In the course of my travels I’ve had the pleasure of visiting some special bookstores in the United States. So it’s an amazing experience to visit some in other parts of the world. While in Seoul, South Korea, there was an opportunity to visit three bookstores in one day. That’s quite a feat for an American with no knowledge of the Korean language. But with a map, directions to the subway from the hotel concierge, and truly helpful people on the streets, I navigated my way to some memorable experiences. I considered writing about all three stores in one blog, but that felt like a disservice to each of the locations. There are similarities and differences.
What follows is a trilogy about these intriguing bookstores, which when visiting Seoul you must visit all three. They are within 3 blocks of each other, and well worth spending an hour to a day in–no exaggeration. We’ll begin this journey with the shortest stop, and with each post, the stay will be longer–for reasons that will become quite apparent. All three are quality places as you’ll see.
When taking the subway in Seoul to the downtown area, there are several stops that include stores underground. There’s shopping for clothes and food. Unlike some of the underground train stations I’ve taken in the US, the area is clean and free of any funky smells that you would not want near an eating establishment. Now before someone from New York City gets upset, Union Square is an exception that I was quite impressed with. I’d also include an underground shopping mall/subway in Washington DC. I don’t remember the name but I’m sure someone can help me out. Between those two, Washington DC rates higher because there is a major bookstore–Barnes and Noble. In Seoul, each of the stops I explored had sprawling stores–not just one location.
The first bookstore, Bandi Luni’s, on our list has an underground entrance from the subway. Entering the store, I was reminded of the Books A Million chain where there are books for sale, and many other products to purchase. Only this store felt more like an upscale department store. Books were the centerpiece. There were also sections of the store dedicated to other items such as tech accessories for phones, tablets, and laptops. Major bookstores like Books A Million, Barnes and Noble, and Schuler’s Books has the same, but this place had more than a couple of shelves. It felt like mini-department store spaces dedicated to merchandise other than books. There were two levels of this store to explore and find items that one would not normally find in a bookstore. The book genre selection could hold it’s own with any of the bookstores in the US. There is a small selection of books in English, while the majority are in Korean. Some of the staff spoke English, which made easier navigating the merchandise.
When you’re done exploring the two floors, step outside on the second floor on to the streets of downtown. Kitty corner and half a block away is the location of our next stop. A place that both elevates the bookstore experience, and takes it to a new level that I’ve not found anywhere in my travels in the US and Sydney Australia.
Have you been to a bookstore with far more amenities than books? What’s the name and location? What was your experience?