Even if you only manage to squeeze in just 24 hours in Seoul on your first Korea itinerary, you’ll be beating yourself up later if you skip out on Myeongdong. One of the most interesting neighbourhoods in Seoul, Myeongdong is the city’s consumerist heaven, chock loaded with with massive department stores, fashion boutiques, and—how would any visit to beauty-obsessed Korea be complete without this?—a metric ton of cosmetics shops.
Of course, travellers who aren’t into dishing out won on the latest styles or make-up will discover a whole lotta things to do in Myeongdong besides its obvious appeal for shoppers. Myeongdong’s easily one of the best places to eat in Seoul, featuring some of the tastiest Korean food and international favourites you’ll gobble down anywhere in the city.
Not sure how to get going? Explore one of Seoul’s hippest corners with this guide to the best places to visit in Myeongdong…
Table of Contents
- What to do in Myeongdong: The top attractions & best places to visit
- Reclaim your youth on Myeongdong Shopping Street
- Laugh until it hurts at Myeongdong NANTA Theatre
- Get a shot of European grace at Myeongdong Cathedral
- Nimble on yummy kalguksu at Myeongdong Kyoja
- Spend a whole lotta won at Lotte Department Store
- Fuse culture and serious shopping at Shinsegae Department Store
- Recommend Seoul tours: Myeongdong and beyond
- Where to stay: The best hotels for sightseeing in Myeongdong
- Where to go in Myeongdong: A summary of the top points of interest
- Beyond Myeongdong: Other places to go in Seoul
What to do in Myeongdong: The top attractions & best places to visit
Reclaim your youth on Myeongdong Shopping Street
Ask any first-time visitor to Seoul what they know about Myeongdong, it’s shopping. At the heart of Myeongdong’s consumerist madness is Myeongdong Shopping Street, a stretch of boutiques and stores providing a never-ending series of excuses to dispense with your money.
Always hangin’ out among the best shopping areas in Seoul, Myeongdong Shopping Street’s focus is obvious at first glance. Whereas fashion comes front and centre elsewhere in the city, Korea’s obsession with outward appearance becomes ever more obvious in Myeongdong with its wave of skincare and cosmetics shops.
If you ever wanted to strive for a more youthful look and rejuvenate, this is Korea’s mecca for it. Top Korean cosmetics brands like Innisfree, Nature Republic, and Too Cool For School dominate the scene, but finding clothing & accessories to drop your won on isn’t so difficult either!
Getting to Myeongdong Shopping Street: Finding Myeongdong Shopping Street is a cinch. Simply take the subway to Myeong-dong Station (Line 4) and use Exit 6 to get to street level. The street you’ll exit to, Myeongdong 8-gil, is where the action takes place.
Laugh until it hurts at Myeongdong NANTA Theatre
Strip the Blue Man Group of their makeup and throw them into a teppanyaki grill and you’ll have a good idea of the hijinks that await at Myeongdong NANTA Theatre. This award-winning comedy performance is not just one of the best things to do in Myeongdong. And since it’s completely non-verbal, you don’t have to understand Korean to enjoy the show!
The Myeondong NANTA Theatre centres around a fictitious Korean cooking show driven by the beat of samul nori, a traditional Korean percussion ensemble. Actors use various kitchen tools—from knives to cutting boards—to pound out the cadence, brought to life by the 386-seat theatre’s dynamic sound system and acoustics. The stunning interplay of visual and auditory elements mixed with the comedic factor make the NANTA show one that the entire family will love to experience while poking around Myeongdong.
Want to guarantee your seat at the NANTA Theatre in Myeongdong? Skip the line (and the language barrier) and book your Seoul NANTA Show Ticket before you leave!
Getting to Myeongdong NANTA Theatre: Take the Seoul Metro Line 2 to Euljiro 1-ga Station. Leave the station using Exit 6. Walk south along Namdaemun-ro to Myeongdong-gil and turn left. Follow Myeongdong-gil one block, and you’ll find the theatre on your right.
Get a shot of European grace at Myeongdong Cathedral
At first glance, you might think that Myeongdong Cathedral seems a little more attuned to a age-old European city than a quintessentially Asian metropolis like Seoul. You wouldn’t be so wrong. This splendid church dates back to the late 19th-century when it became Korea’s first Gothic building and the epicentre of the country’s Roman Catholic community.
The graceful Gothic facade of Myeongdong Cathedral continues to the interior where sky-high pillars and pointed-arched ceilings meld into a cavernous space frequented by Seoul’s most devout. Several bishops, priests, and martyrs, instrumental in spreading Catholicism in Korea, are also enshrined in the church’s basement.
Getting to Myeongdong Cathedral: Hop onto Line 4 of the Seoul Metro, getting out a Myeong-dong Station. From Exit 6, turn left onto Myeongdong 8-gil (Myeongdong Shopping Street). At Myeongdong-gil (about 350 metres ahead), turn right. In less than 200 metres you’ll see the cathedral on the right.
Nimble on yummy kalguksu at Myeongdong Kyoja
One of the top reasons to visit Myeongdong is for the food, and if any place in the neighbourhood will bolster that reputation is Myeongdong Kyoja (Gyoja). With over 40 years of experience behind it, Myeongdong Kyoja knows its craft, serving up some of the Seoul’s finest noodles and dumplings.
The signature dish here is their kalguksu, a famous soup spun from hand-cut wheat noodles and a umami-loaded broth teeming with meat, dumplings and vegetables. Even if Myeongdong Kyoja’s claim to creating kalguksu is unsettled, there’s no denying that your tastebuds are in for a treat here.
Other favourites at Myeongdong Kyoja include bibimguksu (spicy noodles), kongguksu (cold soybean soup with noodles) and mandu, Korea’s take on silky-smooth Chinese-style soup dumplings flavoured with ingredients such as ground pork, green onions, sesame oil, and ginger.
Getting to Myeongdong Kyoja (Gyoja): Hop on the Seoul metro to Myeong-dong Station (Line 4). At Exit 8, swing left and walk about 2.5 blocks. The restaurant will be on your right side (Myeongdong 10-gil 29)
Spend a whole lotta won at Lotte Department Store
Long before most Korean cosmetics were even a gleam in the eye of their founders, Lotte Department Store opened its doors 1979 near Myeongdong. Much like the stretch of shops on Myeongdong Shopping Street (Myeongdong 8-gil), this legendary Korean shopping institution throws down an endless array of beauty supplies from skincare products to makeup as well as all the latest domestic and international fashion brands.
Bargain-hunters will be in paradise at Lotte Department Store. The sheer size means there’s an never-ending assortment of sales and discounts as you swing from floor to floor.
Best of all, Lotte Department Store is geared towards international shoppers; it’s a duty-free shop that offer tax refunds to foreigners. You can even pay for your items and have them waiting for you at the airport on your day of departure!
Even if clothing and cosmetics don’t turn your crank, there’s more to Lotte Department Store than just shopping. The basement food court is, surprisingly for a department store, an awesome place to eat and stock up on exotic foodstuffs. Poke around and you’ll soon be stuffing your face with a whole assortment of local and international foods from Korean banchan (small starters) to Japanese sushi.
Getting to Lotte Department Store: Head over to Euljiro 1-ga Station on Line 2. The department store is connected to Exits 7 & 8.
Fuse culture and serious shopping at Shinsegae Department Store
Along with Lotte, Shinsegae Department Store in Myeongdong is one of Seoul’s most complete luxury shopping experiences, replete with all the top brands you’d expect in an upmarket store and a duty-free for foreign patrons. Floor after floor of name-brand clothing, cosmetics, and accessories lay at the heart of this flagship location.
Like its competitor up the road, Shinsegae Department Store offers more than just a smattering of goods. On the lower level lies a high-end supermarket where exotic fruits and other hard-to-find international delicacies await. There’s also a bustling food court here that’s offers a grand selection of some of the things to eat in Seoul.
What truly separates Shinsegae Department Store from its competition though is its cultural zone spread over several different departments. From a gallery showcasing modern Korean artwork from noted local artists to gift shops featuring traditional Korean handicrafts, there’s plenty to here aside from dishing out money on luxury goods.
Getting to Shinsegae Department Store: Using Seoul’s public transportation, hop onto Seoul Metro Line 4, disembarking at Hoehyun Station. From Exit 7, turn left at the first street. At the next block, turn right and walk along Namdaemunsijang-gil (confusingly the same name as the street you’re already on). The store will be one block up to your left.
Recommend Seoul tours: Myeongdong and beyond
Looking to get the most out of your visit to Myeongdong? Take a glance at the best Seoul tours visiting Myeongdong and beyond:
- Seoul Full Day City Tour: Nail down all the highlights of Seoul on this full-day city tour sweeping across the entire tourist core including Jogyesa Temple, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Insadong, and Namdaemun Market. Extend the tour with a NANTA Theatre performance in Myeongdong if you’re looking for an evening laugh!
- Korean BBQ & Local Street Food Tour: Taste the best of Seoul at nearby Namdaemun Market with this complete food tour including seven different Korea delicacies.
- Afternoon Seoul UNESCO & Traditional Markets Tour: Jam a ton into your afternoon with this 4-hour tour taking on the UNESCO World Heritage listed Changdeokgung Palace, Insadong Arts and Crafts Market, and Namdaemun Market, just steps from Myeongdong. Includes all transportation and hotel pick-up/drop-off.
Where to stay: The best hotels for sightseeing in Myeongdong
Without a doubt, Myeongdong’s one of the top areas to stay in Seoul. With the multitude of things to do in Myeongdong and its awesome transportation connections to the rest of the city, there are plenty of reasons to grab a room at one of these top-rated hotels in Myeongdong:
- Aloft Myeongdong: A lovely design hotel with hip & trendy styling. The spacious and comfortable rooms are quiet and feature wonderful city views. Location in the heart of Myeongdong puts you minutes away from incredible street food, restaurants, and shopping.
- Hotel 28 Myeongdong: A small boutique hotel set beside Myeongdong Shopping Street. The rooms, showcasing a movie-inspired industrial design, are sleek and unique.
- L7 Myeongdong: A brilliant hotel crawling up the Myeongdong skyline from just outside the area’s main subway station. The rooms embrace modernity with clean design lines and lovely skyline views.
Where to go in Myeongdong: A summary of the top points of interest
Still not sure how to start exploring? Here’s a last-minute summary of a few of the best things to do in Myeongdong:
- Looking for a delicious Korean treat? Hobble into Myeongdong Kyoja, the neighbourhood’s most famous restaurant renowned for its mouth-watering kalguksu (hand-cut noodles) and mandu (Korean soup dumplings).
- Skin looking weathered from the Asian summer sun? Buzz along Myeongdong Shopping Street, a bustling shopping area famous for its line-up of (somewhat) budget-friendly Korean cosmetics and skincare products.
- Need a good laugh? The troupe at the Myeongdong NANTA Theatre has made audiences all around the world—from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to Broadway in New York—chuckle to their antics. Get your kicks at this hilarious show that transcends culture in the country where it all started.
Beyond Myeongdong: Other places to go in Seoul
Don’t stop at exploring Myeongdong! Pop over to these other neighbourhoods to check out more of the best places to visit in Seoul:
- Insadong: The streets of one of Seoul’s most beautiful areas, loaded with art galleries and traditional teahouses, are a just a short transit ride or pleasant walk north from Myeongdong. Dig into all it has to offer with this guide to the best things to do in Insadong.
- Hongdae: Seoul’s unofficial capital of weird, on the eastern side of the city, feels worlds away from the upscale consumerist bubble of Myeongdong. Get started checking out what this edgy neighbourhood has to offer with this list of the best things to do in Hongdae.
- Itaewon: It may be the most foreigner-friendly area of Seoul, but this gutsy neighbourhood, centred around the U.S. Army headquarters, has got a storied history to keep things interesting.