Seoul: shopping and tourist tax refund

Jun 23, 2016 by

If you’re into shopping, Seoul is definitely a city to visit especially if you love skin care and cosmetics. Most of us should be familiar with K-Pop and K-Drama where most all of the stars have flawless, dewy and youthful looking skin. Go to Seoul and you might figure how to achieve similar look. But Seoul is not only for cosmetics and skincare.


Their locally produced clothing, especially children clothing are to die for. While they’re not the cheapest, Seoul offers the widest range of children clothing I have ever seen. We also saw markets specialising in toys and stationery (cute stickers!!). Funny thing though, Nathan was always asleep when we visited toy areas so he kinda missed the fun.


he actually said, "Papi, foto sini" and posed

he actually said, “Papi, foto sini” and posed


The government is taking this shopping business seriously as South Korea’s tourist tax refund starts as low as ₩30,000 (USD25 / AUD 35 / IDR 345,000). Meaning, when a tourist shop in a shop for ₩30,000 or more, he’s eligible for a tax reduction. Not all shops participate in this program but most do. Some shops even have in-store tax refund scheme which means your purchase is automatically tax free. We didn’t shop much but we saved some amount that equals to a meal at Myeongdong Kyoja. Not bad.


During our visit, here are the places we went to for shopping;



Girls, keep your purse tight as this is the most dangerous area for you. Roads and alleys full of skincare and cosmetics shops. Each store with its own sales promotion person to lure you to visit. Some will hand you a “service”, usually a face mask, for free as you enter and look around the shop. Once you buy some products (it’s hard to resist only buying A product), they’ll give you more freebies.

As I mentioned about tax refund earlier, I think it’s better to shop at one go. Especially if the shop offers extra discount if your purchase is above certain amount. Heck, I realise that I sound like a shopaholic but when you know that it’s so much cheaper than buying at home, how can you not?


shopping at Namdaemun and Myeongdong

shopping haul from Myeongdong


For the guys, if you’re not interested with skincare, Myeong-dong has lots of shoe stores for you. Phodi and I enjoyed feasting our eyes with the variety of sneakers they have. Too bad I still couldn’t find that Superstar Adidas that I’m looking for. And for everyone, Myeong-dong has lots of street food options once the night arrives. Fish shaped waffle ice cream, juice, egg bread, ddeokbokki, potato ring, soft shell crab, lots of things to satisfy your tummy.



Myeongdong. Happy shopping!


The thing that fascinates me the most about Myeong-dong is the fact that the same brand has several shops, less than a kilometre away from each other. Brands like Nature Republic, Innisfree, Skin Food, Face Shop have multiple shops in the area. It’s amazing to think of the quantity of products they supply for this area alone (a million face masks possibly??!) Oh when in Myeong-dong, don’t forget to visit the LINE Store at Myeong-dong’s main road.


we don't even use LINE...

we don’t even use LINE…


Anyway, while I was browsing the shops, my boys did this…


Namdaemun Market

Namdaemun Market reminds me of Pasar Baru in Jakarta. It’s Pasar Baru on steroids. Actually every shopping area in Seoul is on steroids. Namdaemun have different areas for stationery, linen and bedding, kitchen ware, women’s clothing and our main destination, the children’s clothing. We had bitter sweet feeling seeing all these adorable baby wear. Sad because we didn’t know the gender of baby no. 2 yet but also relieved because our wallet was left undamaged.


one of children's clothing store at Namdaemun

one of children’s clothing store at Namdaemun


super crowded!

super crowded!


cute clothes though

stylish children’s wear everywhere


While in Namdaemun, we found this little alley called the “Noodle Alley”. A small alley with lots of hand cut noodles stalls (doh!) When I say stalls, they really are bar style stall. You sit in front of a long table which is also used to store kimchi and other ingredients. We chose a stall based on the ahjuma’s smile. Lol. How else can you choose it as everything is written in hangul. Nathan was eyeing Korea’s fat and long beansprout all the time.


namdaemun noodle alley

Namdaemun Noodle Alley

Breakfast at Namdaemun Noodle Alley

Breakfast at Namdaemun Noodle Alley


So we sat, ordered 1 noodle & 1 rice, no spicy. The very friendly ahjuma gave us 1 full bowl and another half portion as a service. She also gave Nathan a small bowl of rice with lots (LOTS!) of nori. “For baby,” she said. Then she gave Nathan sweet potato and a banana. When she saw that he had finished the banana, she gave me another one while signing ‘put in your stroller’. That was one of the sweetest experiences we had in Seoul. She also helped Phodi to mix his bibimbap because we couldn’t do it properly. Hahaha.


yummm (and cheap!)

Nathan’s rice bowl, kimchi, soup and bibimbap. Yummmm


Namdaemun is definitely one market that we highly recommend. You can find almost anything here and it’s highly accessible. We wouldn’t recommend bringing a stroller here though. The stores’ alleys are narrow (worst than Mangga Dua in Jakarta) especially in the children’s store. Don’t forget to bargain and enjoy!!


How to go?

Hoehyoen Station (Line 4), Exit 5

Noodle alley: Walk into Namdaemun Market from exit 5 and the alley is on the left side, at the beginning of the market

Information center: Little white booth along the Namdaemun main road from exit 5



We went to Dongdaemun specifically for its toy area. There are 2 streets dedicated for toy shops. We found this 3 stories stationery / toy store and spent close to an hour there. Buying stickers, crayons (cute Tsum Tsum ones), kids dining ware (Mickey bowls, Pororo chopsticks and all other why so cute characters) for Nathan and souvenirs. Then few shops down we found this big shop and Nathan, who was just woke up must thought that he’s in heaven.


Dongdaemun Toy Alley

Dongdaemun Toy Alley


Toys and stationeries

Toys and stationeries


How to go?

Dongdaemun Station (Line 1 & 4), Exit 4.


Dongmyo Station (Line 6), Exit 6. I can’t remember clearly but I think this is closer to the Toy Alley



morning at Insadong

morning at Insadong (and I look so sleepy already…)


Phodi and I enjoy walking around the alleys of Insadong. Too bad it was raining after we had lunch so we didn’t explore further. Yet Insadong is a much smaller area than say Myeong-dong. A lot of websites say that Insadong is the place to go if you want to shop the “cultural/traditional” souvenirs. I’d strongly advice you to pass Insadong. Although there are lots of shops selling Korean souvenirs, we found that the prices were actually cheaper in Dongdaemun.


not so sure if I can make new friends...

not so sure if I can make new friends…


Insadong reminded me of Flinders Lane / Little Collins area in Melbourne. Little boutiques of local arts from clothing to jewelries. The kind of goods that you wouldn’t see anywhere else. Just lovely!

How to go?

Anguk Station (Line 3), Exit 6. Go 100m straight then turn left


Part 3 of the story will be about the delicious food we had in Seoul. Get ready!


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