Shopping in Seoul: K-Beauty Products, Street Culture and a Touch of Common GroundBy Michelle Erickson
From underground malls in metro stations and late-night shopping in Dongdaemun (open until 5 a.m.!) to more novelty socks than you can shake a stick at, Seoul has no shortage of retail therapy. Give your credit card a workout at these standouts.
Koreans are serious about skincare. Aritaum, in Seoul’s bustling shopping district of Myeong-dong, has become known as the “Sephora of Korea.” At this multi-floor skincare mecca, you’ll find AmorePacific brands including Laneige and Mamonde as well as cult K-beauty products like the award-winning IOPE Air Cushion compact.
Keep an eye out for products made with advanced ingredients virtually unknown in the U.S.—snail mucin, anyone?
At MMMG, it’s the little things that matter. MMMG stands for “millimeter milligram,” alluding to the idea that even minute details can make a difference in everyday life. The shop features stationery, lifestyle products, and furniture all sharing a minimalist design aesthetic. Look out for brands such as Circus Boy Band, whose graphic-printed mugs and totes are designed by a former MMMG designer, as well as FREITAG’s line of up-cycled bags.
Yearning for something different? Check out the Common Ground lifestyle hub. Constructed from 200 shipping containers, the two-floor building is where to go for street-style clothing, up-and-coming local designers, and pop-up shops.
Refuel at one of the restaurants and cafés on the rooftop terrace or grab a bite from the food trucks in the courtyard—a hotspot for #OOTD snaps for students from the nearby Konkuk University.
The browsing experience at Gentle Monster feels more like an immersive art experience than a retail one. This luxury eyewear brand creates dreamlike shop environments that are matched only by their avant-garde shades.
Experimentation is the mantra of Gentle Monster’s designers, and their surreal collaborations—from frames shaped like matchsticks to the steampunk-esque “Trinity 02″— are sure to turn some heads.
Explore a whole new world of exotic junk food at Lotte Mart supermarkets. Its aisles are chock full of adorably packaged snacks and local favorites like Choco Pies, Pepero cookie sticks, and Honey Butter chips.
You’ll also find an endless selection of ramyeon (Korean instant noodles), seaweed snacks, and Pringles flavors exclusive to South Korea like the wildly popular Butter Caramel.
If you’re looking for that distinctive Korean “it-girl” look, browse the racks at ÅLAND. Located in Hongdae, Seoul’s destination for nightlife and street culture, ÅLAND’s clothing and accessories reflect the modern, artsy character of its hipster residents. Among the rows of skinny jeans, you can also find elusive Korean skincare brands like COSRX on the shelves.
Style Nanda Pink Hotel
Get your selfie stick ready: Style Nanda, already a favorite of stylish Seoulites, has opened a concept store that just might break Instagram. Inspired by Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, this whimsical rose-colored shop features six themed floors packed with make-up, clothing, and accessories.
Refuel at the rooftop Pink Pool Cafe, where specialty drinks are topped with puffy pink clouds of cotton candy.
The tree-lined streets of the hip Garosugil neighborhood double as fashion runways. Take a seat at one of the area’s charming cafés and watch the latest trends walk by.
While big chains like H&M have also set up shop here, the district’s haute couture spirit can still be found at vintage shop Kim’s Boutique, where in-the-know fashionistas stock up on boho-glam dresses designed by the owner herself.
More than a few Hollywood starlets, including Sienna Miller and Cameron Diaz, have been spotted in her retro threads.
Add some Seoul to your home with a piece from JAJU. One of Korea’s first lifestyle brands, this minimalist housewares emporium is your one-stop shop for affordable kitchen and tableware, home organization products, and sleek furniture.
Items worth splurging on: colorful banchan dishes, Korean chopsticks, and fun dishware (like animal-shaped pastel plates) for the kids.
Think of 8seconds, one of Korea’s “fast fashion” chains, as Forever 21 with a Korean accent. The brand’s rise into fangirl stardom can be attributed to their collaboration with G-Dragon, one of K-Pop’s boy band heartthrobs. You can find practically anything here from affordable wardrobe basics to colorful trendy pieces and accessories.