Top 4 Things to Do in Myeongdong

Myeongdong is a popular tourist destination in Seoul, South Korea’s capital city. The central based area mostly attracts Japanese and Chinese tourists. It’s often said that tourists fly to Seoul partly to buy and stock up on Korean cosmetic products, and Myeongdong is ground zero for buying discounted skin care products. Here are four Myeongdong activities for visitors.

A map of Myeongdong, screenshot taken from the interactive map on Visit Korea’s website.

#1. Walking

Walking doesn’t sound like the most dynamic of activities. People certainly don’t go to far off places just to walk, at least not usually. Yet Myeongdong is one of the best places to amble. Though it’s got big crowds, the place defies any feeling of discomfort. The roads never get too congested. Myeongdong consists mostly of three lengthy, parallel lanes that intersect two wide roads. So walk the broad thoroughfares, the alleys, the stores and shops. Walk all of it, taking in the sights of Koreans and tourists mingling, the smells of street food, and the sounds of cosmetic salespeople making sales pitches to passerby. Myeongdong’s atmosphere is the real attraction. Stroll in Myeongdong, because that’s the best way to explore, see, and experience it.

 

A Myeongdong side street, Seoul, South Korea. Photo by Christian Bolz. CC BY-SA 4.0

#2. Shopping

Most people go to Myeongdong for shopping. The area is littered with cosmetic shops, and pretty much every South Korean brand selling skin care products has a shop there. Stores include Nature’s Republic, Missha, Olive Young, Innisfree, the Face Shop, and Lush. It’s also a good place to buy clothes. Major clothing retailers like Uniqlo, Spao, H and M, have stores in the area. Smaller boutiques can be found in the alleys. Another aspect of shopping in the area is all the other things people can buy. They include tourist souvenirs like ginseng packages and candy, soju bottles, and packaged Korean food products. Numerous stalls sell cellphone cases and accessories. Vendors also sell shoes, jewelry, and art. Myeongdong has a wide variety of products, and is especially good for shopping for skin care and clothing.

 

Three South Korean face masks. Photo by Rooftop on the Hanok.

#3. Get a foot massage

Foot massages are the quintessential Myeongdong thing to do. Above Myeongdong’s streets and thoroughfares, massage shops abound. Often occupying commercial office spaces in the many buildings in the area, they are hidden from the crowds and street environment. Salespeople aggressively hand out flyers and promote discounts. Foot massages are often discounted at W18,000, or about 16 US Dollars. The massages last for forty five minutes to an hour. After choosing a massage shop and paying, the customer is given a change of clothes and a locker key. The clothes is usually a matching shirt and shorts, or in some cases just shorts. After locking valuables in the locker, the customer is taken to a small bath. They are given a five minute foot bath, usually with salts and herbs. Afterwards, the customer is put on a massage table and the masseuse gives a thirty minute massage to the feet and thighs. Many Myeongdong establishments use inflatable pumps for a portion of the time. Big balloons are applied to the legs and as they are inflated the pressure on the legs increases. Of course, customers can ask at the front door the specifics of the massage. They can also request full body massages and choose from the menu, though the prices won’t be as discounted as the advertised foot massage. Get a foot massage and relax after experiencing all the lights, sounds, and people on the busy streets below.

#4. Visit a cat cafe

One of the more interesting attractions amongst Myeongdong’s hustle and bustle is the cat cafe. Cat cafes are places where customers get to sit with a drink and watch or play with the often playful, immobile, or sleepy cats that stay on the premises. Sitting in a Myeongdong cat cafe adds a sense of spectacle to an area that is mostly about street views and shopping. It’s the equivalent of the scariest ride at the amusement park. The cats are cute, too. Godabang Cat Cafe and Cat’s Playground are two of the cafes that can be found in Myeongdong.

Myeongdong’s streets at night. Photo by Rooftop on the Hanok.