A Living Museum
Insa-dong, as Seoul’s representative tourism destination and major cultural street, is a long narrow street along which visitors can take a leisurely stroll while appreciating Korea’s culture and traditions. It is connected with Jongno in the south, Bukchon in the north, Jogyesa Temple and Gwanghwamun Plaza in the west, and Unhyeongung Palace and Donhwamun-ro in the east, and is a short walk from Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung Palaces, and thus, is truly the heart of Korean culture.
Naminsa Madang Stage, a meeting point and rest area where diverse performances are held from time to time, is situated at the southern entrance to Insa-dong from Jongno 2-ga. A short walk up the main Insadong-gil Road soon reveals numerous street vendors selling snacks and handicrafts, and all kinds of antique stores that sell ancient paintings, frames, brushes, and antique articles.
Insadong Negeori (junction) is a little farther ahead; the right side connects to Nagwon Arcade, a famous shopping mall for musical instruments, while the left side runs toward Jogyesa Temple. Diverse shops related to tradition and culture line both sides of the road towards the heart of Insa-dong. The Tong-in Store, a five-story building opened in 1924, is a long-established store where visitors can browse and buy ceramics, handicrafts, accessories, antique furniture, etc. on each floor.
Insadong Maru, a complex cultural space established in 2014, is located near the Tong-in Store. This six-story building consists of shops selling craftworks and fashion items, restaurants, cafes, an exhibition hall, and the Museum Kimchikan , situated on floors four to six, holds diverse exhibitions about Korea’s representative dish kimchi and runs kimchi making and tasting experience programs.
Passing by Sudo Pharmacy upward is Ssamzigil, a popular spot in the area ever since its opening in 2004. It is a four-story building with a spiral hallway that connects each floor. Thanks to its street-themed architectural style, visitors can enjoy browsing and shopping while walking along the Insadong-gil Road.
At the northern end of Insadong-gil Road is Buginsa Madang Stage. A large statue of a brush situated near Anguk Station stands out in the area. The location connects to Bukchon crossing the street, and Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung Palaces on both sides. As with Naminsa Madang Stage, there is a tourist information center in Buginsa Madang Stage, too.
One of the many charms of Insa-dong is the narrow alleys stretching out from both sides of the main street. The alleys are packed with restaurants and teahouses that boast about their tradition and characteristics. Although local people have voiced their concerns about the commercialization of Insa-dong, its narrow alleys still retain the area’s unique retro atmosphere.