Got Seoul on the brain? The buzzworthy capital of Korea is a place where East Asian travel dreams come true, especially if you’ve drawn Insadong, one of Seoul’s most interesting corners, into your trip plans.
From browsing antique shops to sipping cha in a traditional Korean teahouse, there’s a whole slew of things to do in Insadong, a district that harkens back to Seoul’s more distant past and will keep you busy on your quest to discover this world city.
Not sure where to begin? Rev up your Seoul itinerary with these top Insadong attractions…
Table of Contents
- What to do in Insadong: The top attractions & best places to visit
- Where to stay: The best hotels for sightseeing in Insadong
- Where to go in Insadong: A summary of the top points of interest
- Beyond Insadong: Where to visit next in Seoul
What to do in Insadong: The top attractions & best places to visit
Sip on some cha and snack at Shin Old Tea House
One of the best cafés in Seoul, Shin Old Tea House is a pleasant getaway from the bustle of Insadong and an absolute must-do while scouring through Seoul’s traditional heart. This cozy little teahouse wears its long history on its sleeve, charming patrons with its rustic hardwood floors, wooden window shutters, and traditional pillowed floor seating.
Shin Old Tea House serves nearly a couple dozen varieties of Korean tea, ranging from hot ginger tea that warms the soul to fruity iced teas that offer a refreshing escape from Seoul’s blistering summer heat. Along with quenching your thirst, beverages come with tasty stick-to-your-ribs snacks like sticky Korean rice cakes.
- Address: 164 Gwanhun-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
- Opening Hours: 10:30am to 11:00pm
Getting to Shin Old Tea House: From Anguk Station (Line 3), take Exit 6 towards Insadong. Turn left on Insadong-gil, one block ahead. Walking about half a block, turn right at the small alley just before seeing Ssamziegil on your left. The café will be in the fourth building to your right.
Dabble in Korea’s artistic side at Kyung-in Museum of Fine Art
Few Insadong attractions capture the area’s artistic vibe better than the Kyung-in Museum of Fine Art, Opening in 1983, the Kyung-in Museum of Fine Arts showcases the work of local artists and sculptors through its five exhibition halls & galleries.
Aside from the actual exhibits at the Kyung-in Museum of Fine Art, the museum’s architecture is, on its own, quite impressive. Throughout the complex, natural light and well-manicured flora blend with both modern and traditional elements to create an environment that, in many ways, reflects the whole city’s own tug-of-war between its past and future.
Once you’ve revelled in the artwork and architecture of the Kyung-in Museum of Fine Art, pop into its traditional teahouse where you can enjoy a herbal tea with a refreshing fruit ice cream.
- Address: 11-4, Insadong 10-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
- Opening Hours: 10:00am to 6:00pm (Gallery), 10:00am to 10:50pm (Café)
Getting to Kyung-in Museum of Fine Arts: Hop onto Line 3 of the Seoul metro to Anguk Station. From Exit 6, walk a block and turn left on Insadong-gil. Walk two blocks, turning left at Insadong 10-gil, the street after Ssamziegil. The museum entrance is a couple buildings up to your left.
Witness the birth of modern Korea at Tapgol Park
Touted as the first modern urban park in Seoul, Tapgol Park remain one of the most important sites in the city with a trove of historical monuments and a storied past that set the stage for Korea’s independence in the post-WWI era.
The centrepiece of the Tapgol Park, Wongaksa Pagoda, dates back to 1467 when the area was set within the grounds of the Jogye order of Korean Buddhism’s most important temple. This ten-level stone pagoda—responsible for the park’s old name, Pagoda Park—is the only remnant from the 15th-century Wongaksa Temple, making it all the more important as a Korean cultural relic.
Much later in the country’s history, during the 20th cenutry, Tapgol Park set the stage for Korea’s independence. It was here that resisters first read the Korean Declaration of Independence, setting into motion the bloody days of the March 1st Movement. On March 1st, Tapgol Park hosts a memorial service to remember the fallen.
Besides its historical significance, Tapgol Park remains one of the premier places in Seoul to get some fresh air, hang out with friends, walk around, or simply chill out and briefly escape the bustle of the city.
Getting to Tapgol Park: From Jongno 3-ga Station (Lines 1, 3 & 5), take Exit 1 onto Jong-ro. It’s about a five-minute walk west along the street to Tapgol Park.
Discover the world of tea at the Beautiful Tea Museum
I wouldn’t hesitate to say that you don’t even need to be a bonafide tea lover to get a kick out of the Beautiful Tea Museum in Insadong. Stationed inside a beautiful hanok (traditional wooden Korean house), this museum & café combo shows off everything tea-related from ceramic tea cups & saucers to exhibits detailing tea traditions from various countries in Asia.
Once you’ve travelled around the world of tea, plop down and relax at the on-site café where you can choose to sip 130 different teas from Korea, China, Tibet, Japan, India, Sri Lanka and more. From green & black teas to herbal & flower teas, the Beautiful Tea Museum covers flavours for every palate.
- Opening Hours: 10:00am to 10:00pm
- Address: 19-11, Insa-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul-si
Getting to Beautiful Tea Museum: The quickest (and easiest) route to the Beautiful Tea Museum is via Jongno 3-ga Station (Lines 1, 3 & 5). Use Exit 5 and walk west along Supyo-ro past Samil-daero. Cross over Insadong-gil until the street becomes a smaller alleyway. The museum will be on your left, three buildings up.
For shoppers looking for a break from the brand-heavy streets of Myeongdong, Insadong’s best shopping destination, Ssamziegil lies in wait. Famous for its unique spiraling outdoor courtyard walkway, Sssamziegil is home to over 70 stores where you’ll get to drop your won on everything from handmade goods to yummy Korean food.
Although fresh-faced and opened in 2004, Ssamziegil blends surprisingly well with the neighbourhood’s traditional aesthetic and spirit. Many of Ssamziegil’s best finds are unique to Insadong, handcrafted by local artisans in the complex’s own workshops and galleries.
While visiting Ssamziegil, don’t miss out on visiting the Sky Garden on the 4th-floor rooftop for cool sweeping vistas over Insadong.
- Address: 44, Insadong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
- Opening Hours: 10:30am to 8:30pm
Getting to Ssamziegil: As Sssamziegil lies on the main drag of Insadong, finding it is a cinch. Make your way to Anguk Station (Line 3), using Exit 6 to get to street level. Walk straight along Yulgok-ro, turning left at Insadong-gil. Continuing south along Insadong-gil, you’ll see Ssamziegil to your left about two blocks ahead.
Get silly at the Alive Museum (Insadong)
Following the lead of the popular “trick-eye” museums, the quirky Alive Museum opened to great fanfare in 2014. Like all of its brethren, including the similar Trick-Eye Museum in Hongdae, The Alive Museum uses parallax effects and other optical illusions to draw visitors into its outlandish scenes.
At the over hundred exhibitions in the Alive Museum, you’ll insert yourself into artwork that tackles everything from getting chomped on by Marilyn Monroe to boxing a kangaroo.
If you want to get a little extra action in, combine your visit to the Alive Museum with the Dynamic Maze, an interactive and challenging obstacle course that’ll test both your mind and body.
- Address: 12, Insa-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul-si
- Opening Hours: 9:00am to 8.30pm
- Admission: Alive Museum (₩12,000 adults; ₩10,000 children), Dynamic Maze (₩12,000), Alive Museum & Dynamic Maze Package (₩18,000)
Getting to Alive Museum: Using Seoul’s public transportation, scoot over to Jongno 3-ga Station on Lines 1, 3 or 5. From the station’s Exit 1, walk west along Jong-ro, turning right at Samil-daero. Turn onto Insadong-gil. The museum will be on your righthand side after the
Chow down on delicious Korean food
Not like it’s much of a secret by Insadong is one of the best places to eat in Seoul. Along the main drag of Insadong-gil, there’s no end to the adventures that your tastebuds will encounter.
From Korean street food staples like mandu (Korean dumplings) and tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) to more substantial Korean dishes like bibimbap and bulgogi, everything you crave will be all your fingertips here.
Looking for some of the best food in Seoul? Check out some of these top Insadong restaurants…
- Cha Iyagi: A popular Korean BBQ restaurant set inside a beautiful traditional hanok. Their famous dish, rice cooked inside a hollow bamboo stick, is a local favourite.
- Jirisan: One of the most popular Korean restaurants in Insadong, this yummy hotspot is famous for its vegetarian bean-curd and tofu dishes.
- Insadong Sujebi: A popular Insadong restaurant serving up delectable sujebi, hand-pulled noodles served with a flavourful broth in an clay pot. Their haemul pajeon, a savoury Korean pancake made with seafood and scallions is also to die for.
Where to stay: The best hotels for sightseeing in Insadong
Digging into all the best things to do in Insadong, it’s hardly a surprise that this traditional neighbourhood is one of the most popular places to stay in Seoul.
Ready to find the perfect Insadong accommodations? Here are a couple of the best Insadong hotels…
- Grid Inn Hotel: One of the best budget picks in Insadong, this modern hotel delivers an urban accommodations experience par excellence with a convenient central location to boot.
- Makers Hotel: The chilled-out European mid-20th century design of this mid-range hotel makes for a unique stay in the traditional heart of Seoul. With its doors just outside of an exit for Jongno 3-ga Station, the location is fantastic.
- Orakai Insadong Suites: The only real choice for luxury in Insadong, these beautiful self-catering suites are well-equipped and come with access to extra amenities like an indoor pool, fitness centre, and sauna for a truly at-home feel.
Where to go in Insadong: A summary of the top points of interest
Still having trouble starting the engines? Here’s a quick outline of some of the best things to do in Insadong:
- Worked up an appetite? Fortunately, Insadong is one Seoul’s top destinations for foodies! Grab some Korean BBQ at Cha Iyagi or sujebi (hand-pulled noodle soup) at Insadong Sujebi to get your tastebuds a’-roarin’.
- Got time to relax? Take off a load with a cup o’ cha at the famous Shin Old Tea House, a veritable Seoul favourite.
- Won burning a whole in your pocket? Browse through the unique handcraft stores at the quirky Ssamziegil shopping complex in the heart of Insadong.
Beyond Insadong: Where to visit next in Seoul
- Myeongdong: Head just south of Insadong to tackle the city’s most famous shopping district. Get started planning with the guide of what to do in Myeongdong.
- Hongdae: If the quirkiness of Ssamziegil or Alive Museum has peaked your curiosity, discover Seoul’s alternative side in the bustling student district of Hongdae. Let the area unfold as you tackle all its sites with this guide to the best Hongdae attractions.