Located in the heart of Seoul, Insa-dong Street is one of the most memorable attractions in Seoul and represents the focal point of Korean traditional culture and crafts. Stores in Insa-dong specialize in a wide variety of goods that can only be purchased or appreciated in Korea: hanbok (traditional clothing), hanji (traditional paper), traditional teas, pottery, and folk crafts.
There is one main road in Insa-dong with alleys on each side. Within these alleys are galleries and traditional restaurants, teahouses, and cafes. The galleries are the heartbeat of Insa-dong. There are about 100 galleries in the area and you can see every example of traditional Korean fine art from paintings to sculptures. The most famous galleries are Hakgojae Gallery, which functions as the center of folk art, Gana Art Gallery, which promotes many promising artists, and Gana Art Center.
The teahouses and restaurants are the perfect complement to the galleries. At first they might be hard to find, but if you take the time to stroll around the twisting alleyways, the window shopping in itself can be very entertaining. The shops in Insa-dong are very popular among all age groups, because each one is unique.
The Deep Roots of Insa-dong Street
Insa-dong Street stretches over 700 meters between the Anguk-dong Rotary and Tapgol Park (Jongno 2-ga). During the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), the street was dominated by Dohwawon, a place of study for painters. The area is still a center for the arts, and painters, craftsmen, and art lovers continue to set up shop along the narrow alleys, making it a unique place full of folk crafts, pottery, and paintings. The street offers rich opportunities for visitors to experience Korean traditional culture and arts. Various art events and festivals are regularly held along the street.
From Expensive Ceramics to Daily Use Items
Approximately 40% of Korean crafts are exchanged in Insa-dong. Some products even trace back to the Three Kingdom Period (57 B.C.-668 A.D.) The most popular items are Korean ceramics ranging in price from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars.
Other items sold in Insa-dong include earthenware, calligraphy materials, antique furniture, hanji, hanbok, teas, souvenirs, and cute accessories. Nearby shops include cafés, restaurants, ateliers, and galleries specializing in a diversity of items.
Every Saturday from 14:00 to 22:00 and Sunday from 10:00 to 22:00, the main street is blocked off from traffic and it becomes a cultural space. Insa-dong is especially popular among foreign tourists. This is where they can experience and see traditional Korean culture firsthand, and also purchase pieces of fine art. Insa-dong is also close to other tourist attractions such as Cheonggyecheon Stream and Gyeongbokgung (the royal palace during the Joseon Dynasty).
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