Myeongdong is one of Seoul’s main shopping and tourism districts. It’s also one of the best (and not to mention, busiest) places to buy clothes, makeup and cosmetics. Prepare your wallets ladies and gents, because a trip to Seoul is incomplete without shopping and trying the food in this part of town.
Here’s what to expect in the famous shopping street:
1. THEY LURE YOU IN TO THEIR STORES WITH FREE PRODUCTS.
Yes, you read that right – free. You will see sales staff in the streets handing out freebies (and more often than not, they’re face masks or a box of makeup cotton pads) to tempt you to go inside the store. It’s one of their marketing strategies, quite effective if I must say, to attract more customers and generate more sales. No purchase necessary by the way. 😉
2. EXPECT FREE SAMPLES WITH EVERY PURCHASE.
That’s right, even more free stuff. This is a way for beauty brands to promote their new products. Some stores are quite generous with their samples and will throw in a bunch inside your bag despite purchasing only one or two items. Some will depend on your total purchase price and then decide on the number of samples they’ll give you, while other stingy ones won’t give any freebies at all. In case that happens, don’t be shy and simply ask for some.
3. MOST STORES OFFER TAX-FREE SHOPPING.
For immediate and delayed tax refund on goods purchased at tax free stores, you must present your passport. The total purchase price – tax included – must be more than 30,000 KRW in order to get a tax refund. It’s important to keep VAT refund receipts when purchasing items as you will need them to claim your tax refund at major airports like Incheon International Airport or certified refund booths nationwide. Participating stores offering this service should have signs saying “Tax Free.” It should also appear in their VAT refund receipts.
4. STREET FOOD STALLS ARE APLENTY IN MYEONGDONG.
Street vendors come out in the afternoon to set up their stalls and Myeongdong Shopping Street becomes a haven for Korean street food by night. A favorite street snack among tourists and locals is Korean’s well-loved egg bread called Gyeran-ppang. It’s a fluffy little loaf of bread topped with egg and cheese. It’s quite similar to Bibingka, a Filipino rice cake. Also a local favorite are Korean fish cakes called Odeng. They are processed seafood made of ground white fish and is paired with steaming hot Odeng broth. There’s a good variety of street food in Myeongdong so there’s bound to be something that will suit your taste.
5. SALES STAFF EVEN STREET VENDORS ARE MULTILINGUAL.
Don’t be surprised if the staff and street vendors in Myeongdong can also speak Chinese or Japanese. This is to accommodate South Korea’s biggest source of international visitors. There’s still a language barrier however when it comes to English language, but nothing to worry about, because you’ll find locals who would speak at least a few English words enough to understand them. You don’t necessarily need to know Korean to get by, but why not learn a few basic words, right?
6. YOU’LL SEE THE SAME BRAND IN EVERY STREET.
Myeongdong is home to roughly a thousand of cosmetics and skincare stores to the point you will see the same retail store in the same street. The only difference is the promotion they offer to their customers. It differs from the store to store so make sure you get the best deal and discount when purchasing goods. Go for tax-free shops like Olive Young and Lotte World Department Store.
7. PRICES IN MYEONGDONG ARE HIGHER.
You will find that the food, clothes and other goods sold by street vendors in Myeongdong are priced higher. That’s because the shopping street is a hotspot among tourists. If you’re looking for cheap souvenirs and gifts for your family and friends, your best bet is Nandaemun Market – the largest traditional market in Korea where you can find inexpensive clothes and goods.
8. FREE CULTURAL PROGRAMS AND ACTIVITIES TO FOREIGNERS.
If you can find the time, head over to Seoul Global Cultural Center and get the free Hanbok experience. It’s where foreigners can try on Korea’s traditional costume and take souvenir photographs at no cost. They do not accept reservations or advanced bookings over the phone or via email, so you have to go there early to sign up and reserve your spot.