as a couple, you’re bound to have a fantastic time exploring the colorful rooms, enjoying the ball pits, and immersing yourself in a world of hues.
Make sure to visit the souvenir shop to find mementos and keepsakes related to the museum and its colorful theme. The Color Pool Museum provides an enjoyable and interactive experience that is perfect for creating lasting memories in Insadong.
Opening hours: 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.; last admission at 6:00 p.m. (times modified due to the coronavirus) | Price: 15,000 won (adult) – 12,000 won (25 months to 12 years old)
Official Site | Address: 서울 종로구 인사동길 49 안녕인사동 6층
Subway: Anguk Station, Exit 6 | Map: Google Maps – Naver Map
If you’re looking for a thrilling and interactive experience in Insadong, the Alive Museum is a must-visit destination. This unique 4D art museum specializes in optical illusions that play with your perception and create immersive experiences.
The Alive Museum spans two floors and offers 12 different themes to explore. With the clever use of murals, life-size objects, and digital devices, visitors can become an integral part of the artworks. It’s an excellent opportunity to let your imagination run wild and capture unforgettable photos with friends, family, or as a couple.
Inside the museum, you’ll also find the Dynamic Maze, a labyrinth filled with obstacles. It presents an exciting challenge that will put your problem-solving skills to the test. Navigate your way through the maze and conquer the obstacles for an added adventure during your visit.
Overall, the Alive Museum offers a combination of artistic marvels and interactive fun, making it a perfect attraction for those seeking engaging experiences and memorable photo opportunities in Insadong.
Shopping in Insadong:
Some shops and shopping centers to discover in the neighborhood!
Insadong Street, also known as Insadong-gil, is the vibrant heart of the district. This bustling street is a hub of activity and a must-visit destination for tourists in Insadong. As you explore Insadong Street, you’ll discover a wide array of shops catering to various interests and tastes.
Souvenir Shops: Insadong Street is renowned for its abundance of souvenir shops. These shops offer an extensive selection of traditional Korean crafts, trinkets, and souvenirs. Whether you’re looking for keychains, postcards, traditional clothing (hanbok), or other unique items, you’ll find plenty of options to choose from.
Antique Shops: Insadong Street is also famous for its antique shops, where you can find a fascinating collection of vintage artifacts, traditional furniture, ceramics, and artwork. These shops provide an opportunity to appreciate the rich history and cultural heritage of Korea through their unique offerings.
Artworks: Insadong Street showcases a thriving art scene, and you’ll come across numerous galleries and shops selling works of art. From traditional paintings and calligraphy to contemporary sculptures and mixed media pieces, you’ll encounter a diverse range of artistic creations. It’s an excellent place to explore Korean art and perhaps even acquire a piece to bring home.
In addition to shopping, Insadong Street offers a lively atmosphere with street performances, cultural events, and food stalls. It’s a fantastic place to immerse yourself in the vibrant energy of the district and experience the rich cultural heritage of Korea.
Talbang, or 탈방 in Korean, refers to a type of traditional mask dance performance in Korea. The word “tal” means mask, and “bang” means room or stage. Talbang performances typically involve dancers wearing colorful and intricately designed masks that represent various characters from Korean folklore and mythology.
These mask dances are accompanied by traditional music, drums, and other instruments. The performers skillfully portray the characters through their movements, expressing emotions, and telling stories through the dance.
Talbang performances have a long history in Korean culture and are often performed during festivals, celebrations, and other special events. They serve as a means to entertain and educate the audience about traditional legends, moral lessons, and cultural heritage.
The dances often depict humorous and lively interactions between characters, and audience participation is sometimes encouraged. It’s a unique and engaging form of performance art that showcases the artistic traditions of Korea.
If you have the opportunity, attending a Talbang performance can be a memorable experience, allowing you to witness the beauty of traditional Korean mask dancing and immerse yourself in the country’s rich cultural heritage.
Myungsindang (Myungsindang Pilbang)
Myungsindang, also known as Myungsindang Pilbang, is a historic Korean traditional theater located in Insadong, Seoul. It is a designated Important Intangible Cultural Property of Korea and holds great significance in preserving and promoting traditional performing arts.
Myungsindang specializes in a particular form of Korean folk theater called “pilbang.” Pilbang is a type of masked play that combines elements of music, dance, comedy, and drama. It features performers wearing masks to portray different characters, each with its distinct personality and role in the story.
The theater offers regular performances of pilbang, providing audiences with an opportunity to experience the rich heritage of Korean traditional theater. The shows often incorporate vibrant costumes, live music, and dynamic choreography, creating an engaging and visually captivating experience.
Attending a performance at Myungsindang allows you to delve into the world of Korean traditional theater and witness the unique artistry and storytelling techniques that have been passed down through generations. It is a cultural gem that offers a glimpse into Korea’s rich theatrical traditions and is a treat for both locals and visitors interested in traditional performing arts.
The Tongin Store you mentioned is actually a well-known establishment located in Seoul’s Jongno District, which includes the Insadong neighborhood.
The Tongin Store, also known as Tongin Market or Tongin Traditional Market, is a traditional market that offers a unique and nostalgic shopping experience. The market is known for its diverse selection of food stalls and vendors selling a wide range of traditional Korean snacks, ingredients, and household goods.
One of the highlights of Tongin Market is the “Dosirak Cafe” or “Dosirak (Lunchbox) Alley.” Here, visitors can purchase empty lunchboxes and fill them with a variety of small dishes from different stalls using traditional brass coins called “yeopjeon.” It’s a popular activity where you can curate your own custom lunchbox by selecting your favorite Korean dishes.
Aside from the Dosirak Cafe, Tongin Market also features a variety of shops selling traditional Korean sweets, spices, utensils, crafts, and more. It’s a great place to explore and immerse yourself in the local culture, taste traditional snacks, and shop for unique items.
If you’re visiting Insadong or the Jongno District, be sure to check out Tongin Market for an authentic market experience and a taste of traditional Korean cuisine.
If you enjoy books, I highly recommend visiting Tongmungwan, which has been in existence since 1934. It holds the distinction of being the oldest bookstore in the country. This charming bookstore specializes in rare and antique books, as well as a wide selection of humanities literature.
Tongmungwan sounds like a fascinating destination for book lovers, particularly those interested in old, rare, and humanities-focused books. The store’s specialization in these areas makes it a unique and valuable resource for bibliophiles and researchers seeking out specific titles or exploring the depths of literary and academic works.
Visiting Tongmungwan can provide a wonderful opportunity to browse through a diverse collection of books, appreciate the history and heritage associated with the store, and perhaps even discover hidden literary treasures. It’s an ideal place for book enthusiasts looking to delve into the literary world and explore the rich offerings of a renowned and long-standing establishment like Tongmungwan.
Opening days and hours: 10:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (open from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturdays), closed on Mondays and public holidays | Official Website
Address: 서울 종로구 인사동길 55-1
Map: Google Maps – Naver Map
Ssamziegil is a renowned shopping center. It offers a unique shopping experience with its diverse range of shops and boutiques. The center showcases a blend of traditional and contemporary Korean culture, making it a popular destination for both locals and tourists. It features various handmade crafts, artwork, fashion items, accessories, and souvenirs. Additionally, Ssamziegil is known for its vibrant atmosphere, charming architecture, and delightful cafes, making it a must-visit spot for shopping enthusiasts and those looking to immerse themselves in Korean culture.
Annyeong Insadong is a brand-new shopping complex that opened in October 2019. On floors 1 to 6, you will find a variety of shops, restaurants, cafes, and galleries. It is also home to the Color Pool Museum, which I mentioned earlier. Floors 6 to 13 are exclusively dedicated to the Nine Tree Hotel.
Visit monuments in the neighborhood:
Ideas of monuments to visit in Insa-dong and around:
South Korea’s first modern park, Annyeong Insadong, was built in 1887. Prior to its establishment, the Wongaksa Temple stood in its place. As a result, the park houses several cultural assets, including the Wongaksa pagoda (National Treasure No. 2), which was originally part of the temple.
Furthermore, the park holds significant historical importance in Korean history. It was the site where the Declaration of Independence was read during the March 1 Movement in 1919.
- Unhyeongung Palace
- Bosingak Belfry
Renting a Hanbok at the Insadong Information Center:
If you’re interested in the experience of wearing a hanbok, you can rent one for 20 minutes at the Insadong Information Center. The rental price is 3,000 won, which is quite a good deal! According to their website, it is required to make a reservation on site before 5 p.m.
Opening hours : 09:00 – 18:00 and Monday : 09:30 – 18:30 | Site officiel
Address : 19, Insadong 11-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul Seoinsa Madang Public Parking Lot | Metro : Station Anguk, sortie 6
Map: Google Maps – Naver Map
Tasting street food in Insadong:
If you enjoy street food, you will find happiness on the main street of Insadong. There are numerous food stalls catering to all tastes and budgets! I highly recommend stopping by a dragon’s beard candy stand (Ggultarae – 꿀타래), which is incredibly popular in the area!
Relax in a tea house or café:
Moving a little away from the main street, you can discover superb tea houses and cafes. Here are some ideas:
Shin Old Tea House
The Old Tea Shop is a renowned tea house located in the neighborhood, nestled within a Hanok, a traditional Korean house. The ambiance of the place is tranquil and serene, making it an ideal spot to take a break. The tea room primarily specializes in a variety of teas, which can be savored either hot or cold. Additionally, their menu features traditional desserts like rice cakes and bingsu (shaved ice), offering a delightful culinary experience.
O’sulloc Tea House
O’sulloc, an exquisite tea room, presents an extensive selection of teas that cater to various preferences. You can indulge in their teas in various forms: hot, with milk, iced, or even in bubble tea preparations. The menu also includes delectable desserts such as tea-infused ice cream, bingsu, and cakes. Many of these desserts are crafted using tea as a key ingredient, adding a unique twist to their flavors. Notably, the ground floor houses the O’sulloc boutique, where you can purchase the brand’s teas and other products, making it an excellent destination for finding gifts.
Beautiful Tea Museum
The Beautiful Tea Museum is a charming establishment situated within a Hanok. Here, visitors can relish a delightful tea experience in the serene tea room or explore the diverse offerings of the tea shop. The shop boasts an impressive collection of 110 tea varieties sourced from various countries, including Korea, China, Japan, Sri Lanka, India, Taiwan, and even Europe. It’s a paradise for tea enthusiasts seeking unique flavors and blends.
But there’s more to this captivating place! The museum section showcases an array of teas and tea-related artifacts, providing a fascinating glimpse into the world of tea. Additionally, the establishment features a gallery that showcases the artistic creations of young ceramists, offering visitors an opportunity to appreciate their works. The Beautiful Tea Museum truly offers a holistic and immersive experience for tea lovers and art enthusiasts alike.
Selection of restaurants in Insa-dong:
Prefer to go to a restaurant instead? I offer you some addresses where you can taste some Korean dishes!
Bukchon Son Mandu
If you have a fondness for Korean dumplings, known as mandu, Bukchon Son Mandu is a must-visit destination. This restaurant serves an array of mouthwatering dumplings, available in various preparations. You can savor them fried, steamed, or even in a comforting soup. The menu also includes a selection of soups without dumplings for those seeking different options. Additionally, if you’re in the mood for a refreshing dish, the restaurant offers Naengmyeon, a cold noodle dish that is sure to satisfy your cravings. Bukchon Son Mandu is a fantastic choice for dumpling lovers looking to indulge in a delightful dining experience.
Imojib is renowned for its diverse selection of traditional dishes. One of the highlights of their menu is the grilled bulgogi, featuring marinated and succulent meat cooked to perfection. However, if you’re looking for other options, I highly recommend trying their samgyetang and japchae. Samgyetang is a nourishing chicken soup made with ginseng and various herbs, offering a comforting and flavorful experience. Japchae, on the other hand, is a delightful dish made with stir-fried glass noodles and an assortment of vegetables, resulting in a harmonious blend of textures and flavors. Whether you choose the grilled bulgogi or opt for the samgyetang and japchae, you’re in for an excellent dining experience at Imojib.
Indulging in a Korean BBQ experience within a Hanok setting is indeed possible at restaurant 853! This establishment offers a delightful Korean barbecue where you can choose from a selection of four pork cuts, including the renowned samgyeopsal (pork belly). The interactive grilling experience allows you to cook the meat to your preferred level of doneness, ensuring a personalized dining experience.
In addition to the BBQ options, restaurant 853 also serves a variety of other dishes to complement your meal. You can explore their menu to find delectable choices such as noodles, soups, and stews that showcase the diverse flavors of Korean cuisine. Whether you’re in the mood for sizzling barbecued meat or other mouthwatering dishes, restaurant 853 is a fantastic choice for a memorable dining experience.
Opening days and hours: 12:00 – 23:00 (break from 15:00 to 17:00, no break on weekends and public holidays) | Instagram
Address: 서울 종로구 인사동12길 16 | Metro: Anguk Station, Exit 6
Map: Google Maps – Naver Map
Busan Sikdang, a beloved restaurant among locals, has been a fixture in the neighborhood since 1976. This longstanding establishment is renowned for its array of traditional dishes, with one standout being its spicy cod soup, known as Saengdaegutang (생대구탕).
Saengdaegutang is a flavorful and spicy soup featuring cod as the main ingredient. The combination of tender cod, aromatic spices, and a rich broth creates a delicious and satisfying dish. This specialty has gained recognition for its bold flavors and is a favorite among visitors to Busan Sikdang.
While Saengdaegutang is the star of the menu, the restaurant likely offers a variety of other traditional Korean dishes as well. The rich history and popularity of Busan Sikdang make it an excellent choice for experiencing authentic flavors and enjoying a memorable dining experience.