Even though Christmas isn’t a traditional holiday in Korea, there are many markets and shopping hotspots open during the festive season where you can find unique presents, eat delicious food or even just enjoy the holiday sprit Seoul has to offer!
Seoul’s Strasbourg Christmas Market
Located in Yeouido Hangang Park (여의도한강공원), the Seoul Strasbourg Christmas Market is a celebration of Strasbourg, a place between north-eastern France and Germany, and its age-old tradition of Christmas markets. Hosted in the same area as the famous Goblin Night Markets, this festive market is home to over two hundred vendors – which include everything from food to handcrafted goods.
This unique market, which only begun last year, is divided into three sections; FOOD TRUCK ZONE, where one can find delicious meals inspired by traditional dishes from Korea, Germany and France, HANDCRAFT SHOPPING ZONE, where you can find Christmas themed trinkets and ornaments as well as browse the many booths that sell gifts ranging from jewellery to plants, and finally the STRASBOURG ZONE.
Being the highlight of the market, the Strasbourg area is designed to transport visitors and help them to experience what the traditional Christmas markets in Strasbourg are like. Here, one can enjoy handcrafted French souvenirs (which will make excellent presents), delicately crafted Christmas cookies and authentic French food such as spiced wine and seasonal breads – all of which will warm you up during Seoul’s winter evenings!
Seoul Christmas Festival (서울 크리스마스 페스티벌)
Although not technically a market, the Seoul Christmas Festival is still an excellent place to go if you’d like to experience more of Seoul’s festive side.
This annual festival is located at Cheonggye Plaza, an area that was once an elevated highway but since 2005 has become Cheonggyecheon Stream – a nature-filled oasis in the midst of the city’s modern architecture.
The Seoul Christmas Festival incorporates many different themes, such as Hope, Joy, Glory and Blessings as well as Love and Dreams, all of which tie into the spirit of Christmas.
At this festival, visitors are encouraged to participate in the many themed programs that are held around Cheonggye Plaza and the surrounding bridges, which always include musical programs, concerts, exhibitions, celebration performances, a New Year’s Countdown and the highly-anticipated Lighting of the Christmas Tree.
Guide to Seoul’s Shopping Hotspots
No matter the time of year, Seoul has some of the best shopping districts – and all have their own individual sights, atmospheres and specialities. So, in order to make your future shopping trip easier, here are some of the best places to get your Christmas presents in Seoul!
Myeongdong (명동) is the go-to place for easy shopping – but why do we say it’s easy? Myeongdong is known as Seoul’s main shopping district; the whole area is essentially one giant shopping mall filled with popular international clothing outlets like Zara and H&M, famous Korean stores such as the Style Nada Hotel and LOTTE as well as smaller stores, stalls and cafes that colour the spaces between a sprawling jungle of malls.
And since there are many familiar brands and stores, tourists usually feel very comfortable in Myeongdong. Here you can also find a more diverse range of clothing sizes – which can often be difficult in Korea. Although it can be very busy during Christmas, Myeongdong is the best place for foreigners to find gifts with ease.
Tip: Many people say that Myeongdong is quite an expensive place to shop, but we’ve found that you can always find good deals if you keep your eyes open.
Due to its proximity to the young student-centred areas of Hongik, Sinchon and Ewha University, the Hongdae (홍대) area has grown into one of the trendiest places in Seoul – becoming the ‘must go’ place for Seoul’s youth. Because of this, Hongdae is home to many amazing and pretty stores, busy cafes and street art, all of which make it an excellent destination for Christmas shopping.
There is always something to do in Hongdae, whether it be exploring the store filled side alleys, resting up at a Meerkat Cafe or even supporting local artists at the Hongdae Free Market – you’ll never be bored while shopping in Hongdae.
Although shopping for popular brands in fancy buildings is a fun and easy way to buy presents, there’s something about exploring markets that make your shopping experience more unique (and cheaper) – and Seoul has some of the best markets ever!
Opened in 1964, Namdaemun Market (남대문시장) is Seoul’s largest market and is essentially one gigantic flea market. It opens its doors in the early hours of the morning and often operates well into the night – meaning you have all the time in the world to find the perfect gift. Here, visitors can buy almost anything from souvenirs, clothes and jewellery to fine art, ginseng and stationary.
Another great market to visit for Christmas shopping is in Dongdaemun (동대문). Home to both traditional markets AND modern shopping malls, Dongdaemun has something for everyone – whether you visit its two retail sections or explore the famous Dongdaemun Night Market, here you are guaranteed to find gifts for reasonable prices!
Tip: You might have to put your bartering skills to the test in Dongdaemun, but even if you’re not fully confident at haggling you’ll still find great deals.
If you want to go one step further and get even more traditional with your purchases, then Insadong (인사동) is the place for you.
One of the top attractions in Insadong is Ssamzigil (쌈지길), a four-storey mall that sells everything from handcrafted gifts to modern and traditional artwork.
This is a great place to get creative with your gifts, since there are many ceramic and painting workshops where you can make something for yourself – and don’t people say that a handmade gift is a bit more special than something you can just buy?
But whether you decide to make a gift or just buy it, Insadong will give you ideas for all sorts of Christmas presents!
Feature Image Source: ©Photo by Thor Alvis on Unsplash, 12.10.2018, unsplash.com