Shopping/eating suggestions for Seoul?
September 15, 2010 2:01 PM   Subscribe

Going to Seoul next month on business, and I was looking for specific recommendations for shopping and dining. Specifically, I plan to purchase (maybe) electronics, cigars, and clothing, and by clothing I mean custom tailored suits and dress shirts. For food, I would prefer authentic Korean; might as well eat like the locals while I'm there. I've heard about the Yongsan Electronics market and the Coex mall, and I plan to visit them, but does anyone have any specific shops, locations, or restaurants to recommend? Anything in the Itaewon/Myeong-Dong/Hongdae area is preferred, but anything in Seoul will OK.
posted by KillaSeal to Travel & Transportation around Seoul, South Korea (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know where you based, but in comparison to US Seoul is not that cheap. With electronics there might be some crazy stuff that are not easy to get here -- think 'Hello Kitty' MP3 players, etc.

For 186 cm (6' 1") male it's impossible to buy any clothes outside of tailor shops. I know this as I left my shirts at home and tried for full day to find few basic dress shirts to wear. I can say with authority that there are no shirts for me in Seoul nor Kyoto or Tokyo for that matter.

Did not have time to have anything made by tailor though, so not sure about pricing.
posted by zeikka at 2:27 PM on September 15, 2010

I don't know if these shops are still around but if you are looking for bespoke suits in Itaewon, try Hanh's or Saville Row. My information is about 2 years old so I don't know if they still exist or not.
posted by cazoo at 2:28 PM on September 15, 2010

"Authentic Korean food" is virtually all Korean food in Korea. Just go into a restaurant and order something. That's what the locals do. Generally, the more English in the restaurant, the less tasty (or the more overpriced) the food.
posted by smorange at 4:43 PM on September 15, 2010

You'll have no problem eating like the locals--there are restaurants every few feet and most of them are inexpensive and good. If you're in Myeongdong, Gyoja is popular, and has been for 40 years.

Don't bother with Hongdae or Myeongdong for electronics or tailors, though--it's mostly ready-to-wear clothing and accessories.

If you don't wear very large shoes, you can find good deals on dress shoes on this street.
posted by martianna at 4:50 PM on September 15, 2010

Just to clarify: I'd recommend some restaurants, but honestly I think it's a waste of time. If you've never been to East Asia, it's hard to understand that; once you're there, it becomes clear. Just know that the food in a Korean restaurant is generally considerably better than the food in US/Canadian restaurants. The ambience is generally considerably worse. The prices are lower and there's no tipping. That's all you need to know (other than Korean names for food, and how they're written in Korean, which is an enormous help for which there's no substitute).
posted by smorange at 4:54 PM on September 15, 2010

My mistake, Savile Row is "made to measure", not bespoke. It looks like it's still there.
posted by cazoo at 5:16 PM on September 15, 2010

Best answer: Saville Row is open (at least they were about three months ago when I last looked in), but they're just shirts. Checked it out a Can't remember exactly, but it's about KRW 50,000 per. Dozens of tailors in Itaewon, but Hahn's seems to be the best. Most tailors will make you a suit for KRW 350,000-400,000. You can get shirts at various places for around KRW 40,000. Remember that it's often up to YOU whether you get a great suit; tailors are very accommodating and will make adjustments after your first (or further) fitting(s), but if I've ever had a problem with a suit or shirt it's because I chose the wrong fabric. A more experienced eye than mine would be able to tell whether a certain fabric is going to pill or wear out in high stress areas. There are a few bespoke places in Seoul, mostly in the lower levels of the nicer hotels (Plaza, Lotte, Intercontinental, etc.), but you wouldn't be getting much discount from them.

Food: Pretty much anywhere. What you will have difficulty finding is non-Korean food, at least not unadulterated with ketchup, mayonnaise, brown sauce, or undergoing other such abuse. Good stuff is out there, but it's just hard to find.

Shopping: Yongsan is not all that interesting unless you have a specific item in mind that you want to price-shop for, or if you want to see a huge array of 5-10 year old cell phones and cameras. If you need an obscure electronics component, it's good for that too, but otherwise it's pretty unremarkable. Insadong has some nice galleries and the kind of shops that sell things you'd be proud to give to your mom or girlfriend. It also has all the kitschy stuff too, but nice porcelain, teas, artwork, etc.

Cigars I don't know much about but you could get in touch with Maska's Cigars or the Seoul Cigar Aficionado Society to find good shops.

Also to do: Hit the jjimjilbang!
posted by holterbarbour at 6:09 PM on September 15, 2010

Best answer: Yongsan Station is probably the best electronics market in Seoul and it is a bit of a spectacle but don't get too excited. You'll find that the stuff is likely more expensive that what you'd pay in the States. And if you buy something your warranty might be fishy and/or useless once you go home.

It's not particularly original, but I'd recommend you go over to Insadong-gil. Sure it's touristy, even among Koreans, but there's lots of good shopping to be had for Korean decorative stuff. If you poke around you'll find some slightly over-priced restaurants that are more than happy to serve traditional Korean food to foreigners (get a bit off the main drag and look for one-story wooden buildings which may or may not have English language menus posted outside).

You can take a cab to Insadong or take the subway to Anguk Station on the no. 3 line. And if you're down there, you can walk or take a short cab ride to Gyeongbukgung, one of Seoul's five great palaces.

Between the palace and Insadong, that's a whole day right there.
posted by bardic at 11:46 PM on September 15, 2010

Best answer: Hahn's is the best tailor in Itaewon.

There's a better (and much more expensive) tailor in COEX. Hahn's= about 450,000 won, the COEX place (blanking on the name) over 1,000,000 won.

Cigars? I know the Silla Hotel has a great selection of Cubans. Had one a couple weeks ago with a bottle of Caol Ila there.

Great food is literally everywhere, but don't go to the Samwon Garden. It's okay, but also lame. Full of people like you and not people like Koreans. You should at least once have a really good, many-many-course Han Jeong Sik meal.

I also recommend Noryangjin fish market, but only if you have someone with you who can do some Korean talkin. You pick the fish, etc., you want, then have it taken down to a "restaurant" space that will prepare it how you like. Really good and quite fun.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:23 AM on September 16, 2010

Response by poster: Mahalo to everyone for the great info! Just to provide a little more info about myself, I'm 72" tall, 220 lbs., so it's hard to get a suit off the rack (the typical 6" drop doesn't work for me, with a size 42 long jacket and 34" waist). As for food, I live in Hawaii, so I've eaten Korean food...but it's been said that (and I've heard this about other ethnic cuisines) it's been "dumbed down" for american palates. So that's why I want to make sure I'm getting food as the Koreans eat it. I want to eat things that I usually can't get here in Hawaii, so I'm going to try to eat as much authentic Korean as I can while I'm there. Mahalo again for all the info!
posted by KillaSeal at 11:41 AM on September 16, 2010

Yongsan is fun to visit even if you don't buy anything. It's a bit sprawling, so don't get trapped in the part adjoining the train station and assume that's all there is. The buildings across the walkway are better for browsing. If you would like to buy something, check out prices at GMarket in advance.

In terms of eating, it would probably be interesting for you to try several types of Korean restaurant. Get some kimbap for lunch in a busy diner, go somewhere with traditional food (Pulhyanggi does tasty set menus), and make sure you have a barbeque. (this serves the best Galbi I found in Seoul in five years)

If you are in Myeongdong, then Din Tai Fung (Taiwanese, not Korean) serves fabulous dumplings. Itaewon is good for non-Asian food, which you're not looking for. Hongdae has some decent restaurants, but I don't know their names. Look for something with a long line of students outside; Korea is generally a good place to follow the wisdom of the crowd, at least when it comes to restaurants.

If you really want to eat like a local, then don't do it alone. Most Koreans can't imagine going to a restaurant without, preferably, a large group of friends. In some restaurants most of the dishes are only suitable for two or more people.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 12:14 PM on September 16, 2010

There's a Din Tai Fung in Kangnam, too.

And +1 on eating with others when eating Korean food. Koreans never eat alone if they can help it, and many restaurants and dishes just don't accommodate tables of one.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:55 PM on September 16, 2010

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