Myeong-dong.  in Seoul, South Korea


in Seoul, South Korea

Myeong-dong neon lights, seoul Photo © marcia taylor

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Seoul is home to hundreds of department stores, shopping centers, malls and entire neighborhoods devoid of rooms without cash registers. Next to Dongdaemun, Myeongdong is Seoul’s brand name shopping mecca.

Shop ‘til You Drop

Every popular brand name available in South Korea has a presence in Myeongdong. But, not to be confused with a shopping mall or plaza, Myeongdong is an entire neighborhood which has been taken over by bright neon signs and corporate brands.

This area is popular with tourists and expats alike. A majority of the cash registers here are manned by employees who speak English, Japanese, and/or Chinese. For anyone looking to keep up with western fashions, Myeongdong is an easy choice.

If Myeongdong isn’t enough for you, there is also a Shinsegae mall and a Lotte Department store nearby. Myeongdong is an easy choice for anyone looking to grab some threads from Spicy Color, Forever21, or H&M but Shinsegae and the Lotte Department Store are where shoppers will find Burberry, Louis Vuitton, and Tiffany & Co (Wikipedia Article).

Shoppers should be warned, however, that Myeongdong was originally laid out to be a neighborhood and not a shopping district. As such, the streets and alleyways are never wider than a two lane street and can be impossibly narrow in other areas. This is fine for pedestrians until, inevitably, a car tries to drive through the neighborhood and makes the entire experience inconvenient for everyone. Luckily, the streets have recently been closed off to regular traffic which has eased tempers immensely.

All combined, there are hundreds of shops and restaurants housed in Myeongdong. No matter what it is you’re looking for, there’s a good chance that Myeongdong will have it. Unlike other shopping areas like Dongdaemun or Yongsan (Wikipedia
	Article), Myeongdong doesn’t really have a specialization. Whereas Dongdaemun is fashion-focused and Yongsan places a heavy emphasis on tech, Myeongdong’s largest appeal is that it contains a little bit of everything.

Myeongdong Eats

Unknown to most visitors, Myeongdong had a large and burgeoning culinary scene before it was overtaken by some of the larger international shopping brands. Fortunately, most of the restaurants that made Myeongdong famous are still around and worth trying.

Number one on everyone’s list should be Myeongdong Gyoza (명동 교자) at Joongu Myeongdong 2-ga 25-2 (중구 명동2가 25-2). This restaurant specializes in wheat flour noodles served in a large bowl of broth and topped with dumplings. Prices have gone up in recent years but not enough to deter regular visitors and lines of the waiting hungry.

A close second is Myeongdong Tonkatsu (명동돈가스)at Joongu Myeongdong 1-ga 59-13 (중구 명동1가 59-13). This restaurant opened in the 80’s and is credited with starting the tonkatsu craze in Seoul. The battered and fried pork fillet is aged before being cooked and served with a side of rice and tonkatsu sauce. There are now hundreds of would-be imitators throughout the country but the original is still the best.

Arts and Culture

One-day tourists aren’t likely to get much out of the theater, but anyone who has some time should stop by to catch a performance if they can at the Myeongdong Theater for the performing arts. The National Theater of Korea (Wikipedia Article) used to be based here until the mid-seventies when the theater was closed down. The National Theater of Korea has since found a new home but the theater was renovated and reopened in the nineties.

Also worth visiting is the Catholic Church of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception, otherwise known as Myeongdong Cathedral. As the oldest Roman Catholic cathedral in Korea, Myeongdong Cathedral is the church for the archdiocese of Seoul. The church has seen regular repairs and minor renovations several times during its 100 years at the western tip of Myeongdong. Through it all, it still retains the hallmarks of catholic cathedrals like stained glass windows, high reaching steeples, and post-Gothic era stonework.

Local Attractions

Part of what makes Myeongdong special is its proximity to an array nearby attractions. Only a few shoppers can muster the strength to wander beyond the thick density of stores, but there is a lot going on around the area.
The nearby Namsangol Hanok Village (Wikipedia Article) is a popular destination for visitors in the area. About a five minute walk south from Myeongdong Station, Namsangol Hanok Village sits at the base of Namsan Mountain and houses a multitude of traditional Korean architecture also known as “hanoks.”

Just up the slopes from the village is Namsan Mountain itself. Another popular destination for locals and tourists alike, locals flock here from the trek up the mountain and tourists enjoy the scenic ride up to enjoy the view from the top. For visitors less interested in the greenery dotting its slopes, the view from N Seoul Tower is definitely worth the trip.

Just west of Myeongdong is the heart of Seoul’s government, City Hall. There are always events during on warmer weekends but even without that, the view of Seoul’s historic city hall sitting in front of the newly designed futuristic reincarnation of city hall (which looks very much like a wave enveloping the historic city hall).

Getting There

Myeongdong is easily accessible by subway, bus and taxi. That being said, there are fewer places that experience traffic worse than Myeongdong. For that reason, Seoulites not only avoid taking buses or taxi to the area but also any routes that go through the area.
The most direct access to Myeongdong is through Myeongdong Station (line no. 4) exit 6, 7, 8 or 9. Another option for visitors is Euljiro 1-ga station (line no. 2) exit no. 6 and 7. Both subway stations offer direct access to the shopping malls and stores, just on opposing sides of the neighborhood.

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Author: bludreamers. Last updated: May 20, 2015

Pictures of Myeong-dong

Insadong neon lights, seoul - Myeong-dong
Insadong neon lights, seoul - Myeong-dong. Photo by marcia taylor

Myeong-dong at Night - Myeong-dong
Myeong-dong at Night - Photo by Zachary Zadell

So. Much. Banchan. - Myeong-dong
So. Much. Banchan. - Myeong-dong. Photo by ohocheese


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