Insa-dong or Insadong ( Korean : 인사동 ) is a district or dong of Seoul in South Korea . The main street is Insadong-guil which is connected by a multitude of alleyways that lead deeper into District with modern galleries and teahouses . At one time, it was the largest antique and fine art market in Korea .
In area , Insa-dong is 12 hectares . The district is bordered by Gwanhun-dong to the north, Nagwon-dong to the east, and Jongno and Jeokseon-dong to the south, and Gongpyeong-dong to the west.
Insa-dong was originally two towns whose names ended with the syllables “In” and “Sa”. These were divided by a stream that ran along the current main street of Insa-dong.
Insa-dong begins by being a place of residence for civil servants . In the early Joseon period (1392–1897), the place belonged to Gwanin-bang and Gyeonpyeong-bang ( bang was the name of an administrative unit at the time) of Hanseong (former name of the capital, Seoul) . During the Japanese occupation , wealthy Korean residents were forced to move and sell their possessions, so much so that the site became an area for antique trading.
After the end of the Korean War , the district became a center of artistic life and coffeehouses in South Korea 5 . It was a popular destination among foreign visitors to South Korea during the 1960s , who called the area “Mary’s Alley” . It gained popularity with international tourists during the 1988 Seoul Olympics . In 2000, the area was renovated and, after protest, the rapid modernization of the area was interrupted for two years from that same year .
In recent years, the alleys of Insa-dong continue to gentrify with cafes, garden restaurants and traditional boarding-style accommodations.
So, of course, cheap shops and excessive globalization have almost ended up getting the better of Insadong. Besides, on a personal level, I may have a preference for the narrow streets of Ikseon-dong, a few steps away. And yet, Insadong is a district to which I return tirelessly, on each of my trips: it is home to the formidable Jogyesa temple , which is always lively. Since 2019, you can also visit the new Gongpyeong Historical Sites Museum .
Art galleries and museums:
Many galleries and museums have chosen to establish themselves in the area. I now suggest you discover some addresses:
Insa Art Center
It is a cultural center which is composed of 6 floors and which highlights the works of several artists through exhibitions. Insa Art Center is a place to visit, if you want to discover Korean art and new artists .
Kyung-in Museum of Fine Art
Kyung-in Museum of Fine Art opened in 1983. The particularity of this museum is that it is located in a Hanok (Korean traditional house). You can discover 6 exhibitions that change regularly throughout the year. In addition, the museum has a garden with sculptures, but also a traditional cafe called “Dawon (Traditional Tea Garden)”.
Days and hours of operation: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (closed on New Years, Seollal and Chuseok) | Price: Free entry
Official website | Address: 서울 종로구 인사동10길 11-4 경인미술관
Subway: Anguk Station, Exit 6 | Map: Google Maps – Naver Map
It’s a neighborhood where I love to have a tea during the day, and I like its joyful and light atmosphere (I don’t like crowds). This is also where I got into the habit of shopping for gifts, especially at the National Center for Souvenirs .
It’s hard to ignore Insadong when you come to Seoul for the first time. However, if you prefer more chic areas, a possible alternative are the Sinsa-dong and Apgujeong areas in Gangnam, where the best luxury boutiques and art galleries are located.
Insadong-gil Street is “known as a traditional street for locals and foreigners” and represents the “culture of past and present” . It is a mixture of historical and modern atmosphere and is “a unique area of Seoul that truly represents the cultural history of the nation” .
The majority of traditional buildings originally belonged to merchants and bureaucrats. Some larger residences, built for retired government officials during the Joseon period, can also be seen. Most of these older buildings are now used as restaurants or shops. Important historical buildings include Unhyeongung House, Jogyesa Temple which is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Korea and the oldest Presbyterian Church .
The region is well known for tourism, with around 100,000 visitors reported on Sundays in 2000 . Insa-dong is also a place of visit for foreign dignitaries such as Queen Elizabeth II and the princes of Spain and the Netherlands . The district contains 40 % of the nation’s antique shops and art galleries as well as 90 % of the traditional paper mills .
Korean Craft & Design Foundation Gallery
The Korean Craft & Design Foundation Gallery Shop displays and sells high-quality Korean handicrafts, stamped with the UNESCO Seal of Excellence for Handicrafts. The shop possesses handicrafts by renowed master craftsmen and artists. Crafts have both practical and decorative uses.
Days and hours of operation: 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (closed on Mondays, in Seollal and Chuseok) | Price: Free entry
Official website | Address: 서울 종로구 인사동11길 8
Subway: Anguk Station, Exit 6 | Map: Google Maps – Naver Map
Color Pool Museum
The Colorpool Museum is an art location where you can encounter colors with your five senses. It is a color-themed playground. It is a creative factory where people of all ages and creeds interact with each other and develop creativity. At the Colorpool museum, spectators become artists. Each new artwork is complete as you enter into the various works that use color and become the main character. It is the value of participatory art activity that the Colorpool Museum aims for where you play with colors by seeing the colors, feeling the scents, and listening to the performances.
Just as we have our own individualities, each color has its own energy and personality. While completing your work at the Colorpool Museum, the different colors will deliver tremendous energy and vitamin to you. We hope that the creative activities at the Colorpool Museum will give your life a healthy energy and new inspiration. Remember the secrets of the colorpool.
Opening hours: 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.; last admission at 6:00 p.m. (times modified due to the coronavirus) | Price: 15,000 won (adult) – 12,000 won (25 months to 12 years old)
Official Site | Address: 서울 종로구 인사동길 49 안녕인사동 6층
Subway: Anguk Station, Exit 6 | Map: Google Maps – Naver Map
Alive Museum is an interactive 4D art museum that plays on optical illusion. The museum has two floors with 12 themes. Through murals, life-size objects and a digital device, the visitor becomes an integral part of the work. The museum is therefore also ideal for taking photos with friends, family or as a couple!
Note that within the walls of the museum is the Dynamic Maze which is a labyrinth where you will have to overcome obstacles.
Shopping in Insadong:
Some shops and shopping centers to discover in the neighborhood!
Insa-dong, located in the heart of the city, is an important place where old but precious traditional goods are on display. There is one main road in Insa-dong with alleys on each side. Within these alleys are galleries, traditional restaurants, teahouses, and cafes.
The galleries are the heartbeat of Insa-dong. There are about 100 galleries in the area offering every example of traditional Korean fine art from paintings to sculptures. The most famous galleries are Hakgojae Gallery, which functions as the center of folk art, Gana Art Gallery, which promotes many promising artists, and Gana Art Center.
The teahouses and restaurants are the perfect complement to the galleries. They are hidden deep within the twisting alleyways, making it feel like a treasure hunt. The shops in Insa-dong are very popular among all age groups, because each one is unique.
Every Saturday from 14:00 to 22:00 and Sunday from 10:00 to 22:00, the main street is blocked to vehicular traffic and it becomes a cultural space. Stores set up booths outside and Korean candy merchants and fortune teller stalls can easily be found; there are traditional performances and exhibits as well. Insa-dong is especially popular among international tourists. This is where they can experience and see traditional Korean culture first-hand, and also purchase pieces of fine art.
Outdoor stage (Naminsa Madang), souvenir shops, restaurants, craft shop, etc.
Shop that offers traditional Korean masks made by the craftsman Jung Sung-Am! You will find the Hahoetal mask, the Sandaetal mask as well as creations made from wood.
Myungsindang (Myungsindang Pilbang)
Shop specializing in calligraphy . There are brushes and all the accessories needed to do calligraphy. Finally, it is possible to make your own seal , like Queen Elizabeth II who came to this shop! Depending on the materials, the price of the seal may vary.
A store on 5 floors that has existed since 1924. You will find several floors dedicated to the sale of modern and traditional crafts . On the 4th floor is an antiquity gallery and on the 5th floor the Tongin gallery. Finally, on the 2nd floor: find the Taegeukdang bakery (quite popular in the neighborhood!)
If you like books, I recommend that you take a trip to Tongmungwan, which has existed since 1934. It is the oldest bookstore in the country. The bookstore specializes in old and rare books and also in books on the humanities .
Opening days and hours: 10:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (open from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturdays), closed on Mondays and public holidays | Official Website
Address: 서울 종로구 인사동길 55-1 | Metro: Anguk Station, Exit 6
Map: Google Maps – Naver Map
Ssamziegil is a shopping center that opened in 2004. Its particularity is that it is spiral-shaped. You will discover there many shops of traditional crafts , designer creations and among others, clothes … But that’s not all! There are also cafes (including the famous Insadong Poop Cafe).
Annyeong Insadong is a brand new shopping complex that opened in October 2019. From floors 1 to 6, you will find various shops , restaurants , cafes , but also galleries . This is also where the Color Pool Museum is located, which I told you about earlier. Floors 6 to 13 are reserved for the Nine Tree Hotel.
Visit monuments in the neighborhood:
Ideas of monuments to visit in Insa-dong and around:
It is South Korea ‘s first modern park . It was built in 1887. Decades before its creation, stood the Wongaksa Temple. It is for this reason that you can find several cultural assets such as the Wongaksa pagoda (National Treasure No. 2) which was part of the temple.
Moreover, the park was an important place in Korean history. Indeed, this is where the Declaration of Independence was read during the March 1 Movement in 1919.
- Unhyeongung Palace
- Bosingak Belfry
Renting a Hanbok at the Insadong Information Center:
If you are tempted by the experience of wearing a hanbok , you can rent one for 20 minutes at the Insadong Information Center. The rental price is 3000 won (rather a good deal!). On their website, it is indicated that you must make a reservation on site before 5 p.m.
Opening hours : 09:00 – 18:00 et le lundi : 09:30 – 18:30 | Site officiel
Address : 19, Insadong 11-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul Seoinsa Madang Public Parking Lot | Metro : Station Anguk, Exit 6
Map : Google Maps – Naver Map
Where to eat and drink in Insadong?
Do you want to eat street food or do you prefer to sit in a Hanok (traditional Korean house) while enjoying a drink? Everything is possible at Insa-dong! I offer you a selection of places to eat and drink in the neighborhood.
Tasting street food in Insadong:
If you like street food , you will find your happiness in the main street of Insadong. Indeed, there are several food stalls for all tastes and budgets! I advise you to pass in front of a dragon’s beard candy stand (Ggultarae -꿀타래): very popular in the neighborhood!
Relax in a tea house or café:
Moving a little away from the main street, you can discover superb tea houses and cafes. Here are some ideas:
Shin Old Tea House
The Old Tea Shop is a famous tea house in the neighborhood. She is within a Hanok . The place is calm and relaxing, perfect for taking a break. The tea room mainly offers a selection of tea to be enjoyed hot or cold. There are also traditional desserts on the menu such as rice cakes and also bingsu (shaved ice).
O’sulloc Tea House
O’sulloc offers a wide choice of tea in its tea room : you can taste it in all its forms: hot, with milk, iced, in bubble tea and so on! There are also desserts such as ice cream, bingsu and cakes. A large part of these desserts are made with tea. Note that on the ground floor is the O’ssuloc boutique . You will find the brand’s teas and products on sale there: ideal for making gifts!
Beautiful Tea Museum
Beautiful Tea Museum is a place that is in a Hanok. You can enjoy a tea in its tea room or do some shopping in the shop where you will find 110 varieties of tea from several countries such as Korea, China, Japan, Sri Lanka, India, Taiwan , but also from Europe. But that’s not all ! A museum part exhibits teas and objects related to tea. The place also houses a gallery where you can discover the work of young ceramists.
Selection of restaurants in Insa-dong:
Today in this article we are going to discover a traditional restaurant located in the famous Insadong district. This is the Imojib (이모집) establishment which offers several traditional dishes on the menu.
When you arrive, the staff will give you the choice between either sitting in a small room where there are a few wooden tables with chairs or the possibility of being served at a base table in a more traditional way, it is i.e. on the ground. Indeed, the restaurant is composed of two rooms.
For our part, we have chosen a table with chairs but if the experience tempts you, do not hesitate to choose to sit on the ground in the second room.
As for the staff, they are very welcoming. Note if you have difficulty speaking Korean, you can place your order in English, the staff speaks quite good English.
The menu :
In this traditional restaurant, you have the choice of taking different traditional Korean dishes such as Bulgogi, Bossam, Pajeon and many more.
Bulgogi (불고기; literally “meat on fire”, also known as ” Korean barbecue “): marinated and then grilled meat, usually beef or pork. The preparations and cooking methods (for example grilling over embers, in a pan or in a pot-au-feu) vary according to the desired taste or texture.
Beef is often prepared with a base of soy sauce , sugar sesame oil or Korean pear juice… For pork, chilli paste ( gojujang ) and ginger dominate in the marinade. Among the ways to consume bulgogi : wrapped with rice and a side dish, for example, kimchi , in a salad leaf or kaetnip (sesame leaves marinated with chili powder, quite salty). Soybean paste mixed with kochujang , fresh sesame leaves, whole raw garlic, or other ingredients can be added to this salad wrap .See also Top 10 korean dishes you must try
Bossam (보쌈, 褓-) is a pork dish in Korean cuisine. It usually consists of pork shoulder that is boiled in spices and thinly sliced. The meat is served with side dishes such as spicy radish salad, sliced raw garlic, ssamjang (wrap sauce), saeu-jeot (salted shrimp), kimchi, and ssam (wrap) vegetables such as lettuce, kkaennip (perilla leaves), and inner leaves of a napa cabbage.
Bossam is a popular dish in South Korea, often served as anju (i.e. food accompanying alcoholic drinks). To eat, the meat and side dishes are wrapped together in ssam vegetables, hence the literal meaning of bossam: “wrapped” or “packaged”.
Pajeon (파전, Korean pronunciation: [pʰa.dʑʌn]) is a variety of jeon with scallion as its prominent ingredient, as pa (파) means scallion. It is a Korean dish made from a batter of eggs, wheat flour, rice flour, scallions, and often other ingredients depending on the variety. Beef, pork, kimchi, shellfish, and other seafood are mostly used. If one of these ingredients, such as squid, dominates the jeon, the name will reflect that; ojing’eo jeon (오징어전) is ‘squid jeon.
Pajeon is usually recognizable by the highly visible scallions. It is similar to a Chinese scallion pancake in appearance but is less dense in texture and not made from a dough.
More info about Imojib (이모집)
- Opening time
12:00 – 22:00
I don’t have the prices for samgyetang and japchae anymore, but for a bulgogi it’s 28000 won and for an assortment of pajeon (모듬전) the price is 25000 won.
10-3, Insadong 14-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul.
Enjoying a Korean BBQ in a Hanok? Well, it is possible at restaurant 853! The restaurant offers for a Korean barbecue where it is possible to choose 4 parts of pork including the famous samgyeopsal . It is also possible to order dishes such as noodles, soups and stews…
Opening days and hours: 12:00 – 23:00 (break from 15:00 to 17:00, no break on weekends and public holidays) | Instagram
Address: 서울 종로구 인사동12길 16 | Metro: Anguk Station, Exit 6
Map: Google Maps – Naver Map
Busan Sikdang is a popular restaurant with locals. It has been in the neighborhood since 1976. The restaurant offers several traditional dishes : it is particularly known for its spicy cod soup (Saengdaegutang/생대구탕).
I hope this guide will give you some ideas for going to Insadong! If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in a comment!
How to get to Insadong?
Insa-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
- Getting there by metro:
You can take Anguk Station (Exit 6) or Jongno 3-ga Station (Exit 5) to get to the main street of the area.
- Getting there by bus: