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8 Things to do at Insadong

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8 Things to do at Insadong

Located between the Five Grand Palaces of Korea, Insadong is a must-visit neighborhood during your vacation in Seoul. Historically the main street was inhabited by the arts and traditional culture. In the past decade, commercial businesses have trickled in, driving up rent prices. Skin care shops are turning Insadong into Skin-sadong! A handful of long-standing souvenir shops remain. Here are the top activities to partake in as you stroll down Insadong Street:

1. SOUVENIR SHOPPING

On the main street and in alleyways are shops selling specialized goods, including pottery, hanbok (traditional Korean clothing), and hanji (traditional handmade paper). Souvenir shops carry an assortment of standard Korean utensils, calligraphy materials, figurines, as well as tacky touristy goods.

Crates of assorted ceramics found at Insadong.

Crates of assorted ceramics found at Insadong.

Utensils of the Korean people: metal chopsticks and spoons.

Utensils of the Korean people: metal chopsticks and spoons.

Pick up sets of kitchenware for your family and friends back home! Just remember to take off the price tag :)

Pick up sets of kitchenware for your family and friends back home! Just remember to take off the price tag :)

2. EAT KOREAN FEASTS (HAN JEONG SHIK)

Rule of thumb: come to Insadong Street with an empty stomach. Restaurants such as Hanul Poong-Kyung offer dishes such as ginseng chicken with black rice, mung-bean jelly with beef and vegetables, soybean paste stew, abalone, natural pine mushrooms, various types of kimchi and more!

Korean feast at Hanul Poong-Kyoung.

Korean feast at Hanul Poong-Kyoung.

Natural Pine Mushroom at Hanul Poong-Kyung.

Natural Pine Mushroom at Hanul Poong-Kyung.

3. VISIT ART GALLERIES

With rotating exhibitions, soak in the paintings and sculptures while you can. Get lucky and you just might meet the artist themselves! They may be tending the floor where their work is being displayed.

Ceramic piece by Jeon Changhyun.

Ceramic piece by Jeon Changhyun.

Gana Art Space at Insadong.

Gana Art Space at Insadong.

4. EXPLORE THE TWISTING ALLEYS

Sure, it can be plenty of fun walking on Insadong's main street, but wait until you venture into the hidden alleys. From traditional tea houses to affordable Korean food to makeolli drinking, you'll want to come back again and again to try every hidden gem. These alleys may get busy during lunch hours, but makes for a meditative stroll when the calm sets back in. Observe. Chefs lay out their ingredients to dry under the sun while cats take a nap like it's a lazy Sunday afternoon.

A typical alley at Insadong is filled with food, food and more food.

A typical alley at Insadong is filled with food, food and more food.

Halved eggplants tanning. Visit on a dry day and you'll find restaurants laying out their ingredients under the sun.

Halved eggplants tanning. Visit on a dry day and you'll find restaurants laying out their ingredients under the sun.

Kitty sighting in an alley. Baby Meow drinking its mama's milk.

Kitty sighting in an alley. Baby Meow drinking its mama's milk.

5. GO ON A HANBOK PHOTOSHOOT

Grab your friends and get traditional! Ladies, dress up like a queen, princess or gisaeng (old-school entertainers). Gentlemen, be a king or warrior for the day. Even get your makeup and hair done at select hanbok studios.

Professor Oh (me), Yoonah and Judy dressed in hanbok at  Goguan Studio .

Professor Oh (me), Yoonah and Judy dressed in hanbok at Goguan Studio.

I share my hanbok photoshoot experience with you in KWOW episode 130.

6. EAT STREET FOOD

As long it's not raining, street food vendors come out to serve their specialties. From spicy rice cakes to saxophone-shaped ice cream cones, you'll leave the street with a full tummy. Watch their cooking and try to mimic the steps in your own kitchen!

Man grilling skewers of octopus on a winter day at Insadong.

Man grilling skewers of octopus on a winter day at Insadong.

Lady in hanbok making Korean crackers during autumn.

Lady in hanbok making Korean crackers during autumn.

7. HANG OUT AT SSAMZIGIL

A spiraling four-story building of arts, crafts, shopping and food, Ssamzigil will fulfill your appetite for all things cute and colorful. Head to the basement for workshops where you can paint on pottery and purchase handmade goods. The top floor hosts a cafe and an area where you stick lovey-dovey messages on walls.

Crafts and handmade goods found at the basement of Ssamzigil.

Crafts and handmade goods found at the basement of Ssamzigil.

Rooftop of Ssamzigil. Write messages on circles and fasten them on the walls. A fun activity for you and your love!

Rooftop of Ssamzigil. Write messages on circles and fasten them on the walls. A fun activity for you and your love!

8. RELAX AT A CAFE

A rainy day in Insadong? Street food vendors might've taken a day off, but some cafes will give you a discount for the wet weather! Most spots provide dependable Wifi as the majority of cafes in Seoul do.

Jars of tea inside the famously long-titled cafe called "Moon Bird Does Thinks of Only the Moon."

Jars of tea inside the famously long-titled cafe called "Moon Bird Does Thinks of Only the Moon."

Handful of cafes in Insadong allow customers to write on their walls.

Handful of cafes in Insadong allow customers to write on their walls.

Traditional Korean desserts enjoyed at "Moon Bird Does Thinks of Only the Moon" cafe.

Traditional Korean desserts enjoyed at "Moon Bird Does Thinks of Only the Moon" cafe.

The older traditional cafes are hidden in alleys as the commercial cafes dominate Insadong Street.

The older traditional cafes are hidden in alleys as the commercial cafes dominate Insadong Street.

Watch the KWOW episode on Insadong if you haven't already (below)!


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Korean Phrases for Eating Street Food

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Korean Phrases for Eating Street Food

FEATURED PHRASES & WORDS:

안녕하세요!
Annyeonghaseyo!
Hello! (This formal greeting is used towards strangers and elders)

Anytime you want something, whether it be food or an item say, “Juseyo.” Which means, "Please give it to me." Place your desired noun before “juseyo.”

떡볶이 주세요.
Tteokbokki juseyo.
Please give me spicy rice cakes.

김밥 주세요.
Kimbap juseyo.
Please give me kimbap.

계란빵 주세요.
Gyeranbbang juseyo.
Please give me egg bread.

순대 주세요.
Sundae juseyo.
Please give me blood sausage.

붕어빵 주세요.
Boongeobbang juseyo.
Please give me carp-shaped pastry.

Let’s say you want ONE of something. Like ONE sweet Korean pancake. Then you’d say:

호떡 하나 주세요.
Hotteok hana juseyo.
Please give me one hotteok.

But what if you want two?

호떡 두개 주세요.
Hotteok doogae juseyo.
Please give me two hotteok.

If you don’t know the name of the food, then simplify your phrase by taking out the noun.

하나 주세요.
Hana juseyo.
Please give me one.

If you want two, three, four or more of an item, fill in the blank. Use the Native Korean number system, not the Sino-Korean Number System.

_____개 주세요.
_____gae juseyo.
Please give me _____ (pieces/units).

두개 주세요.
Doogae juseyo.
Please give me two.

세개 주세요.
Segae juseyo.
Please give me three.

네개 주세요.
Negae juseyo.
Please give me four.

다섯개 주세요.
Daseotgae juseyo.
Please give me five.

여섯개 주세요.
Yeoseotgae juseyo.
Please give me six.

If you don’t know the name of the item you want, point at the item and say:

이거 주세요.
Eguh juseyo.
Please give me this.

But maybe the item is a bit far from you. Then say:

저거 주세요.
Juhguh juseyo.
Please give me that.

Sometimes you pay a set price per item. Other times you give them a price first. This situation can occur when you buy sweet potatoes and chestnuts. 

5,000원 어치 주세요.
5,000 won eochi juseyo.
Please give me 5,000 won worth of it.

As the vendor prepares your food, you get your cash ready.

얼마예요?
Ulmayeyo?
How much is it?

The vendor hands you the food. Be polite and say:

감사합니다.
Gamsahapnida.
Thank you.

You have a bite of your amazing food. Woah, it is delicious. Let the vendor know.

맛있어요. 진짜 맛있어요.
Mashisseoyo. jinjja mashisseoyo.
It’s delicious. Really delicious.

As you leave, greet them goodbye with a slight bow.

안녕히 계세요.
Annyeonghee gaeseyo.
Goodbye. (Use if you are leaving and the other person is staying where they are.)

A couple hours later, you’re dreaming about that crispy boongeohbbang. You want more. Or maybe you wanna get some for your friend. Whatever the case, when you go back to the stall, you say with a smile:

또 왔습니다!
Ddo wasseubnida!
I’m back!

Here's a list of some popular Korean street foods:
순대 / soondae / blood sausage
떡볶이 / tteokbokki / spice cakes
붕어빵 / bungeoppang / carp-shaped pastry
김밥 / kimbap / Korean rolls
닭꼬치 / dalkggochi / chicken skewers
번데기 / beondegi / silkworm larvae
뽑기 / ppopgi / old-fashioned sugar candy
꿀타래 / kkultarae / dragon’s beard candy
계란빵 / gyeranbbang / egg bread
어묵 / eomuk / fishcake
고구마 / goguma / sweet potato
호떡 / hotteok / sweet Korean pancake



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31 Street Foods in Korea

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31 Street Foods in Korea

1. Stir-fried Ricecakes - 떡볶이 (tteokbokki)

1. Stir-fried Ricecakes - 떡볶이 (tteokbokki)

2. Blood Sausage - 순대 (soondae)

2. Blood Sausage - 순대 (soondae)

3. Korean Carp Bread - bungeoppang (붕어빵)

3. Korean Carp Bread - bungeoppang (붕어빵)

4. Kimbap - 김밥

4. Kimbap - 김밥

5. Fried Kimbap - 김밥 튀김 (kimbap twigim)

5. Fried Kimbap - 김밥 튀김 (kimbap twigim)

6. Long-coned Ice Cream. Enjoy even during chilly winter days!

6. Long-coned Ice Cream. Enjoy even during chilly winter days!

6b. Ice Cream Saxophone

6b. Ice Cream Saxophone

7. Chicken skewers - 닭꼬치 (dakkotchi)

7. Chicken skewers - 닭꼬치 (dakkotchi)

8. Steamed Silkworm Larvae - 번데기 (beondegi)

8. Steamed Silkworm Larvae - 번데기 (beondegi)

9. Old-Fashioned Sugar Candy - 뽑기 (ppopgi)

9. Old-Fashioned Sugar Candy - 뽑기 (ppopgi)

9b. Woman waiting for customers at her ppopgi stand.

9b. Woman waiting for customers at her ppopgi stand.

10. Dragon’s beard candy - 꿀타래 (kkultarae)

10. Dragon’s beard candy - 꿀타래 (kkultarae)

11. Fishcake-wrapped Sausage

11. Fishcake-wrapped Sausage

12. Bacon-wrapped sausage

12. Bacon-wrapped sausage

13. French Fry Corndog

13. French Fry Corndog

14. Egg Bread - 계란빵 (gyeran bbang)

14. Egg Bread - 계란빵 (gyeran bbang)

14b. Before the egg bread gets baked. Yolk swimming on the surface.

14b. Before the egg bread gets baked. Yolk swimming on the surface.

15. Walnut Dessert - 호두과자 (hodoo gwaja)

15. Walnut Dessert - 호두과자 (hodoo gwaja)

16. Cotton Candy - 솜사탕 (somsatang)

16. Cotton Candy - 솜사탕 (somsatang)

17. Fruit (i.e. strawberries) - 과일 (gwail)

17. Fruit (i.e. strawberries) - 과일 (gwail)

18. Fresh Pomegranate Juice - 석류 주스 (sungryu juseu)

18. Fresh Pomegranate Juice - 석류 주스 (sungryu juseu)

19. Meat Unlimited

19. Meat Unlimited

20. Korean-style Tacos - 타코 (taco)

20. Korean-style Tacos - 타코 (taco)

21. Eomuk (어묵) - aka: odeng

21. Eomuk (어묵) - aka: odeng

22. Sweet Potatoes - 고구마 (goguma)

22. Sweet Potatoes - 고구마 (goguma)

23. Smiley Face Fries - 스마일 감자 (seumail gamja)

23. Smiley Face Fries - 스마일 감자 (seumail gamja)

24. Dumplings - 만두 (mandoo)

24. Dumplings - 만두 (mandoo)

25. Sweet Korean Pancake - 호떡 (hotteok)

25. Sweet Korean Pancake - 호떡 (hotteok)

26. Twister Potatoes - 회오리감자 (hwaeori gamja)

26. Twister Potatoes - 회오리감자 (hwaeori gamja)

27. Corn - 옥수수 (oksusu)

27. Corn - 옥수수 (oksusu)

28. Dried Seafood (Squid & Octopus) - 건어물 (geoneomul)

28. Dried Seafood (Squid & Octopus) - 건어물 (geoneomul)

29. Gingko - 은행 (eunhaeng)

29. Gingko - 은행 (eunhaeng)

30. Chestnut - 밤 (bahm)

30. Chestnut - 밤 (bahm)

31. Traditional Korean Cookies

31. Traditional Korean Cookies

For the walking tour of the street foods in Myeongdong, watch KWOW episode 142.



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