Insa-dong Rivals Jeju as Most Popular Tourist Spot

Jeju Island was the part of Korea foreign visitors most frequently visited. A Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry survey found Jeju in the lead with 18.1 percent, followed by Seoul's Insa-dong with 16.9 percent.

Gyeongju, the capital of ancient Shilla kingdom and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was third with 15.7 percent of votes, and Seoul's old palaces were fourth with 10.8 percent.

That Jeju Island was on the top of the list is only natural, as it is rich in tourist resources, but Insa-dong, which is only a road less than 1 km long, was a bigger surprise.

Insa-dong is in Jongno-gu, downtown Seoul, on a 700-m long narrow road. Designated as Cultural District No.1 by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, it offers a traditional feel of Seoul along with Bukchon and Samcheong-dong, all located near Gyeongbok Palace. It appeals particularly with its traditional tea houses to antique shops.

The road starts at the intersection of Jongno 2-ga and Jongno 3-ga and ends at Anguk-dong Rotary, and is packed with galleries and antique shops that appeal to tourists. Most galleries charge no admission fees, offering visitors on a tight budget an opportunity to appreciate art. Insa-dong also has many restaurants offering traditional Korean cuisine.

The street attracts 100,000 visitors a day at weekends and is known to foreign tourists as "Mary's alley."

englishnews@chosun.com / May 05, 2009 10:25 KST