Insa-dong or Insadong is a neighborhood in Seoul, South Korea, that boasts a bustling main street called Insadong-guil. Numerous alleyways lead deeper into the district, offering modern galleries and teahouses. In the past, this area was known as the largest antique and fine art market in Korea. The district spans an area of 12 hectares and is surrounded by Gwanhun-dong to the north, Nagwon-dong to the east, Jongno and Jeokseon-dong to the south, and Gongpyeong-dong to the west.
In South Korea’s capital city of Seoul, the district of Insa-dong was formed by the merger of two towns called “In” and “Sa” which were separated by a stream that ran through what is now the main street of Insa-dong. Originally, the area was a residential place for civil servants during the early Joseon period. Later, during the Japanese occupation, it became a center for antique trading after Korean residents were forced to sell their possessions and move away.
After the Korean War, Insa-dong transformed into a hub of artistic life and coffeehouses, earning it the nickname “Mary’s Alley” among foreign visitors during the 1960s. It gained even more popularity during the 1988 Seoul Olympics. In 2000, the area underwent renovations, but protests led to the interruption of the rapid modernization of the district for two years. In recent years, the alleys of Insa-dong have been gentrified with cafes, garden restaurants, and traditional boarding-style accommodations.
Despite the effects of cheap shops and globalization, Insa-dong remains a popular destination for tourists due to its notable Jogyesa temple and the new Gongpyeong Historical Sites Museum, which opened in 2019. Although some may prefer the narrow streets of Ikseon-dong, Insa-dong is a district that many visitors return to time and time again.
Art galleries and museums:
Many galleries and museums have chosen to establish themselves in the area. I now suggest you discover some addresses:
Insa Art Center
The Insa Art Center is a contemporary art space located in the Insadong neighborhood of Seoul, South Korea. The center is operated by the Arts Council Korea and hosts various exhibitions, performances, and cultural events throughout the year.
The Insa Art Center has a focus on promoting and showcasing the work of emerging and mid-career Korean artists. Its exhibitions often explore themes relevant to contemporary Korean society and culture, and the center has become a hub for both local and international artists to showcase their work.
The center’s facilities include a gallery space, a theater, and an education center, which provides workshops and classes for aspiring artists of all ages. The Insa Art Center also collaborates with other institutions and organizations in Korea and internationally to promote cultural exchange and facilitate artistic dialogue.
Overall, the Insa Art Center is a vital part of the contemporary art scene in South Korea, providing a platform for artists to showcase their work and engaging the public with diverse and thought-provoking exhibitions and events.
Kyung-in Museum of Fine Art
The Kyung-in Museum of Fine Art is a cultural institution in Korea that showcases a variety of artwork from both Korean and international artists. The museum aims to preserve and promote traditional Korean art and culture while also exhibiting contemporary and modern art. The museum’s collection includes paintings, calligraphy, sculptures, ceramics, and more, spanning various periods and styles. In addition to the permanent collection, the museum also hosts various temporary exhibitions, lectures, and workshops to engage and educate visitors. The Kyung-in Museum of Fine Art is a must-visit for art enthusiasts and anyone interested in Korean
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
I find it delightful to have tea in Insa-dong during the daytime, as the atmosphere is pleasant and lively. Even though I usually avoid crowds, I enjoy the joyful and light vibe of this district. In addition, it is my go-to place for buying gifts, especially at the National Center for Souvenirs.
For first-time visitors to Seoul, it’s hard to miss the charm of Insa-dong. However, if you prefer a more upscale ambiance, you might want to explore the Sinsa-dong and Apgujeong areas in Gangnam. These neighborhoods boast high-end fashion boutiques and art galleries that may be more to your liking.
Insadong-gil Street is a famous traditional street in Seoul, known for representing the cultural history of South Korea. The street is a perfect blend of the past and the present, and it is home to a mixture of historical and modern buildings that represent the nation’s culture. Originally, the majority of buildings belonged to merchants and bureaucrats, while some larger residences were constructed for retired government officials during the Joseon period. Today, most of these buildings have been converted into restaurants or shops. The area boasts important historical buildings like Unhyeongung House, the oldest Presbyterian Church, and Jogyesa Temple, which is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Korea. Insa-dong is a popular destination for tourists, with about 100,000 visitors reported on Sundays in 2000. It is also a place of visit for foreign dignitaries such as Queen Elizabeth II and the princes of Spain and the Netherlands. The district contains 40% of the nation’s antique shops and art galleries and 90% of traditional paper mills.
Korean Craft & Design Foundation Gallery
The Korean Craft & Design Foundation Gallery, also known as KRAFT, is a cultural space in Seoul, South Korea dedicated to promoting and showcasing contemporary Korean craft and design. The gallery is located in the Gangnam district and features a variety of exhibitions, workshops, and educational programs. KRAFT is aimed at fostering appreciation for the country’s rich artistic traditions while also showcasing the innovative techniques and designs of contemporary Korean artists and designers. The gallery features a range of media, including ceramics, metalwork, textiles, furniture, and more. It is open to the public and free to visit.
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
The Colorpool Museum is an art destination that offers a multi-sensory experience with colors. It serves as a playground for visitors to engage in creative activities regardless of their age or background. The museum encourages active participation by turning viewers into artists, allowing them to become the protagonists of their own artwork. The museum’s aim is to promote participatory art activities that enable visitors to play with colors, experience their scents, and engage with various performances. Just as each person has their own unique identity, every color has its own distinctive energy and personality, and the museum uses this to deliver tremendous energy and vitality to visitors while they create their art pieces. By engaging in creative activities at the Colorpool Museum, visitors can gain new inspiration and healthy energy, unlocking the secrets of the colorpool.
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
Alive Museum is a unique art museum that provides an immersive and interactive experience through its use of optical illusions and 4D technology. The museum features 12 different themes spread across two floors, and visitors are invited to become an integral part of each exhibit through the use of murals, life-size objects, and digital devices. This makes it an ideal location to take photos and create lasting memories with friends, family, or a significant other. Additionally, the museum offers a Dynamic Maze, a challenging labyrinth that requires visitors to overcome obstacles in order to navigate through it.
Shopping in Insadong:
Some shops and shopping centers to discover in the neighborhood!
In the heart of the city lies Insa-dong, a significant location where a plethora of old and valuable traditional goods are exhibited. One main road runs through Insa-dong with alleys branching off on either side. These alleys host a variety of establishments, such as galleries, traditional restaurants, teahouses, and cafes.
The galleries are the focal point of Insa-dong, boasting around 100 different venues that showcase traditional Korean fine art, including paintings and sculptures. Some of the most renowned galleries in the area include Hakgojae Gallery, which serves as the hub of folk art, Gana Art Gallery, which promotes many up-and-coming artists, and Gana Art Center.
The teahouses and restaurants complement the galleries perfectly, tucked away in the twisting alleyways and providing a treasure hunt-like experience for visitors. The shops in Insa-dong are popular among all age groups due to their uniqueness and individuality.
On Saturdays from 2 PM to 10 PM and Sundays from 10 AM to 10 PM, the main street of Insa-dong is closed off to vehicular traffic and transforms into a cultural hub. Stores set up booths outside, traditional Korean candy merchants and fortune teller stalls can easily be found, and there are various traditional performances and exhibits to enjoy. Insa-dong is particularly favored by international tourists as it offers an opportunity to experience traditional Korean culture firsthand and purchase pieces of fine art.
Outdoor stage (Naminsa Madang), souvenir shops, restaurants, craft shop, etc.
Shop that offers traditional Korean masks made by the craftsman Jung Sung-Am! You will find the Hahoetal mask, the Sandaetal mask as well as creations made from wood.
Myungsindang (Myungsindang Pilbang)
Shop specializing in calligraphy . There are brushes and all the accessories needed to do calligraphy. Finally, it is possible to make your own seal , like Queen Elizabeth II who came to this shop! Depending on the materials, the price of the seal may vary.
A store on 5 floors that has existed since 1924. You will find several floors dedicated to the sale of modern and traditional crafts . On the 4th floor is an antiquity gallery and on the 5th floor the Tongin gallery. Finally, on the 2nd floor: find the Taegeukdang bakery (quite popular in the neighborhood!)
If you like books, I recommend that you take a trip to Tongmungwan, which has existed since 1934. It is the oldest bookstore in the country. The bookstore specializes in old and rare books and also in books on the humanities .
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 | Metro: Anguk Station, Exit 6
Map: Google Maps – Naver Map
Ssamziegil is a unique shopping complex located in the heart of Insadong in Seoul, South Korea. It is a four-story building designed to resemble a traditional Korean village with a central courtyard and a spiral staircase that winds its way up the building.
Ssamziegil is home to a wide variety of shops, restaurants, and galleries that showcase the best of Korean art, design, and culture. Visitors can find everything from handmade crafts and souvenirs to high-end fashion and accessories.
One of the highlights of Ssamziegil is the abundance of small independent shops and boutiques that sell unique and one-of-a-kind items that can’t be found elsewhere. These shops offer a great opportunity to pick up a truly special souvenir or gift.
In addition to shopping, Ssamziegil also hosts regular cultural events and performances, including traditional music and dance shows. The building itself is a work of art, with colorful murals, sculptures, and installations that create a vibrant and lively atmosphere.
Overall, Ssamziegil is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Korean art, culture, and design. It offers a unique shopping experience that can’t be found anywhere else in Seoul, with a focus on independent and artisanal businesses that celebrate the creativity and ingenuity of the Korean people.
Annyeong Insadong is a recently inaugurated shopping complex that opened its doors in October 2019. Spread across floors 1 to 6, the complex houses a diverse array of shops, restaurants, cafes, and galleries, making it a one-stop destination for visitors seeking a variety of experiences.
One of the major highlights of Annyeong Insadong is the Color Pool Museum, which I mentioned earlier, and is located within the complex. The museum offers visitors a fascinating journey through various colorful exhibits and installations, making it an ideal location for those looking to explore the intersection between art and technology.
Additionally, floors 6 to 13 of the complex are occupied by the Nine Tree Hotel, providing visitors with a convenient and comfortable accommodation option in the heart of Insadong. Whether one is looking to indulge in shopping or explore the surrounding cultural attractions, Annyeong Insadong is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking an enriching and enjoyable experience in Seoul.
Visit monuments in the neighborhood:
Ideas of monuments to visit in Insa-dong and around:
Established in 1887, South Korea’s first modern park holds a significant place in the country’s history and culture. Prior to its creation, the site was home to the Wongaksa Temple, which is why several cultural assets can still be found within the park, including the Wongaksa pagoda, designated as National Treasure No. 2.
Apart from its cultural significance, the park played a pivotal role in Korean history as the site where the Declaration of Independence was read during the March 1 Movement in 1919. This event marked a significant milestone in the country’s struggle for independence and is widely regarded as a key moment in its modern history.
Overall, the park offers a blend of natural beauty and cultural significance, making it a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. The site’s rich history and stunning natural beauty make it an ideal location to explore and learn about South Korea’s past and present.
- Unhyeongung Palace
- Bosingak Belfry
Renting a Hanbok at the Insadong Information Center:
If you’re interested in trying on a hanbok, the traditional Korean attire, you can rent one for 20 minutes at the Insadong Information Center. The rental fee is 3000 won, which is a reasonable price for the experience. It’s worth noting that you’ll need to reserve the hanbok in person before 5 p.m., as indicated on their website.
Donning a hanbok is a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture and experience the country’s rich history and heritage firsthand. Many visitors to Seoul find that trying on a hanbok and exploring the city’s historical sites is an unforgettable experience, and one that they treasure for years to come.
Opening hours : 09:00 – 18:00 et le lundi : 09:30 – 18:30 | Site officiel
Address : 19, Insadong 11-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul Seoinsa Madang Public Parking Lot | Metro : Station Anguk, Exit 6
Map : Google Maps – Naver Map
Where to eat and drink in Insadong?
Whether you’re in the mood for street food or prefer to relax in a Hanok (traditional Korean house) with a drink, Insa-dong has plenty of options to choose from. Here are some recommendations for places to eat and drink in the area.
Tasting street food in Insadong:
If you like street food , you will find your happiness in the main street of Insadong. Indeed, there are several food stalls for all tastes and budgets! I advise you to pass in front of a dragon’s beard candy stand (Ggultarae -꿀타래): very popular in the neighborhood!
Relax in a tea house or café:
Venturing away from the main street, you’ll find some wonderful tea houses and cafes to explore. Here are a few recommendations to check out:
Shin Old Tea House
Shin Old Tea House is a great place to experience traditional Korean tea culture. The tea house has been around for over 80 years and has a cozy, authentic atmosphere. Here, you can try a variety of teas and snacks, including their famous rice cakes, while enjoying the peaceful ambiance. The staff is knowledgeable about tea and happy to share their expertise with customers. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.
O’sulloc Tea House
O’sulloc Tea House is a popular chain of tea houses in South Korea that specializes in green tea. Their Insa-dong location is a great place to relax and enjoy some high-quality teas and desserts. The tea house offers a wide variety of green teas, as well as other types of tea and coffee. Their menu includes many delicious desserts, such as green tea tiramisu and green tea roll cake, that pair perfectly with their tea selection. The tea house is also well-known for its modern and stylish interior design, making it a great place to take some Instagram-worthy photos.
Beautiful Tea Museum
The Beautiful Tea Museum is a tea house and museum located in Insa-dong that showcases the history and culture of Korean tea. The museum features a collection of antique teaware, traditional tea sets, and various tea-making tools. Visitors can also learn about the history of tea in Korea and its cultural significance. The tea house offers a variety of high-quality teas, including rare teas that are difficult to find elsewhere. They also serve traditional Korean snacks, such as rice cakes and sweet potato pancakes, that pair well with their teas. The museum has a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere, making it a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
Selection of restaurants in Insa-dong:
In this article, we will be exploring a traditional restaurant situated in the renowned Insadong area. The Imojib (이모집) eatery is known for its selection of authentic Korean dishes that are featured on its menu.
Upon arrival at the Imojib restaurant, the staff will provide you with the option to either dine in a small room with wooden tables and chairs or in a more traditional setting on the ground. The restaurant comprises of two rooms, and you are free to choose your preferred seating arrangement. We opted for the table with chairs, but if you are intrigued by the traditional experience, you can opt for the ground seating in the second room. The staff is known for their warm hospitality, and even if you struggle with the Korean language, they can communicate effectively in English to assist you with your order.
The menu :
In this traditional restaurant, you have the choice of taking different traditional Korean dishes such as Bulgogi, Bossam, Pajeon and many more.
Bulgogi is a traditional Korean dish made with thinly sliced beef, marinated in a sweet and savory sauce made of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, and other seasonings. The beef is then grilled, pan-fried, or stir-fried. Bulgogi is often served with a side of rice, lettuce leaves, and other vegetables such as carrots, mushrooms, and onions. It is a popular dish in Korean cuisine and can be found in many Korean restaurants around the world.
Bossam is a traditional Korean dish consisting of boiled pork belly that is thinly sliced and served with various side dishes, such as kimchi, pickled vegetables, and fresh lettuce leaves. The pork belly is typically simmered in a flavorful broth with seasonings such as garlic, ginger, and green onions, which infuses the meat with rich flavor. The dish is often enjoyed as a shared meal among friends and family, where each person wraps a slice of the pork belly and side dishes in a lettuce leaf, creating a delicious and healthy bite-sized wrap. Bossam is considered a classic dish in Korean cuisine and is enjoyed both at home and in restaurants.
Pajeon is a traditional Korean savory pancake that is made with a batter of wheat flour, rice flour, and eggs. It usually contains a variety of chopped vegetables such as scallions, onions, and peppers, as well as seafood or meat. The batter and ingredients are mixed together and fried until crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Pajeon is often served as an appetizer or as a main dish along with a dipping sauce made of soy sauce, vinegar, and chili flakes. It is a popular dish in Korean cuisine, especially during the rainy season.
More info about Imojib (이모집)
- Opening time
12:00 – 22:00
I don’t have the prices for samgyetang and japchae anymore, but for a bulgogi it’s 28000 won and for an assortment of pajeon (모듬전) the price is 25000 won.
10-3, Insadong 14-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul.
Enjoying a Korean BBQ in a Hanok? Well, it is possible at restaurant 853! The restaurant offers for a Korean barbecue where it is possible to choose 4 parts of pork including the famous samgyeopsal . It is also possible to order dishes such as noodles, soups and stews…
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 is a popular restaurant with locals. It has been in the neighborhood since 1976. The restaurant offers several traditional dishes : it is particularly known for its spicy cod soup (Saengdaegutang/생대구탕).
I hope this guide will give you some ideas for going to Insadong! If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in a comment!
How to get to Insadong?
Insa-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
- Getting there by metro:
You can take Anguk Station (Exit 6) or Jongno 3-ga Station (Exit 5) to get to the main street of the area.
- Getting there by bus: