Half the fun in South Korea is enjoying the scenery, pigging out on the cuisine, and soaking in the culture. The other half has got to be shopping till your luggage is bursting at the seams, and then shopping for even more of those beauty products and facial sheet masks. Seoul, in particular, has so much to offer in terms of price and variety, especially when it comes to all matters of K-beauty. 

It’s no wonder beauty aficionados return here every year to restock their essentials. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the streets of Seoul, the good thing is that there are a couple of districts where you can check all the boxes of your beauty shopping list in one place. From the student campus areas of Hongdae to the ritzy streets of Gangnam, you will find yourself spending hours comparing prices, adding the latest beauty products to your carts, and lugging them back to your accommodation. With popular Korean skincare brands such as Olive Young and Lyanature and makeup brands like Holika Holika and I’m Meme, you’d be spoilt for choice.

1. Myeongdong — The flagship K-beauty destination

When you think of K-beauty, the first place that would usually come to mind is Myeongdong, the avenue of flagship stores! 

All the big brand names are lined up here—Etude House, LANEIGE, INNISFREE, Holika Holika, you name them. It’s hard to walk through Myeongdong without leaving with a few bags full of beauty and skincare products. 

As a street that caters mostly to tourists located in central Seoul, you’ll find there isn’t much of a language barrier. Not only can most of the staff at every store speak English and Mandarin fluently, but they are also familiar with the different skin types and needs you’d have as a foreigner. 

You’d definitely want to check out the Olive Young flagship store here. It’s Korea’s version of Sephora, and they carry pretty much every and any Korean skincare and Korean makeup products. So, if you’re looking for something you definitely cannot get in Singapore, this two-storey building is the place. 

Although some of these brands are available in Singapore, the unique experiences offered in the flagship stores make it something special. The INNISFREE flagship store, for one, is a four-storey one-stop shop with an organic cafe within. Meanwhile, the Etude House Colour Factory customises and creates lipsticks based on an in-person scan of your skin to find the shade of lipstick that looks best on you. 

Shopping is hard work. So why not take a quick refuel with a delicious bowl of grub? Myeongdong Kyoja, a noodle and dumpling shop with Michelin Bib Gourmand awards, has two outlets in Myeongdong alone - this shows how popular and good it is.

2024 Must-haves: INNISFREE Twinkle Glitter at KRW9,000 (S$9.20), 3CE Mood Recipe Face Blush at KRW18,000 (S$18.40).

2. Hongdae — The spot for affordable K-beauty

Hongdae is another district known for the plethora of K-beauty brands and goods lining its streets. You will also find more affordable products at the stores along the Hongdae shopping street, as it is a neighbourhood surrounded by university campuses with many student shoppers.

Apart from stores filled with a wide variety of beauty and makeup products, Hongdae is also filled with beauty salons to take care of all your skin and hair needs. Some pampering and self-care in the middle of a shopping spree? Who would not like that?

Among the many beauty shops, one particular store you must visit is Espoir’s Hongdae Makeup Pub. Do not be surprised to see rows of beer taps when you walk in. That is just part of the “pub” experience, and what comes out isn’t beer but makeup foundation! Skin specialists “brew” up a concoction of foundation after a skin tone consultation with customers. All you have to do is spend KRW30,000 (S$30.70) on other products for the free skin tone consultation to find the perfect shade of foundation that suits you! 

You’ll also find the usual brands like INNISFREE and Etude House next to other beauty boutiques like Chicor and Aritaum. Basically, you’ll find everything you need for beauty, skincare, self-care, and more, just by walking down Hongdae. 

Hongdae is also known for their jokbal (pig trotter). Since you’re already here, why not head into Myth Jokbal Hongdae to try some of their famous garlic jokbal while you’re at it? 

2024 Must-haves: I’m Meme Multi Cube Milk Foam Palette at KRW16,800 (S$17.20), Tarte Maracuja Juicy Lip at KRW32,000 (S$32.80).

3. Gangnam — The playground for ultra-lux bougie brands

If we’re talking about bougie, it doesn’t get more luxe than in Gangnam. It is the the wealthiest neighbourhood Apgujeong. Apgujeong, along with Sinsadong, make up the most trendy and fashionable areas of Gangnam and, in turn, Seoul. 

You will find the most luxe skincare brands here. Sulwhasoo’s flagship store, in particular, takes the cake with six storeys of shop-spa-lounge-architecture space. On top of the retail space on the first two levels, there are spas on the fourth floor and in the basement. 

It seems expected, now, that all flagship stores in Gangnam have some sort of concept that sets them apart from regular stores. Amore Seongsu, under Amorepacficic, does a “full experience” - a top-to-bottom testing experience for the different steps in one’s skincare routine, for free. At the end of the experience, visitors will be treated with free skincare samples and a coupon for future online purchases.

BTS ARMYs (fans of K-pop group BTS) would no doubt be familiar with Yoojung Sikdang, the group’s favourite dining spot in Gangnam. It’s a good spot in Seoul to enjoy a meal as a break from shopping. 

2024 Must-haves: Dr Jart+ Ceramidin Skin Barrier Serum Toner at KRW39,000 (S$40), Dior Addict Lip Glow Lip Balm at KRW48,000 (S$50)

4. Samcheong-dong — The K-beauty stronghold for artisanal goods

Samcheong-dong is how you would describe Haji Lane in Singapore—best known for its traditional architecture and cultural relics, but also a hip neighbourhood dotted with Instagrammable cafes.

Fans of K-dramas would probably know of Lee Young-ae from the popular historical drama Dae Jang Geum. You can find her line of beauty products in the Lyanature store located in Samcheong-dong. Known for its natural ingredients that are free of preservatives and chemicals, it is a popular skincare must-have for many who are familiar with K-beauty products.

You will also find big names such as INNISFREE, Belif and Olive Young in Samcheong-dong, so it could be the perfect place to visit if you’re looking for artisanal skincare and makeup brands, while stocking up on other essentials from the bigger names. And if you ever get hungry, there’s always the London Bagel Museum ready with their huge bagels for a quick munch. 

2024 Must-haves: Lyanature Mom & Twins Pure Botanic Cream & Lotion at KRW20,650 (S$21.20), Clio Kill Cover The New Foundwear Cushion at KRW36,000 (S$36.80)

5. Gangseo Distribution Complex — The K-beauty spot for hidden gems

We are not gatekeeping the best spot for hidden K-beauty gems. Located 10 minutes away from Kkachisan Station is Ganseo Distribution Complex, Korea’s biggest cosmetic wholesale market. 

You will not find better discounts elsewhere, with products going for up to 50% off if you’re lucky. Never mind that it is somewhat out of the way, the massive steals make the journey out of town worth it. 

Although it is a wholesale market, many shops do sell in smaller retail quantities, especially if you come on a weekend. Or, if you’d like to get a huge batch to split among your friends, why not? 

The only caveat is that it is a cash-only type of market. If you have to opt to pay by your credit card, it costs an extra 5% to 10% per transaction.

2024 Must Gets: 3w Clinic Intensive Aloe UV Sunblock Cream at KRW8,000 (S$8.10), I’M FROM Fig Body Scrub KRW30,000 (S$3.40)


South Korea’s a dangerous, dangerous place for the wallet, if you can’t resist good quality and affordable skincare and makeup. Seoul is also a great holiday destination with plenty of things to see and experience. All we can hope is that your pockets are deep, and your luggage is even deeper. 

Or maybe do away with the flying altogether, most of these K-beauty products are available on iShopChangi too. 


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Best Time to Visit
For an unforgettable journey through Seoul, consider planning your visit during the seasons of spring (March-June) or autumn (September-November). During these periods, the weather is pleasantly warm with reduced humidity. 

Seoul boasts 10 subway lines and an extensive bus network, with Tmoney or Cashbee cards providing convenient access. 

Korean Won (KRW) is used, with street money-changers in areas like Myeongdong offering competitive rates.