A Day Out in Insadong

If you want to know what Korea is all about but you feel like your budget is not letting you travel all around the country, you must visit Insa-dong (인사동). The famous neighbourhood is a part of the Jongno-gu district of Seoul. Insa-dong is considered to be one Seoul’s most ancient places and will bring you back in time to 57 B.C. If you feel like it is time for you to escape the urbanized everyday life and learn more about Korea’s culture, history and traditional crafts, then I would advise to go to Wangsimni Station, take Subway Line 3 and go to Anguk Station that will take you to this somehow historically urban place of Seoul.

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One of the attractions that you must visit after reaching Anguk Station (안국역) is Bukchon Hanok Village (북촌한옥마을) that back in time used to be home to numerous high-ranking government officials during the Joseon Dynasty (조선왕조). Nowadays, most of the hanok in this village have been reconstructed into traditional, private tea houses, museums, art galleries and craftsmen workshops. After leaving the station you will be able to visit a tourist information centre that will provide you with a map giving a brief description of the alleys that are worth exploring. However, I would advise you to leave the map there and discover places on your own. Getting lost somewhere in between the traditional alleys is definitely the most exciting part of this adventure. Though, be ready to exercise, you will need to climb many stairs in order to see some really astonishing sites.

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A few tea houses in Bukchon Hanok Village will also offer you to try on the traditional Korean dress – Hanbok (한복). There you will be able to take a stroll through the streets and have your pictures taken. On the other hand, if you don’t feel like having a photoshoot in this unique place, then you will have a chance to have your caricature drawn for 1000 KRW. Only if you buy something from the tea house or the convenience store, of course.

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Moreover, this is also a great place to buy souvenirs, calendars, mugs, keychains and many more touristy objects featuring your favourite K-Pop star or Korean celebrity. There are numerous stalls that sell a great variety of fan attributes. If you are wondering why a traditional place would offer such objects, then probably you don’t know that television programmes like 1 Night 2 Days and Personal Taste were filmed in Bukchon. Many tourists come here just to see the site of their favourite show.

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After wandering around the traditional valleys, don’t forget to visit the main street which is called Insa-dong Street. Back in time this street used to provide the best training for painters and artists. Nowadays, you will have a chance to look at paintings dating back from the ancient period of Korea. You will see pottery and ceramics from 57 B.C. and of course if you have a spare thousand dollars you will also be able to buy it. This is one of the places in Seoul that lets you make your own Hanbok and buy Haji, the traditional Korean paper. However, if you are not that rich, you can just purchase a nice box of Korean tea. On the other hand, if you are not a huge fan of traditional paintings, don’t worry, there are plenty of places to enjoy street art that at some extent might even seem provoking but at the same time really astounding.

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If you are not quite ready to head home after this tour, go and visit Gyeongbok (경복궁) and Changdeok (창덕궁) palaces. Bukchon Village is right in between those ancient palaces, it’s a great opportunity for you to explore even more and see the traditional and old part of Korea. I can guarantee that Insa-dong is one of the places that you will want to see again!

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Article by Zanda from the U.K.

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