After our visit to Gyeongbokgung palace, Insadong was on the way back to the Line 1 subway station Jongno. Since the visiting Browns needed souvenirs, and going to a cat cafe was on the Seoul bucket list, we walked through Insadong on our way back to our Airbnb. First order of business was lunch. There were quite a few lunch places down a side alley near the north end of Insadong road, and we stopped there. Although quite over-priced compared to other areas of Seoul, these little restaurants provided a very authentic dining experience with the floor tables and iconic Korean dishes. We learned that eating on the floor was not comfortable for Austin or our guests, so we tried to find restaurants with chairs from then on!
Insadong is THE place to get souvenirs in Seoul. There are tons of souvenir shops lining the streets, selling everything from T-shirts to chopsticks, socks to ceramics. I try to pick one main souvenir for every assignment. This time in Korea, I really wanted to find a little kimchi pot. I looked all over, and never found one… until Insadong. See, Insadong is magic! Cosmetics and skin/beauty products are a huge industry in Korea, so there was a whole line of the main cosmetics and skincare stores along the street as well!
Insadong has other treats and surprises in store for the tourists! There is an office for renting traditional Hanbok and taking pictures. We did not try on outfits during our time in Insadong, but from my experience, trying on traditional costumes is so much fun! Dr. Fish pedicures involve putting feet into water with these little fish that eat dead skin. Landon and I have put our fingers in the water at various aquariums and experienced first hand how they nibble, but getting a fish pedicure sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Near the southern end of Insadong, we finally found the cat cafe. I was reminded that in Asia (particularly Korea and China) looking up at all levels of a building is important. Fortunately, the cat cafe had a sign out front to mark the building. This is another activity that I was skeptical of at first. I was not sure it was a good use of my time or money, but curiosity, and Landon’s desire to see the cats, overcame my fears.
Turns out, it was not a stinky place full of cat hair and a few sad cats. Since the cats are on rotation, and most just lounge about all day, I’d say those cats have a pretty good life. The cafe was very clean, and cost about 8,000 won, which included a complimentary drink. There were tables for sitting and enjoying drinks, and lots of benches, cubbies and beds for the cats. A cat guide paper showed all the cats in the cafe, their breed and their name. Rules were to not pick up the cats and to not harass the cats- pretty straight forward and understandable! Landon was surprisingly gentle- he became frustrated at times when the cats would not play with him, but overall he did great! The cafe also doubled as a mini cat museum with lots of breakable figurines.
For how busy Insadong was when we were there, the cat cafe was not at all crowded. There were so many different breeds represented- including a cat without any hair, which was a little creepy. My favorite cats were the super fluffy white ones. They stayed on their perches and let me pet them, it was fun!
For tourists- Insadong is for you. For cat-lovers- the cat cafe in Insadong is for you. Exploring Insadong and eating traditional Korean food was a great way to spend an afternoon. Without the children tagging along, I bet we could have stayed there for hours longer browsing the shops and playing with the cats!